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The Poetic World of Newt

Sunday 25 November 2007 21:30-22:15 (Radio 3)

The name Newt on the secret police file in Communist Prague masked the identity of the poet Ivan Blatny. In his twenties, Blatny was one of the central figures in the cultural avant-garde, but when the Communists came to power in 1948 he defected to Britain, much to the fury of the Czechoslovak authorities, who opened a secret file on him and attempted to lure Newt back.

In the years that followed, his mental health gradually deteriorated and he spent most of the rest of his life in various psychiatric hospitals. David Vaughan explores the life and the poetry of Blatny, travelling to Brno to meet his family, to Prague to the see the police files and, poignantly, to the psychiatric hospitals in Suffolk where Blatny died in 1990.

Blatny continued to write poetry to his dying day, on scraps of paper salvaged by his nurse Frances Meacham, and his reputation is confirmed by the testimonies of the former playwright and president Vaclav Havel and by leading Czech writer Josef Skvorecky.

Duration:

45 minutes




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