Letter from Milada Součková to Jindřich Chalupecký dated 3 July 1971

3 July 1971
Dear Jindřich,
Don’t you fret about letters flying back and forth – that would be at odds with human nature. What’s important is that we don’t forget about each other. Don’t send me that Weiner, I will order it for the Widener (Harvard College Library) as soon as comes out, or even sooner – once it’s been announced by the booksellers. That way more of your books will be sold. Widener is like my own personal library. I spoke to Harkins at the conference in Denver in March, just a few words. He is certainly a good ambassador of Czechoslovak literature over here. I don’t know him much, but from what he has published he seems to be a decent man; I doubt that his spirit hovers over the waters. I like Gibian for his Gibian ways; I used to know his parents through Rykr, and himself as a child. It speaks in both Harkin and Gibian’s favour that they have a high opinion of you.
I, too, am a lover of old things as well as new; I have my old favourites and my new favourites. For example, now I’m reading Péguy, whom I didn’t understand as a young girl. As Rykr used to say: tell me honestly, do you ever use your brain? As for new things, I like them when they’re truly novel; but I don’t care for those new language experiments; my instincts are a dog’s instincts, and they refuse to retrieve.
I’ll keep my eyes open for those underground texts, but I can’t promise anything and I take no responsibility. To me this stuff is too destructive, senselessly destructive. It’s just a lot of banging about. I find Waiting for Godot so boring. And you use it to analyze the situation, but it would not be you if you didn’t add the word “hope“ to the mix. And in that word, you are a kindred soul for me. Speaking of animula parvula blandula, comes hospesque corporis– kindred souls were all the rage in Šalda’s time, and partly by accident and partly out of curiosity I happened to get my hands on his correspondence published by the Monument of Czech Literature. No matter how you look at it, there was hardly anybody who escaped his criticism, from Mrštík to Vrchlický, from Karásek to Sládek. Yet he never found any shortcomings in Mrs. Svobodová. Das stimmt nicht. And even if it did make sense, what sort of an artistic stance is that (progressiveness, in opposition to backwardness, against the muck of the Czech intellectual scene etc.), the ideology of which could be summed up as “nobleness of spirit “, “fighting philistinism“, “fighting the muck“ (I know what muck is in a lake, but the muck of society? I only have a vague idea, etc. And the critic of today – Hellmut-Brauner, stands by Šalda again when he trashes “Maryša” and “Zumři”. I read the latter recently and I decided it was perhaps the best Czech novel. Rykr used to say the same thing, so I hope I may persuade you, at least partially. Still, both gentlemen voiced their frustration. But enough of that.
Why do I drift around? a) such is the reality of life, b) I need to save money for retirement. I know it won’t stand up in the higher court, but what can I do? That’s how it is. I still need to take care of some technicalities for the Berkeley job, and even if I do take it, it would only be for a year (nine months).
And I hope to have enough moral strength to decline if they ask me to stay another year. What appeals to me about it is only 1) the money, 2) most importantly, a winter without freezing temperatures, without snow and snowstorms and blizzards; instead, there will be roses and lemons and palms at Christmas, etc., etc. You have no idea what six months of winter can be like in Chicago, and to some extent in New England. It’s pure horror, even if the apartments are pleasantly warm.
Sometimes I also think of relocating to Rome, but there’s always something in the way.
The ransacked – or, rather, broken into – apartment, that’s all behind me now. Do you see how these things stand between us? These untold experiences, events of the day and place? For example, there is no way, not even in a dream, that you can picture my apartment – this dump, my elegant dwelling where poverty is no sin. I have just thoroughly cleaned the place and you’d be amazed – just like I’m amazed when you make paprika cream chicken. And again, I have no idea how chicken is sold where you are, but I’m sure it’s different over here. I know how to cook but only for one, or in exceptional cases, for two. I don’t even have a proper kitchen here, just a “kitchen corner”. And who knows, maybe you wouldn’t even like my cooking because my meals are very simple. There’s one good thing we have over here: saltwater fish. I have quite gotten used to that, Jindřich, which is quite strange and who would have thought it possible. But what matters is that we’re alive and that we know what it means to love life and people, even if they sometimes screw you over.
Sending many thoughts and regards.
Give my regards to Jiřina and tell her I'm keeping a special eye on her collected works here on account of our friendship.
Subject: A Woman in the Pantheon
Author: Součková, Milada
Title: Letter from Milada Součková to Jindřich Chalupecký dated 3 July 1971
Origin: Jindřich Chalupecký fonds
Licence: Free license

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