Thursday, November 03, 2005

Days of the Dead

I’ve spent the day at home on the grounds that a) I don’t feel my best and it is cold out and b) my advisor suggested various changes to one of my grant proposals and it was necessary to do something about this.
Yesterday, however, I stopped at the Vyšehrad cemetery to photograph some of the results of two days’ worth of celebrating the dead. It is the resting place of numerous eminent Czechs—mainly from the arts—as well as some people who were probably best known to their families and friends. I was rather intending to go to Olšanska as well, and to the nearby crematorium cemetery where Štyrský’s ashes are interred, but did not really feel up for all of that on a damp (if beautiful) day when I had Nezval’s diaries awaiting me at the archive. (The diaries are becoming more exciting.)
My photographs turned out reasonably well, though unfortunately I don’t think the one of Božena Němcová’s tomb was very good and I would have liked to have gotten at least one eminent woman into the group. Rest assured that this well-beloved nineteenth-century author does have an imposing tomb and that there were tokens left on it. I also think that my photo of Smetana’s tomb is not all that interesting, mainly because the tomb itself is dull and consists of an obtrusive sort of phallic obelisk. I’m sure there are many photos of it elsewhere.

Since I did get quite a few pictures, some of them will be saved for other occasions. But I think it would be appropriate to show the memorial to the victims of Nazism and Communism, and the graves of Karel Hynek Mácha and Jan Neruda. (Please note that Pablo Neruda got his pen name from this Neruda.) Mácha was a Czech Romantic poet who died at the suitably romantic age of 26 in an even more romantic manner: he developed pneumonia after exhausting himself helping put out a fire, and died either the day before or the day of (my sources vary) his intended wedding. His best-known work is about the impending execution of a patricidal brigand, but this is hardly a suitable description of a work that relies heavily on its atmosphere. The Czech surrealists decided that Mácha was a suitable precursor, being what they considered a revolutionary rather than a merely bourgeois and Biedermaier romantic. I don’t think the surrealists had any notable interest in Neruda, who was a journalist and wrote tales that I’m sure everyone here still reads in school. Neruda could, to be sure, write a very spooky story when he put his mind to it.

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Blogger Kristen said...

Gee, you're writing grant proposals. What a good girl you are!

By the way, for whatever reason my emails to you keep bouncing. Nothing urgent, just attempted to reply to your emails.

November 03, 2005 9:01 PM  

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