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 Post Posted: Sat Mar 25, 2006 4:08 pm 
he was originally from sheffield. so therefore originally had a yorkshire accent. but whether that was stamped out of him or not during his oxbridge years...well...i don't know


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 Post Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 8:49 am 
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the first thing that comes to my mind about Michael's accent is "soft". I have no idea why it is so. for someone who isn't from England it is hard to distinguish between yorkshire and sheffield accents :) by the way- for me Graham was the one who spoke English most typically. you may not know it but for many not-English people it is very difficult to learn to pronounce some English letters properly. th is the most popular one. that's why I love to listen him saying "I'm Arthur, king of the Britons" :!:

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 Post Posted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 10:10 am 
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pitu wrote:
you may not know it but for many not-English people it is very difficult to learn to pronounce some English letters properly. th is the most popular one. that's why I love to listen him saying "I'm Arthur, king of the Britons" :!:


That's true, 'th' is a very hard sound to make for non-English people; I have Czech friends and they all have problems with it. But then I can't pronounce the Czech letter 'ř' properly.

Pitu, if you don't mind me asking, which country do you come from? Jaroslav Hašek is a Czech writer, but that quote seems to be in Polish. I can understand a bit of it from my Czech - is the first part something like 'the drinking of alcohol is shameful materialism', and the second part 'it's necessary to stamp out(???) living'?

I wonder how many Švejk fans are also Python fans?


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 Post Posted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 3:10 am 
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well done! the quote is in Polish ( I'm from this silly country :wink: ) indeed, you translated it almost perfectly, but the sceond part should rather be: " you have to spiritualize your life".
and yes, it is a good question about Svejk and Python fans. are there any???
Good soldier Svejk is my favourite literature character. I know the book by heart but I keep returning to it at least once a month! it's so funny!
PS. do you know who said these words originally?

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 Post Posted: Tue Mar 28, 2006 9:49 am 
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Thanks for the translation. I can see now how 'uduchowić' means to spiritualise - in Czech (and I assume in Polish?) the word 'duch' is spirit. Where does the quote come from? I can't remember if it's in Svejk...

I read Svejk a few years ago, and was amazed at how funny it was. I don't often laugh out loud when I'm reading, but I did with that - especially that scene where Svejk's in that military hospital/prison - the army think all the invalids are faking it to avoid fighting and treat them horribly, even though they're all obviously very sick. I suppose it's like Python both in its absurdity and its complete disrespect towards all authority.

Also, one of my favourite writers ever is a Polish writer called Witold Gombrowicz. Do you know his work? His stuff is really crazy, but also very serious and philosophical. A lot of his early writings have a Pythonesque edge to them - Ferdydurke, my favourite of his books, is about a 30 year old writer who is taken back to his old school by one of his old professors and he basically has to 'become' a schoolboy again. I've heard Gombrowicz is quite well-known in Europe - but, alas, not in UK!


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 Post Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:46 am 
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do you remember the military chaplain Otto Katz? these are his words ( in the scene when he comes home completely drunk accompanied by Svejk).
I was laughing all the time when I was reading the book!
Gombrowicz?! oh God, I love his books! he was a Genius! "Ferdydurke" was the first of his books I'd read, but the one I love most is the first part of "Diary". have you read it? it's a very personal book, written from the point of view of a young man who leaves his home country at the eve of the outbreak of WW II. the thing I particularly like in Gombrowicz's style is his frankness and a tendency to be agressive at times. :)
do you like Bohumil Hrabal? for me he's a real Master! even greater than Hasek! have a good day!

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 Post Posted: Wed Mar 29, 2006 11:53 am 
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Oh yes, of course - the drunk chaplain who ends up gambling Svejk away - he's a great character!

I've never read Gombrowicz's Diaries, though I've heard that they're his greatest work. Unfortunately they're quite hard to find in English - I think there's only one English translation, now out of print, and I've heard it's not a very good translation. Apparently Gombrowicz is very difficult to translate because he mixes different styles of Polish and it's hard to find English equivalents - the translation of Ferdydurke I read uses American slang for the speech of the 'schoolboys'! It might be good to learn Polish in order to be able to read him in the original.

Yes I love Hrabal's work - though I've not yet read 'Postriziny' or 'Inzerat na dum, v kterem nechci bydlet', which isn't available in English - but I'll be brave and read it in Czech. Have you read one called 'Dance Lessons for the Older and Advanced' ('Tanecni hodiny pro starsi a pokrocile') - the entire story is written in a single sentence! I also love one of his stories called 'The World Cafeteria'/Automat Svet, which I remember involves a wedding and a dead body laid out in a cafe. His writing is surreal but always just about plausible - and often based on his own experiences. Last year I went to that famous pub in Prague, the Golden Tiger, where Hrabal used to drink.


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 Post Posted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 8:57 am 
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YES! I've read all Hrabal's books! well, "Dance lessons..." - it's dedicated to his uncle Josef, who actually tells the whole story, and "Automat Svet" - the only one of his books I still haven't in my home library:) I love them all! ( to be honest, I didn't expect a Hrabal's fan here :wink: ). "Postiriziny" is the first part of a trilogy, and you should also read " Too loud a solitude" which is absolutely fantastic and very personal... and you must have heard of Hrabal's friends - Egon Bondy and Vladimir Boudnik.
I wish I could read his books in original... and would go to the Golden Tiger :)
Hrabal himself was a great admirer of Hasek. He had an amazing imagination and it is what makes his books so wonderful! and although his works are based on his own experiences, you must remember not to believe in everything he's written ;) I read his biography last year and was very surprised when I found out that the true facts differed from those I'd already known...
you're reading these books as if you were breathing!

and yes, I realize that it is hard to translate Gombrowicz's books into other languages. that's why one should read an original in order to undrestand a book properly... ( not very optimistic, I know). do you know other Polish writers?

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 Post Posted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:16 am 
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I've read 'Too Loud a Solitude', about the man whose job is to destroy books but spends all his time reading them - as well as drinking a lot of beer! I seem to remember also a strange passage in there about building a statue of an angel in somebody's garden. Hrabal's style just sweeps you along, it just sounds like somebody talking to you - which I'm sure is the point; at the same time his work is quite fantastical and literary, and, as you say, I'm sure many of the incidents described were the product of his imagination. I've read somewhere that he constructed his stories through a kind of collage technique.

Egon Bondy was an 'underground' poet whose poems were set to music by the Plastic People. And I think Boudnik was the inventor of 'explosionalism' in art - he's the inspiration for the artist in Automat Svet, isn't he? I know a lot of this stuff because I'm currently writing a dissertation on Czech cinema and its relation with Czech Surrealism. This has given me the time to learn Czech and explore a lot of these writers and artists. I'm fascinated by Central Europe generally - it's an area that's so artistically rich yet there's unfortunately very little awareness about it now in UK - typical!

As for other Polish writers, I think that alongside Gombrowicz my other favourite writer is Bruno Schulz (although I think the place where he lived, Drohobycz, is now in the Ukraine). He had a tragic life - he was ultimately shot by the SS - and sadly not a lot of his writing remains. But Cinammon Shops/Street of Crocodiles and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass are astonishing works of literature. They're basically rooted in Schulz's childhood memories, and in the town where he lived, but the description constantly shades into fantasy - there's a passage where he's describing the peculiarities of the 'street of crocodiles' and he remarks that the trams are made of papier mache! There's another passage where the narrator's strange father talks about remaking mankind in the image of a tailor's dummy! Amazing stuff - he's often compared with Kafka, but I prefer Schulz.

Recently I've read some essays by Czeslaw Milosz and some stories by Mrozek, whose work is very absurd and satirical. And on my list of books to read I've got Tadeusz Borowski and a new translation of stories by Jerzy Ficowski, who wrote a good biography/study of Schulz. Unfortunately there's never enough time!


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 Post Posted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 1:50 am 
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Egon Bondy is still alive! last year there was a documentary film on Polish TV channel Culture and I could see Egon telling about his poetry and The Plastic People. Vladimir was the inspiration for the artist in Automat Svet indeed, and he also played himself in a film based on Hrabal's novels called "Pearls on the bottom".
I've seen a film about Hrabal - recorded at the end of his life in his house in Kersko. The best moment was when he was looking for his cats to feed them and then decorated the trees with Andy Warhol's paintings! (I'm a bit obsessed, I know, but Hrabal is so big! so absolutely huge! :) ).

I also like reading writers you've mentioned. Schulz's "Cinammon Shops" and "Sanatorium..." are exceptional works. ( they're obligatory reading in secondary school as well as Miłosz's poems and essays and maybe that's a good way for young people to get to know them...).

now let me say something about decent English writing- I received "Liar's Autobiography" on Saturday ( 1st April - but it wasn't a joke! :P ) and I'm enjoying reading it! great book! I find it a bit surprising but wonderful.

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 Post Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 7:06 am 
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I'd love to see those documentaries on Egon Bondy and Hrabal - unfortunately they never show things like that now on British TV; it's far less adventurous than it was in the days of Python! Most people in the UK haven't got a clue about Czech culture - if you asked the average Brit to name something Czech, at a stretch they'd probably be able to name a brand of beer.

Wow - the idea of reading Schulz in high school seems incredible to me - his work must be mindblowing at that age!

I'd like to travel round Poland, when I have some more money and some more time. I'd like to see Gombrowicz's birthplace (Maloszyce, I think?), and also see some Polish theatre - I've heard the theatre is brilliant, although I might have a bit of a language problem!

I remember reading A Liar's Autobiography when I was about 13 or 14; I was also a bit surprised at first by the way it was written, as it doesn't seem at first like a straightforward autobiography, but it's a very good book. And is it just my memory playing tricks on me, or is there a photograph in it of a naked man wearing a rabbit mask?


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 Post Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 8:34 am 
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You're planning to visit Poland? Great! If you have the chance- go to the Jewish Theatre in Warsaw- you'll get headphones and be able to see the entire performance in English :D
have you heard about Mr Leszek Mazan? ( the man from Krakow who is absolutely mad about his town and the rest of the former Habsburg monarchy! ). he's the legendary expert in Czech literature and culture. try to find something about him in the net.
and yes- your memory works perfectly- there is a picture of a naked man with a rabbit mask on his face in A Liar's Autobiography. this book is amazing and indeed- not much of an autobiography ( too many authors...). I'm reading it now for the fourth time!
Poland is very nice in the summer when almost everyone goes to the seaside and cities are empty and quiet. this year it is going to be even better- those who won't be bravely bathing in 15C water will surely go to Germany to fulfil their primitive instincts and see the World Cup. :D

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I've got a chain around my ankle and it's dragging me down..." (N.Cave)


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