Nerudova 233/47: U dvou slunců

House of the Two Suns in Prague

Devotees of Pablo Neruda, the Chilean Nobel Prize winner, will be aware that he adopted his pen-name in homage to the earlier Czech poet Jan Neruda, who spent his formative years at the baroque House of the Two Suns (U dvou slunců) on this steep and ancient street below Prague Castle.

Formerly known as Ostruhová, the street is now named after its most famous inhabitant, whose association with the house is commemorated in the plaque of 1895 by Vincenc Rupert Smolík and František Houdek, after a design by the illustrator Viktor Oliva. The triangle is the symbol with which Neruda signed his work.

Neruda monument in Prague

Neruda’s ‘Povídky malostranské’ (Tales of the Lesser Quarter) is recommended reading for anyone visiting Prague, especially the satire ‘Doctor Spoiler’, about a physician whose reputation soars when he pronounces a dead man alive, and is thereafter much in demand – especially, as Neruda wryly remarks, ‘from people whose death would have given large numbers great joy’. There’s an English version by Michael Heim, and another by Edith Pargeter, the Shropshire-born author of the Brother Cadfael mysteries.

In 2009, the poems of Jan Neruda achieved new heights – literally so – when his ‘Pisně kosmické’ (Cosmic songs) were taken into space on one of the final missions of the US space shuttle by an American astronaut of Czech descent, Andrew Feustel.