George Pistorius (1922-2014)

George Jiri PistoriusOne of the earliest SVU members, George (Jiří) Pistorius passed away on Saturday, March 15, 2014, at Sweet Brook, Williamstown, MA, following a long illness. He was born in Prague on March 19, 1922, as a son of a notable economist Theodor Pistorius who founded the Institute for Export in Prague. He was the grandson of Josef Jiránek, who was a noted concert pianist and pupil of Smetana.

Pistorius attended Charles University (1945-48), where he studied French and comparative literature. He left Prague in 1948 for Paris, where he worked as a journalist, writing cultural and education programs for the French Broadcasting Company, and did postgraduate studies in Slavic philology at Université de Paris (1948-50).

When he first came to the US in 1958, he taught French and German at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, while attending University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Romance languages, specializing in French (Ph.D.). In 1963, he moved to Williamstown to teach French at Williams College, where he taught for 29 years until his retirement in 1992. He was chair of the Romance Languages Department, 1971-1982.

He was fluent in four languages, and was interested in Franco-German literary relations. He was an active member of the Modern Language Association, and wrote at least five books and numerous articles focused on 19th- and 20th-century French literature and 20th-century Franco-German literary relations. In Czech, he authored Bibliografie díla F. X. Šaldy (1948), Padesát let Egona Hostovského (1958) and Doba a slovesnost (2007). A pianist himself, he knew classical music inside out and faithfully attended concerts around Williams College campus.

His passing away is a great loss to SVU, as well as to the Romance Languages community.