From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Vítězslav Nezval (May 26, 1900, Biskoupky – April 6, 1958, Prague) was one of the most prolific Czech writers best known in the West for his novel Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. Along with Karel Teige, Jindřich Štyrský, and Toyen, Nezval frequently traveled to Paris, engaging with the French surrealists. Forging a friendship with André Breton and Paul Eluard, he was instrumental in founding Czech Surrealist Group in 1934 (the first group of this kind outside France), serving as an editor of the group's journal Surrealismus.
Vítězslav Nezval was a member of the avant-garde group of artists Devětsil (literally "nine forces", the Czech name of the Butterbur plant but to a Czech-speaker an obvius reference to the nine founding members of the group). Devětsil members were the most prolific Czech artists of their generation. In 1922, the Devetsil group included, but was not limited to, Vítězslav Nezval, Jindřich Štyrský, Jaroslav Seifert, Karel Teige, and Toyen (Marie Cerminova). Also associated with the group was the later founder of the Prague Linguistic School, Roman Jakobson. Like the proletarian group before it, Devětsil looked to France for inspiration for their avant-garde literature and their Marxist political ideology originating from Russia. Though the Czechoslovakian state was newly formed after World War I, the younger generation felt there was still room for improvement and that a radical solution was necessary to gain true liberation. Most of these intellectuals had a zest for revolution and professed their allegiance to Lenin. Though their philosopher-president, Thomas Masaryk gave them the first real socially-minded democracy, Nezval and others in his group did not accept this regime as representative of their beliefs and goals. In their writings they expressed their preference for the Marxist-internationalist consciousness of class solidarity.
The first manifesto of Devětsil urged young, progressive artists to look deeper into ordinary objects for poetic quality. Skyscrapers, airplanes, mimes, and poster lettering were the new arts.
Nezval was also a founding figure of the Poetism movement. His output consists of a number of poetry collections, experimental plays and novels, memoirs, essays, and translations. Along with Karel Teige, Jindřich Štyrský, and Toyen, Nezval frequently traveled to Paris where he rubbed shoulders with the French surrealists. His close friendship with André Breton and Paul Éluard was instrumental in founding The Surrealist Group of Czechoslovakia in 1934. It was the first group of this kind outside France and Nezval served as the editor of its journal Surrealismus.
In collaboration with Nezval on his book Abeceda ("alphabet"), Devětsil dancer, Milča Mayerová, performed particular poses to represent each of the letters. Nezval wrote this poem focusing on the forms, sounds, and functions of the alphabet. Teige used typography and photomontage to create lasting images of the moves which are now printed in many editions of the book.