Jára Cimrman is one of the greatest Czech playwrights, poets, composers, teachers, travellers, philosophers, inventors, detectives and sportsmen of the 19th and early 20th century. The precise dates of his birth and death have not been agreed upon.
Because Franz Huschkov, the registrar of the 4th Vienna Parish, made most of his entries in a state of intoxication, we cannot say for certain whether Jára Cimrman was born to Marlén and Leopold Cimrman on a freezing February night in 1857, 1864, or 1876. We will therefore assume that he was born in 1890, which makes 120 years since the day of the master’s birth.
As we cast our eyes across the tremendous number and quality of works created by this spiritual titan, we are apt to wonder, “Whence Cimrman’s genius?” Cimrman’s inventiveness and creativity are partially explained by the fact that did not pass through the stage of puberty, which, as is well known, deflects creative energy in undesirable directions. Until Cimrman reached the age of 15, his parents hid the fact he was a boy so he could wear the clothing of his older sister Luisa. However, when his malicious classmates at the girls’ school revealed he was not a girl, Cimrman had already passed through puberty because, as we know, girls mature faster than boys.
After World War I, Cimrman lived the life of the globetrotter. He suggested the plan for the Panama Canal to the American government, including the libretto for the opera of the same name. Along with Count von Zeppelin he constructed the first airship out of Swedish steel with a gondola made from Czech willow branches. He studied the life of polar cannibals as they fled from a tribe of displaced Hottentots and missed the North Pole by seven meters. He founded a puppet theater in Paraguay and a criminology, music, and ballet school in Vienna. He carried on an extensive correspondence with G.B. Shaw, but the stubborn Irishman refused to answer any of his letters. He discovered yogurt. He selflessly assisted several luminaries. For Mr. and Mrs. Curie he carried 45 tubs of uranium ore to the basement on his back. He showed Mr. Edison the proper way to screw in a light bulb. He found rental space for Mr. Eiffel. He praised Chekhov’s new book of short stories and personally fertilized the cherry orchard.
Among the Czechs, Cimrman’s work reached its Zenith. He has crisscrossed their land as an itinerant dentist. The Czechs gladly opened their mouths wide and shared with him all their worries and difficulties, which Cimrman exploited for his own immortal dramatic works. These were works of such artistic power that not even his contemporaries understood them. After several decades, many literary critics began to doubt the very existence of Cimrman himself and called his work forgeries similar to the Zelenohorský and Královédvorský manuscripts.
There is a simple reply to this. Who of our contemporary writers would be capable of creating works of such greatness? Not a single one. We feel that it would take at least two. But these would have to be two writers of average genius. Whatever the case may be, the works signed by Jára (da) Cimrman belong to the greatest of dramatic creation. We can discuss, argue, and disagree about his works, but that is all we can do.
L. Smoljak / Z. Svěrák
Clip from a documentary film on Cimrman
More details here
Celebrated Cimrman Quotations
“A warm Czech beer is better than a cold German woman.”
“Every superfluous word is superfluous.”
“If I don’t praise myself, no one’s going to do it for me.”
“Beer in the belly is better than water on the lungs.”
“I’m such an unconditional atheist that I’m afraid God will punish me.”
“Life is the best school of life.”