Ewald Osers (1917-2011)

Ewald Osers (1917-2011)

One of the most outstanding translators of Central European literature into English, Ewald Osers, has died at the age of 94.

Osers, born in Prague to a German-speaking Jewish family in 1917, emigrated to England in 1938 after the Munich Agreement and worked for the BBC until his retirement in 1977. He began translating Czech and German poetry in 1937 and went on to publish more than 150 books of literature in translation and several volumes of his own poetry and memoirs. Most English translations of 20th-century Czech poetry — including the works of Jaroslav Seifert, Vítězslav Nezval, Miroslav Holub and Jan Skácel — come from Osers’ pen. He was the recipient of the European Poetry Translation Prize, the Order of Cyril and Methodius in Bulgaria, the Officer’s Cross of Germany, the Macedonian Literature Award and the Medal of Merit of the Czech Republic, among dozens of other honors.

According to Osers’ friend and colleague Ivana Bozděchová, “Osers’ has been, truly, a literary life lived to the full, and in a Europe which changed beyond recognition, before his very eyes.”

Scottish poet Lachlan Mackinnon has composed an elegy for Osers, included below.


By Lachlan Mackinnon

i.m. Ewald Osers (1917-2011)


You trained as a chemist

in life.

In language

you were an alchemist.


One language melted

into another

as the translator

effaced himself,


a root from the past

pushing into the future,

nudging aside

the soil of clutter.


You kept friendships

for life,

spoke of one

that had lasted more than eighty years.


“Just a girl,” you said, “I say a girl,

but I remember

her seventh birthday-party

in Prague”.



your lost, your golden city,

should be in mourning.

You brought the world to her.


You brought her to the world.

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