Zeyer, Julius

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ZEYER, JULIUS (1841–1901), Czech poet and author. Zeyer was born in Prague. Although his Jewish mother became an ardent Catholic, Zeyer always remained conscious of his Jewish origin, dreamed of visiting Palestine, and even learned Hebrew. Abandoning the traditional nationalist school of Czech 19th-century literature for a cosmopolitan outlook, in the epic verse, which was his major contribution to Czech literature, he characteristically used subjects from many countries. Jewish themes appear in much of his writing, beginning with the novel Duhový pták ("Rainbow Bird," 1874). His short story Smrt Evy ("Eve's Death") is based on the biblical account of Cain, and the collection of which it forms part, Báje Šošany ("Shoshanna's Tales," 1880), is set in the Frankfurt ghetto. He chose biblical subjects for two dramas: Sulamit (1883) and Z dob růžového jitra ("From the Times of the Rosy Dawn," 1888), the latter about Isaac's stay in Gerar (Gen. 26:1–12). Other short stories with Jewish themes are El Cristo de la Luz (1892), which deals with medieval Toledo, and Asenat (1895), a tale of Joseph in Egypt. Zeyer also wrote a number of poems on Jewish subjects.

Outstanding among his works of epic poetry are Ossianův návrat ("Ossian's Return," 1885); Z letopisů lásky ("From the Annals of Love," 4 volumes, 1889–92); and Karolinská epopej ("Carolingian Epic," 1896). His two most important prose works are the novels Román o věrném přátelství Amise a Amila ("The True Friendship of Amis and Amil," 1880) and Jan Maria Plojhar (1888).


F.V. Krejči, Julius Zeyer (1901); P. Váša and A. Gregor, Katechismus dějin české literatury (1925); O. Donath, Ž idé a židovství v české literatuře 19, stoleti (1923); F. Gottlieb, Jan Maria Zeyer (1932); idem, in: Židovská ročenka (1970/71), 109–19; J.S. Kvapil, Gotický Zeyer (1942). add. bibliography: J. Hrabák, Dějiny České literaturyiii (1961); E. Jurčinová, Julius Zeyer, život českého básníka (1941); A. Mikulášek et al., Literatura s hvězdou Davidovou, vol. 1 (1998); Slovník českých spisovatelů (2000).

[Avigdor Dagan /

Milos Pojar (2nd ed.)]