Czech dissident icon, poet Magor Jirous, dies at 67

Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:13am EST
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By Jan Lopatka

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Iconic Czech poet Ivan Martin Jirous, whose quest for free expression under communism earned him nearly a decade in jail and helped inspire the 1989 "Velvet Revolution," died on Thursday at 67, his friends said.

Nicknamed "Magor," or "Looney," by friends, the trained art historian was the artistic director of the Plastic People of the Universe rock band, whose trial for disorderly conduct in 1976 led to the set-up of the Charter 77 dissident movement that gave prominence to future President Vaclav Havel.

Magor, known in the past decades for his long grey hair and wild partying as well as large body of poems, died of blood loss overnight, his friend Jan Machacek told Reuters. Another friend said Magor had suffered from internal bleeding before.

"For years he had been my good friend, who influenced social movements in our country in a major way," ex-president Havel, who himself was jailed under the Communists, said in a statement.

"I am glad he lived to see better times, for which he contributed a lot, and my thoughts are with him and his work."

Magor's approach to dealing with then-Czechoslovakia's oppressive government was simple but brave.

"The only issue was to be able to do one's own thing, music, art, totally independently of what was happening here on the official scene," he once said in a television interview.

"But because we lived in a society where the communists controlled the entire public life, any activity that was independent was a deadly threat to them."   Continued...