Letter to Jaromír John (1941)

So that’s the way it is! 2 March 41.
Dear Mr. John,
I would like to write you a few words this Sunday afternoon about Moudrý Engelbert (Wise Engelbert), which brought me so much joy (and perhaps something else) when you sent it. We are a small group of friends that write; we’re about the same age and started roughly at the same time and yet, strangely enough, we’re unable to tell each other anything about our work. Perhaps shame is preventing us, or we are too tongue-tied. Yet I am daring to write something to you, although I am very shy and know that it cannot mean much to you.
I wasn’t hooked on Engelbert from the start. I didn’t completely trust him and felt like he was somehow playing with me. I still hadn’t understood that he was doing it on purpose, consciously, gladly and with a smile, that this was actually his beginning. And then I read the story and was excited, saddened and moved with a smile, and I was sorry to finish it and couldn’t believe that it was already the end. Fortunately, we are not done with the book when we are done with the reading. When we finish reading a book, we read it elsewhere, in a different space, time and milieu, under a different sky, under the sky of our heart. That’s how we finish reading books that we fell in love with. I must confess: I like the character of Bety the most from Engelbert.
I don’t want to say that Čeňka is wiser, certainly not, but she won me over with her straightforwardness, her immediacy and purity. Bety is of a humanly compassionate and understanding nature. I know, dear sir, that we are the most inarticulate when we want to praise. But let me tell you this: while reading Engelbert I recalled the place in Rilke’s The Notebooks of by Malte Laurids Brigge where they say: perhaps there were once times when people knew how to recount a story. – Because you know how to recount a story. And one other thing: When my friend and I proposed a toast to celebrate the first printing of his first novel, I wished that his novel would be loved by pure people just as Moudrý Engelbert would be loved.
Please forgive me for my clumsy words. I should have written a single sentence and you would have understood. I should have written: Thank you, sir, your story has warmed me up wonderfully from my cold existence.
Please accept my letter and my very sincere greetings.
Jiří Orten
(c/o Mr. Adler Prague II, Na Výtoni 7)
PS: I think that you understand, and that I don’t have to explain who I am. I was also a bit known under the name of Karel Jílek. I have confidence in you.
Subject: In the network
Author: Orten, Jiří
Title: Letter to Jaromír John (1941)
Licence: Free license

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