"But this thing that I find so enticing in reading letters, is precisely what makes writing them so risky. If letter writing is ultimately a work of fiction in which we construct ourselves in the way we would like to be perceived by our recipients, that control is relinquished the moment we let go of what we have written. Our careful construction is turned into vulnerability, at the mercy of the recipient’s interpretation (or worse, inattention)."
"The utopic order of the Bauhaus school was to prove insufficient when confronted with external totalitarian forces and an internal patriarchy. Bang reminds us that if its vision of a total, equalizing architecture was heartfelt in theory, its egalitarian notions could not (or would not) be enacted in practice.
With a furtive look over the shoulder, Bang urges her reader to consider a collective past in order to account for our own catastrophic moment. The penultimate poem, in which a 'a man with / moronic orange hair' appears, registers a plaintive warning: 'In November we inched closer to the ledge / over which one only falls once.'"
“This is the essence of Hrabal’s fiction: to draw beauty from what isn’t, to find hope where we’re not likely to look. […] His characters describe a world that is simultaneously inflexible and sympathetic, sorrowful and humorous; individually, they are absolutely unique entities held up with bemused admiration and affection. […] Hrabal treats his oddball characters with a deep and tender compassion sprung forth from a conviction that we are all of us ‘magnificent.’“
in the los angeles review of books (july 14, 2014)
Between Reader and Writer: An Interview with Dubravka Ugrešić
"This time last year, I was living in Berlin, where I spent an inordinate amount of my time sleeping. The days in fall and winter there look far too much like night: the sun rises late and sets early and doesn’t really do much shining in between. The sheer number of hours I spent in bed was something I felt perpetually guilty about, until one day, a friend sent me an excerpt from a novel she was reading, The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, by Dubravka Ugrešić."
"Finding Lucia in the archive was like catching a glimpse of myself. I took to her story personally; she became my companion as I mined a historical record that has not deigned to preserve many of history's women. [...] I read through her diaries, written as a young girl in Prague, and then later, as a woman at the Bauhaus, married to one of the school’s most esteemed 'masters.' And I looked through her photographs, taken of and by herself. I read her letters.
I’d stumbled upon her and looked into her life; an accidental intimacy."
"Look into the lake, Braid algae with your mouth and down below I fetch you, I lay you down in a paper airplane. And it flies…"
translated from the slovak
in molossus (february 2016)
'To Reach Over the Border': An International Conversation between the Bauhaus and Devětsil
In the spring of 1923, Walter Gropius (1883-1969), who was then the director of the Bauhaus and was to become one of the most famous architects of the Twentieth Century, wrote from Weimar to Karel Teige (1900-1951) in Prague: ‘It makes me very happy that I have found in you a contact with the Czech architecture movement.’Teige was at the forefront of a cohort of young artists, writers, architects, and actors who had founded the group Devětsil in December of 1920. The circle employed a variety of strategies—including publication, lectures, exhibitions, and travel—to spread its influence both at home, and abroad, and the mid-decade correspondence between Teige and Gropius is a telling indicator of the success of this exchange.
"I could not but think about renewed border controls in the EU territory within the context of, and in comparison to, travel in the period between the two World Wars. At that time, Europeans (as well as travelers from further afield) enjoyed a newly open, post-war terrain. The physical movement of bodies, facilitated also by new and faster modes of travel, helped to open up an unprecedented level of exchange between artists and intellectuals of diverse backgrounds and languages. In that brief window of freedom of movement between the two World Wars, Paris was a hub of such traffic, and many visitors came from Prague."
"The period between the two world wars in Europe marked a moment of intensive artistic and intellectual exchange. One way such exchange was facilitated between the avant-gardes of various countries was in print, some of the better-known examples being L’Esprit nouveau in France, the Bauhaus books in Germany, and the (typically Anglophone) “little magazines” such as Blast and the international project Broom. But the capacity for magazines published in “minor” languages—including Czech, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, and Hungarian—to engage in this exchange and thereby reflect and inform contemporary literary and aesthetic trends beyond their borders, has gone largely unconsidered. The MoMA Library’s current exhibition THE ELECTRO-LIBRARY: European Avant-Garde Magazines from the 1920s helps to correct this oversight, showing how important these magazines are to the history of the interwar avant-garde and to the avant-garde periodical, and gives the visitor some insight into the strategies employed in these magazines, by which their editors engaged in transnational conversations. Through the use of non-textual cues, such as photography and graphic design, as well as the employment of translation and multilingualism, the magazines included in the exhibition, such as Disk and Pásmo (Czech), Zenit (Yugoslav), Ma (Hungarian, based in Vienna), Blok (Polish), and Veshch (Russian, based in Berlin), were able to reach wide audiences at home and abroad, and visually convey their shared affinities."