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Jan Palach – A Poem by David Shapiro & his collaboration with architect John Hejduk

  • Jan Palach 1aJanPalachchild
    Jan Palach was born on 11 August 1948- an activist who set himself on fire in in 1969.. Palach’s protest caused extraordinary reaction both in the Czech Republic and abroad.

    These web pages present the life story of Jan Palach

    His schoolmates liked him for his nice and friendly nature. He was quiet, pensive, and very well-read. Since his early childhood, he was interested in nature, technology, and history.

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    Poetry and Architecture, Architecture and Poetry
    by John Hejduk David Shapiro

    The Funeral of Jan Palach

    When I entered the first meditation
    I escaped the gravity of the object,
    I experienced the emptiness,
    And I have been dead a long time.

    When I had a voice you could call a voice,
    My mother wept to me:
    My son, my beloved son,
    I never thought this possible

    I’ll follow you on foot.
    Halfway in mud and slush the microphones picked up.
    It was raining on the houses;
    It was snowing on the police-cars.

    The astronauts were weeping,
    Going neither up nor out.
    And my own mother was brave enough she looked
    And it was alright I was dead.

    —David Shapiro

    When I read of the sacrifice of Jan Palach, I was reading of a heroism toward which I had aspired but recoiled. But it is not for everyone to be such a sacrifice, as many have said, it is not even easy to be a disciple of such a hero. Indeed, Palach finally asked others to refrain from a mechanical martyrdom.

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    On the art of collaboration
    He is perhaps most proud of his long collaboration with the late architect John Hejduk, who served as dean of Cooper Union’s school of architecture for many years. In 1991, a poem Shapiro had written about the Czechoslovak student Jan Palach, who set himself on fire in 1969 to protest the Soviet invasion, was engraved on a plaque as part of a memorial designed by Hejduk and mounted on the grounds of Prague Castle in the Czech Republic.

    Sketch for house of suicide by John Hejduk

  • Pataphysics – interview of David Shapiro

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