Klára Goldstein

- Czech Republic -

Klára Goldstein is a Czech poet, literary scholar and translator from Spanish, who was born in the Czech town of Valašské Meziříčí in 1988, graduated from the Conservatory of Music in Kroměříž, and then studied at the Faculty of Arts at Palacký University, where she is currently completing her PhD. She worked for several years as an editor of the magazine Lžička v šuplíku, and in 2011 published her first collection of poetry Úpatí vichřice in a limited edition, while her second collection Milíře, published in 2016, was a major breakthrough and received the attention of the Czech readership and critics. She is the recipient of several literary prizes, including the Vladimír Vokolek Prize (2014), the František Halas Literary Competition (2015), with her poems published in all major Czech magazines, including HostTvarA2 and others. Since 2020, she has been contributing her columns to the online branch of Host magazine. Her research focuses mainly on Czech interwar poetry and Latin American leftist poets and their reception in the area of the former Czechoslovakia – on the subject of Pablo Neruda and Czechoslovakia, she published a book entitled The Trial of the Infinite Neruda, a book on the border between a scholarly monograph and an essay, in 2020, by the Palacký UniversityPress. She currently works as an elementary school teacher and occasionally as an editor, organizes literary evenings, and has recently published her fifth collection titled Deště Maierniggu (2022).

Already in her debut Úpatí vichřice, in which she explored her own authorial voice, she signalled her future direction, filled with an interest in history, the passage of time, and the eternal questions of human existence, flowing through intimate, lyrical fragments, with the shifts of human society and history forming the background. In this way, the poetic debut is filled with anxiety and fear throughout its four sections – fear of death, eternity and the passage of time – but its thematisation does not paralyse, on the contrary, it opens up a path of empowerment, forces one to question the world, to struggle for existence. 

This is all the more pronounced in the case of Klára’s second collection of poetry, entitled Milíře, divided into eight sections, which to a certain extent brings about a deliralisation of the author's expression, thematising life in the countryside, but at the same time also a sense of sadness, loneliness, and sometimes stagnation, overlaid by love poetry and an engaged position, appearing especially in the last sections of the collection. The poems are characterised by deep introspection, like mosaics of a lyrical self in progress and its relationship with its surroundings, intertwining existential themes with the intimate, and the private with the engaged, while the verses are distinguished by original metaphors and messages – partly already with a subtle critique of the younger generation, longing for peace and harmony (with the images of nature in the first section of the collection), and then with a deliberate cut between the intimate and the political (the last sections of the collection, which refer to the past generation and the current social situation), as the author places the intimate situation well in the broader context of Czech literature, history and cultural shifts. 

If the cultural and political background of Latin America is already evident in the second collection, it is even more pronounced in the author's third book, Kenotaf, whose title refers to an empty grave or a monument erected in honour of a person or a group of people whose remains are elsewhere. In this collection, Goldstein delves into Chile's socio-political struggles, but rather than presenting herself as a mere observer, she embodies the anguish, hope and resistance of the Chilean people with remarkable subtlety. The poems are deeply thoughtful, reflective pieces that could be seen as love poetry in the first half of the collection, but move towards the collective, the community, in the second half, speaking through existential themes about manifestations of social injustice, crimes and the necessary compassion for the oppressed individual. The multilayered ecosystem, which depicts our existence in different forms, times and geographical lines, and explores fundamental questions of the human condition and existence, thus builds bridges between different cultures and also profoundly and effectively points to the fragility and elusive nature of the sensual, which, as in Klára’s previous work, is a means of empowerment and insight into both the interiority of ourselves and the environment around us. 

This skill in linking the microcosm of personal experience with the macrocosm of global phenomena is all the more evident in the author's next collection, which received a nomination for the prestigious Magnesia Litera literary prize. In Falkenfrau, she continues her established perception of space and time, but at the same time fuses the present with the past and enriches her poetic language with music, which she communicates to her readers through sensuality as well as profound spirituality, travelling from the individual to the collective and from the momentary to the eternal. The collection, which is divided into three parts, shifts from language to music, as the latter allows free flight and expresses what speech cannot in terms of the lyrical subject's inner feelings and states. The collection builds an impenetrable, blurred, unknown poetic landscape through the fragmentary nature of time, space and sound. In this book Klára weaves a multilayered tapestry, where the poems, like micromyths, revolve around individual characters, but also try to penetrate through memories, nature, through the mirroring of the past and present time into an unknown space, which, like music, resonates with its own atmosphere. The myriad emotions and experiences thus move easily from introspective reflections to more universal observations, telling a story of a changing world, the turbulence of global events, while delving into the complexity of personal experiences, which challenges readers to confront their own vulnerabilities and beliefs. 

In this respect, Klára’s latest collection also brings the melody of cities and the echoing of spaces, as it brings similar stylistic and thematic elements of her previous collections, but in this one the poetics and the poetic world are all the more pronounced and crystallised. A central role is once again given to melody and music, which by repeating and interweaving words and meanings creates a synaesthetic harmony that immerses the reader in the perception of dreamlike visions – language does not play with its message, but rather serves as the author's means of reaching beyond the everyday, while expanding the reader's consciousness in the process. As in her previous works, the key themes are the perception of the passage of time, the exchange between the intimate and the collective and the social, but also the crossing of the boundary between one being and another, or their fusion. The author conveys a sensual-cognitive wholeness on the fine line between waking and dreaming, which she also manages to do well on a formal level, as the collection conceptually passes through five sections (the opening section Introitus, the three main sections following the musical notation of the scales and the quintal circle, and the last echo of the poem within the conclusion D. C. al Fine) and organically builds its whole – first with the arrival or construction of the lyrical subject in space and time, then with the dynamic juxtaposition of the indeterminate world and the subject's identities between word and sound, and the final note – which turns the overall collection into a thoughtful musical-symbolist composition. In this way, the intricate tapestry of synaesthetic symbolism, historical evocations and musical elements, which combine to create a deeply immersive and evocative literary experience, also employs intertextuality (indeed, the collection references the life of Gustav Mahler and some other figures from the world of music), but alongside the symphony of the senses, it also offers profound reflections on contemporary world.

Klára Goldstein is thus a rather special figure on the contemporary Czech literary scene, employing well the odd intimiate utterance, but at the same time constructing distinctly auteurist poetics inspired by history, individual stories and the fates of individuals from different cultural spaces. In its cultural intertextuality the personal meets the social, poetry meets music, creating a completely free expression that operates with emotions and symbols, leaving the imagination free to run wild.


Essay written by Aljaž Koprivnikar