Allen Ginsberg – Prague’s King of May

Allen Ginsberg, Crowned May King, Prague, Czechoslovakia, May 1965. Photographer unknown. c Allen Ginsberg LLC

Allen’s Czech translator, Josef Rauvolf, happened to locate this one for us. We’ve seen bits of footage from that day, but none with some of the actual sound as you get here. Allen comes on as May King at around 1:30. Keep in mind this is the first traditional May Day celebration – where students elect a May King (Kral Majales) to rule over a bacchanal each May day – that the Communists allowed since their takeover in 1945. The Communists had instead used the date for huge Soviet style labor parades, but student protests & clashes with police in recent years had led the Czech president to test the original formula in 1965 in an attempt to placate them. And so, in returning to the earlier tradition, students were allowed to elect a King, nominating Allen. The exposure and high profile of the event no doubt played a huge role in Allen’s expulsion from Czechoslovakia later that week.

See video here 

2012 update – see additional posting of this here, and, more importantly, an expanded updated posting here

One comment

  1. This is extraordinary footage. Incredible to see and hear Allen on that stage, to see the famous noise meter that 'measured' the crowd reaction. Also amazing to see the sheer scope of the event, the vast throngs of people. How odd that Allen found himself not only in Prague during the May Festival but actually an integral part of the whole affair – May King! For an interesting account of the events of that day, see the Massachusetts Review, summer 1998 vol XXXIX, No.2. Was the noise meter fixed?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.