Born in Pilseň, Czechoslovakia, Miroslav Holub was the son of Josef Holub, a lawyer who worked as a railway clerk, and Františka (Dvoráková) Holub, a language teacher. By the time Holub completed secondary school, Nazi occupation had closed down Czech universities. As a conscripted worker in a warehouse and at a railway station, he was writing and publishing poetry by the end of World War II.
In 1948 in a national student competition, he was selected as winner of the third prize for poetry and fifth prize for prose, but the communist student leader dissolved the students’ union rather than award the prizes. The only permissible poetry was in the Socialist Realist vein, a style that advocated communist ideals and adhered to narrow political and moral mores, which Holub viewed as a cover-up of reality. As a result, Holub became silent for a period, devoting himself to science and receiving his M.D. in 1953 from Charles University. That year he also became editor of Vesmír, a popular science magazine, and he eventually returned to writing poetry as a kind of defense against the absurdity of the social order. In 1954, he became an immunologist on the staff of the Institute of Microbiology in Prague and also began work on his doctorate in immunology, completing the degree in 1958, the same year he published his first collection of poetry, Denní služba.
During the 1960’s, Holub published several volumes of poetry in...
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