I Burn Paris by Bruno Jasieński is now available.
The webpage is here.
Thanks to Dan Mayer for his great cover design and Cristian Opris for his artwork.
Twisted Spoon Press is an independent small press based in Prague, publishing English translations of writing from Central and Eastern Europe.
video by Jan Strnad.
A short video about Other Air, an exhibition of contemporary Czech and Slovak Surrealists, with a few Surrealists from other countries included as well. The exhibiton runs till April 4. If you’re in town, definitely go see it.
(Toyen : Ani labuť, ani Lůna)
We can no longer look on with indifference at this repulsive spectacle, at this grotesque swarm of cunning sextons of official Czech culture, at this parade of orators that brazenly calls itself a celebration of Karel Hynek Mácha!
The nabobs, who unquestionably embody everything most disgusting and degenerate begotten by the high and petty bourgeoisie, representatives of the class whose institutions condemned Baudelaire for offending the slave order they call morality, satraps of a regime that ordered the confiscation of Lautréamont and Heine, and with them the official scriveners known as literary critics and domesticated writers — all those native enemies of poetry and thought — the legitimate progeny of those who a century before declared Mácha anathema to the nation — they have the audacity to organize the celebration of a poet whose work is such a sublime and irrefutable negation of all their popular culture and social order, under whose roof this infamy is now nearing its end.
It is imperative that we state loudly and clearly that Mácha, an outsider in his own land, the leading figures and ideologues of which bow to the throne of European counterrevolution, conflating in an epoch of revolutionary upheavals the national revival with the most malicious reaction, remains, even after these 100 years that have passed over the heads of academic Beauty and Truth, an outcast in a country ruled over by a class whose regime is de facto the enemy of poetry, and the only freedom this regime upholds is the freedom to pay cash.
A century ago the bourgeoisie barred Mácha from the salon of its patriotic idyll; today they have no right to appropriate his legacy, which should not be desecrated by being left in the hands of the present descendants of the Biedermeier intellectuals who showered May with the most dimwitted abuse.
The smoldering revolutionary embers of Mácha’s poetry survived under the ash of a century of conformism to burst into a fantastic flame before the eyes of the revolutionary avant-garde of poetry and thought, whose relationship to contemporary society and its culture is one of hostile confrontation as well. Let this society’s officially sanctioned writers celebrate their academic, religious, and patriotic idols, let the mouthpieces of the bourgeoisie bury their dead : the romantic revolt of Karel Hynek Mácha can never be canonized and neutered. Having been banished from the bourgeois world, Poetry will never again become the property and decoration of their social order.
We who likewise call on our homeland to be, liberty, projected to a future reality, are convinced that at this time of cultural eclipse — of the sun, the moon, and all the stars — a time in which the ruling class with their literati and entire intellectual and moral hangover would tremble if they understood the true, profound import of Mácha’s poetry, and of all genuine poetry, that at this time and in this nation, whose pretensions to morality and private ownership have censored Mácha’s diary, the day has yet come to truly celebrate him.
Indeed, we cannot imagine celebrating Karel Hynek Mácha any other way than by a sovereign act whereby the magnificent gravediggers of that appalling class of “Great Softheads” bequeath the salvaged legacy of poetry to the free members of a society where “poetry must be made by all.”
This ceremonial act we consider an act of vengeance!
Translated from the Czech by Jed Slast © 2012. All rights reserved.
This text originally appeared as the Afterword to Ani labuť ani Lůna. Sborník k stému výročí smrti Karla Hynka Máchy [Neither Swan nor Moon: Anthology for the Centennial of Karel Hynek Mácha’s Death], published by Nová edice in July 1936 in Prague. Edited by Nezval, the volume comprises texts by the Surrealist Group of Czechoslovakia to offer their own interpretation of Mácha, whom they considered a precursor in the same vein as the French Surrealists did Lautréamont (as the two quotes in the penultimate line would indicate). In his Preface, Nezval states : “This volume of essays and performances that we have collected should be considered a protest against the official centennial celebrations of May …”
The Twisted Spoon Press edition of May is here.
We will be publishing an English edition of the Czech Decadent classic A Gothic Soul by Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic (seated above, c. 1930) in an excellent translation by Kirsten Lodge. In the meanwhile, we have posted a couple of his shorter texts in her translation :
A biography and bibliography can be found here.
Czech writers being (re)discovered
The varied world of Czech literature, past and present, contains a vast store of work virtually unknown outside of the Czech Republic
Nothing lasts forever, and the recent losses of Václav Havel and Josef Škvorecký emphasize the finitude of what was probably the greatest generation of Czech writers. Fortunately, there are numerous younger writers whose work is becoming better known at home and abroad, while for English speakers there remain prominent figures in Czech literary history still to be discovered.
on Bruno Schulz, Jindřich Štyrský,
and other modernist masters of matter.
The fiction of Bruno Schulz is alive with dead things. His stories all take place in the narrow landscape of his childhood: the small, provincial town of Drohobycz in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is now western Ukraine, a few years after the start of the twentieth century. At the same time, they seem to occupy a separate cosmos, one whose physics, biology and even meteorology are distinct from our own. Schulz’s Drohobycz is a city of abnormal winds, intercalated seasons and illusory geography, in which time is entirely plastic, stretching out and contracting according to its own desires.
Here, the boundaries between people and things aren’t fixed. Human beings are susceptible to sudden, inexplicable transformations. They turn into animals — cockroaches, flies, crustaceans — and objects — a pile of ash, a primitive telegraph, a heap of rubbish, the rubber tube of an enema. A flock of multicolored birds flies from the family house in winter; in the fall, it returns blind and misshapen, the birds’ anatomy a nonsense of cardboard and carrion. The substance of reality seems paper-thin and prone to tearing. In attics, darkness degenerates and ferments. Unmade beds rise like dough. Colorless poppies sprout out of the weightless fabric of nightmares and hashish.
Ladislav Klíma’s ‘Glorious Nemesis’
“ … but what is a dream except the continuation of reality, or is reality the continuation of the dream?”
- Ladislav Klíma, Glorious Nemesis
In 1924 the first Surrealist Manifesto was published, elevating the blurring of dream and reality to an artistic imperative. That same year Franz Kafka was buried in Prague’s New Jewish Cemetery, after having found a radically different route towards the fusing of dream and reality in a work of art. These names now hold established places in literary history.
Far less known though is the fact that in 1926 Czech philosopher and writer Ladislav Klíma carried out the final revisions on his novel Glorious Nemesis, a book which embodies its own unique assault on the border between the waking and dreaming state.
Photo - The mountainous view from Cortina, the probable site of Klíma’s Cortona. So if you see a blue and red dot on that mountain, then run!! (I won’t say which way though).