Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Nezval's Diaries, part I

I began looking through the poet Nezval's diaries last week, which I had envisioned as thousands of pages of exuberant green handwriting (Nezval had seemed to favor green ink in much of what I had already seen). When I saw the size of the diary volumes, I was less certain what lay before me, as they are about 3x4 and not astonishingly thick. The first two volumes were pretty much useless, as they mainly contained printed information such as how long an English mile is versus a sea mile. Furthermore, Nezval seemed to employ a code, and not the breakable sort, but a set of pictograms with one or two allotted to each day. They looked to me like something he might have invented around the age of ten, but perhaps later, as my only guess was that they might signify the day’s sexual encounter. (He did, we must note, elsewhere celebrate the word “mrdat.”) After all, it is unlikely that he would invent a code for his meals for 1925. The year 1933 begins the small bound volumes with a page (rather than a line or two) for each day. The handwriting is somewhat legible, which is to say that if I were Czech I could probably figure out most of it and as it is I can get a fair amount. For 1933, it’s usually a terse account of how he went to the Metro and who he encountered there. Unfortunately, Toyen did not seem to frequent the Metro much in 1933. A summer trip to France got somewhat more expanded treatment, but is really not all that legible to me. If I read Czech better, I expect that more words would jump out at me, but it's mainly the names. So I can see that he tried to visit Breton, but Breton wasn't home. Then it appears (I am pretty sure of this as I've read about it elsewhere) he ran into Breton in a cafe. Breton and the surrealists were cause for great excitement for a couple of days, but then Nezval apparently went to southern France with Honzl and spend most of his time sunbathing and noting how many coffees and citrons he had drunk, which is really not of much interest to me in the practical sense. There are also many notations relating to time spent with Roman Jakobson, who seems to have lived in Brno at the time (I know he did at some point), but their topics of conversation remain a mystery to me. As I peer at this stuff under a hot lamp with my glasses off, I experience the nagging feeling that perhaps some kind person has already transcribed and published it somewhere. After all, there are countless volumes of Nezval's collected works. I had looked at a good deal of Halas' correspondence before running across a remaindered book of it. Perhaps a visit to the Městská knihovna would resolve this issue, as they have a lot of shelving devoted to literature and have probably not put Nezval out of sight.

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Anonymous Jesse said...

Sorry, but I missed the mrdat reference. Is this more of Nezval's code?

November 01, 2005 8:14 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

No, it's one of those words they didn't teach us in class. I learned it from a dissertation that was discussing his Sexual Nocturne. It's probably in those grocery-store sex books that Liz and I didn't buy last summer. (I don't know how picky Blogger is about our English vocabulary, or if we just aren't allowed to defame anyone.)

November 03, 2005 9:13 PM  

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