Saturday, June 18, 2016

"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.

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.

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