Dear Mr. Chalupecký,
When you wrote to me you must have known that I would be surprised. As Rykr would have said: the layman is astounded, and the expert is intrigued. – Your article is superb. The reproductions reminded me of images stored in the closed warehouse of my memory, a warehouse which has been closed and left alone. Of course, I often think of that grey spring (which I think you also mention), those green trees against a grey backdrop, somewhere in Zderaz; the cubist view from the window where Rykr lived when he worked for the Lažanský family, and others, but I have forgotten the ones you reproduced. – I regret to say that my memory is not of the kind to answer your questions satisfactorily. Prof. Krčmář could do that – he would have been able to tell you what happened on January 7, 1912, if it came to it. That’s what I call a good memory. I can only tell you what I know, like Kvapil.
Re 1) I think it was the year of the world exhibition in Paris. And I think it was Jíra from the Czech News Agency who arranged contacts with Loewenstein and Szobel. If I remember it right, Loewenstein and Szobel had an exhibition under way. Perhaps you could write to him and ask him about it. He wrote about Rykr once, on his 60th birthday. I don’t have it, but I've read it. It was written “with due reverence”, as they say, but to all intents and purposes it was the usual assessment you write about: that Rykr is an outsider, a fairly unoriginal painter, and so forth.
Re 2) Perhaps it was his contacts with Loewenstein that led to his exhibiting at Surindépendant. It was a giant exhibition, in a venue as big as the Industrial Palace at the Prague Exhibition Grounds. A large, uninviting space. I remember there was sand on the ground. But it was a truly modern exhibition. I don’t recall who the exhibitors were. I’m sure there were some avantgarde stars. I do remember some of the paintings – as you can see, my memory is very visual – I don’t remember who the painters were. I know Breton used to go there. And I remember going to a cafe nearby – tres artistique et litteraire – and that Breton was there, surrounded by young women, the kind we would regard as beatniks today, they were barefoot despite the cold weather. Re 3) Loewenstein was Rykr’s biggest friend, they wrote each other, and Loewenstein was one of those international Jews, the likes of Max Brod, who were able to promote things they believed in. The world would have never known about Kafka without Brod beating the drum for him in America. Loewenstein also got me acquainted with Henry Miller. At the time, he (Miller) had his “little magazine“ called Booster that once printed a translation of mine. He was dating Anais Nin. It is only now, after experiencing life over here, that I see it from the right perspective; back then, I found it all quite “strange”. Ad 5) Delta – I never thought about it until you mentioned it. I don’t know anything – I only have a very foggy memory of it. Ad 6) Do I remember a Delaunay telegram – no way! I do remember his large canvases; I didn’t much like his style then, and I still don’t. Ad 7) Which works did Rykr exhibit at l’Equipe? I only remember one painting, but I’d know it among a thousand, as they say, if I saw it. The coloring was pink and there were candles and round cookies – a Christmas tree. Nothing green. A bit like Borés.
One more little note that I hope you will find interesting. The first reproduced painting – I like it more now than I did then, although I was always very fond of the sketches and various versions of it. It was inspired by the Medieval period, as Rykr had the opportunity to see it in Bechyně, Krumlov, and other parts of southern Bohemia where we traveled, even if it was, of course, all overbuilt with Baroque buildings. Now that would be an illustration for the play I am currently working on about St. John of Nepomuk! You stand amazed, my colleague, as you should. Perhaps you will also be interested to hear that Harvard Library has the complete Weiner, including a study by J. Chalupecký, which I personally donated. There is also a book of poetry by Hauková and, of course, her new collection. The former is also a gift from a poor writer to the rich Harvard College Library. But the library’s Czechoslovak section is basically “my baby“. It is the best Bohemian studies library in the West. That’s an objective fact. It also has all the released issues of “Listy“. That is completely unique in this hemisphere. And again, it was donated by me. Speaking of literary history: Could you look around and get me the following for Harvard Library: “První písmena“ [First Letters], “Odkaz“ [The Legacy], “Zakladatelé“ [The Founders], “Škola povídek“ [School of Short Stories], and “Hlava umělce“ [An Artist’s Head]? The library would pay well. I saw “Amor a Psyché“ [Amor and Psyche] in the Chicago Public Library the other day but the paper was completely damaged. Harvard and the local library want to make photostats, but I mainly care about the things that are not here. Jakobson used to have them, but his copies are now lost. Also, please tell me openly whether you would like me to send you my next collection of poetry. Or my study on Vrchlický (in English). The Vrchlický piece is already in print. The poetry is due out sometime this year, but it is not definite. I could send you “Neznámý člověk“ [The Unknown Man]; although I wrote it during the war, it was not published until last year. Surprisingly, it’s held up well. Also the poems “Pastorální suita“ [Pastoral Suite]. But I’m always more interested in what hasn’t been published yet than in the things that have. Still, I’d be very curious to hear what you think of my work today. Both you and your wife, that is. Sometimes I have conversations with you in my head. As for my requests, do not hesitate to say no or just never mention them again. And one more note: Rykr used to say that nature is the nursing mother of all great spirits. The nursing mother, sir. Now tell me: which of us is the greater Talmudist? You or me? That is, of course, an Oedipal question. I apologize for the typos. I have a nice typewriter, but back in Cambridge. The one over here and the one in the study hall are both bad. This one came with the apartment I’m renting from Říha, who also teaches here but now is in Europe. My other „home“ is in Cambridge. Si licet... Thank you once again, and I hope to hear from you sometime. Kind regards to you and your wife.
|Subject:||A Woman in the Pantheon|
|Title:||Letter from Milada Součková to Jindřich Chalupecký dated 7 January 1964|
|Place of publication:||Chicago|
|Origin:||Jindřich Chalupecký fonds|