Otakar Vočadlo

(2 October 1895, Klatovy – 24 January 1974, Prague)

Eminent linguist and literary scholar, professor of English language and literature

His university studies were interrupted by the First World War, during which he served as interpreter in the Austro-Hungarian army. In 1921, he received a doctorate based on his dissertation on Shakespeare. In 1922-28, he lectured at the School of Slavic Studies at the University of London, and afterwards he made an extensive lecture tour of the USA and Canada. After his return to Czechoslovakia, he focused on building a department of English studies at the Comenius University in Bratislava, where he also submitted his habilitation. During this period, he published two seminal works on literary history: Anglická literatura XX. století (English Literature of the Twentieth Century, 1932) and Současná literatura Spojených států (Contemporary Literature of the USA, 1934).

During WWII, he was imprisoned in the concentration camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald. In 1946, he received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Cambridge. In 1949, he was removed from office as the director of the English Studies Seminar at Charles University, from 1950, he could no longer teach, and in 1951, he was dismissed from the faculty altogether. He was only rehabilitated in 1968.

Apart from other studies in language and literature, his most important works include the elaborately annotated six-volume edition of William Shakespeare’s works in Czech translations (1959-64) and the posthumously published correspondence with Karel Čapek, including a personal memoir (Anglické listy Karla Čapka, 1975). In 1972, he received the Diamond Jubilee Medal from the London Institute of Linguistics.