Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Archive in January

Lest you think that I have ceased spending any time at the library or the archive in favor of gadding about to dentists and ballrooms, let me state that while my hours in libraries and archives have temporarily slacked off (there were holidays, it has been cold, I have had some bouts of feeling unwell), my laptop and I are still to be found at a long wooden desk pretty regularly. Between the dentist and a week’s closure of the Památník národního písemnictví, I have not been up to Strahov much lately, but on Monday I took Dawn up there and resumed reading about the 1936 Karel Janský-Bohuslav Brouk lawsuit while Dawn made preliminary arrangements to work on the newly acquired Libuše Moniková fond.
I am glad that the people whose materials I work on have been dead awhile. Some of them have not been dead all that long, and it is true that I would have liked to meet most of them, but thus far I have not run into any restrictions or had to sign any special paperwork in order to read their papers. Moniková, however, has only been dead a few years, so Dawn has to get permission from the widower (fortunately, someone she already knows). I assured her that while this is a nuisance, it is not unusual in regard to the papers of the recently deceased. Nor is it unusual for correspondence to have been returned to the still-living person who originally wrote it.
Perhaps, of course, this sort of thing also applies to the materials I work with, and I simply don’t know how much correspondence is absent.
In the case of the lawsuit, however, I don’t think there is any missing correspondence. Strictly speaking, it is not very closely related to my dissertation in the first place, but I will look at pretty much anything that is informative about the lives, habits, and ideas of the interwar avant-garde. You never know what might pop up. Toyen sent Janský postcards and of course she knew Brouk quite well.
Besides, the folder includes a charming sample of 1936 tabloid journalism. Much more restrained than the present-day variety, it lets its readers know that Ani labuť, ani Lůna (the subject of the lawsuit) reveals the “Sadistický původ Máje: Fantomy sexuálních perversí v Máchově poesii.” I don’t know whether present-day tabloid readers are even interested in whether famous Romantic poets had an Oedipus or castration complex, but Telegraf found this almost as interesting as the latest murder.

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