Letter to Jaromír John (1947)

Prague, 14 April 1947
Dear Comrade,
I have owed you a reply for a long time, so forgive me that I am sending it now along with my congratulations for completing another five-year plan of your life. You do not, however, have to respond immediately, but whenever it suits you. I’m especially happy that you like it there in our Moravia and that you are enthusiastic about your new mission, which, contrary to my expectations, also so pleases and so satisfies Jiřina Popelová, and other new “Olomouc citizens”. I undertook my military service there and don’t have the best memories; I grew up in the Haná region and I suspect that it was there, not here in Prague and at Právo lidu, that nothing happens. But thank you for your sincere words that are far too true, so true that they are not even quite true. To be begin with, it is not historically true: Surely you believe the man who wrote a monograph about F. V. Krejčí and is now going through his illegible memoires that it was Krejčí, not us much later, who managed to carve out that little bit of space for cultural matters that we have today. And it is not the least amount of space, compared to other periodicals – in fact, we devote more space to cultural matters than any other political party periodical. Also, we should really not judge the other types of periodicals the letters, if we want to be loyal to the mission of political periodicals, and if
we are aware of the cultural and political meaning of serious discourse in them, and how irrelevant similar articles, even ones that are longer and of better quality, are in non-political periodicals.
After all, I will not be there forever and will arrange it with literary and technical assistants, just as you do with your students in Olomouc. Next year I would be content with merely supervising, if only those students would come in from those universities, though with sufficient education. Someone has to do it, and I was taken aback by others who accused me of desertion when I wanted to give up on it long ago, but now they themselves have, quite shamefully, deserted.
I am also writing books and currently have three or four with publishers; I’m to submit two by year’s end, not counting a series (Arbes, a new Illový edition, new editions of my older books, a new edition of the book about Krejčí). But more than just a column, it’s now also a key position in this process of cultural building that I get as the head of this (and not another!) cultural column, and in which there is a real need for people like me to occupy, because otherwise the decisions would be made by those who do nothing at all in good conscience and at the sight of whom these nobles who only write books will run and hide so that they don’t burn their fingers and do not have to clean out the stables of Augeas. However
I decided during the occupation that I wouldn’t avoid anything like this after the war, that I would not passively observe any of this bullshit in my circle, that I would intervene not only with a weak pen but would extend its blade as far as I could. And, so far, I have no intention of withdrawing in this matter – you would feel it too, as would other noble people who work only for eternity and not for the present. So, I ask that you understand and believe that I will not be here an hour longer as soon as I see that I can leave and that I have a successor at the daily Právo lidu (People’s Right) who will not disgrace Krejčí and Píša more than I myself.
After all, it’s also a matter of those who want me or do not. They are keeping me at all costs at Právo lidu, while the university still fusses over Mukařovský. But I filed an appeal, which I apparently will win (my children are praying that I lose – understandably). So then perhaps it suited you. Whether it suits me, I don’t know – I look on this possibility of victory with horror, but I’ll tell you about it sometime, perhaps at Pentecost, for I will go to Kroměříž for my 25th school reunion, and would therefore make a stop in Olomouc. Should I bring you some of those philosophical books? I still don’t have an editor, but understandably I would rather have one closer and more renowned, not students – Píša has already strictly thrown them out, and I am following in his footsteps, although
I would have a surplus of them, for all fields. Well, let’s talk
I’m still looking forward to your books – both the poems and scholastic works. You must not go easy on yourself. Both are commitments. There must not be any weaknesses after Engelbert, and Czech aesthetics cannot subside only off Mukařovský. So that which I defend in my own work, I fully approve of your rejection of the same thing in your work. I probably won’t live to your age anyway, and certainly not in your vibrant spirit. That’s just the way we fatties are now. But unless something unforeseen happens, I will write all the books that I want to write for which I have the material prepared, even though I will remain an editor for a while, and will write articles and lecture both in Prague and in smaller town and villages. And forgive me for writing on a typewriter, at least it’s more legible. The typesetters are usually at their wits’ end from my manuscripts, and you also once failed, if I recall, even though you’re an old journalist. Oh, and before I forget: Are you proposing a revue? What type? A new one? I’ve been thinking about it, but people still don’t have to subscribe to it. Kytice (A Bouquet) along with Kritický měsíčník is more than they can afford. Moreover, Václav Černý doesn’t even have space for himself. So, for the time being let’s postpone it too, though I’ll keep it in mind. Meanwhile, I have to make time for Právo lidu.

Cordially yours, K. Polák
Subject: In the network
Author: Polák, Karel
Title: Letter to Jaromír John (1947)
Licence: Free license

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