Farewell and a Handkerchief: Poems from the Road

Vítězslav Nezval (Author) Roman Kostovski (Translator)


Farewell and a Handkerchief, is composed of Czech Poet Vitězslav Nezval's reflections from his travels in 1933 to Paris, Avignon, Vienna, the Alps, Monaco, Méditerranée, Cannes, and Italy, including Venice and Napoli (Naples). He attempted to integrate everything he came into contact with, achieving a heightened sense of perceptive and imaginative reality. The collection is framed by the motif of a handkerchief, first appearing as a symbol of sadness while he was departing from his native land, "Today I'm leaving on the brink of tears," and reappearing at his return home from "magic" lands, once again to "tearfully admit my pain." However, travels also gave him a deep joy, and while the reader experiences the sense of sorrow, or in Czech, the feeling of lítost--the kind that Milan Kundera masterfully described in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting--Nezval's lítost is effervescent, joyful and positive. His return marks his thirty-third birthday, a significant milestone in his life. In this collection, the reader comes across unique associations, occasionally of hallucinating effects, but often presented in loving detail, and seen through the eyes of an innocent and yet thoroughly experienced admirer of the everyday. Nezval's poetic mind creates an evocative imagery of cities, countries, people, social reality of the rich and the poor, the good and the bad (such as approaching Nazism) in a stream of harmonic rhyming. The intentionally lacking punctuation creates a sense of unity of the world which surrounds him and which reminds him of existential reality, as in: Věř kdyz se láska poláme jak hračka je lépe nechat ji: "When love is broken like a porcelain dove/Just let it go!"
The last stanzas of the volume have become a credo for Czechs--they are reflected in songs, recited by school children, and quoted by young adults and old folks alike. It is precisely this simple beauty of life that Czechs admire in their beloved poets, and in Nezval in particular (Karen von Kunes, Yale University):

Farewell, and if we never meet
Our time was marvelous--we've shared enough
Farewell, and soon our trysts will be
With someone new, someone else's love

Product Details

Plamen Press
Publish Date
May 09, 2020
5.51 X 0.41 X 8.5 inches | 0.51 pounds

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About the Author

Czech poet and playwright Vítězslav Nezval was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth-century avant-garde. He was a leading founder of the Czech movement Devětsil (Nine Forces), a group that included individuals such as Russian linguist Roman Jakobson and Nobel laureate Jaroslav Seifert, which evolved into the Czech Surrealist Group. He was born in 1900 in Biskoupky, a small town in southern Moravia. He died in 1958.
Roman Kostovski has a B.A. in Russian Language and International Relations from the College of William and Mary, and an M.A. in Russian Language and Linguistics from the University of Maryland. He also holds a Lecturer of Czech Certification from Charles University in Prague. He has taught Czech at George Washington University. He translates poetry and prose from Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, and Slovak into English. His translations have appeared in numerous journals, including Absinthe-New European Writings and Watchword Press. His translation of Arnost Lustig's Porgess was published by Northwestern University Press in 2006, and his translation of Viktor Dyk's Czech classic The Ratcatcher was published by Plamen Press in 2014. He founded Plamen Press in 2013, a print-on-demand publishing house for the promotion of literature from Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe throughout the English-speaking world. He currently works and resides in Washington, D.C.


Nezval is a modern-day savage who tramples upon the strict canons of truth and beauty. His poetry offers a star the same priviledges of beauty as it would a molding apple left behind on a staircase.
- Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightess of Being

Kostovski's translation preserves the clarity and simplicity of Nezval's verse...
... A vibrant collection that introduces an Eastern European master to the West.
- Kirkus Review

In Farewell and a Handkerchief Nezval's poetic mind creates an evocative imagery of cities, coutries, people, social reality of the rich and the poor. the good and the bad (aproaching Nazism)in a stream of hamonic rhyming.
- Karen von Kunes, Yale University

Nezval was one of the great masters of true poetry of the twetieth century. He was great like Apollinaire, Jesenin, Mayakovsky and Éluard.
- Nazim Hikmet, Turkish poet, author of Life's Good Brother