Holub, Miroslav

Holub, Miroslav
▪ 1999

      Czech writer and immunologist (b. Sept. 23, 1923, Pilsen, Czechoslovakia—d. July 14, 1998, Prague, Czech Rep.), conducted advanced research in immunology with over 150 papers on the subject and was noted at home and in the West for his poetry, which was often infused with scientific imagery and vocabulary. During World War II Holub was conscripted to work on the railroad. After the war he earned (1953) a medical degree from Charles University in Prague and then worked as an immunologist at the Microbiology Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. In 1958 he was awarded a Ph.D. for the development of, and work with, "nude mice" as immunological test animals for various diseases. In 1958 Holub finished his first book of poems, Denní služba ("Day Shift"), and Selected Poems, his first volume in English, was published in 1967. From 1970 to 1980 his politically charged poetry was banned from publication in his homeland by the communist regime, and many of his works were published first in English. Other well-known titles include Ačkoli (1969; "Although"), Notes of a Clay Pigeon (1977), Sagitální řez (1980; "Sagittal Section"), Sindrom mizející plíce (1990; "Vanishing Lung Syndrome"), and Poems Before and After (1990), all of which featured subtle and surreal humour. In addition to his poetry and scientific papers, Holub wrote essays, notably the collection Shedding Life: Disease, Politics and Other Human Conditions (1998). His works have been translated into 37 languages.

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▪ Czech poet, pathologist and immunologist
born Sept. 3, 1923, Plzeň, Czech.
died July 14, 1998, Prague

      Czech poet noted for his detached, lyrical reflections on humanist and scientific subjects.

      A clinical pathologist and immunologist by profession, Holub received his M.D. from the Charles University School of Medicine (1953) and his Ph.D. from the Czechoslovak (now Czech) Academy of Sciences Institute of Microbiology (1958), both in Prague. His first poetry was published in 1947; by the mid-1950s he was associated with the young writers of the literary magazine Květen, who opposed the bombastic Socialist Realism promoted by Czechoslovakia's communist rulers. His first verse collection was Denní služba (1958; “Day Duty”), and he wrote 10 additional collections by 1971, including Achilles a želva (1960; “Achilles and the Tortoise”), Tak zvané srdce (1963; “The So-Called Heart”), and Ačkoli (1969; Although).

      By the late 1960s some of his poetry had been translated into English, including Selected Poems (1967); later collections of his poetry in translation include Notes of a Clay Pigeon (1977), On the Contrary and Other Poems (1984), Poems Before & After (1990), Intensive Care: Selected and New Poems (1996), and The Rampage (1997). He traveled often in English-speaking countries, where he was at least as well known as in his homeland; among his prose writings are Anděl na kolečkách: poloreportáž z USA (1963; “Angel on Wheels: Sketches from the U.S.A.”) and Žit v New Yorku (1969; “To Live in New York”). Despite being a prolific poet, Holub considered science his primary concern, and by 1991 he had written more than 120 scientific papers and monographs. His medical background is evident in much of his poetry, such as the 1980 collection Sagitální řez (Sagittal Section).

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