Karel Hynek Macha

Category: Notables


Ignac Macha, later known as Karel Hynek Macha (1810–1836), was a Czech poet, and main representative of Czech romanticism. He was born and grew up in Prague.

Macha was educated and could read and write German, Polish, and Latin; he even studied law at Charles University. In 1832, he met his lover Eleonora Somkova. She gave birth to their son Ludvik Somek who died only eight months after his father. Macha started willingly acting in theaters during his studies. He also tried to write his own plays but never got to finish them. In 1836, he moved to the town of Litomerice to start working as a legal assistant.

A few days before his wedding with Somkova, Macha was helping put out a fire and he got pneumonia from smoke inhalation. Only a day before his wedding, he died because of his condition. Macha was buried in the town of Litomerice in a grave for the poor. He was not recognized and acknowledged when he was alive, only after his death. In 1939 he was provided with a proper funeral at Vysehrad in the city of Prague.

Macha’s most famous work is May (Maj). It is a lyrical epic poem, and it is the only work he published when he was alive. It was inspired by an old story Macha heard. The poem is divided into six parts, four epic parts, and two lyrical parts. May was criticized at the beginning for not being a classic Czech National Revival poem, for example by Josef Kajetan Tyl. After Macha‘s death, his May was considered the only Czech work typical of the romantic style, in terms of characters and settings.

Macha also wrote novels for instance Gypsies (Cikani), his longest novel. He used to include autobiographic elements into his writings e.g., into The Pictures of My Life (Obrazy ze zivota meho) which are two lyrical stories. Macha also wrote his journal in which he described his own life or the relationship with his lover Somkova.

In the Liberec region, there is a pond that used to be called The Large Dokes Pond, and it was renamed Lake Macha after the author. The plot of his most famous poem May (Maj) takes place right here and in the area close to Bezdes.

The house he grew up in was demolished and nowadays there is a memorial plaque remembering him. There is a statue of Macha in park Petrin created by Josef Vaclav Myslbek, who was the greatest Czech sculptor. Macha influenced a future generation of authors who called themselves “Majovci’’ after Macha’s May. Thanks to the “Majovci’’ Macha became a respected author and his works became popular.

Karel Hynek Macha

Karel Hynek Macha

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