Cimrman--Notes on the Authors

Zdeněk Svěrák
Ladislav Smoljak
Jára Cimrman, forgotten genius, was invented by a group of friends in the late 60s during their wine cellar and radio talks. Zdeněk Svěrák (b. 1936) and Ladislav Smoljak (b. 1931), who were among the original collaborators, developed this inventive character into lifelike proportions and larger-than-life fame. Both actors and screenwriters, Svěrák a former teacher, Smoljak a future film director, they established their own unorthodox theater in the outskirts of Prague, named, of course, the Theater of Jára Cimrman (Divadlo Járy Cimrmana, originally in Strašnice, now in Žižkov, in the former Masaryk Theater). They have performed more than ten plays - reconstructions of putative manuscripts of Cimrman, originally lost, partially destroyed, then as if by chance rediscovered, in accord with the tradition of forged manuscripts that played such a crucial role in the ideology and rhetoric of the Czech national revival movement. The performances, sold out for months in advance, and always incorporating improvisations that made each of them in a sense original, would open with a “scientific” scholarly seminar on Cimrman's life and work, followed by a reconstruction of one of his plays. Characteristically for the 1980s, intellectual humor was accompanied by smart though transparently allegorical satire, exposing the problematic aspects of the Czech character as well as the rhetoric of the Communist regime. Since they survived the fall of Communism and remain popular today, these performances proved to hold universal appeal and not be contextually bound to the late Communist period. While Ladislav Smoljak withdrew from the movie industry in recent years, Zdeněk Svěrák, on the contrary, became probably the most popular and definitely the most charismatic actor and screenwriter in the Czech Republic. Among the films he wrote and his son Jan directed are “Obecná škola” and recently the Oscar-winning “Kolja.”