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.
A submission from fereshteh (blackflamedsun [at] gmail [dot] com), though I’ve wanted to feature him too: Ladislav Klima (1878 - 1928), an influential Czech writer brought into English by Twisted Spoon Press (who are also on tumblr!) in two books:
TS list three additional books as forthcoming: The Blind Snake’s Wanderings for Truth, I Am Absolute Will, Tales of Weirdness. Bio from the TS website:
Ladislav Klíma was born August 22, 1878, in the western Bohemian town of Domazlice. His father was a fairly well-to-do lawyer. At first a top student, he became steadily more rambunctious (he lost two brothers, both sisters, his mother and grandmother during his youth), and in 1895 he was expelled from gymnasium, and all the schools in the Austrian monarchy, for insulting the ruling Habsburg dynasty. He attended school in Zagreb at his father’s behest, but came home after only half a year resolved never to subject himself to formal education again. Adamantly refusing to engage in any sort of “normal” life as well, he lived alternately in the Tyrol, Zelezná Ruda in the Sumava Mountains, Zurich, and Prague, never seeking permanent employment, burning through any money he had inherited and living off the occasional royalty or the sporadic largesse of his friends. He settled in Prague’s Smíchov district where he wrote his first work in 1904, The World as Consciousness and Nothing (published anonymously and at his own expense), in which he makes the case that “the world” is nothing but a fiction. His major inspirations were Berkeley, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and the Czech symbolist poet Otokar Brezina. Klíma’s philosophy has been called radical subjective idealism, where all reality culminates in an absolute subject, and he developed this into the metaphysical systems of egosolism and deoessence (one fully understanding his substance and becoming the creator of his own divinity). These themes are also explored in his fictions, chief among which are The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch and Glorious Nemesis. His other major philosophical works are compilations of shorter texts: Tractates and Dictations (1922) and A Second and Eternity (1927). While only part of Klíma’s oeuvre was published during his lifetime, numerous manuscripts were edited and collected posthumously — stories, novels, plays, and a copious correspondence (it is estimated that Klíma, in a fit of disgust, destroyed some 90% of his unpublished manuscripts). And though his writing was marginalized and suppressed by the communist regime for many years it still managed to inspire a generation of underground artists and dissident intellectuals with its vision of one’s innate ability to achieve inner freedom, to pursue spiritual sovereignty through deoessence. As Jan Patocka put it : “He was our first, untimely absurdist thinker.” Klíma died of tuberculosis on April 19, 1928, and is buried in Prague.