Thursday, June 30, 2016

Life to the everlasting cat ... 10 days after the journey

IMG_20141106_192149Life to the everlasting cat
Up, up, up past the Russell Hotel
Up, up, up, up to the Heaviside layer
Up, up, up past the Russell Hotel
Up, up, up, up to the Heaviside layer

Up, up, up past the Jellicle moon

Up, up, up, up to the Heaviside layer
Up, up, up past the Jellicle moon
Up, up, up, up to the Heaviside layer

The mystical divinity
Of unashamed felinity
Round the cathedral rang 'Vivat'
Life to the everlasting cat

Sunday, June 19, 2016

"The Castle, its outlines already becoming blurred, lay as quiet as ever" ... except when I visited!

2016.06.18-DSC06898I must say that I didn't have an enjoyable visit to the Prague Castle. The crowds were so intense there were spots where you couldn't even move. My experience, still, was better -- or different? than K's.

So, without further ado, here are some quotes from The Castle (German: Das Schloss) (1926) by Franz Kafka.

* * * * *

It was late evening when K. arrived. The village lay deep in snow. Nothing could be seen of the Castle Hill, it was hidden in mist and darkness, and not even the faintest gleam of light indicated the great castle there. For a long time K. stood on the wooden bridge leading from the main road to the village, looking up into the apparent emptiness.

He felt impelled to seek out new acquaintances, but each new encounter increased his weariness. If he forced himself in his present state to walk on as far as the entrance to the Castle, he would have done more than enough.

Above them the Castle, which K. had hoped to reach that day, already looked strangely dark as it receded from view. As if to bid him farewell for the time being, a bell rang out with a cheerful sound that, at least for a moment, set his pulse racing. It was also a poignant sound, as if it threatened to fulfil the obscure yearnings of his heart. But this great bell soon fell silent and was followed by a smaller one with a feeble, monotonous sound that might still have come from the Castle up there, or perhaps from the village below. Its chime was certainly better suited to his journey in the slow-moving sleigh and its pitiful but grimly determined driver.

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The beer was poured out by a young girl called Frieda. She was an unremarkable fair-haired girl with a sad face and hollow cheeks, yet surprisingly she had a look of distinct superiority. As she glanced at K., he had the impression that this look had already settled certain things about him, things of which he was still quite unaware, but which were confirmed by her look.

You’re not from the Castle, you’re not from the village, you’re nobody. But unfortunately you are somebody, you’re a stranger who is one too many and gets in everyone’s way, who is forever causing trouble, who takes up the maids’ room, whose intentions are unknown. You have seduced our dear little Frieda, and now unfortunately we have to let you marry her. I’m not actually blaming you for all that; you are what you are, and I’ve seen too many things in my life not to be able to face this prospect as well. But just think what it is you’re asking for.

it makes my head spin when I listen to you expressing your opinions, and compare what you say with the actual situation. Your ignorance can’t be cured all at once, and perhaps it can’t be cured at all, but things can be made better if you only believe some of what I say, and if you always remember how little you know.

The importance of the case does not depend on the amount of work it creates; if you think that, you are a long way from understanding the authorities.

All these contacts are only apparent, but because of your ignorance of the circumstances you take them to be real.

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‘You are right that statements from the Castle cannot be taken literally.

‘I want no favours from the Castle, only my rights.’

The Castle, its outlines already becoming blurred, lay as quiet as ever. So far K. had never seen the slightest sign of life up there; perhaps it was quite impossible to make out anything at that distance, and yet his eyes still sought it out and could not accept its stillness. When he looked at the Castle, it was sometimes as if he were watching someone who was sitting there gazing out calmly, not so much sunk in thought and therefore cut off from everything, but aloof and unconcerned, as if alone and unobserved, yet someone who must be aware that he was being observed without letting it disturb his calm in the slightest; and indeed – it was impossible to tell whether this was cause or effect – the gaze of the observer could find no hold and slipped away.

Perhaps your antics will leave deep footprints in the snow outside, but nothing more.’

‘It’s not encouragement he needs,’ said K., ‘encouraging him is the same as telling him he’s right, that he only has to carry on as he was doing before, but if he does that he will never achieve anything. You can encourage someone who is blindfolded to peer through the blindfold as much as you like, but he’ll never see anything; only when you remove it will he be able to see. Barnabas needs help, not encouragement.

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Of course, we’re all told we belong to the Castle, that there is no gulf between us that needs to be bridged, and that may be true in the usual course of events; but unfortunately we’ve had occasion to see that just when it comes to something that matters, it’s not true.

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I once heard of a young man who thought about the Castle day and night, he neglected everything else and people feared for his sanity because his whole mind was on the Castle up there; but in the end it turned out that it wasn’t actually the Castle he was thinking about, but the daughter of a woman from the Castle kitchens, and he got her, so he was all right again.’ ‘I think I’d like that young man,’ said K. ‘I doubt whether you’d like him,’ said Amalia, ‘but you might like his wife.

The officials are highly educated, but they are blinkered; in his own field it only needs a word for an official to grasp a whole train of thought, but you can explain something from another area for hours and he may nod politely, but he won’t understand a word.

"The Czechs are just a bit sparing of vowels" BG Baker #QotD

IMG_20160618_185955020The Czechs are just a bit sparing of vowels; they prefer a good fat cluster of consonants, as, for instance, in Vltava, Brno, and other such pretty names, but then you simply insert an indefinite sound here and there between the spiky consonants, and all is well; anyone who knows Hindustani or Arabic will find it quite easy. After all, if the Czechs prefer their language that way it is their concern, as long as they do not expect the world outside Bohemia to learn it.

From a Terrace in Prague (1923) by Bernard Granville Baker

"Angel, if there were a place we don't know ..." R.M. Rilke

2016.06.18-DSC06864Fifth Elegy (extract)

Angel, if there were a place we don't know, and there
on some ineffable carpet, the lovers who never
could bring off their feats here, could show
their bold lofty figures of heart-swings,
their towers of ecstasy, their pyramids
that long since, where there was no standing-ground,
were tremblingly propped together--could succeed
before the spectators around them, the innumerable silent dead:
would not these then throw their last, ever-hoarded,
ever-hidden, unkknown to us, eternally
valid coins of happiness
before that pair with the finally genuine smile
on the assuaged carpet?

From the Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke (Trans. C.F. MacIntyre)

Rilke wrote The Duino Elegies (German: Duineser Elegien), a collection of ten elegies begun 1912 while he was a guest of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis (1855–1934) at Duino Castle, near Trieste on the Adriatic Sea. The series took nearly 10 years to complete and were dedicated to the the Princess when published in 1923.

British Airways 863: PRG to LHR

Gate A3

Tak dlouho, Praha .. až příště

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Comments on Pražský hrad, or the Prague Castle, by Bernard Granville Baker

2016.06.18-DSC06916Some quotes on the Prague Castle from  From a Terrace in Prague (1923) by Bernard Granville Baker

The usual travelling Westerner prefers the shortest and most convenient route to Prague, namely, via Paris. You may get right through from London to Prague in thirty-six hours if you just skirt round Paris by the ceinture, but a right-minded wayfarer, who should never hurry, will not miss an opportunity of taking the tonic of a few days in the "Ville Lumière."

You should travel to Prague when the days are long, so you will be rewarded by a very fair view as the train crosses the placid River Vltava. Out of a shadowy mass of grey houses with tiled roofs, divided by the glittering, winding river, rises the Castle of Prague, a massive building crowned by a church of which the soaring spires, pinnacles, and flying buttresses s'accusent against the western sky. The train then plunges you into a tunnel, a long tunnel taken slowly, where you may reflect on the vision you have seen, the vision of another city "that is at unity in itself."

These people are slaves to the guide-book; they leave it not, day or night, and the more methodical they are in conforming to the cramped spirit of the book, the less do they discover things by themselves. No guide-book ever can initiate you into the atmosphere of a city like Prague. The sight of the guide-book slave "doing" an ancient and glorious city always fills me with sorrow, sometimes, indeed, with annoyance. These slaves frequently hunt in couples, male and female, sometimes with progeny at heel, and it is generally the male who discovers things—in the guide-book—and then drags the rest of his outfit in search of his discovery. As this is usually done at a reckless pace, the performance is apt to upset the repose of the inhabitants whose perambulations of their native place are in marked contrast to the silent, ruthless hurry in the streets of our large towns.

2016.06.18-DSC06920 The first and most obvious duty was to set about the restoration of the Royal Castle, the Hradšany, with its venerable cathedral. Both castle and cathedral were inadequate to the high mission of Prague as a royal and imperial residence. The castle had been repaired fitfully by one king or another as we have seen, and had been provided with strong towers chiefly used as dungeons, and had been allowed to fall into disrepair by the impecunious and extravagant John. The cathedral was probably in not much better case. We have seen glimpses of that sacred fane with its memories of royal saints and martyrs, how St. Wenceslaus built the first church on the site of the present one, as a casket to hold that precious relic the arm of St. Vitus, given him by Henry the Fowler.

... and Charles wished to build a temple worthy of the high dignity to which in matters spiritual, as temporal, his country had arisen; and so under the hand of skilled craftsmen, from out the ruins of earlier shrines, rose that crowning glory of Golden Prague, the Cathedral of St. Vitus. This great temple was many years a-building, and is not completed yet.

Looking out over my terrace to where the Cathedral of St. Vitus points its tapering spires towards high heaven, a misty pageant seems to pass beneath it. Following rapidly on the golden peace of Charles come the troublous days of religious strife, for with his son began the Hussite wars which left Bohemia desolate and a prey to the eagles of Habsburg. Angry flames rising up out the township below the Hradšany cast clouds of smoke over the cathedral what time the Hussites failed to capture the Royal Castle and in their zeal for reform set fire to various quarters of the Mala Strana.

2016.06.18-DSC06910 Right away in the hazy background of hills against which stand up the towers and spires of Prague you may see an incline sloping down towards the river and to northward. This incline is now all built over, and this quarter of the town is called Žiškov in memory of the great Hussite who held this hill against repeated attacks until he was in a position to go over to the offensive.

"I learned that feeling victorious makes you victorious ..." - Bohumil Hrabal #QotD

2016.06.15-DSC06693Bohumil Hrabal (28 March 1914 – 3 February 1997) was a Czech writer, regarded by many Czechs as one of the best writers of the 20th century. [Wikipedia]. For my trip to Prague, a read a collection of short stories, Mr. Kafka: And Other Tales from the Time of the Cult and the novel, I Served the King of England.

Here are some quotes from I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal

So I learned that money could buy you not just a beautiful girl, money could buy you poetry too.

Here, in the Hotel Tichota, I also learned that the ones who invented the notion that work is ennobling were the same ones who drank and ate all night long with beautiful women on their knees, the rich ones, who could be as happy as little children.

Mr. Brandejs gave me a warm welcome and took me to my temporary quarters, a little room in the attic with such a pretty view of Prague that I decided, because of the room and the view, to try to stay there permanently.

I pushed the hangers together and hung up my clothes, and then looked out over the rooftops of Prague, and when I saw the shimmering Castle, the home of Czech kings, I was flooded with tears and forgot all about the Hotel Tichota, and I was glad they’d suspected me of trying to steal the Bambino, because if my boss hadn’t believed it, I’d still be raking the paths and tidying the haystacks, nervous, wondering where the next whistle would come from and who would be blowing it, because by that time I’d figured out that the porter had a whistle too and was acting as the boss’s eyes and legs, and he’d watch us and then whistle just like the boss.

... also saw rare Mosel and Rhine wines, and our own Bzenecka wine from Moravia, and Czech wines from Melnfk and Žernoseky. As he walked from cellar to cellar Mr. Skrivánek would caress the bottle necks fondly, like an alcoholic, though as a matter of fact he didn’t drink, at least I’d never seen him drink, and I suddenly realized I’d never seen him sit down either, he was always standing.

I learned that feeling victorious makes you victorious, and that once you lose heart or let yourself be discouraged the feeling of defeat will stay with you for the rest of your life, and you’ll never get back on your feet again, especially in your own country and your own surroundings, where you’re considered a runt, an eternal busboy.

2016.06.15-DSC06621 When I walked through Prague now, I didn’t wear a tie, I didn’t want to be a bit taller than I was, I no longer tried to decide which of the hotels I walked by on Prikopy or Wenceslas Square I would buy. I was happy with myself in a gloating sort of way, glad that I’d ended up as I had, that the way forward was now my own way, that I wouldn’t have to bow and scrape anymore or be careful to say my good-mornings and good-afternoons and good-evenings and de-lighted-to-see-yous or keep an eye on the staff or, if I was one of the staff myself, make sure that the boss didn’t catch me sitting down or smoking or filching a piece of meat.

When I was a waiter I used to love it when at least once a day all those doormen and superintendents and stokers would come out of their buildings, turn their faces upward, and from the abyss of the Prague streets gaze at the strip of sky overhead, at the clouds, to see what time it really was, according to nature and not by the clock.

2016.06.15-DSC06609I knew for certain that this girl could never be happy, but that her life would be sadly beautiful, and that life with her would be both an agony and a fulfillment for a man.

"Robots throughout the world, we command you to kill all mankind." - Karel Čapek #QotD

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Robot found near the Cafe Montmartre
Čapek was probably the first Czech writer that I read -- at least I think I read R.U.R. before Kafka. Flying over to Prague, I took the opportunity to re-read the story that launched the robot on humanity, luckily, Isaac Asimov came up with the Three Laws of Robotics.

From: R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karel Čapek:

But old Rossum meant it literally. He wanted to become a sort of scientific substitute for God. He was a fearful materialist, and that’s why he did it all. His sole purpose was nothing more nor less than to prove that God was no longer necessary.

But a working machine must not play the piano, must not feel happy, must not do a whole lot of other things. A gasoline motor must not have tassels or ornaments, Miss Glory. And to manufacture artificial workers is the same thing as to manufacture gasoline motors.

Bought them, dear Miss Glory. Robots are bought and sold.

Nature has no idea of keeping pace with modern labor. For example: from a technical point of view, the whole of childhood is a sheer absurdity. So much time lost. And then again---

HELENA Perhaps it’s silly of me, but why do you manufacture female Robots when—when      
DOMIN When sex means nothing to them?
HELENA Yes.
DOMIN There’s a certain demand for them, you see. Servants, saleswomen, stenographers. People are used to it.

DOMIN A man has to be a bit mad, Helena.

RADIUS I don’t want a master. I want to be master. I want to be master over others.

DOMIN “Robots throughout the world, we command you to kill all mankind. Spare no men. Spare no women. Save factories, railways, machinery, mines, and raw materials. Destroy the rest. Then return to work. Work must not be stopped.”

DOMIN Alquist, this is our last hour. We are already speaking half in the other world. It was not an evil dream to shatter the servitude of labor—the dreadful and humiliating labor that man had to undergo. Work was too hard. Life was too hard. And to overcome that

DOMIN To hell with your dividends. Do you suppose I’d have done an hour’s work for them? It was for myself that I worked, for my own satisfaction. I wanted man to become the master, so that he shouldn’t live merely for a crust of bread. I wanted not a single soul to be broken by other people’s machinery. I wanted nothing, nothing, nothing to be left of this appalling social structure. I’m revolted by poverty. I wanted a new generation. I wanted—I thought      

ALQUIST What?

DOMIN I wanted to turn the whole of mankind into an aristocracy of the world. An aristocracy nourished by milliards of mechanical slaves. Unrestricted, free and consummated in man. And maybe more than man.

HELENA I thought that if they were more like us they would understand us better. That they couldn’t hate us if they were only a little more human. DOMIN Nobody can hate man more than man.

RADIUS Robots of the world! The power of man has fallen! A new world has arisen: the Rule of the Robots! March! [A thunderous tramping of thousands of feet is heard as the unseen Robots march, while the curtain falls.]

HELENA [Looks at herself in the mirror] Am I beautiful? I think it must be the rose. My hair—it only weights me down. My eyes—I only see with them. My lips—they only help me to speak. Of what use is it to be beautiful?

"Leaning out of my third-floor window I can almost touch the church’s stone wall." - Bohumil Hrabal #QotD

2016.06.18-DSC06860Bohumil Hrabal (28 March 1914 – 3 February 1997) was a Czech writer, regarded by many Czechs as one of the best writers of the 20th century. [Wikipedia]. For my trip to Prague, a read a collection of short stories, Mr. Kafka: And Other Tales from the Time of the Cult and the novel, I Served the King of England.

Here are some quotes from Mr. Kafka: And Other Tales from the Time of the Cult by Bohumil Hrabal

"Mr. Kafka"
I enter the building where I live. In the old days, a bell in the Tyn Church’s spire broke loose mid-peal, plummeted through the air, through the tiled roof, through the ceiling, and into the room I now occupy.

Leaning out of my third-floor window I can almost touch the church’s stone wall. My landlady lets her russet hair tumble over me like asparagus fronds. Her breath smells of blueberry wine. I gaze at the Mother of God affixed to the church wall, looking as grave as the Margrave Gero.

The Figaro Bar, the Spider, the Chapeau Rouge, the Romania, and the Magnet are all closing for the night. Someone around the corner vomits, and near the Old Town Square a citizen yells: “I, sir, am a proud Czechoslovak!” Someone else slaps his face and says, “So what?”

"Strange People"
We can make a living here, boys, but we can’t make a life.

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"Ingots"
I work nights at the National Museum, guarding the stuffed monkeys and apes and those curled up skeletons and all that.”

“I wonder why they don’t just leave all those Prague statues standing,” said the sexton, extending his telescope, then looking at his watch. “Think of all the statuary there’d be in Prague now, almost a thousand years’ worth! If they didn’t keep tearing them down, there’d be so many statues in Prague, you’d never have to fall on your face walking home drunk — there’d always be an arm of marble or sandstone to lean on.”

"Breaking Through the Drum"
music . . . and waitresses walked among them, their backs arched, carrying a bouquet of five brimming beer glasses in each hand, moving from table to table, marking the beer mats with pencil strokes. Then the Skater’s Waltz ended; the musicians blew the spittle out of their instruments, while the women let their partners hold on to them and lead them back to their tables, their hands still curled gently around the mens’ necks, and now they were playing the finale of the Symphonie Pathétique, the Adagio lamentoso, and some of the men in the beer garden walked over to the wall and shouted over into the Waldstein Gardens: “To hell with your Beethoven! Goddamned Mozart! Killjoys!” The little man had climbed up through the aviary and appeared on the wall beside me, tugging my sleeve and saying, “Aren’t you in charge here? Why don’t you do something?” But I had just seen my brother-in-law sitting in the beer garden at a table with two plates on it, next to the entrance where they were taking admission, and my brother-in-law was no doubt amusing himself by picking the dancers he’d let travel abroad and those he wouldn’t. But then I saw it! Surrounding the beer garden on three sides was a monastery that was now an old folks’ home for women, and in every window on the second and third floor I could see the bright eyes of these old women staring down in the same direction, at the queen of the bounteous bosom, staring feverishly at those male hands as they took her measure and made their notes, and as I looked down it hit me! This was where the real music was. This was why all the women down there danced the way they did, why they let themselves be held around the waist and promenaded beneath the trees and why they placed their hands on their partners’ necks.

"Beautiful Poldi"
Whatever became of that blind man who sold newspapers outside Masaryk Station? Where did he go? He’d stand there peddling his wares, and when a cold wind blew he’d rifle through his papers like a rotary press spilling out pages while pedestrians leaning into the blast would pass him by, averting their eyes from the sight of the blind man battling the wind for possession of his wares, the pages flipping over like leaves on a daily calendar.

And what about that cripple on Wenceslas Square? Whatever became of him? He’d sell his mechanical toys on the sidewalk outside Cekans, winding up a little metallic beetle, releasing it into the air, and catching it again in his outstretched arms. Sometimes, when he’d have to chase the toy under the linden trees lining the square, he looked as though he were wading in cobblestones up to his waist, since both his legs had been amputated at the hip, leaving him nothing to fasten artificial limbs to. Where did that cripple go? Whatever became of him?

Lilies of the Valley flow from my eyes. Beautiful Poldi, an impression in copper, tiny head on a fragrant medallion, the aroma of hair singed by stars, I will garland you with the most beautiful things I have ever seen, I will speak with you through dead objects, I will address you when enamel jugs fall from the sky, when the mad moon mirrors the reflections of your reflection. The air itself is anointed with you. I need only dial the number, and an amethyst telephone will be answered at the other end, and from your mouth, air will flow transmitted by tiny electromagnetic waves, frozen words, constellations, human tissue, laboratory ovens, bridges going nowhere, and a vibrator. Oh, if only I could lend you my eyes! It is so marvelous to be in love, to carry one’s own tiny electric motor around with one. Why, even the touch of a razor can last for twenty years and more. There is always more of me when I think of you, Poldi. As if through you, I’ve conquered a diamond universe.

Everything exists in the elasticity of perspective.

"Angel and marionette: then at last there's a show." R.M. Rilke #QotD

Having spent some time last night in a marionette shop, I couldn't help but repeat a few lines from the Fourth Duino Elegy:
When I'm in the humor to watch the marionettes, no,
but to gaze so hard that at last, to balance my gazing,
an angel must come as a player to quicken the puppet.
Angel and marionette: then at last there's a show.
Then is rejoined what we by our being here
have always sundered.
From the Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke (Trans. C.F. MacIntyre)

Rilke wrote The Duino Elegies (German: Duineser Elegien), a collection of ten elegies begun 1912 while he was a guest of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis (1855–1934) at Duino Castle, near Trieste on the Adriatic Sea. The series took nearly 10 years to complete and were dedicated to the the Princess when published in 1923.



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Angel from Svatý Josef, Prague

Dobré ráno na slunné Praze

Friday, June 17, 2016

If you were to visit Prague, and you were to meet Olga and Olga were to fall in love with you ... She loves love. She does anything for love.

2016.06.16-DSC06738"If you were to visit Prague, and you were to meet Olga and Olga were to fall in love with you ... She loves love. She does anything for love." - Philip Roth, The Prague Orgy
The Prague Orgy (1985) is a novella by Philip Roth. The short book is the epilogue to his trilogy Zuckerman Bound. The story follows Roth's alter ego Nathan Zuckerman, on a journey to Communist Prague in 1976 seeking the unpublished manuscripts of a Yiddish writer. The book, presented as journal entries by Zuckerman, details the struggle of demoralized artists in a totalitarian society. (Wikipedia)
I traveled to post-Velvet Revolution Prague in 2016, many a year after Zuckerman in search, not of Yiddish manuscripts, but advancement of the Biodiversity Heritage Library ... I did feel I should read Roth's Prague Orgy, even in my different circumstances. Here are some highlights:

“Please,” he says, “I don’t wish to compare our two books. Yours is a work of genius, and mine is nothing. When I studied Kafka, the fate of his books in the hands of the Kafkologists seemed to me to be more grotesque than the fate of Josef K. I feel this is true also with you. This scandalous response gives another grotesque dimension, and belongs now to your book as Kafkologine stupidities belong to Kafka. Even as the banning of my own little book creates a dimension not at all intended by me.”

“He leaves you alone too,” she says. “Zdenek, why do you persecute me? I do not care to be an ironical Czech character in an ironical Czech story. Everything that happens in Czechoslovakia, they shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Pure Schweik, pure Kafka.’ I am sick of them both.”

If you were to visit Prague, and you were to meet Olga and Olga were to fall in love with you, she would even give you my father’s stories, if you were to go about it the right way. She loves love. She does anything for love. An American writer, a famous, attractive, American genius who does not practice the American innocence to a shameless degree—if he were to ask for my father’s stories, Olga would give them to him, I am sure of it. The only thing is not to lay her too soon.”

Klenek’s is a small seventeenth-century palazzo on the Kampa, a little residential island we reach by descending a long wet stairway from the Charles Bridge. Standing in the cobbled square outside of Klenek’s, I hear the Vltava churning past the deep stone embankment.

“Why are you in Prague? Are you looking for Kafka? The intellectuals all come here looking for Kafka. Kafka is dead.

“If it weren’t for sentiment, Zuckerman, one person would not pass another person a glass of water.”

Mightier than the sword? This place is proof that a book isn’t as mighty as the mind of its most benighted reader.

Anything you want to do in Prague, anything you want to see in Prague, anyone you want to fuck in Prague, you tell me and I arrange it. There is still some pleasure for a stranger in Mitteleuropa. I hesitate to say Prague is ‘gay,’ but sometimes these days it can be very amusing.”

Well, the ordinary hardworking Czech who wants a better life for himself and his family is not so thrilled. He considers them malcontents and parasites and outcasts. At least their blessed Kafka knew he was a freak, recognized that he was a misfit who could never enter into a healthy, ordinary existence alongside his countrymen. But these people? Incorrigible deviants who propose to make their moral outlook the norm.

"I do not propose to describe the Charles Bridge to you, as I am supplying an illustration showing it" BG Baker #QotD

2016.06.15-DSC06706Some quotes on the Charles Bridge in Prague from  From a Terrace in Prague (1923) by Bernard Granville Baker

I do not propose to describe the Charles Bridge to you, as I am supplying an illustration showing it, but I wish to remark here that Charles is not guilty of the groups of statuary which distinguish this bridge from others in the world. The only bit of statuary anywhere near the Charles Bridge which dates from his period stands near the Mala Strana end of it on the upstream side. This is the sculptured figure of a knight in armour, bearing the coat of arms of the Old Town and holding aloft his drawn sword. Dr. Jerabek calls this figure "Bruncvik," others call it "Roland"; it was probably put up to inform passers-by that they had better pay their toll quietly or there would be trouble. The piles of the Charles Bridge nearest to the left bank of the river stand on a little island called Kampa. You cannot see much of this island from the bridge: I recommend you to go down the steps, under the bridge, and then look under the second arch, and you will see the view which I have sketched for you. It is not the view which you will find on the postcards illustrating this particular spot and calling it "Venice on the Vltava." In this the Pragers fall into the snobbish habit of going outside their own country for the sake of finding some inept comparison.

So Charles threw this bridge across the water, a lasting, glorious monument to a father ever careful of his children's welfare, and its stout pillars and graceful arches bid fair to call up reflections for yet further centuries on the face of Bohemia's own river, the Vltava.

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The river at Prague is worthy of careful study, but whatever I may suggest as to its influence on the people of Prague, I still advise you to come here and judge for yourself. Remember, its name is "Vltava," out of which the Germans had made "Moldau," by which you have probably known it till now; but the map of Europe has been readjusted lately, names have changed back to their original version, and so the river at Prague has resumed definitely its Slavonic designation, which, though not given on any map, yet lived in the memory of the people.

There lingers a strong, a powerfully attractive allure of old Prague, just about this quarter, at the left bank end of the Charles Bridge. There is a quaint old tower that dates from Queen Judith's time. I have already pointed it out to you, and told you that it was until fairly recently used as a lock-up. The battlement across the gateway used to bear indications of rough justice as executed in those days; it was frequently adorned with the heads of rebels, traitors or others who had become unpopular, as, for instance, one Bohemicky.

The tower on the right bank end of the Charles Bridge bears every indication of dating from King Wenceslaus IV, as his device, the kingfisher, is found to figure in its decorative scheme. Between these two bridgeheads passes a good deal of the historic pageant of Old Prague.

* * *

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Each pillar of the bridge that Charles built is crowned by the effigy of a saint or groups of saints, with most of whom, I regret to say, I am not acquainted. There are, however, some old friends—Saints Ludmilla, Wenceslaus, Cosmas and Damain, and Adalbert—who are intimately connected with the story of Prague.

From From a Terrace in Prague (1923)by Bernard Granville Baker

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"Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich" -- Every angel is terrible, from Rilke's Duino Elegies #QotD (2 of 2)

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Angel from Svatý Josef, Prague
From the Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke (Trans. C.F. MacIntyre)

Rilke wrote The Duino Elegies (German: Duineser Elegien), a collection of ten elegies begun 1912 while he was a guest of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis (1855–1934) at Duino Castle, near Trieste on the Adriatic Sea. The series took nearly 10 years to complete and were dedicated to the the Princess when published in 1923.

* * * * * * *

Sixth Elegy (extract)
For the hero went storming through the lodgings of love,
and every well-meaning heart-throb thrust him upward and on;
already turning, he stoood at the end of smiles, another.

* * * * *

Seventh Elegy (extract)
Wooing no more, not wooing, but the voice from it,
be the purport of your cry; though your call pure as a bird's,
when the upheaving season lifts him, almost forgetting
that he's a troubled thing, not merely a single heart
tossed by spring to the cheerful tender sky.
Like him, no less, you want to be after some yet unseen
mate who'll be aware of you silently,
in whom an answer slowly awakens and warms itself by listening,
to the glowing companion of your high-mettled feeling.

* * *

This stood once among men,
stood in the middle of fate, the annihilator,
in the center of Not-knowing-whither, as if it existed
and bent the stars from the established skies
toward it. I show it you, angel, still there.
Stand, rescued at last, in your gaze, and finally upright
Columns, pylons, the Sphinx, the upward striving
of the cathedral, gray, from a foreign or dying city
Was it not miracle? Oh, marvel, angel, because
it is we, O mighty one, we; announce that we did it,
I've not breath enough to hold out for such praising
So then, we haven't neglected these spaces of ours.
(How terribly vast they must be if thousands of years
of our feeling have not overfilled them.) But a tower was tall
was it not? O angel, it was that -- great, even beside you?
Chartres was great -- and music reached still farther upward.
and soared beyond us. But even one loving girl,
alone at night, by the window ...
didn't she reach to your knee?

Don't think I am wooing.
Angel, and, if I were, you wouldn't come.
For my appeal is always full of refusal.
You cannot stride against so strong a flood.

Like an outstretched arm is my call. And its grasping
upward open hand stays before you,
open, as safeguard and warning,
you unseizable one, wide open.

* * * * *

Eighth  Elegy (extract)
If the animal moving toward us so securely
in a different direction had our kind of
consciousness–, it would wrench us around and drag us
along its path. But it feels its life as boundless,
unfathomable, and without regard
to its own condition: pure, like its outward gaze.
And where we see the future, it sees all time
and itself within all time, forever healed.
Yet in the alert, warm animal there lies
the pain and burden of an enormous sadness.

And we: spectators, always, everywhere,
turned toward the world of objects, never outward.
It fills us. We arrange it. It breaks down.
We rearrange it, then break down ourselves.

Who has twisted us around like this, so that
no matter what we do, we are in the posture
of someone going away? Just as, upon
the farthest hill, which shows him his whole valley

one last time, he turns, stops, lingers–,
so we live here, forever taking leave.

"Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich" -- Every angel is terrible, from Rilke's Duino Elegies #QotD (1 of 2)

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Angel, Svatý Josef, Prague
From the Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke (Trans. C.F. MacIntyre)

Rilke wrote The Duino Elegies (German: Duineser Elegien), a collection of ten elegies begun 1912 while he was a guest of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis (1855–1934) at Duino Castle, near Trieste on the Adriatic Sea. The series took nearly 10 years to complete and were dedicated to the the Princess when published in 1923.

* * * * * * *

First Elegy (extract)

For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror we can just barely endure,
and we admire it so because it calmly disdains
to destroy us. Every angel is terrible
And so I restrain myself and swallow the luring call
of dark sobbing. Ah, whom can we use then?
Not angels, not men, and the shrewd animals
notice that we're not very much at home
in the world we've expounded.

Is night more eacy on lovers? Ah, they only
hide their fate from themselves by using each other.
Don't you know that yet? Throw the emptiness from your arms
into the spaces we breathe, so maybe the birds
can feel the expanded air, more ardently flying.

Often angels (it's said) don't know if they move
among the quick or the dead. The eternal current
hurtles all ages along with it forever
through both realms and drowns their voices in both.

* * * * *

Second Elegy (extract)

Lovers, if they knew it, could speak strangely
in the night air. Fir it seems that everything
is keeping us a secret. Look: the trees are;
the houses we live in still stand. Only we go
past everything like a bartering of the breeze.
And everything conspires to silence us,
half as shame, perhaps, and half as unspeakable hope.

* * * * *

Fourth Elegy (extract)
When I'm in the humor to watch the marionettes, no,
but to gaze so hard that at last, to balance my gazing,
an angel must come as a player to quicken the puppet.
Angel and marionette: then at last there's a show.

Look: must not the dying
guess how full of subterfuge is all we achieve here?
Nothing is anything.

* * * * *

Fifth Elegy (extract)
And suddenly in this tedious Nowhere, suddenly
the ineffable place where pure dearth
is inconceivably transmuted--changes
into this empy surfeit.
Where the reckoning of many columns
totals zero.

Angel, if there were a place we don't know, and there
on some ineffable carpet, the lovers who never
could bring off their feats here, could show
their bold lofty figures of heart-swings,
their towers of ecstasy, their pyramids
that long since, where there was no standing-ground,
were tremblingly propped together--could succeed
before the spectators around them, the innumerable silent dead:
would not these then throw their last, ever-hoarded,
ever-hidden, unkknow to us, eternally
valid coins of happiness
before that pair with the finally genuine smile
on the assuaged carpet?

"On sunny summer days all Prague seems to be on or in the river" BG Baker #QotD

A quote on the Vltava River in Prague from  From a Terrace in Prague (1923)by Bernard Granville Baker

On sunny summer days all Prague seems to be on or in the river, and a very sensible and healthy way it is to spend the hot hours of the day—and it can be appreciably hot in Prague. As a rule you may reckon on long spells of fine weather throughout Bohemia, as the country is sheltered on the weather side by the high mountains which hold up the rain. So all Prague turns out to enjoy the river and the sunshine. During the summer months the inhabitants of Prague, a very white-skinned race, turn ripe brown in the parts exposed to the sun; and, as I suggested before, a considerable aggregate surface is thus exposed.


"... the ninth of May 1930 found me on a business trip to Prague. My business was chocolate. Chocolate is a good thing." #QotD

2016.06.16-DSC06761Nabokov's Despair (1936) is partially set in Prague, where I too, like Nabokov's protagonist, took a business trip ... mine turned out much better ... some quotes from the text:

Well, as I was saying, the ninth of May 1930 found me on a business trip to Prague. My business was chocolate. Chocolate is a good thing. There are damsels who like only the bitter kind … fastidious little prigs. (Don’t quite see why I write in this vein.).

You forget, my good man, that what the artist perceives is, primarily, the difference between things. It is the vulgar who note their resemblance.

A black smear of gravelly mud on the wall near the switch reminded me of a spring day in Prague. Oh, I could scrape it off so as to leave no trace, no trace, no trace! I longed for the hot bath I would take in my beautiful home—though wryly correcting anticipation with the thought that Ardalion had probably used the tub as his kind cousin had already allowed him to do, I suspected, once or twice in my absence.

The nonexistence of God is simple to prove. Impossible to concede, for example, that a serious Jah, all wise and almighty, could employ his time in such inane fashion as playing with manikins, and—what is still more incongruous—should restrict his game to the dreadfully trite laws of mechanics, chemistry, mathematics, and never—mind you, never!—show his face, but allow himself surreptitious peeps and circumlocutions, and the sneaky whispering (revelations, indeed!) of contentious truths from behind the back of some gentle hysteric.

An artist cannot live without mistresses and cypresses, as Pushkin says somewhere or should have said.

Every mouse has its house.… I like squirrels and sparrows. Czech beer is cheaper. Ah, if one could only get shod by a smith—how economical! All state ministers are bribed, and all poetry is bilge.

From: Despair (RussianОтчаяние, or Otchayanie) by Vladimir Nabokov

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Childhood haunts of Rainer Maria Rilke in Prague

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House on Panská
Rainer Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist, "widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets", writing in both verse and highly lyrical prose. He was born in Prague, capital of Bohemia (then part of Austria-Hungary, now the Czech Republic). His childhood and youth in Prague were not especially happy. His father, Josef Rilke (1838–1906), became a railway official after an unsuccessful military career. His mother, Sophie ("Phia") Entz (1851–1931), came from a well-to-do Prague family, the Entz-Kinzelbergers, who lived in a house on the Herrengasse (Panská) 8, where René also spent many of his early years. (extracted from Wikipedia)









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Jindřišská 888/19

Spending Bloomsday in Prague ... with Franz Kafka

Kafka's Head, Prague
Sorry to say I'm not in Dublin this Bloomsday, but instead, in Prague, home to another great writer, Franz Kafka.

1922 was an interesting year for Joyce and Kafka. Joyce, of course, published Ulysses. Kafka, in January of 1922, started work on The Castle.

Wandered in the neighborhood of the Prague Castle yesterday, and this morning, had cappuccino with "Kafka's Head", a giant kinetic sculpture by David Černý while at the Cafe Level.














Prague Castle -- inspiration for Kafka?

Dobré ráno v Praze