Vojtech Zamarovský foto 2

Vojtech Zamarovský

5. 10. 1919
—  26. 7. 2006
Praha (Česko)
essay, literature, nonfiction
A long term intense interest in the cultures of classical antiquity and the history of their discovery became the domain of Zamarovský's work, which combines the knowledge with aesthetic values. He is one of the most prominent representatives of factual literature and one of the pioneers of its modern form in both Slovak and Czech literature. Right from his first works (Towards the Seven Wonders of the World and From the Secrecy of the Empire of the Hittites) he demonstrates a remarkably wide scope of knowledge of the scholarly issues, an intimate empirical experience with the subject of his interest and at the same time creative invention in its transformation into non-fiction or, in later works, into a new variation on ancient epics (Gilgamesh, Aeneas and Sinuhet). Whilst his first book Towards the Seven Wonders of the World is conceived as a collection of seven historical-travel reports, The Secrets of the Hittite Empire is designed as an exploration of the history, culture and writings of the ancient empire and at the same time a story of the discovery of the Hittite empire, with an accent on the life story of the decipherer of the Hittite language and writing, the Czech scholar Bedřich Hrozný. With regard to the genre of factual literature, Zamarovský had found since his first books a method of writing about scientific fact with a human accent - through the destinies of scholars or discoverers. At the same time he had chosen an approach to material which combined a sufficiency of information with an interpretation attractive to readers, because it is based on the revealing and solving of a scientific problem by using almost a detective's approach to an exciting secret. All the elements of Zamarovský's authorial strategy are present in The Discovery of Troy, with a considerable part of the book being formed by a historical-biographical essay about the discoverer of Troy, Heinrich Schliemann and his superhuman efforts to reach his goal. The history of discovery of another ancient civilisation is the volume In the Beginning There Was Sumeria. He has recorded his knowledge of Egyptology in Their Majesties the Pyramids and later in an encyclopaedically organised dictionary The Gods and Kings of Ancient Egypt. Zamarovský's lifelong interest - both scholarly and eminently personal - has been the research and description of the history and culture of classical antiquity, especially those of ancient Greece, which he sees as "our cultural origin" and the country "where the people realised for the first time in history that it could build its own government". His work The Gods and heroes of Ancient Myths has the character of an encyclopaedic dictionary but is presented in a narrative style. Zamarovský has offered here over eight hundred key words from ancient mythology in alphabetical order. In History Written by Rome he has retold the history of the thousand-year old Roman Empire with an accent on its living historical and cultural heritage. In The Greek Miracle he has described Greek history and culture from the pre-historical time of myths to the loss of independence in the wars with Rome. It is a synthesis of knowledge about the origin of the Greeks, the formation of their statehood, the period of the birth, blossoming and decline of the Greek world. Zamarovský pays special attention to the most valuable contribution of ancient Greece to the treasury of culture - Greek philosophy, sculpture, painting, literature and theatre. His profound interest in the "Greek miracle" is demonstrated by his own interpretation of the historical importance of Greek culture; the reader can appreciate both the author's fascination by his theme and his mastery of language. The thousand-year old history of the ancient Olympic Games against the background of their contemporary tradition was presented in The Revival of Olympus. In addition to almost forty television and film documentaries Zamarovský's work contains literary adaptations of the ancient epics of Aeneas, Gilgamesh and Sinuhet and the book Return to Antiquity with the subtitle In the Footprints of My Own Books. This volume, combining text with illustrations, was suggested by a television series on ancient culture and its aim, in the author's words, is "to show the breadth and depth of the ancient foundations of present European culture and civilisation". This aim is the best characterisation of the value of the works of Vojtech Zamarovský.


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