OLBRACHT, IVAN (pseudonym of Kamil Zeman; 1882–1952), Czech author and publicist. Olbracht was born in Semily, Bohemia. His mother was Jewish; his father, a non-Jewish writer. Olbracht's early works, O zlých samotářích ("Of Evil Lonely Men," 1913), Žalář nejtemnější ("Darkest Prison," 1918), and Podivné přátelství herce Jesenia ("The Strange Friendship of the Actor Jesenius," 1919), were psychological masterpieces. He became a Communist after a visit to the U.S.S.R. which inspired his Obrazy ze současného Ruska ("Pictures from Contemporary Russia," 1920). Later he concentrated on social themes, without, however, embracing "socialist realism."
His Anna proletářka ("Anne the Proletarian," 1928) is both a psychological and a social novel, while Nikola Šuhaj loupežnik ("The Bandit Nikola Šuhaj," 1933) remains, despite its social-revolutionary tendency, a delightful ballad about a "Robin Hood" hero from sub-Carpathian Ruthenia. This poor, eastern region of pre-war Czechoslovakia also provides the setting for three more works by Olbracht: Země beze jména ("Land Without a Name, 1932), Hory a staletí ("Mountains and Centuries," 1935), and Golet v údolí ("Galut in the Valley," 1937), the last serving as a literary memorial to ḥasidic life in the sub-Carpathian region. One of his children's books, Biblické přiběhy ("Bible Tales," 1939), is a modern treatment of Old Testament stories. Olbracht also translated Marx and Engels' Communist Manifesto into Czech. He was for some years a member of the Czechoslovak parliament.
P. Váša and A. Gregor, Katechismus dějin české literatury (1925); B. Václavek, Česká literatura XX. století (1935); J. Kunc, Slovník českých spisovatelů beletristů (1957). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: V. Hnízdo, Ivan Olbracht (1977): Lexikon české literatury, 3/I (2000); J. Podlešák, Židé v díle Ivana Olbrachta, in.: Židovská ročenka (1982–83); Slovník českých spisovatelů (2000).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.