Letter from Milada Součková to Jindřich Chalupecký dated 5 January 1948

New York 5 Jan 48
Dear Chalupecký,
Thank you for your letter which I very much enjoyed. I’d thought you’d too had cut ties with me.
I’ve made it a rule that from now on I will immediately respond to any letter. So, I’m writing to you too straight away. Wherever I go, I keep cursing. Just this morning I received a letter from Prague about taxes owed and inheritance fees. If you’re interested, I’m still a millionaire on paper. If only I didn’t regret it so much – not being a millionaire, but to have for years suffered at the hands of the tax offices, I’d have written a farce about it. I know I won’t see a penny of all this, but I’ve been crucified by the tax office for years. What’s more, they stole my typewriter. There was a fire next door and firefighters were in our office. So, I’m now writing on a borrowed piece of junk whose font annoys me. These are the pitiful worries of a little person who’ll suffer from the beginning of the world till the end.
Thank you for spreading the grand message about me, such as the one about me returning on my own steamboat. Carry on with this fabulation. The truth is – what is the truth? – that you can’t imagine that I would “find a catch to marry”, it’s not in my character, and as you know reality always adapts to our character. It would be nice, but, unfortunately, it’s not true that I have found myself a groom, and a rich one to boot.
It all gets on my nerves: grooms, typewriters, telephones, parcels, letters from the authorities, the clutter in the office and so on. As Tolstoy once said: I see everything today “black with red spots”.
I’d love to write, my head is like a whirlwind, I’m as eager as ever, and I can’t. What am I to think when they publish the gentlemen in our country for large sums and I can’t even get a line published, except in your magazine. But then I don’t even care anymore, believe it or not, the indifference is deep inside me. But when I’m angry like today it rises up with the other red spots.
Please pick up the things from Melantrich, they’re bastards, and do with them or don’t do with them what you want. I’m placing this matter in your hands.
I spoke with Jakobson about you, and he was more conciliatory, but don’t expect anything for the time being. You really can’t imagine his character. I got to know it practically to a tee here. He really likes me, and I think he speaks sincerely with me as with few others in the world. But that doesn’t mean he’d do something for me. He would, but under unpredictable conditions, perhaps, maybe, but he really can’t be relied on, not at all, even if he promises. It’s not that he wouldn’t want to, but somehow he’s just unable. He’s very strange. He’s extremely capable of doing things in his own interest. He’s really made a great career for himself here. But he basically only works for things directly related to his interests. Not that I fault him, it’s not exactly criticism, he’s just that way and can’t be otherwise. And despite his extreme cleverness and talent, I’ve heard that he’s only published here an old Russian manuscript with notes – an old thing. It’s entitled “Sound and Meaning” or something like that, it isn’t actually done yet; it should be out next year. That’s what

he last told me when I urged to him to send you something. Jakobson is not a simple matter – neither as a person nor a scholar. I personally like him very much and he is, after all, someone congenial to me (in the sense of being void of genial) like few others. I can speak with him and he to me quite openly, without the conventions and lies that are normally set between people. I really like him, but I’ll tell you again, Jakobson is a hard nut and must be accepted as he is. Most importantly, nothing can be expected of him in the sense that he will do a favour for you in matters such as an intervention or an article. But I can’t stress enough that he is dearer to me with his faults than others with their virtues. As for those books on theory of the novel and on the American novel, I can’t send them to you as I need them for my own work. Sometimes, when I can’t take it anymore, I sit down and write a chapter. I was recently in the Metropolitan Museum where they have mostly nonsense (if I may say so), their Greek art, for instance, is woeful when one has seen the Acropolis and its museum. Of course, it would be decent for Prague’s standards, but it’s insufficient for America. Yet it’s natural that it doesn’t have what Europe does, and that’s good because it doesn’t lack anything (we could logically say “isn’t short of anything”). Their paintings are also weak when compared to European collections. Only the Dutch School is of a high level. They have one of the most beautiful Breughels I have ever seen. But I didn’t want to get into all that. They have a beautiful Egyptian collection created from modern American excavations. Oh, did it ever bring me to life, Mr. Chalupecký. It inspired me and I’ll write an introduction to my book (will I?) on the novel. Such a broad view of what art is, what art of the Hellenic-Christian civilization is, to which the novel belongs. It is forming nicely in this wretched and hard-pressed head of mine, and in such moments I’m happy and don’t care, even if I die in a pile of manure, even if I knew that I’ll never again write what I want. In such moments I think that I really have talent. Otherwise, life continues to prove to me that I’m a wretch. The great gamble is that I never learn what is true.
So much for the most important thing. I don’t want to write about any current matters. One day we’ll talk about it all. All is not lost that is delayed. I’m writing nonsense, but as I previously mentioned: it’s nefastus day.
Oh yeah, and so I don’t forget – I read here – and not until I was here – although I’ve been searching for it for years, Rousseau’s study that he submitted to the Dijon Academy. At the Public Library: you enter without any entrance fee or any formalities, you find the thing in the card catalogue, you fill out a card and in literally ten minutes you get the book. A beautiful critical edition, a facsimile, not as far as the letters are concerned, but the number of words on the pages, a model edition from 1946. That’s America. I ordered the book because it is an old dream of mine and, like all true dreams to which one gives blood and thoughts, it came true. I will write about it again in my study and I might send you that piece because it would more or less stand by itself. Write me if you’re interested in it.
But now that’s really enough. I’ll send a letter to the syndicate as you’ve advised me. Don’t abandon me if possible. And write me. Cordially yours, M. Součková
Subject: A Woman in the Pantheon
Author: Součková, Milada
Title: Letter from Milada Součková to Jindřich Chalupecký dated 5 January 1948
Place of publication: New York
Origin: fond Jindřich Chalupecký
Licence: Free license

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