Public Excluded...

We have become accustomed to look at an artwork as a manifestation of metaphysical tendencies, as an act that, in a direct and immediate sense, occurs in the realm of social and aesthetic morality, an act that tries, one way or another, to assess the moral position of the individual in the world. The advocates of the old and the new artistic style, the old and the new poetry, both started from this same point of view. It is incontestable that this question is truly the fundamental problem of artistic creation. It is only a matter of whether or not it is present in the artwork in a latent or manifest phase; it is a matter of the extent to which it can be drawn to our attention, without becoming complicated by distorting stylisations, without getting caught up in gestures.

Naturally, every historical period has formulated this question in a different way and responded to it in a different way. The poetry of the twenties and thirties set off its fireworks of expeditions into the world of the human spirit and imagination, consciously or unwittingly under the sign of the spectacular ascension of the creative powers of the new revolutionary consciousness. The legend of those years, embellished with everything that creates a myth and makes it truly legendary, was, in its glory and in its tragedy, powerful enough to continue to be for a long time the illusory image of the potential of the revolutionary activity of spirit and deed, the image of the real potential of transforming the world and life from what it was to what it could be. As if the romanticism of the mythopoeic 19th century continued and at the same time culminated in it (mythopoeic in the way that the power of the revolutionary spirits longed for the immediate implementation of the revolutionary transformation).

The period that followed this particularly electrifying and inflammable atmosphere, those raised hopes that crashed headlong into the future without regard for the ticking of the historical chronometer, inevitably had to be succeeded by a period of sobering up, which, in the realm of artwork, by a peculiar coincidence of historical circumstances, ended in catastrophe.

The unexpected defeat of the human spirit, represented by the gruelling series of Hitler’s wars, was only the most vivid and extreme sign of the exhausted collapse of the exceedingly glowing and utopian hopes for the future. The post-war chaos and the uncertainty under the gun-carriages of launch pads aimed at one another, threatening to start off at any moment the precisely orchestrated end of the world, seemed to acquire gradually the dimensions of a kind of universal spiritual cancer. The experience of those years, however, surprisingly did not seem to be tragic. It was as if all the pathos of tragedy moved out of life into existentialist novels, vanishing there under a layer of makeup. What remained was fatigue, a feeling of hopelessness, a retreat to the practical questions of the day, which mercifully made more profound concentration impossible. Life ran on in rigid sobriety. Habit, devastating inhibition, dulled sharpness of vision.

The strenuous and dexterous haggling for grants for Paris. The hunt for commissions, the financial qualities of which were, in the end, in the eyes of the majority, the only demonstrable qualities and clear criteria in art: after all, Picasso made millions on modern art. Likewise, the magnetism of applied art, the factory production of modern taste. The realism of interests, when no one believed in fairytales anymore. Only those who hadn’t yet seen the light took risks. And in addition, to live in such a way that we might be photographed for Life at any minute. To turn golden in the sun, naturally, strangely and beautifully.

Half-blind sheepdogs guarded this peaceful flock, which did not know where to turn to. A mentality after the manner of training with a grenade that we know is not real. Young people were at a loss. May Day on boats and faculty lecture halls full of apathetic students. This youth was depoliticised by the bad examples from the past and the even worse examples from the present that was panning out. And yet this youth was divided, if not by differences of opinion, then by varying shades of indifference. Instead of a battle between different intellectual concepts, all manner of forms of mutual contempt. Solidarity, like aversion, was replaced by calculation. This youth was, from the beginning, exhausted.

This basic mental attitude was the universal condition of post-war art, whether it persisted in its original amorphous neutrality or entered into the service of political editors. The former had, in comparison with the latter, whom they regarded as normal people pretending to be mad out of selfinterest, the dubious advantage that the emptiness that they endorsed with a certain satisfaction was, in the end, somewhat less convulsive than the deadening bragging of politically engagé individuals.

They were people who were fifteen at the start of the war. The provisional social arrangement they entered into was, at the same time, an intellectual vacuum. All values were relativised and not only that: it was not at all clear that there ever had been any real values. Young people who, from the beginning, did not believe in the fateful necessity of struggle that shaped the history of cultural values; young people who never had the chance to acquire any kind of intellectual foundation and who, for that matter, were not interested in figuring out the whole from the details. Those of them, in whom the romantic element had not yet been entirely extinguished, saw with their own eyes the universal disintegration, unemotional, hum-drum, with the grey colour of the everyday order of things, with putrid calm, occasionally interrupted by news from the battlefields and from sporting events. Political indifference, aside from fear and contempt for Nazism, which people knew would lose the war against the more powerful West. It was America, with its jazz and its technological civilisation, which captured the imagination of most young people. They put all their hopes for the future in it. For the youth of that time, the problem of West and East, in the political or philosophical sense, did not exist, for the very reason that they paid no attention whatsoever to political or philosophical problems.

Young people who were intellectually passive, emotionally cautious and politically unsophisticated, troubled by many crossroads, from which roads that were hardly appealing ran off. Wherever a little flame flared up, it was immediately suffocated by unnecessary pathos, which was always a little forced in a bookish sort of way. The war offered youth an intellectual holiday and unlimited credit for the future, which would cut the Gordian knots on its own. And peace, with its blatant practical orientation, crushed them. The spirit of resignation presumes hopes that were lost. These young people, however, were not, all in all, resigned because they had never entertained many concrete hopes.

They were not resigned, they were sterile.

Literature and film grazed these thin pastures with unlimited rigidity. Inventiveness was practically considered an offence against good taste. Ordinariness that was infinitely changeable, intellectual and material poverty were petrified in the style of neo-realism or existentialism. The former compelled the dynamism of the creative mind to submit to the dictate of boredom, which considered itself to be remarkable; the latter, to the dictate of those emotions that naturalism had drawn on half a century before when it shocked good society. In the conditions of that time, however, naturalism was uncompromising. Both these trends were essentially products of the same intellectual passivity cultivated by the post-war mentality, the collapse of fundamental intellectual values and romantic hopes. If the apparent analogy between the two world wars was confusing for many, the comparison of the development of art after 1918 and after 1945 demonstrated that this analogy was hardly relevant. It seemed that the spirit of rebellion that had dominated European social and cultural thinking after the First World War was completely used up over the next twenty-seven years. Its strengths, which consisted in the courage to make dreams come true, were worn down by scepticism, a scepticism that gave rise to a sober practicality in existential matters. In artistic matters, it gave rise to cautious, generalising trends, which one could give up at any point and replace with more appropriate, even less risky, trends. Single-mindedness, which does not give up its rights or its striking power, single-mindedness, which gives character and an awareness of the inevitability of the one path that can be taken, this single-mindedness that is the typical sign of all avant-gardes, seemed to have vanished from the world. Could it really vanish?

Could it really only be typical of certain periods of development? The fact remains that both the social conditions and the constellations of artistic personnel in those years were extremely unpropitious for any kind of single-mindedness.

And yet, from the very beginning of the peace-time years, a need was felt to cultivate at least a little shoot of the avant-garde. Hence, the tame experiments with dynamo-archism, which, for that matter, with its devilishly confused theories and exceptionally poor products, was really nothing more than an attempt to galvanize the corpse of the atmosphere of the twenties and to revive the archaisms that belonged to a different intellectual climate, which not even its creators set great store by. Hence, the even more pathetic attempts of the ‘surrealistic heirs’ of the Ra Group, whose anaemic rationalism proclaimed at every opportunity that it wasn’t serious about anything it undertook. This youth, senile through and through in its sophisticated sense of calculation, driven to even greater rapacity by, on the one hand, the tactical contemplativeness of Václav Černý, and, on the other hand, by the fiery imagination of Karel Teige, this youth was breathlessly scattered by the first obstacle and, fortunately for future historians, never recovered after that.

An analysis of the conditions, social or psychological, that created this state of affairs in the first post-war years would require extensive study of direct and indirect influences, which would certainly shed new light into the infinite chasms of the problem of the relation between the poet and society. Although this theme is very attractive, now we have to focus attention on a few lesser questions, connected directly with the work of the poet Karel Hynek. Above all, we have to determine what pressure the poetic idea generally was subject to in those years, and how the poet confronted that pressure, a poet whose work cannot easily be integrated into Czech literature.

From what we have considered thus far about the years 1945–1948, it is clear that this pressure, which certainly always persists in one form or another, whenever a new artistic type is born, was of two kinds in that initial period. It was, first and foremost, political pressure, which later became explicit control and which, at that time, was less intensive, but all the more polymorphous and universal. Artists did not co-create the cultural and political life, as in the 1920s; rather, they could only join and submit to programmes that were already defined. On the basis of these, they were assigned specific propaganda tasks, with no discussion of the new artistic and cultural principles. This pressure, which of course was compensated for by very real rewards, created, whether or not it was applied in the name of the most progressive social programmes, with the best of intentions, a milieu characterised by profoundly trivial thinking. It degraded or changed the function of artwork, which had been determined by the development of culture to date, into the function of propaganda and proselytising, which thereby lost contact with the basic issues of poetry. What is worse, the products of this propaganda, smothered by clumsy servility, were so profoundly inferior that they transformed this function into its opposite and made ridiculous the very ideas that they were meant to promote. The art of expression, which can be a direct and effective weapon in political struggle, the art of the courage, intellectual vigour, wit and forcefulness of a vision that is always fresh, which is the only one that can be called the art of propaganda, disappeared, it seems, with those who, like E. E. Kisch, could master and fight with it.

The second kind of pressure, which was exerted either in parallel or isolated from the first, was more devastating in that it was not external but endogenous. Those who decided to orient their work more or less within the boundaries of modern art suddenly found themselves in a situation similar to the predicament that part of the pre-war avant-garde had ended up in at the end of the 1930s. The word ‘surrealism’, no longer a term denoting a certain impulsive outlook, to which the most important part of the contemporary art of the world quietly owed its existence, the term itself became a menace to the notorious imitators who were unable to come to terms with its imperative magnetism other than by powerless incantations.

Therefore, most of the intellectually unemployed preferred a so-called negative imitation, the dexterity of which consisted in simply overturning or retouching values or skating between the pins of unacknowledged models. It was easier and far safer to bet on the effect of ostentatious heresy, if it was not required that this heresy be supported by a revision of the outcome of developments to date and by the establishment of a new standpoint; it was easier and safer to do this than to try and deal with problems that would require long-term solutions, at the very least. Artistic matters were mixed up, questions long were all lumped together, and all that required a lot of patience, risk, a sense of reality and concentrated study, all of which seemed to be old-fashioned, to say the least.

As it happened, a few young people did not participate in these social games, which they undoubtedly considered too tedious. Giving up all opportunities to publish, for which one had to pay the price of creative freedom even before 1948, they felt very strongly that the doors that opened before them were more tempting than those that led to the editorial offices. When these imaginative powers were strong enough to give existential satisfaction, were strong enough to prevent the person whom they shaped from stylising them into the forms that happened to be acceptable at that time, the sources of that peculiar activity that was later rather inappropriately called unofficial art sprang up. In a certain sense, that meant believing in poetry to a far greater extent than before, subjecting it to tests that were far more exacting and profound than any that art had been subjected to before. Let us preclude misunderstanding: this unofficial art was not the product of some kind of moral position, which, for that matter, is always problematic at the very least. It was not the product of a conscious stance of opposition. Rather, it resulted from the natural impossibility of subjecting those powers to the dictate of the market, just as some kinds of animals are naturally incapable of obeying the dictate of the cage. We must be satisfied here with the observation that in the sphere of the imagination and the intellect, there are elements that are so ungovernable as to be capable of deforming their lives, irrespective of personal or existential interests, irrespective of the established ladder of social customs.

In reality, it has always been that way. But while the former anarchy of the art market created a kind of periphery where disobedient poets and painters could get some publicity, the increasing administrative centralisation of the means of publication liquidated this periphery and unofficial art thereby lost all right to have a public. Communication, which was the basic purpose of this artistic endeavour, was thus stripped of its natural routes, its contact with the consumer. Thus removed from every kind of pressure and external deformation, vast fields of freedom opened up before this unofficial art, fields that were wishy-washy, crushing or liberating.

The history of art, particularly in the last fifty to a hundred years, when social antagonisms assumed more intense and sweeping forms, indicates that the relationship between the poet and society can only be dialectic. For that matter, this relationship is also determined by the clash, the disharmony and the harmonisation of the subjective and objective phenomena of reality in the human intellect and imagination; only artistic expression can give the most authentic account of them. The poetic work, if it is an expression of new emotional and intellectual powers, will go through a period of permanent conflict with the ruling aesthetic or philosophy of art before it becomes a symbol of the ascension of those new powers. At the very least, it will come into conflict with those constituent elements of aesthetics that the ruling class is willing to identify with. From the moment that the new intellectual powers, the product of which is an artwork, begin to establish themselves in the spheres of power, this work becomes their sign; the seditious character of the work is gradually dissipated in official interpretations. The artwork itself does not change as an act in time, space or causality; what changes are the interpretations that give the work life. But as soon as these interpretations start to have an official character, the artwork loses, to the same degree, its inflammable, magical influence and is ripe for textbooks of national literature.

Many pages of Baudelaire’s work, the strongest poems of Rimbaud, all of Lautréamont and, despite a certain respect for his decadent patriotic poems, Apollinaire, at least up to now, have escaped official interpretation because they tackle questions that are still delicate today._1

The poet and the artist reveal, in their best works – works that are truly inspiring and compelling – the actual state of tension in the intellectual atmosphere, as the romantics knew by the 19th century. And yet, this most characteristic aspect of the artist was not recognised, not even after the rearrangement of the class forces, by the representatives of the cultural politics of the social system that considered dialectical materialism to be its sharpest weapon. It is paradoxical that those who should best understand the dialectic of creative activity in every respect prefer to close their eyes to the true state of contemporary sensibility and consciousness. Or perhaps it is a glaring illustration of the strivings of the social revolution. Of course, the problem of the poet and society is not thereby resolved or liquidated. By denying it, all that one can achieve is a certain postponement, at the cost of a temporary stagnation in art, just as bourgeois idealism was unable to find the lost paradise by denying the existence of social conflicts.

The responsibility of the poet to those social forces that influence social progress begins and ends with the expression of at least a few of the contradictions that make up the emotional and intellectual structure of his era. He lends them his poetic language, he gives his testimony. He sheds light on relationships that escape the notice of others. He expresses them in his own way, in his manner of seeing, his characteristic signs. He does not seek unity and harmony – they are too stagnant for poetic creation. He senses the contradictions that alone can fire his imagination, the latent contradictions, which, secretly accumulated, have a tendency to erupt in the face of all conserving, even if otherwise progressive, social forces.

If the poetic work is the product of these hidden contradictions, if its greatest striking power is the power of rebellion, this does not mean that it tends essentially towards a sort of volcanic cultural or political anarchy, which sweeps aside all constructive values. This rebellion is powerful in that it confronts the living individual with a system of signs that was supposed to give expression to him in art but that in some respect no longer expresses him, or distorts him. The poet can be liberated to fulfil his explanatory function only by the sort of social system that is aware of its strengths, that is well aware that his strength and steadfastness consist in recognising the laws of historical development and in the opportunity to implement them; such a system, that is, which has in its hands the sources of those forces that shape progress in the sense of promoting the best conditions for human life. In such a system, the character of inner contradictions cannot have a catastrophic or retrograde impact. The artwork cannot have an impact that is, in a direct sense, constitutive. Its declarative and mobilising influence as a manifesto only conditioned by is a momentary wave of general excitement in exceptional historical moments. It is thus, in fact, an influence that derives from extra-artistic, social and psychological factors. Its actual strength is in its inspiring subversion of the restrictive and contaminating phenomena of life, which it attacks and struggles against under the surface of the collective and individual consciousness. These struggles, of course, are not characterised by the black-and-white contrast of the struggle between good and evil. Their nuances are often difficult to discern; they are veiled and masked, deliberately or unwittingly deceptive, ostentatiously mystifying, more or less unwittingly symbolic. It is difficult to judge them and such judgements are almost always relative. They can be explained in this or that way, but to con-demn them in the name of some kind of morality, to give them a fiery or condescending lesson in good behaviour, almost always leads to gross errors. In the sphere of the mind and poetic creation, the teacher’s cane has minimal impact. The forces that struggle, whatever their disguises and masks, for progress, for the intensification of human life, will always be stronger than those that oppose them, however they may be judged.


What you are is not important. What you herald is important.
Zbyněk Havlíček

No one knows about Hynek’s real life. The few biographical details available_2 – the diverse friendships that he made all too easily, the loves that he gave himself up to passionately and that, with his heightened appreciation of the complex games of the imagination, he liked to complicate – all these are unreliable bases for study of the eccentric, distinct psychological phenomenon that he represented. I deliberately speak of a psychological phenomenon because Hynek was not what one would call a type. His esprit was determined by a peculiar mental configuration, conditioned by countless factors, which will probably never be collected in such a way as to reconstruct the phenomenon of his psychology. The testimony of his friends will differ. Each of them saw him in a different way; for each of them Hynek played a different role. Yet one must attempt to give a kind of mental sketch, which, although it does not aspire to be a portrait of the poet, may provide at least part of the testimony. It may have some significance, along with those other accounts that will most likely come later.

In the period after the Second World War, one saw everywhere attempts at poetic self-stylisation. Their naïve pathos, usually rather comical, was in direct proportion to the lack of those qualities that it was supposed to replace. The exterior of Hynek’s personality, however, did not fit into the collective and, ultimately, tedious exclusiveness of the period style, which liked to make a show of its supremacy. He was completely inconspicuous, except when he allowed those who mattered to him to enter into his inner world, which naturally shaped his mental and physical character. The confinement in which he kept the hidden paths of his intellectual and imaginative tendencies in an inviolable state, this confinement, given by the isolation of the sensitive poetic organism from the world of practical values, which are useless in the sphere of emotion, divided Hynek’s personality into two parts, which were not contradictory, but rather complemented one another in the need to be always prepared for the game. A position outside the game, as one might describe Hynek’s ‘civilian behaviour’, produced in him a kind of basic stance, in which sensitive tenderness and a light, ironic elegance, which, in relations with women could be either unbearable or charming, allowed him to blend into any situation and master it easily, and almost unnoticeably. This exceptional ability to acclimatise immediately, however, did not prevent him from remaining true to himself through all his disguises: a personality happily joined to the character of poetry, which completed him and which he completed with his life.


Once begun, the rebellion aimed directly against the mythologisation of those literary and poetic phenomena, which had become sacred. It aimed against the endlessly drawn-out pilgrimages of the national tradition; the national tradition that wanted to change, through the accretion of rhetorical exercises, an innocent, naïve idyll from a time when its pages were not so faded, into a hymn of patriotic ambition. Or more precisely, to change it into that set piece that the orators had been calling for, so that their transparent words would have a backdrop that wouldn’t betray them. Božena Němcová’s Babička (The Grandmother), trampled for almost a century under the heels of that national patriotic society, provided Hynek with explosive material for rebellion against such a utopian construction, the falseness of which no longer corresponded to anything in life. Hynek updated Babička for the emotional climate of his time. He deformed it in those very places, which had been plundered most extensively by the various compensations of the national inferiority complex. But this attack was directed first and foremost at the monstrous idol that suspicious hands had moulded out of the innocent work. It was not a parody, attacking an author who had long been helpless. It was a ‘making present’ in the true sense of the phrase, a transfer from one emotional climate to another, a ‘making present’ that was a provocation, an act in the process of demythologisation that no living artwork can do without._3 We are familiar enough with Hynek’s poetic language to be able to recognise the sensitive joy with which he adapted those idyllic images, how he developed his own style in them, how he lit up in them the reflections of a child’s imagination from the time when he first encountered the book.


Almost a hundred years after the imagination of Božena Němcová flew into this quiet valley to weave the gelatinous web of a lost paradise, to change this valley into an open book, Karel Hynek changed this open book back into a real valley, enlivened by his imagination, his contemporary emotional experience. He filled up the cracked images of angelic purity with life once again, with the same simple directness that Němcová gave expression to in her correspondence, but which she excluded from her idylls.


Hynek’s poetic organism was in its element. Wherever the realism of description ran up against reality and cracked, Hynek’s imagination lit new lights. He developed the romantic motif of Viktorka into a network of metaphorical signs that resembled the poetic cubism of Apollinaire. At the same time, it was clear how Hynek’s condensed sign of the conceit differed from Apollinaire’s metaphor._4


If Hynek chose for his adaptation a title in which he compared his method, with a certain amount of irony, to a post-mortem, this meant – considering how precisely he expressed himself – that Babička was dead and that now it was a matter of discovering what had been concealed, the true state of a once living instrument. In its slightly drastic comparison, however, Hynek’s foray into the sacred territory of literary myth also reminds us of the happy curiosity of a child, who takes apart his favourite toy to find out what is inside. It was not a vandalistic foray into Ratibořice Valley, leaving behind only scorched earth. We see that Hynek proceeded with a tenderness that was not always sarcastic. He wanted to give life to those images in which everything rushed to the skies. Hynek left the sky to the clouds and concentrated entirely on terrestrial existence. When he allowed simple, ordinary, obvious things to speak in their natural style and language, when he changed their idyllic, stilted realism into an impression of living reality, he grasped this reality with his playful imagination, one in which the game, without him even being fully conscious of it, was the complex system of a symbol.

In this ozone-intense atmosphere, his chain of conceits acquired a new expressiveness. By stripping reality of the classical embellishments, by ‘giving it back’ its rawness, he allowed his metaphors to dazzle all the more brilliantly. In such a climate, his poetic language flourished most freely.


From the clash of the hyperbolic 19th century idyll with the poet to whom the rational 20th century had given a more forceful imagination, the fiery spark of black humour, the poetry of absurd verbal clashes and situations, inevitably had to flare up; with the uncertainty or the need for an elusive certainty, the deformed image of a modern myth. This spark was the spark of disillusion, the spark of conflict, of the contradiction between a will to destruction and a will to reconstruction, a will to destruction that has always had its other, constructive pole.


I met Hynek in 1947. I’m not absolutely sure, but I think that Karel Teige introduced him into that diverse and ill-defined circle that was called, with a certain embarrassment, the Ra Group. At that time, the circle was a sort of forefront in which Teige wanted to concentrate – without getting directly involved – the new representatives of modern art who seemed to have some promise. By that time, Teige had already seen Hynek’s manuscripts Inu, mládí je mládí (Indeed, the young will be young), and Babička po pitvě (The Grandmother, after the autopsy). It was only out of total ignorance that at one point the Ra Group was considered surrealist. Although it was almost impossible to speak of a group when the intellectual and creative differences were so profound as to preclude the formation of a common foundation, no one who was considered a member of the group was so naïve as to take on the thorny issues that the former Prague Surrealist Group had left open. There was a certain flirtation with the ‘surrealist heritage’, but only in so far as it didn’t lead to more profound complications. While some of the Ra writers claimed that they had ‘dug their teeth into surrealism’, their artwork was no more than nibbles. The group, blinded by the post-war mania for groups, the need for an organised assault on editorial positions and opportunities to exhibit abroad, eked out an existence until November 1947, when it was given the coup de grâce at the manifesto meeting in the Young Literature cycle in Žofín. Istler, Tikal and Hynek, who recited some of his poetry on that evening, Teige, Medek and I soon found a path to a new co-operation that was hardy enough to endure the tests that came later. Not even then were we interested in directly pursuing the tradition of the surrealist movement. For one thing, early on we were denied any possibility of publishing; for another, it was necessary to look at many questions from new perspectives. All of us, each in a different way, were interested in a basic revision of the principles of modern art. Without even wanting to deny our romantic lineage, our ideas and work differed in many respects from the paths of the post-war international surrealism, with which we could not keep in contact anyway. We began to organise a confrontation of views and artwork in the form of working anthologies; in these, month after month, we collected manuscripts and reproductions of things we were working on at the time.

Hynek and I did not immediately take to each other. Our friendship developed gradually, which was, for that matter, typical of that time when mistrust gnawed away at almost everything. I confess that for a long time Hynek’s poetry did not appeal to me. Even in 1951, at the time of the working anthologies, when we met often, his poetry seemed too ‘rococo’, artificial, playful and exclusive. Its seemingly, even ostentatiously, noncommittal nature often exasperated me. All of its complexity, its profound tones and symbolism, only opened up for me after I became acquainted with his creative method directly, when we were writing plays together. It was only then that I realised that what I had first taken for filigree, the frivolousness of which irritated me, was profound, systematic artwork that was not easily accessible, in which every word and every verse had a profound meaning. Unfortunately for me, by that time he was dying.

Translated by Kathleen Hayes

(Extracts from Karel Hynek: S vyloučením veřejnosti, Torst, Praha 1998).


If literary snobbism, so elitist that it is compelled to take a stance against official academia, invokes these very names, unaware of the connections and contradictions, it proves, in a way, the enduring unacceptability of those names: “And finally: who are your favourite authors? I am not very different from most French writers. Of the poets, I love most Apollinaire, Saint-John Perse, Eluard, Aragon, Desnos and of course Lautréamont. Of the prose writers, Stendhal, then de Laclos, Aragon, Franz Kafka and now I’ve discovered to my great joy the Guatemalan writer Miguel Angel Asturias. Of the Germans, I like best Arnold Zweig, of the Americans, Dos Passos, irrespective of his development.” François Monod, in an interview in Literární noviny (Literary News), 16 May 1959.

Born on 11 September 1925 in Prague, he studied at the business academy and graduated in 1944. He was first employed at an insurance company and later at the directorate of the state farms, then as a warehouseman. Shortly after the start of military service, he was discharged on account of tuberculosis. In addition to two or three poems, he published feuilletons in the journal Katolická žena (Catholic Woman) and composed lyrics for jazz tunes, for which he often used motifs from his poems. He died of uraemia on 9 January 1953 at the General Hospital on Kateřinská Street in Prague 2.

This process of demythologising is here connected to the process of deidealising, which attempts to preserve the plasticity of the work, even in those sections that will be stripped of the rather forced idealisation to which the writer retreated in her emotional confusion, as if to paradise.

Cf G. Apollinaire, The Poet Assassinated.