Zápisník zmizelého (1920)

The Diary of One Who Disappeared (1920)

In his biography of Leoš Janáček, Jaroslav Vogel presents a very thorough account of how the composer came to write Zápisník zmizelého (The Diary of One Who Disappeared). Vogel was well acquainted with the manuscript sources and from these he deduced the genesis of the piece quite accurately. However, due to several misleading factors, some myths about the composition were perpetuated that have been dispelled only recently.   

240.00 Kč

The first myth was the misattribution of the text on which Janáček based his Diary. It was originally a set of poems by an anonymous J.D. called Z péra samoukova (From the Pen of a Self-Taught Man), published in the Czech daily newspaper Lidové noviny. It was thought to have been an authentic folk tale. However, some 80 years after the poems were published, Jan Mikeška proved their supposed origin to have been a deliberate mystification by Ozef Kalda, an author of two volumes of Valachian stories, and libretto for Jaroslav Křička's children's opera Ogaři/The boys.

In the introduction to his analysis of the Diary, Vogel briefly examines the content and characteristics of the text that inspired Janáček to put it to music. Vogel describes how Janáček seemed to have identified with the hero's youthful crisis after his first erotic experience. The composer appreciated the story's emotional power and immediacy, its psychological veracity, the story's setting in Valachia, and finally the whole mystery surrounding the narrator and perhaps hero of the poem. In his book, Vogel did not seriously question the poems' authenticity as a true story, or its attribution in Lidové noviny to an unknown and unspecified J.D., although for the sake of thoroughness Vogel mentions the theory of František Trávníček that the author might have been Jan Misárek-Slavičinský. Other names that would appear later in that regard were unknown to Vogel. Today, however, on the basis of evidence presented in Mikeska's biography of Kalda, we can consider the mystery of the story's author to have been solved. Vogel was correct in reporting that Janáček believed in the story of the disappearance of the village youth J.D., and thus the folk origin of the text. The balladic aspect of the story, its poetic metaphors, and its brevity are quite characteristic of folk poetry. The mix of dialect and colloquial Czech, occurring as a result of urban influences on rural speech, was a common phenomenon also observed by Janáček himself in his ethnographic research; it was used, for example, by librettists Gabriela Preissová in Jenůfa and Rudolf Těsnohlídek in Liška Bystrouška/The Cunning Little Vixen. The fact that Janáček was also deceived as to the origin of the text tends to be confirmed as he changed the title of the piece, originally Z péra samoukova (From the Pen of a Self-Taught Man), which carried the impression of having been supplied by its publisher, to Zápisník zmizelého/The Diary of One Who Disappeared. (According to Janáček, the composition was originally called Zápisník zmizelého a nezvěstného/The Diary of One Who Disappeared and Never Heard of Again, and it probably premiered under this title.) Now that the real author has been discovered, we know it was not in fact the "true story" of Janíček D., and its folk origin must be considered a myth. This would seem to mitigate a couple of Janáček's motivations for putting the piece to music (i.e., truthfulness and the author's anonymity), but the power and poetic beauty of the text and of its musical adaptation remain undiminished.

Then farewell, dearest land
(closing part of the poetry)

Then farewell, dearest land,
fare thee well from my heard,
all that's left for me now,
is to say we must part.

Fare thee well, Father dear,
and to you, Mother dear,
fare thee well, sister sweet,
you with your eyes so clear!
See my hands raised to you,
please forgive everything.
There can be no return
from the life I'm beginning.
No escape can there be,
Fate's bidding must be done,
Zefka waits for me there,
in her arms is my son!


  • accompanying text in four language versions
  • publishers' notes and annotations in Czech and German
  • editors: Leoš Faltus, Alena Němcová
  • lyrics by Ozef Kalda
  • translated by Robert Russell (E), Max Brod, Soňa Červená (G)
  • size: 310 × 245 mm
  • stitched binding
  • number of pages: 88
  • editorial reference number: H0009
  • ISMN M-706527-01-7
  • issued in December 2004

series E, volume 4  

Reference: H0009

Condition: New product