On November 5, 2018, the Embassy of Slovakia in cooperation with Dublin together with the National Library of Ireland and the Embassy of Slovakia in London presented to the Irish literary public a new translation of The Bloody Sonnets by Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav, Slovakia’s greatest poet.
The Irish National Library kindly accepted the sonnets into its collection. The event marked the centenary of the ending of The Great War as well as the hundredth anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia and twenty-fifth anniversary of the foundation of Slovakia. Hviezdoslav wrote this sequence of 32 sonnets during the first months of the war in 1914. He vividly described the terror, chaos and devastation, and the grief of the fallen soldiers’ parents, wives, sisters, and fiancées.
John Minahane, who has made the new English translation of The Bloody Sonnets, was born and raised in Ireland. He has lived in Slovakia for more than 20 years and has translated work by major Slovak poets and novelists. John Minahane argues in his introduction that in all of the torrent of poetry that greeted the outbreak of the war; this may be the most powerful work from an anti-war perspective. Refreshing historical memory is an important task for today’s generation, and the story enshrined in The Bloody Sonnets is a strong reminder of developments in Europe and elsewhere a hundred years ago.