Interview with Jirí Grusa

In Context, an interview with Jirí Grusa.

Jirí Grusa was born in 1938 in Pardubice, East Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic. After receiving a degree from Charles University in Prague in 1962, Grusa became involved with several literary magazines and with the Prague Theater. Grusa was arrested in 1974 for “the crime of initiating disorder” after distributing nineteen copies of his novel The Questionnaire and expressing his intent to have it published in Switzerland. He was released after two months as a result of worldwide attention and protests. After his citizenship was revoked in 1981, he moved to West Germany and, ironically, as a result of the political changes of the late ’80s, became the Czech ambassador to Germany. In 2004 he became the president of International PEN.


ANA LUCIC: In the interview entitled “The Questionnaire, or the Sixteen Answers of Mr. Grusa” you say that “all good authors are really nothing but translators—from a universal and ideal language.” Could you elaborate on this idea?

JIRI GRUSA: “All good authors are really nothing but translators”—for me, to a certain extent, this is a kind of a “psychological preservation philosophy.” If an author (like myself) loses one language (and in my case this is the Czech language), the characteristic style that brought him readers also dwindles away. In an attempt to find another language—in my case it was German—I determined that it had nothing of this “meta-language” quality. What binds the authors around the world is the Lingualität, also the possibility to name what is not named yet. At the same time this is the reason for all personal misfortune, and also for metaphysical fortune.