Suvarna Garge


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Country  Czech literature
Media type  Print (hardcover)
Originally published  1995
Page count  542
Publisher  Ivo Železný
4.3/5 Goodreads

Publication date  1995
Pages  542
Author  Jan Křesadlo
ISBN  8023724525
Translator  Jan Křesadlo
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Language  Greek, Czech, Latin, English
Genres  Epic poetry, Hexameter, Science Fiction, Satire, Poetry, Postmodern literature

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Ἰωάννης Πυρεῖα = (Jan Křesadlo) «Ποιητοῦ ἀδήλου ΑΣΤΡΟΝΑΥΤΙΛΙΑ ἢ ἡ Μικροοδύσσεια ἡ κοσμική» - An unknown poet's Starvoyage, or Small Space Odyssey (1994) is the magnum opus of poet and writer Jan Křesadlo, one of the most unusual works of twentieth century Czech literature. It was published shortly after his death, as a commemorative first edition. (ISBN 80-237-2452-5)


While no full English translation exists as yet, there is a sample chapter translation online, and a German translation of the fully transcribed and annotated Greek text is in preparation.

Plot synopsis

The work is an epic poem, comprising 6575 verses of hexameter in Homeric Greek, with parallel translation into Czech hexameter. The postmodern science fiction story is inspired by the philosophical postulate of quantum physics, that for something to exist it must be observed. The Watcher over the Cosmos turns out to be a certain sheep. To kill the sheep would mean the end of everything. The Sheep that Watches the Cosmos is kidnapped by a villain called Mandys, and pursued by a rapid reaction commando force, whose captain is called Udeis, (= nobody, following the example of Captain Nemo, as well as the Odyssey's original hero, Ulysses, who went by the name Noman or Nobody in order to fool the Cyclops Polyphemus).


Aside from the science fiction and epic poem aspects, the postmodern playfulness of the plot itself is underlined by the Czech language Prologue (see part translation ) in Karel Čapek's mystification style. Jan Křesadlo purports to have came into the whole process not as the author, but as a translator of the Greek original "by an unknown author." We are to believe this is a real travelogue, whose alleged author is a space-time travelling Captain Udeis / Nemo, (as confirmed by "copyright Nemo" for the Greek text edition.) Nemo's travelogue was dictated to his universal translator Franta (which is a creature resembling a skunk, but made entirely of brain tissue.) Franta, who lacked common sense, thought it wise to write it all down in Homeric Greek, so as to make it more famous. At least, that is the claim made to Křesadlo by the 'archivist Divíšek' (a reference to Čapek's character of the same name) who brings the Greek text to Křesadlo for translation. (Albeit Křesadlo supposes that Divíšek wrote it himself.)

The text begins with a Latin summary for the erudite non-Czech reader. Greek neologisms are explained in a Greek-English glossary.


  1. Preface
  2. Epistola ad Lector doctum
  3. Synopsis brevior
  4. Prologue

The actual plot is divided according to the Greek alphabet into 24 stories, each a standalone tale on some planet, akin to the television series Star Trek.

  1. α - Preamble. The Sheep that watches the Cosmos, and the beginning of the thief Mandys' Starvoyage.
  2. β - About the lesbians.
  3. γ - About the beaked ones.
  4. δ - About the zoophytes.
  5. ε - About the degenerates.
  6. ζ - About the binary planet and other things.
  7. η - About the kosmobionts. Nemo's bravery.
  8. θ - About the butterflies, Grogals and the prophet.
  9. ι - About the tailed women and fakedogs.
  10. κ - About the kangaroos and Mandys' capture and escape.
  11. λ - About celibate men and what it entailed.
  12. μ - The Battle of men and women. Nemo as captive and gladiator. Robot bravery. Royal treachery.
  13. ν - About various creatures on the planets.
  14. ξ - The astronauts' Council. The Recreational planet. Kypta's iniquity and persecution.
  15. ο - About the royal daughter, the monster and the generous savior in accordance with the archetypal scheme.
  16. π - The Robot uprising. Franta's folly and his cure.
  17. ρ - About the robbers and on capturing Elefant and Franta.
  18. σ - About Grogal's temple and its guardians. Burda's prominence. The parrot centaurs.
  19. τ - Grogal the Prophet's divination.
  20. υ - About other space pirates and strange planets, especially the hypnotic animals.
  21. φ - About Guardians of Time. Franta's dexterity and bravery.
  22. χ - Mandys' interception and guile.
  23. ψ - Mandys' deceit and escape. The arrival of the time keepers and their meddling. Nemo, Franta and Tonda hunting Mandys.
  24. ω - Mandys and the sheep captured. The Poem's resolution and finale.

Followed by:

  1. Comment on the finished translation (poem)
  2. Greek-English Glossary of unusual words
  3. Τὸ τοῦ ἔπους εὑρητήριον (Greek index)


From the Preamble/Prooimion.


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