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“YOU DO NOT KNOW MY HISTORY & WILL NOT WRITE IT”

*Excerpt from THE ORGAN-GRINDER’S MONKEY: CULTURE AFTER THE AVANT-GARDE, by Louis Armand (Prague: Litteraria Pragensia, 2013). Photo: Lukáš Tomin in Prague, 1992 (by Marek Tomin).

 

The author of three books during his short lifetime, Lukáš Tomin was something of a René Crevel of Prague’s nascent post-Revolution scene in the early nineties. Born in 1963, Tomin was the eldest son of two of the city’s most prominent intellectuals – Julius Tomin, a philosopher heavily involved in the underground university, and Zdena Tomin(ová), writer and spokesperson for Charter 77.[1] As part of the communist regime’s persecution of dissident families (considered “enemies of the state”), Tomin was deprived of access to secondary education at the age of 15. As a result, he immersed himself in the unofficial culture of the 1970s, attending underground seminars and publishing his earliest writings in samizdat.

On the 7th of May, 1979, Tomin’s mother was brutally attacked in the doorway of the family’s apartment building at 4 Keramická street, by a suspected agent of state security (StB, Státní bezpečnost). Barbara Day, in her history of the underground university, recounts:

Passers-by rescued her, but not before she had been severely beaten. An ambulance was called and she was hospitalised with concussion. The following day Zdena issued a statement connecting the attack with her constant surveillance by the secret police.[2]

Several months later, Tomin’s father was briefly incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital at Dolní Beřkovice. The threat of further incarceration remained. Meanwhile Tomin himself was placed under surveillance by the estébáci (StB)[3] and assigned the codename Strojník-2 (Machinist-2).[4]

On the 22nd of October a series of show trials began in Prague – the largest since the 1950s – of members of VONS (the Committee for the Protection of the Unjustly Persecuted – organised to investigate unfounded accusations by the state, against ordinary citizens, of “criminal subversion of the republic in collusion with foreign agents”) including Václav Benda, a close friend of the Tomins. After a string of “preventative detentions” and police raids on their apartment, the Tomins finally chose – with strong encouragement from the Czechoslovak government – to emigrate on a five-year visa.[5] On the 1st of August, 1980 – in the midst of the worst period of normalizace – the family, accompanied by British philosopher Kathy Wilkes, drove by car to the German border and from there, via Switzerland, to Paris and London. Nine months later they received notice that their citizenship had been revoked.

While his father taught Plato at Balliol College, Oxford (ultimately becoming a controversial figure within the university), Tomin studied at St Edward’s School, then at Oxford and the University of London, before decamping to Paris in 1985 where he completed work on The Doll in 1987. For the next several years he divided his time between Paris, Montreal and London, writing prose fiction and (increasingly) stage drama. In 1986, Tomin’s mother achieved notice with the publication of her novel Stalin’s Shoes, followed a year later with The Coasts of Bohemia. Tomin himself published a series of poems in the London Literary Review and an article on the souring of the Velvet Revolution in the New Statesman (“American businessmen offer magic dollars for a bit of eastern promise”).[6] After his return to Prague in 1991, he became a regular contributor to Literární Noviny, Host and The Prague Post.

But Tomin soon found himself in a situation familiar to many former émigrés, accentuated in his case by the decision to write primarily in English. Overlooked by the Czech literary establishment and ignored by publishers in the UK and the US, Tomin naturally gravitated to the circle around Iniciály – a newly-established journal devoted to publishing writers under thirty (founded by Ewald Murrer and Jakub Rosen) – and to the international scene then taking form in Prague.

In 1991, Howard Sidenberg – along with artist Kip Bauersfeld and translator Kevin Blahut – established Twisted Spoon Press, with the specific intention of publishing Tomin’s first novel, The Doll, composed from 1985 to 1987 during the author’s peregrinations between Rome, London and Paris. The Doll duly appeared in 1992, to some notable acclaim. Fay Weldon described the novel as

a visionary work, by an extraordinary and important young writer. As cultures and languages mix and merge, Tomin meets the consequent literary challenge head on, and actually makes this reader hopeful about the future of the novel.[7]

The reviewer for Prognosis (a Prague English-language paper that ran from 1990 to 1995) wrote:

The Doll is a sensuous and melodious flow of words that Tomin has mercilessly dragged out of his subconscious, offering the reader a bizarre, uncensored current of his thoughts, pure and true. The result is somewhere between prose and poetry.[8]

Sidenberg went on to publish Tomin’s remaining two novels: Ashtrays in 1993 (with a re-edition in 1995) – held by some to be Tomin’s masterpiece – and Kye, posthumously in 1997 (like The Doll, both had been completed before Tomin’s return to Czechoslovakia). Ashtrays, illustrated by Alf van der Plank, was described by The Prague Post as “a linguistic tour de force[9] (an excerpt from the book also appeared in the inaugural issue of the Prague literary journal Trafika that Autumn). Reviewing Kye in the Post four years later, Anthony Tognazzini wrote of Tomin as “a fine formalist whose narrative experiments are bold and intriguing.”[10] An unfinished fragment, “Kye Too,” was belatedly published in the literary broadsheet Semtext in 2000 and again in the Prague Literary Review in May 2004.

Without ever having received the recognition his work warranted, and which his early reviewers suggested was immanent, Tomin committed suicide in 1995 at the age of 32. His body was discovered at the foot of a cliff in the Šárka valley; a private memorial service was held at the church of saint antonin on Strossmayerovo náměstí.[11] Acknowledgement of Tomin’s importance for Prague’s post-’89 renaissance (the reinstatement of the city as one of the chief European centres of modernism and the avant-garde)[12] has had to wait more than a decade. In an interview for Host magazine in November 2009, Czech poet Vladimira Čerepková described Tomin – in one of the very few recent public pronouncements about his work – as one of the crucial figures to have emerged after the Velvet Revolution.[13] At the time of writing, however, none of Tomin’s novels has yet appeared in Czech (although translations of both The Doll and Ashtrays have existed in typescript since the early- and mid- ’90s), while his dramatic and poetical works, retained by his estate, mostly remain unpublished in either language.

*

In a radio interview in 2005, Tomin’s younger brother Marek spoke of the experience of growing up in Czechoslovakia during the period of normalizace (a situation most explicitly dealt with in Tomin’s last, uncompleted, prose work “Kye Too”):

The thing about the 70s as compared to the 50s, one didn’t see the same kind of crimes, they can’t be compared. I mean, then, it was Stalinism: people were disappearing. People were being executed. People were being sent to work camps, to uranium mines. These are things that weren’t happening in the 70s. But, we didn’t “know.” Quite simply, Charter [77] never knew what the next step was going to be. The father of my best friends was Vaclav Benda, and I remember when he was put on trial with several others from the Committee for the Protection of the Unjustly Persecuted [VONS], and he was given five years.

My brother and I, we weren’t sure our parents weren’t going to be arrested the next day. We had several amazing plans of course because we messed around as kids and we had a “plan” for escaping from the country(!) and we said if our parents get arrested we won’t allow ourselves to be taken to a children’s home, we’ll escape and roam the world for the rest of our lives, away from communism! So, the atmosphere was such: at times it was very sinister.[14]

Biography aside, such plans for escape are a recurring theme in Tomin’s work. In The Doll, we encounter a loosely plotted story about two “children” – Cathy and Thomas – who travel to Spain to erect a monumental doll – a symbol of “hope, desire, aspiration”[15] which diminishes as the novel progresses and as the two protagonists discover themselves transformed (through intimate revelation or violation) into “adults,” surrounded by social conventions worthy only of contempt.

When five Cathy and Thomas set out for Spain to make a doll. In the Pyrenees, the wolves protected them, escorting them down to Pamplona. There, afraid of publicity, they turned back. Alone now, the children walked on, collecting every bit of cloth they found on the way. Most of it was later discarded. It was to be a monumental work, the Doll. Back in Berlin they thought of putting it up on a hill. In Aragon, perhaps.[16]

Like the characters of Bataille, these children and their various doppelgängers throughout The Doll (and later works) are steeped in the perversity of innocence – a concept all too easily mystified in a world stripped of political vision. Wandering across Europe, Cathy and Thomas’s quest to build the doll gives way to self-flagellation, confusion and dissipation, overseen by an angry childlike prophet (“ISABHUDALI”) dressed “in a huge yellow translucent shirt”[17] (incidentally the colour of The Doll’s cover: we suspect, of course, that the one is the effigy of the other; it’s the text, in fact, which is the “doll”).

A martyrised allegory of itself, The Doll is like an unredeemed child’s fantasia, replete with its Maldoror-esque gigantism, its symbolic parricides, its incest, its deranged ecstasies, its polymorph obscenity, its sublime and apocalyptic id-like irrationality. Tina Pohlman, reviewing for Prognosis, was led to suppose:

Had Sigmund Freud written a novel to portray his vision of unresolved developmental conflicts and unharnessed ids and libidos, it probably would have been something like Lukáš Tomin’s first novel The Doll…an entrancing, perverse journey into an erotic surreal world…[18]

What Tomin began in The Doll, however, was more than simply a Freudian allegory about escape from, e.g., political normalisation. Ever affected by the paternal insistence that “a philosophy which hides isn’t worth its name,” Tomin’s early writing is partly an examination about the secret life of what we call ethics, and of a literature whose open avowal of humanism remains closed in the disavowals, concealments, metaphors of allegorical form – a form most often associated with dissident writing. What appears in The Doll to be simple allegory, therefore – even of “a belief in the futility of any attempt to find a worthwhile goal” (as one critic has it) – becomes the foundation of a formal critique of allegory and of that culture of moral instruction that, following the end of communism, failed to amount to a transformative social force. In the New Statesman, Tomin clearly expressed his view that the Velvet Revolution had failed in this regard:

There has been so much talk – most recently of Charter 77 – of moral politics, firm stands, unconditional defence of human rights of people everywhere. So it is curious how quickly yesterday’s fearless defenders of the underdog turn into gutless undersecretaries of the powerful.[19]

In certain respects, the form of The Doll devolves from this stance. Where allegory simplifies into archetypes and instructs by indirection, The Doll complexifies: by a “sharp rhetorical gesture”[20] it generates narratives – bifurcates – multiplies – it places a question mark over the very notion of instruction. Rather, it demands thinking. It’s the perversion of allegory. If it’s comparable to the novels of Breton and Pinget, it’s perhaps because The Doll counters the didactic entropy of a literature that has been reduced to merely describing its own circumstances.

It’s out of this critique of the allegorical mode that arises Tomin’s technique of extreme realism (as distinct from a surrealism). Critics have always been quick to notice the formal aspects of Tomin’s work, for the simple reason that they’re often conspicuous. Reviewing for Rain Taxi, David Auerbach observed, for example: “Tomin leaves his characters half-drawn… forcing the reader to puzzle out the connections and distinctions between them. His drastic switches of style abandon cumulative effects for a series of instants, sometimes with heavily compressed plotting or circular passages of dialogue…”[21] We are – to borrow phrases from Tom Clark (on the writing of Kit Robinson) – ”left hanging by his unfinished lines, our urge is to complete them for him, to meld non sequitur into non sequitur, creating a new kind of sense.”[22]

But Tomin’s non sequiturs aren’t part of a puzzle that ever resolves itself, or can be resolved, in the direction of an underlying moral (and one must include in this any anti-moral). Tomin’s fragmentations might be described as jarringly naturalistic, as an extreme realism, because they exist within constellations that are generative because bound to an underlying relativity. A relativity which is fundamental to the nature not of described reality, but of the reality of description (whether it be called objective or subjective hardly matters) – which is to say, of language. The two, of course, become interchangeable, and throughout each of Tomin’s novels we encounter a preoccupation with the ways in which such realities are composed.

From the outset brutalism, simultaneity and montage play an essential role in Tomin’s work, alongside a tempo or cadence which serves a structural as well as aesthetic function (Gregorian chant). The concretion of linguistic reality evokes, at times, comparison with the film philosophy of the French nouvelle vague. André Bazin’s ontology of the cinematic image, for example.[23] Or Godard’s découpage. If we’re able to speak meaningfully of Tomin’s work as any kind of allegory, it would have to be (as it is in the later Godard) at the level of an allegory of language – the congelation of forms, of images, themes, characters, and equally their dissolution – a surface kinetics of interpenetrating figures, between what we might call a semiotic and a semantic order without ever allowing the two to merely correspond.

*

Tomin’s second novel, Ashtrays, is sometimes read as a product of the socalled literature of exile. Set in a type of psychogeographical Paris that becomes the topos of a drunken delirium, Ashtrays serves as an extended prologue, or introit, to Tomin’s third novel, Kye – which in turn functions as a form of re-statement, ad infinitum, of an abortive gesture of completion (escape or return).

Suffusion. Salò. Salpêtre. Sardonique. Sojourn. In this city of cold rails. In this labyrinth of worms. In this triangle of corpses.[24]

Tomin’s exile-Paris calls to mind a passage from Stephen Rodefer’s “Four Lectures,” wherein he notes that “Language, which also binds together and extends, including as it isolates, is a city” – a city “which even before Baudelaire had been a ready-made collage or cut-up of history, constantly remaking itself – a work of art founded on an anthill.”[25]

Am I losing my balance in favour or against something? Or arbitrarily, like a wind imprisoned? Days and days of white paper sheets and no human face to kiss. Oh yes, cheeks and limbs in dreams, bodies arched in the fury of passion. The dog fed. Often it shits and pisses in the bathroom for lack of exercise. Then she beats it. I’m afraid to walk now, Hadimira, as I stand on a corner making you up. The passersby are kids playing ball. When I was a child I played ball. For the moment, the inclination of my body is to the left. I have to push my entire water-weight in the opposite direction to keep me from falling. The stones on this corner are friendly, and sway but little. Once I move, however, I shall lose them. The street, though narrow, is too wide to jump. The space between this wall and the one opposite is impossible to cross for the sheer strength of the leftward drive. I want to walk straight ahead into rue du Bourg-Tibourg, cross rue de Rivoli, pass Eglise St Gervais to my left and the Hôtel de Ville to my right, cross the Seine three times, walk up the Boulevard St Michel, and lie on a bench in the Jardin de Luxembourg… A screaming accordéoniste wishes us a Merry Christmas. Joyeaux Noël, putains de riches, Joyeaux Noël, putain de Chirac, Joyeaux Noël, putain de Monde…[26]

In Kye the setting shifts from Paris to London, framed by a type of retrospective awareness of a “back there” – an ambiguously fictive “other place” we’re invited to imagine as Prague before-the-fall (“guilt about Czechs about the Second World War and ’68”) from which the protagonist is exiled “for POLITICAL reasons.”[27]

By the end, the protagonist/narrator of Ashtrays – Suma (“an underground poet, a friend of the powers of darkness, an enemy of sunrise”) – discovers his doppelgänger in the figure of “I” – “a travelling salesman who hires his boats in unknown waters… Tenderly we merge.”[28] Across the English Channel, this chthonic boatman transforms into Kye (“I Kye. / Together I and Kye…”) – penman-poet, Suma’s double, like the swordsman Kai of the Mabinogion, “Kye of the underbelly region,”[29] Suma-mind Kye-body of bogus dualism…

It is all as it should be, the cars and the fumes and no time. Plodding through bodies on their way to. On their no way. Kye is as he should be, headscarf or no, eyescarf for pirate, a cheek scar. Shoulders swept forward, sea-wide legs, prowling grin on face. Totally BALANCED. A dagger blue-tacked on belt, secure. Chest as broad and solid as the Wall of Hunger. Golem-like lightness.[30]

Preoccupied with continuous instances set in inverse relation to one another, the two books (Kye and Ashtrays) act out a chiasmus. Metaphors of turning and reversal abound – plugholes, ashtrays, diseased vaginas, symbols and systems of entropy; the bottom of a glass or an uncrossable ocean; the whole cosmos of sensory derangements. Suma, whose name is pregnant with philosophical allusion, is something between a defrocked Aquinas and a bar-stool Zarathustra, the agent of a negativised will-to-power (“=absence of will is it?”) whose ongoing efforts at transcendence (martyrdom?) constantly bring him back to the point of starting out, of instigating his own failure, of becoming – as it were – Kye.

Never has a poet’s love gone further, behind closed doors. In spaces minute, in spaces large. Standing up, sitting down, lying down, on all fours. On the back, on the belly. Trapped. Hidden from the multitudes, I cover my face with shame. With my sticky, grey, jelly-like shame. Whereby I progress. Whereby I reach. Always, nearly always, I reach. In my trap in my freedom in my hut in my cell. In my virgin. Secular thoughts banished I contemplate, thy womb. In my virgin. In my brainstorm. In my deadness. In my hunger.[31]

Between each statement and re-statement we encounter a Baudelairean espace de damnation. If Prague is constantly absent from these novels as a proximate geographical setting, it’s nevertheless omnipresent as a trope (the locus of a chiasmus; the metaphorical sea, the mirror, between the image and its reflection). Prague, from práh, means threshold. The odyssey of these dislocated geographies, though fragments of sense strewn about like the debris of some fallen higher world, returns us incessantly to a type of anti-romance by accumulation – one threshold piles up on another, “like invisible ghosts, forming congestions” – washing machines / Oxford dictionaries / lipsticks / empty paper / crude awakenings / summer afternoons[32] – a thwarted prodigality whose irrational/forensic objectivism counterpoints a metaphysics by (in)fractions.

This, he thinks, is the destiny of someone crouched in a box.

In a small dark space.

With no holes to look through out.

With not a sweeping gesture to go by.

With rabbit-like persistence in hide-outs.

Like glued to the inside of a tambourine.

Without the deep echo of a bass drum.

With only the rattle of metal and the tin sound of the skin.

Unlike the baroque expansion he will know later. Unlike the arching of backs in ecstasies of passion. Unlike the flowing of juices the screaming of pain the howling of pleasure the swimming the running the voluptuous resting. Unlike the cutting of wood with great sweeping movements, unlike the axe bringing down the sun.[33]

We’re always somehow on the verge of something Baroque that never quite materialises – always recoiling from, sidestepping or bluffing the demon of analogy. “Like that postcard you’d shown me” / “like a dried-up skeleton afloating on the river of her dreams” / “like a fossil” / “like charcoal” / “like a cockroach in an old boot” / “like a madman in a barn” / “like a map of a large country impossible to visit…”[34] Situations condition but don’t determine: one thing doesn’t lead to another; everything is rather détourned. Yet this irresolvable dialectic exists only as long as we believe it does – as long as we insist that writing must, in a sense, be like something.

*

It’s perhaps for these reasons that Tomin’s writing – almost unique in a Czech literary culture dominated by surrealism, structuralism, phenomenology and socalled magic realism –represents a species of provocation. In the 1990s this work advertised its foreignness. Both minimalist and excessive, austere and carnivalesque, formalistic and formless, The Doll, Ashtrays and Kye evoke comparisons to both Rabelais and Beckett.[35] Tomin at times claimed that he was “above all interested in ‘silence,’”[36] a compositional term which could just as easily describe a refusal to elaborate as the gravity of a philosophical stance, let alone an existential one.

Critics, impatient with a “literature” that refuses to disclose itself, interpreted this silence as indicative of emptiness at the core of so much sound and fury – something which has doubtless contributed to a more general silence among Prague’s literary historians (literary historians of the English-speaking world have, of course, tended to be interested only in the exotica of translation, when interested at all in European writers, and the poignancy of “witness” circa 1989 – “the lyricism,” as Tomin says, “of wet slime”[37]).

In the context of post-Revolution literary nationalism, Tomin’s writing carries no instructive message – it remains alien, unassimilated and ostensibly unassimilable. Against the poetics of tribal evocation, Tomin’s is a poetics of dispossession – above all of the dispossession of linguistic certitudes by means of the ideological machinations with which they’re imbued – “where the inevitable is a succession of evitables.”[38] Towards the end of his life, Tomin appears to have increasingly examined – and ultimately to have succumbed to – the situation of what Iain Sinclair terms the “reforgotten.”[39]

In the fragmentary “sequel” to Kye – a short, incomplete, text entitled “Kye Too” – Tomin directly addressed the topic of his childhood experiences of post-1968 (after his family had returned to Czechoslovakia from a one-year stay in Hawaii, where Julias Tomin lectured on Aristotle and Plato at the university, subsequently to be branded an “imperialist agent”) and the early days of normalizace.

He left America in the tree, peeled her off snakelike, left her there to rot. He practised remembering his Czech and forgetting his English. He practised his accent, hardened it, udded the a’s and egged the e’s. Rolled the r’s like an opera singer, shortened everything, flattened everything. Changed his skin.

Became a Pioneer. Red scarf round neck and Sonia in heart. Learned Russian. Was good at it. Began to charm comrade deputy directress. Comrade deputy directress was also the Russian teacher. At least as far as I could tell. Then. He spoke to her in Russian to charm her. To charm her to charm her daughter. It worked. Until. Until father the philosopher was proclaimed an imperialist agent and went to work at the turbines. Aristotle and Plato were imperialist agents. Father was an imperialist agent, too. Then Sonia stopped talking to him stopped seeing him stopped listening to his songs.

Hey, Sonia, but I am a Red Pioneer, like you are. I wear a red scarf and I know Russian and I stand guard by the monuments to our glorious dead.

Yeah, but your father is an imperialist agent.

But Sonia.

Mummy says so. And mummy knows. And mummy says we oughtn’t see each other any more. See?

Father, why are you an imperialist agent? I mean I am a Red Pioneer, I wear a red scarf and a badge, see? Why do you work at the turbines, dad? Why do you read Aristotle and Plato when you work at the turbines, dad? Don’t hit me, dad. Are you a bad man, dad? I mean why do you have all those books in English and Greek and Latin, dad? Comrade deputy directress says that. And Sonia. Sonia is her daughter. I like Sonia very much. Don’t hit me. Why do you work at the turbines, dad? Why did we go to America? Where are you going, dad, say something, hit me. Dad.[40]

Inevitably parallels are implied between post-’68 and post-’89, centring on Tomin’s alien linguistic status:

Kye is a retard, Christian said to Samuel, he can’t even speak Czech. This was when the tanks had ceased to be amusing. He’s an American retard and a hippy. This was when long hair had to be cut. This was when long hair became imperialist…[41]

Within the flux that was the post-Revolution publishing scene in Prague, Tomin (reprising his father’s previous status as an underground philosopher) indeed came to occupy a type of zone of silence, at least as far as the cultural establishment was concerned. It was a zone to which his own writing was in a sense native, and yet from which he himself longed “to be rescued.” A silence that fed his increasing suspicion that writing itself might be rendered mute, that for all the politics of dissidence and traditions of literary and linguistic deviancy, his mother tongue had come to perform upon him yet another programme of normalisation.[42]

During the four years following Tomin’s return to Prague, he was unable to complete any further novels, descending by stages into a writerly paralysis coupled with alcoholism. We may only speculate about the extent to which Tomin foretold the silence to come.

With an ending.

Try to be homeward try to be sane.

In the river.

Of your choosing.

Secure the wranglings of madmen.

On the boat.

To a nowhere.[43]


*   First published in Hidden Agendas: Unreported Poetics, ed. Louis Armand (Prague: Litteraria Pragensia, 2009).

[1]   Charter 77 was published on 6 January 1977, criticizing the Czechoslovak communist government for failing to implement human rights provisions in the country’s constitution and in a number of international agreements to which Czechoslovakia was party. It provided the foundation for a broad opposition movement, in part transformed after the Velvet Revolution into the Civic Forum, which provided Czechoslovakia’s first post-communist government under the presidency of Václav Havel.

[2]   Barbara Day, The Velvet Philosophers (London: The Claridge Press, 1999) 40.

[3]   Jaroslav Spurný, “Trápili je i jejich děti,” CS Magazín (May, 2004).

[4]   Anna Meclová, “Bytové semináře pod dohledem Státní bezpečnosti: Sledování skupiny filozofů v období normalizace,” Paměť a dějiny 02 (2009): 88.

[5]   “Under the direction of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the heads of the secret police made a list of people opposing the régime, especially people who signed Charter 77, almost 80 people who they wanted to force out of the country. All steps of the operation [known as the Asanace campaign] were coordinated by regional units of the Czechoslovak secret police.” Pavel Žáček, a specialist from Prague’s Institute for Contemporary History, in conversation with Jan Velinger for Radio Praha / Český Rozhlas, 31 September, 2004.

[6]   Lukáš Tomin, “Utopia goes to market,” New Statesman, 8 November, 1990: 11.

[7]   Lukáš Tomin, The Doll (Prague: Twisted Spoon Press, 1992) – publisher’s blurb.

[8]   Tina Pohlman, review of The Doll, Prognosis, 5-18 March, 1993: 7B.

[9]   Michael Halstead, “Book Review: Ashtrays,” The Prague Post, 23 March, 1994.

[10]   Anthony Tognazzini, “Tomin’s Final Novel,” The Prague Post, 26 November, 1997.

[11]   Day, The Velvet Philosophers, 69.

[12]   Cf. Antonín J. Liehm, “Some Observations on Czech Culture and Politics in the 1960s,” Czech Literature Since 1956: A Symposium, eds. William Harkins and Paul Trensky (New York: Bohemica, 1980) 134.

[13]   Interview with Tereza Reidlbauchová, Host 9 (2009).

[14]   Marek Tomin interviewed by Jan Velinger for Radio Praha/Český Rozhlas, 11 January 2005.

[15]   Pohlman, review of The Doll, 7B.

[16]   Tomin, The Doll, 7.

[17]   Tomin, The Doll, 55.

[18]   Pohlman, review of The Doll, 7B.

[19]   Tomin, “Utopia goes to market,” 11.

[20]   Tomin, The Doll, 52.

[21]   David Auerbach, review of The Doll, Rain Taxi (Spring 1999).

[22]   Tom Clark, “Shimmering Nets,” The Poetry Beat: Reviewing the Eighties (Ann arbour: University of Michigan Press, 1990) 14.

[23]   André Bazin, “Ontologie de L’Image Photographique,” Qu’est-ce que le cinéma? vol 1: Ontologie et langage (Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1958).

[24]   Lukáš Tomin, Kye (Prague: Twisted Spoon Press, 1997) 15.

[25]   Stephen Rodefer, Call it Thought (Manchester: Carcanet, 2008) 3.

[26]   Lukáš Tomin, Ashtrays (Prague: Twisted Spoon Press, 1993) 37; 78.

[27]   Tomin, Kye, 68; 12.

[28]   Tomin, Ashtrays, 117.

[29]   Tomin, Kye, 10.

[30]   Tomin, Kye, 12.

[31]   Tomin, Kye, 14.

[32]   Tomin, Ashtrays, 113

[33]   Tomin, Kye, 28.

[34]   Tomin, Kye, 27.

[35]   But it would be just as easy to make other more contemporary comparisons, for example to Ania Walwicz, or Philippe Sollers, or Ann Quin.

[36]   Qtd in Louis Charbonneau, review of Ashtrays, Prognosis 4-17 February, 1994: 2B.

[37]   Tomin, Kye, 22.

[38]   Tomin, Kye, 27.

[39]   Iain Sinclair, Lights out for the Territory (London: Penguin, 1997) 24.

[40]   Lukáš Tomin, “Kye Too,” The Return of Král Majáles: Prague’s International Literary Renaissance 1990-2010 An Anthology, ed. Louis Armand (Prague: Charles University, 2010) 809.

[41]   Tomin, “Kye Too,” 807.

[42]   See Richard Burton, Prague: A Cultural and Literary History (Oxford: Signal Books, 2003) 191-2. Burton includes Tomin alongside Stanislav Neumann, Jan Alda, Vladimír Burda and Jiří Pištora in his list of Normalisation-era intellectuals known to have committed suicide, however he provides no substantive causality between the one and the other.

[43]   Tomin, Kye, 22.

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"Poetism is the crown of life; Constructivism is its basis" // Karel Teige

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“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?…we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us” // Franz Kafka, letter to Oskar Pollack, 27 January 1904
February 2014
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