[ excerpt ]
also by the author:
Woman in the Plural
The Absolute Gravedigger
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
||a prague flâneur
by Vítězslav Nezval
translated from the Czech by Jed Slast
photographs by the author
Written between June 1937 and July 1938, A Prague Flâneur has a hidden history that was uncovered only in the past decade or two. The version that Nezval
actually wrote first discusses the Moscow Trials, his break with André Breton and their friendship, the rift within the Czechoslovak Surrealist Group, Hitler and Nazi
Germany, Lautréamont, capitalism, Trotsky, and Surrealism vis-à-vis the political environment in general. The version that has generally been taken as the
"1st edition" has all of this largely expunged, the gaps filled at times with assorted poems, a paean to the Vltava – "O Vltava, you are like a poet" – allusions
to Karel Hynek Mácha, and a variety of lyrical meanderings through Prague neighborhoods that really do read like filler. What's more, any mention of "Surrealists"
or "Surrealism" is jettisoned for the generic "poets" and "poetry." Why would Nezval do this? The book was published in September 1938, but once the Munich Agreement
was signed at the end of that month, ceding the Sudeten regions to the Reich, it seems both publisher and author grew nervous, and the book was immediately pulled
from bookstore shelves and "revised" while keeping the same layout and page count (thus the need to fill in where whole passages were expurgated). A few of
the original first edition survived, however, and our translation is based on this version. So rather than Nezval traipsing through the Troja district where the
zoo is located and waxing about the lions and bears keeping watch over Prague, our edition has him explaining why he has taken a different view than Breton on
events in Moscow and wondering if Radek and Bukharin could really be the traitors Stalin had claimed they were. Even so, much of the content of the two first editions
remains the same: a particular restaurant suddenly transports Nezval back to his student years, he walks the streets and reminisces about past loves, musing on
the changing face of Prague and of all the cafés and pubs, many of which no longer exist, where he would meet friends and discuss the issues facing poets, and so forth.
The volume will include a separate section that will map out what was expurgated and translations of the passages that were inserted in replacement as well as
Nezval's original photographs and illustrations from the first edition.
ca. 200 pp.
13.5 x 19 cm
6 B/W illus.
literature : surrealism