13 July 2009

Prague Tales - Jan Neruda

Picked up a copy of this at the DC Public Library for $2 a few weeks ago- more than worth it. All excerpts were published between 1867 and 1876.
"'But why didn't he write out his whole name? What's his first name, Viktor, Volfgang?'
'Well, it's Václav, but he doesn't like it. He says that every time he sees a church procession he wants to get re-baptized.'"
Typical Czech-German pandering.
"'...I don't think I've ever seen a decent, moderately long sentence from any of you. ... It's also quite obvious that you don't even know German properly, and I'll tell you why: because you jabber away in Czech all day! Therefore, with the power invested in my office as Director, I hereby forbid the speaking of Czech in the office, and as your friend and your superior I suggest that you speak only German outside the office as well.'"
Wait, they have the "notes of a neurotic 19th century bureaucrat" genre outside Russia, too?
"Conversations in Czech ceased. Only two very close friends would utter a word in Czech out in the corridor or in the archives. They almost seemed like surreptitious snuff-takers. I keep speaking Czech--and loudly at that. Everyone avoids me."
Tobacco stigma in 1860s Mala Strana? Jeez.
"It is a well-known historical fact that gods arise directly from their people. Jehovah was a gloomy, cruel, angry, vengeful, and bloodthirsty god, just like the entire Jewish nation. The Hellenic gods were elegant and witty, beautiful and joyful, just like the Greeks themselves. The Slavic gods--I'm sorry, but we Slavs lack a vivid enough imagination to create either great states or well-defined gods. Despite the best efforts of folklorists such as Erben and Kostomarov, our erstwhile gods are only an obscure, rag-tag group of divinities with no clear, well-defined characteristics."
Kinda true, actually.
"Of course the priest from St. Nicholas' and his assistants were late, as was the custom at the funeral of any important person so that no one would say Mr. Velš was being hurried on his way."
That's what we call a win-win cultural development.