Zdenka: (hugs him) Really – I’m so happy with you, Gába.
I love you more and more! It seems impossible – because such
a high love can’t grow any higher – and it’s still growing –
my God – it grows a lot every day! And what about you, Gába –
do you still love me a little bit too?
Evan: So much that I can’t even love you more. My love
for you does not grow, it rather restores itself. It parts
with you when I fall asleep and with every morning it is born
again – as big as the one the day before.
Zdenka: From waking up till falling asleep, I think only
of you. When you leave – I miss you, I can’t stand still and
all my thoughts lead only to your return. I know that sometimes
I get in your way a lot. You work and I come to caress you. You
may have an idea, you are looking for a place of refuge – and I
fall upon you with my arms. I always find some pretence – I know
you could have already created many, many beautiful things if it
hadn’t been for me –
Evan: You are the most beautiful
poem of mine. What better could I create when I have you?
Zdenka: (saddens) I have believed so much that our love will inspire you –
Evan: Indeed, really – it is so! – But who would I write for? The most beautiful
things I can say I say directly to you in between kisses and I whisper it to you
in your hair and palms, my sweet wife, the sweetest among women –
Zdenka: You haven’t read anything to me for a long time –
Evan: (puzzled) I’m trying it – it doesn’t work. I’ll tear everything up. Fire
will read it.
Zdenka: So many years have passed since your last book. When will you publish
Evan: But I did publish last year –
Zdenka: I know. – The only booklet since the time of the May revolution, such
gleanings – and then nothing more – I won’t come to you any longer! That endless
honeymoon of ours will stop! Gába! You must work again!
Evan: You silly! I’m so happy with you, so full, so famous, everything my verses
had been leading towards came true –
Zdenka: No, no! That would be horrible! What, can’t happiness breed a poem?
Evan: It is better born from pain.
Zdenka: There’s nothing easier! I’ll bring you so much pain that you will scream
and stamp –
Evan: No, baby, don’t joke, let our little sun shine on!
Zdenka: And maybe, if this door here didn’t disturb you – those permanent
skirmishes behind the wall –
Evan: No, Zdenka, that’s not it. Even if it was as silent as a tombstone –.
Anyway, haven’t I been looking for a new apartment?
Zdenka: I feel good with you even here – but I’m afraid of that door. It’s
captious. It seems to me all the time that there’s somebody listening behind
Evan: I hope not Hanuš? Or even Mrs. Hanušová –
Zdenka: And you are maybe glad when you hear her calling for help – She can
immediately run under your wings –
Evan: Don’t throw it into my face any more.
Zdenka: You must work, Gába!
Zdenka: You had successes, name, almost fame – and now you are silent…
They are silent as well.
Evan: I’ll write again, Zdenka, just bear with me a little –
Zdenka: So many poets have suddenly popped up – so many names, so many
successes, only around your house there’s silence – nothing can be heard
either from or about you – as if poet Evan died already a long time ago –
or as if he had never existed – –
Evan: And what about my work? – – Now it’s the young ones’ turn – let them
show what they can manage!
Zdenka: But they can really already do a lot, Evan! And there are so many
and still new and new ones demand to be heard.
Evan: Well, you see it for yourself! There are too many of us – big offer,
small demand – prices are declining – –
Zdenka: What are you saying, Evan? You have never talked like that
be- fore – –
Evan: And what if I didn’t write anything at all any longer? I may already have
some right to look back behind myself, at my harvest,
thirty-years-worth of life –
I haven’t lived in vain – or have I? And then – do you think that Bezruè or
Toman would have been greater if they had written so much as Vrchlický? And would
Vrchlický be smaller if he had written just a half, just a tenth of his work?
Zdenka: No, no, you mustn’t judge it like that, Evan! Then – that was an idyll! –
But nowadays! – What, you really don’t have anything to say about the present? We’re
at a turning point in history, God knows what tomorrows bring inside, what surprises,
what reversals! Nowadays in particular, does the nation need poets, like physicians
that place their ears at the feverish pulse of this time, like
can see far ahead and listen to the mysterious murmurs of the future.
Evan: (suddenly pulls himself together and, upset, opens a drawer. He takes out
a manuscript) Well, what should I write? How long has it been lying here? I
confess, I wanted to surprise you – For a year, I have been looking for a
publisher – and nobody cares for my verse. I have become
like a lady’s hat. And that last book, post-revolution – what a success,
what hymns of criticism – and how many people have bought it? Seventeen!
From ten millions of people of the same language – I’m telling you – seventeen
have bought that book! They have printed three hundred pieces of it. I have given
out some. So count it. Over two hundred copies lie somewhere in a warehouse, worth
of wrapping paper. Can you then be surprised at publishers that they send you with
all the praise and fame with your poems to hell?
Zdenka: And that’s what you have become afraid of?
Evan: Who should I write for? Tell me, who for? My poetry – who will it give
something, who will it make happier, who will it help? If it hadn’t been written,
nothing in the world will change, nobody will ask about it – it is – and it’s the
same as if it wasn’t. Isn’t that a desperate balancing! – So say – who should I
Zdenka: For me, darling! What do you care for anybody? Write for me and for
yourself. If I myself read you – isn’t that enough for you?
Evan: What then do I need a pencil and paper for, what to print if for if I
can versify in your arms, directly from soul to ear? From heart to heart?
Zdenka: (turns aside) Why don’t you publish a book in a bibliophile edition
Evan: I have tried that too, darling! – Don’t speak about it any longer. I’m
telling you – it’s a useless, pointless work. Nobody cares for it.
Zdenka: I thought – when a moment of inspiration comes, a poet, a real poet
has to create in the same way as a hungry person has to eat. –Will you stop
being a poet because publishers don’t publish you? Will you stop creating
beauty because it’s not demanded? What, do people decide how much beauty
there should be in the world? You give up at the first failure. It seems
to me that you have fought little so far, you lack youthful drive for battle…
Evan: (rubbing the grey hair on his temples) Youthful drive… That’s as if I
wanted to dye my hair… Perhaps I seem already old to you –
Zdenka: Papa, papa, would you like slippers and a pipe? You dealt with Hanuš
here a while ago –
Evan: I’ll be old – and you will always still remain young –
Zdenka: Don’t talk to me about that! It depends on you when you will want
to grow old. But I will still love you. Your soul, your work and even your
little wrinkles will be good – that’s visible already now – and anyway –
that’s still so far away, so far away! (In between kisses) When you wrote:
“I’m waiting for you” – didn’t I come?
The door on the left opens. Miloš appears, in a sweater and knickerbockers.
They don’t notice him.
Miloš: (captiously) Sorry – I won’t disturb –
Zdenka: (gets up quickly and adjusts her hair. With a smile) That’s all right –
Evan: How come you’re at home? (He looks at his watch) You should have been at
school already an hour ago.
Miloš: We have a vacation. The whole classroom cracked.
Evan: What you babbling about?
Miloš: I swear. The seventh and a part of the eighth grades classrooms. All
the way from the floor to the ceiling. Bricklayers are studying there
today. (Chafing his hands) The hut’s falling apart! That’s cool!
Zdenka: (smiles at Evan and leaves through the door on the left) Well, talk
to your son here.
Evan: When you’ve got school again?
Miloš: Only since Monday. – Daddy, I’d like to ask you for something –
Evan: For money, right? You can’t do anything else!
Miloš: Daddy, I beg you, give me twenty crowns. I’d like to go to Mikulka tomorrow.
Evan: Who’s that?
Miloš: (with a naive surprise) Really, daddy, you don’t know who Mikuláš Brada is?
Evan: How could I know that?
Miloš: But, goodness, that’s our boxing miracle, he’ll fight the European
championship tomorrow! Well, newspapers are full of it!
Evan: I’m not interested in your sport!
Miloš: Well, yeah – you are – pure culture! (He looks around contemptuously.)
You’re bathing here in books!
Evan: Such a bath wouldn’t harm you. You should dive a little in your textbooks
at least. There will be a conference some time soon – how will it turn out?
Miloš: I think that well. – But the Czech language teacher has been sore on me.
Evan: Specifically a Czech language teacher! Isn’t it, mildly put – shameful for
you? You have a whole library here at your disposal –
Miloš: That’s why – so many books! A feeling of futility overcomes me only when
I look at their backbones. It reminds me of our teacher Pámbíèek1) – that’s what
it probably looks like in his brain – yuck!
Evan: Miloš, old chap, what will become of you?
Miloš: Surely not a professor – nor a poet. You have, daddy, never even tried
to awaken my interest in it, you’ve never tortured me with it – and that’s what
I will always count to your credit.
Evan: You take after your mom –
Miloš: Sure. First mom – she completely detested your poems.
Evan: (for himself) Perhaps that’s why I worked so passionately then –
Miloš: And this second – poetic mom – came already too late. Poet’s son, as a
second-grade student, already had his team, scored goals and went on hikes. –
Do you regret it, dad, that I’m the way I am?
Evan: I’m only sorry that you’re so selfishly superficial. The culture of body
has smashed your soul. Your thoughts won’t fly higher than a soccer ball above
the fence of the sports ground. Beauty and enthusiasm have gone out of fashion.
What, in fact, will enrapture you? Records of strength and speed, blows into jaws,
goals, more goals! – We were getting drunk on Mácha, Sova, Bøezina in our youth –
loners under our little lamps. You, under the balls of the lamps in arenas and
stadiums are going crazy, whinny and worship the new gods of champions. Instead
of ideas sparkling – sparkles between eyes and under the blows of boxer gloves!
Miloš: Yes, such is the pleasure of young and healthy men! – You’ve made me a bit
angry, dad. I’ll tell you then what I think about you: said between the two of us,
I consider your versifying a thing that’s very comic and – forgive me – somewhat
unworthy of a modern man. When somebody at the secondary school suspects me that
I compose those poems of yours and mistakes me for you, I turn red like a tomato.
And still I feel weird when I have to split the beans that my native father writes
poems. What have I already suffered for you! How many poignant hints do I have to
listen to both in class and in my club!
Evan: (bitterly, ironically) Well, you suffer then, poor boy? And I was proud that
I will leave a good name to my offspring, which they will lean on like a shepherd
on his walking stick! Today I see that I would have ingratiated with my little son
more had I muffled my name in an opaque pseudonym so that he didn’t have to feel
embarrassed for me –
Miloš: Well, don’t take it so tragically, daddy. I didn’t want to say it so openly
but you provoked me with your absolute negation of sport. To be famous – you don’t
need to suffer in the sweat of your face under the literary lamp any longer, smoke
and drink black coffee, run from one corner to another and tear your hair. – If you
were only a little interested, just a little bit – you would read, for example, dad,
in the newspapers even about me. Of course, in the sports section! There is a report
about the victory of F. K. Meteor over Admira – four: zero. Wait, I’ll read it to
you (He readily pulls out a newspaper, opens it and reads):
Young Sáva on the inside right with a point-blank hit into the left corner placed
the fourth goal. Sáva is the youngest champion, stunning with his ingenious
technique, and his youth allows us to hope that in him, a new star is rising
in the sky of our football. –
Well, dad, Sáva – that’s me. You understand why I don’t want my name to
be Miloš Evan! But thousands of people already read about me and pronounce
the name “Sáva” with admiration.
Evan: (anxiously, without irony) Just be careful so that nobody breaks your leg.
Miloš: Goodness, how down-to-earth you are, dad! If Mikuláš Brada was afraid
that Vittorio will knock his teeth out, he would have neither the name nor
the money today. That’s the hazard of fame. – And if you saw soccer in its
classical form, the way we perform it, you would never say such a stupidity.
Evan: Well, you’ve created a kingdom of your own, reign in it however you can!
You know I don’t restrain you. I’m glad myself when I can make you happy – so
don’t hurt me at least.
Miloš: What do I hurt you with, dad?
Evan: When a complaint about you comes that a professor had caught you during
a Latin lesson with a detective story under the desk –
Miloš: But that wasn’t actually a detective story, dad! That was doctor Orfan’s
adventure! Wasn’t the whole class reading it under the desks? – and I wanted to
have it in me in half an hour. Is it my fault that the teacher caught it just
when I had it?
Evan: Hmmm, you read too? And doctor Orfan!
Miloš: You know him? Man, that’s neither sickly-sweet nor cheesy. You suck him
like a menthol candy, when you breathe in, you feel wind. –
Evan: (repeats pensively) – wind –.
(He looks at his watch) God, it’s already
half past – I must go.
Miloš: (steps in his way) Don’t be angry, dad, you know – you know –
Evan: I know – twenty crowns. Come with me. –
(He leaves through the door on
the left, Miloš behind him.)
They walk out through the door in the background and close the door behind
themselves. Then fierce ringing is heard from the room next door. Zdenka
appears in the doorway on the right and slowly goes to open the door. Koliandr
enters first and then Brada.
Zdenka: Gentlemen, how may I help you?
Koliandr: (bows ceremoniously) Madam – I would like to introduce to you above
all the upcoming European champion in light-middle weight, Mikuláš Brada. I am
his manager, Lukáš Koliandr.
Zdenka: (overcomes the pain how Brada presses her fingers. Then shes stretches
her hand out to Koliandr) What a unusual visit!
Koliandr: (gushes forth) Madam, our matter concerns in fact master Gabriel Evan.
Zdenka: I’m sorry, he left a little while ago. Perhaps I could learn of
it – please,
sit down, gentlemen –
Koliandr: (sits down) We will then dare to convey our wish to you. Perhaps, at
first sight, it will seem strange to you but when I explain everything to you,
you will certainly admit that we are doing a good thing that will benefit both
Zdenka: (skeptically looks at both of them) I’m curious – really, I’m fairly curious –
Koliandr: My protégé, Mikuláš Brada, since tomorrow the European champion and a
candidate for the title of the world champion in light-middle weight – I assure
you – doesn’t need any more fame. He has so much of it that he swims in it like
fish in the sea. He’s grateful for his successes above all to his boxing genius,
but in the current competition of famous people he would be trampled down, smothered,
roared down. That’s why I tread a path for him, that’s why I cast a spotlight in
front each step of his. He’s a child. A big child. He doesn’t know that fame and
money are synonyms, crudely put, in one sack. But you, madam – perhaps aren’t
interested in that –
Zdenka: On the contrary – I’m very interested. Go on!
Koliandr: If there are geniuses of mind, Mikuláš Brada is a genius of body. His
name goes around the world, European journals bring his photographs, caricatures,
anecdotes and excerpts from his life. Within a single year, he has changed from
a nameless human drop into a “one-hundred-headed cyclone” of Europe. His triumphal
exits from arena can be envied even by kings and presidents. – (he becomes silent)
Zdenka: I’m sorry – I still don’t understand what in fact –
Koliandr: Yes, to come to the point. – His popularity is – so to say, too general,
blatant, materialistic – do you understand me? There is no spirit in it, it lacks
swing, I would like less screaming and more nobility, less crowd fanaticism and
more spiritual values, instead of proletarian roar – a quiet, heroic prayer.
Certainly, you understand me now, Madame. Such a chap must be finally noticed
also by our writers, poets, sculptors, composers – men of pen. That’s why I’ve
come to master Evan! I’d like to ask him in the name of my protégé to write a poem
that would celebrate his victorious march to the highest goals, to the world
Zdenka: I see! Now I have finally understood! Evan should write a poem on Mr. Brada?
Koliandr: (enthusiastically) So be it! I’ve chosen Mr. Evan for that task. His name
is a guarantee that it will be a beautiful poem! Certainly it will be noticed by
artistic circles too, even though they have been ignoring this manly sport so far.
Zdenka: Then a poem for advertising?
Koliandr: (is shocked) God forbid, madam! That’s a mistake! You, please, did not
understand me! I mean a panegyric, heroic poem, an ode or hymn, singing about
bravery, strength, bodily beauty during the work in the boxing ring – well, I
think I don’t have to give advice to a poet, he will already know what to do.
Zdenka: And, I beg you pardon – for what reason? Why should he write the poem on
Koliandr: (surprised) How come – why? Haven’t I said it clearly?
(Suddenly, as if
he had understood) I see!, Madame, I wanted to discuss the financial side directly
with your husband. Of course we don’t want it free of charge. I assure you that
I can appreciate the service Gabriel Evan will perform for us with his pen. I
will give in to any amount in the range of my competence, naturally, in the
range of good will and common sense. –
Zdenka: So an advertising poem that will be paid for well, after all!
Koliandr: A royalty for a poem! What’s bad about that? If Master Evan magnanimously
refuses money, perhaps he won’t be at least offended by some gift for his service.
It’s only about the form, to make it acceptable for Master Evan – and we would be
grateful for a piece of advice –
Brada: Madame, I must tell you then, as for me, I don’t give a damn about that poem.
It’s already making me sick, to read about myself all the time –
(he looks at her
enthusiastically) – and if I’ve come to your place, it surely ain’t cause of that
Koliandr: (to Brada, quietly) You be quiet! For heaven’s sake, be quiet!
Indeed, really, the initiative came from me, he wouldn’t move a finger for himself
on his own. He doesn’t understand that one such a poem from our best poet will
bring him higher than the shoulders of a whole army of fans.
Zdenka: Gentlemen, don’t be angry with me – but I don’t think that Evan will
be able to please you.
Koliandr: You mean –
Zdenka: He has so much other work now –
Koliandr: Work? Surprisingly! And I assumed the very opposite! –
Zdenka: (aggrieved) What did you assume? Finish it!
Koliandr: That is – that is –
Zdenka: (provoked) And maybe you are right! He doesn’t do anything – and
still he will refuse you –
Koliandr: That he will refuse? And why?
Zdenka: That’s hard to say. – It will probably be better if you hear those
reasons directly from my husband’s mouth.
Koliandr: What are those reasons? Would you, Madame, be so kind as to suggest
to us at least one of them?
Zdenka: My husband doesn’t write casual poems.
Koliandr: (finally understands. Coldly) This reason will be enough for us,
I assure you, madame. When we thought, if only for a moment, about Mr. Evan –
then, of course, we didn’t anticipate who guards the entrance into his sanctuary –
Zdenka: If you mean a shrew or a dragon, then you are quite upset but I forgive
that to you immediately so that you can leave as a gentleman, who will be sorry
already behind the door that he had been somewhat rash –
Brada: Screw your poems! I’m not used to begging anybody!
Koliandr: (angry) You, Mikuláš, be quiet! – Madame, you place such words into
my mouth I didn’t, by God, even think of! That’s why I will leave this place
with a calm conscience, then maybe just encumbered with a new experience of a
too conscientious manager. To regret? No! The name of Mikuláš Brada will grow
even without a poem from Mr. Evan and maybe somebody else will regret –
Zdenka: Don’t be angry, gentlemen, why, you wanted to hear –
Brada: What the heck, I’m not angry at all. That serves you right, Lukáš! And
I told you all the time: Le’s go home!
Koliandr: You, of course, will never understand what sacrifices I bring to you
boxer God. Mrs. Evanová – we commend ourselves to you. I’m sorry we had bothered
you. Your service.
Zdenka: And you, on the other hand, forgive me my sincerity. I’ll tell you the
truth – even if I interceded with my husband, it won’t help.
Koliandr: Don’t please to take the trouble, that thing’s already done for.
Brada: Madame, I’m very strong!
Zdenka: (smiles) Certainly?
Brada: (bends his arm) Here, under the sleeve, touch it!
Zdenka: Thanks, I trust you.
Koliandr: (pulls Brada out) Come, we won’t obstruct.
Brada: (in the doorway) Come see me tomorrow.
Zdenka: (beckons to him) Farewell, farewell –
Koliandr: (pushes Brada out. The door snaps.)
Zdenka: Gába – you are writing, you’re writing something – and you hold it back from me!
Evan: Well, from time to time I try to write something but it’s meaningless.
Zdenka: And what do you do at night?
Evan: What do you mean: at night? Why, you know –
Zdenka: I do know! Instead of lying, you have the light on and work.
Evan: Yes, I often can’t fall asleep. I sit down here and smoke and muse. Well
and sometimes I try to create something again.
Zdenka: And why do you lock the door?
Evan: You tried to open it?
Zdenka: Yes, I wanted to come to you on tiptoe, to surprise you – and it was locked.
Evan: Really – I do lock the door. Perhaps so that I have the impression of complete
solitude. Seclusion from the whole world, an illusion of a hermitage – so that in
that way I at least mechanically break myself away from you. I think, foolish: I’ll
lock the door key and escape my hapiness. I’ll relax my brain, gather other
impressions, think of things other than you.
Zdenka: No, you just say it like that! You’re working on something, tell me the truth!
Evan: Well, yes. I’ll tell you then! – I’m writing a novel!
Zdenka: (joyfully) What? You’re writing a novel?
(She pauses) But – why do you
keep it back from me? Instead of allowing me to rejoice together with you that
finally, finally –
Evan: It’s too early to rejoice. I’ve been only wrestling with it so far. I write
in anxiety, I stagger between joy and despair –
Zdenka: Yes, yes, that’s creative work … you’re writing something big, something
amazing … the pen flies on the paper – I know you write extremely fast –
looks at her suspiciously.) But – Evan, you should’ve told me though!
Evan: I don’t know myself yet what will come out of it –
Behind the wall, from the Hanušes, noise and shouting is heard again.
Zdenka: Hanuš is raging again…
Evan: It won’t take much longer. Just bear with me!
Behind the wall, bumping is heard again.
Zdenka: And, the main thing is that this door won’t torture me any longer. We’ll
start again there! I’m already so much looking forward, darling!
Evan: All of us will work there – you as well as me – even Miloš.
Zdenka: Miloš! I forgot to tell you – they sent a report from the grammar school –
Miloš failed his Czech language class.
Evan: What? That’s impossible! Show
me! (Zdenka hands him the letter. Evan scans it
with his eyes, the puts it aside. Disconsolate) What a slob!
Zdenka: You’re too weak for him. You can’t command him.
Evan: That was his mother who brought him up like that. She would always instigate
him against me.
Zdenka: Isn’t it your fault too? Why you didn’t try to win him for yourself? Compete
for your son! Fight for him! Grab him away from her!
Evan: Alas! The only thing I did then was writing poems. I locked myself away from
the world and from my son too –
Zdenka: What had been is gone! It’s more important what he’s like today and what
can still be saved.
Evan: I trusted him too much. I talked to him like to a young man that had already
created his own world around himself. I wanted to understand him like a single
cell of a new generation. In his words, there was always such youthful,
iconoclastic enthusiasm, unawares I respected his youth. Yes, he lied and he
often hews his way to his friends with pure lies, but they were tiny lies and,
in fact, the same ones as ours once. And today he rewarded me for all the trust in this way!
(He wants to get angry but he doesn’t know how.) No football! No hiking! At home
you’ll stay! I’ll lock you! (He suddenly softens) But, Zdenka, but he, but he
actually is at home whole evenings – he does study –
Zdenka: That’s what I just wanted to tell you, Gába – that is to say he doesn’t
study at home. You don’t keep an eye on him – but I know –
Evan: What does he do then?
Zdenka: He reads. Even in bed! I always surprise him like that. Latin in front
of him, and under the pillow –
Zdenka: “Snake Ring”, “Talking Dog”, “Atom of Revenge” and such old pulp fiction –
and then – something new. Some doctor Orfan has appeared.
Evan: Yes – I know about that –
Zdenka: Such dime novels and detective stories instill in the young hearts only
arrogance and courage for easiness, a rebellion against human society and some
heroism for crime.
Evan: You think – that doctor Orfan instills something? Zdenka, you’ve read
“Doctor Orfan’s Adventure”?
Zdenka: I don’t read such pulp fiction – I can guess what’s in it.
But hold on, actually it would be fair if I read it.
Evan: Rather not, Zdenka, don’t read it.
Zdenka: (surprised) And why?
Evan: You pure one – I don’t want you to stain yourself.
Zdenka: Dirt can be easily washed off. I only want to enlighten myself.
rings. Zdenka goes to open the door.)
Štìpánek: (a briefcase under his arm, he bows) Your service! My humble compliments.
Evan: (quickly because puzzled) Ah, that’s Mr. Štìpánek! Sit down, my colleague.
Would you leave us alone, Zdenka?
Zdenka: Certainly, certainly, please don’t let yourselves be disturbed.
Evan: We’ll be finished soon.
(When the door closes) Mr. publisher! Haven’t
I told you not to come to my apartment?!
Štìpánek: I wouldn’t dare, master, but today – today is an exception – I’m
bringing you a victory – (he rummages about in his briefcase) here, read
here, please! (He takes out a sheet of paper.)
Evan: What’s that?
Štìpánek: That’s a draft of the contract for translation into English.
Evan: (reads) Surprise, surprise –
Štìpánek: (chafing his hands) In Paris the second edition of “Atom of Revenge”
is being published. America’s interested – and I’m – ha ha – publishing it for
the third time. It sells like hot cakes!
Evan: Well, do with it what you can.
Štìpánek: How, you’re not excited? Master! Hardio’s agency has swallowed your
Orfan like aspirin and is preparing ballyhoo for it! Master Evan! Hold out
your hat! Pounds and dollars will pour in it – let me hug happiness in a
human form – (He wants to hug him)
Evan: (gloomily) Mr. publisher, cross your heart! Why, even you had once
published a library of good authors! You’ve even published one of my books.
Mr. publisher – doesn’t what you do nowadays make you sometimes uneasy? You
do have a better past – like me.
Štìpánek: Don’t even remind me of that! Man, what a capital that was that
I’d wasted on young authors! You know how I felt after that competition!
There are kilos of young authors, pyramids of verse, a full store – and
an empty pocket! Your poems, master, I’ve sold them to a confectioner for
making paper cones – I would be a beggar today, hadn’t Orfan come at the
most critical moment! Master! I’ll never forget what you had done for me!
You saved me!
Evan: Well, well – the two of us have been saved. But for what price? We’ve
sold each other – you to me and I to you. I produce pulp fiction – and you
sell it. Lectures for cultural savages, to read on the train and in bed –
and then – for our golden youth – instead of the live water of poetry, to
smuggle cultural liquor to them!
Štìpánek: What are you saying, Jakub Orfan? Is it you? The author of “Atom
of Revenge” – or a lenten preacher and moralist with bile stones? You’ve
invented the novel of the future, the detective story of the atomic age,
and all those extravagances and magic in the laboratory of yours do have
a scientific basis. That there is mixed in a little poison and blood and
passion? As long as man is made of blood, blood will run even if men grew
wings – – confound it, surely I won’t protect Jakub Orfan from his author!
Evan: Mr. publisher, I must tell you something – I suggested it to you
already last time but you might have overheard it: Now, however, I have
definitely decided: I’m done with writing!
Štìpánek: What? Wha – at?
Evan: Don’t take the trouble to persuade me. It’s futile – my decision is final.
Štìpánek: But yes – I’m sorry – that’s madness! Now, when the name of Jakub
Orfan has been said, has been made – to run away from it! Oh no! You’re
joking, master – – – ha ha ha – that was good!
Evan: To end it, Mr. publisher. Years ago, I needed money – and then I
secretly brought my first detective story to you –
Štìpánek: “Death through Radio Broadcasting” –
Evan: That doesn’t matter. The thing was successful, so another followed
and another one – and then the last one where Jakub Orfan dies.
Štìpánek: Yes, yes, extraordinarily ingenious –
Evan: You paid me well – and you even better thought of yourself
flinches) – I don’t criticize you for that. I’ve got the money I needed.
Tell me – it was a good deal – and let’s part amicably.
Štìpánek: But why, why the hell have you decided like that?
Evan: I’m sorry I won’t tell you that. It’s my purely private matter.
Štìpánek: As you wish. I’ll conform to that. And I hope you won’t prevent
me now from disclosing your name to the public –
Evan: (sharply) You mustn’t! Our contract obliges you to silence.
Štìpánek: (darkly) Pardon me! I can throw the contract to your feet now if
I wanted to – not even a cat will meow! It is now for me, master, a left
glove, pretty, without holes – but just for one hand, ha ha. Despite that,
I’ll keep silent. From my gratitude. But you can’t imagine how difficult
that silence is. How many curious noses have already circled around Jakub
Orfan, all kinds, literary as well as amateur, pointed as well as hairy
ones – and how many times have I sweated! I’ll get to hell for all those
those lies I’ve covered your secret with like with a wire.
Evan: I’m grateful for that to you, Mr. publisher.
Štìpánek: Poet Slavík – that Artuš – how he torments me! He practically
cries with curiosity and promises to write for free a thirty-line poem
to celebrate Jakub Orfan if I tell him what I know. And if I don’t tell
him, he’ll kill me with an infernal machine.
Evan: I really don’t understand Mr. Slavík –
Štìpánek: How come? When a poet, then a nightingale2), as I say. He
understood the spirit of the time. He understood it and became rich.
Cleverness always wins. Clever fellows grow rich and fools become poor.
I used to count even you, master, among the smart ones. You understood
in time that poets will become extinct like cabmen did. Poetry is not in
and those obstinate poets that nobody understands and nobody reads only
confirm this rule. In the end, they’ll publish their booklets in their own
editions and give them out to their friends as presents.
Evan: There’s a lot of truth in that – –
Štìpánek: Future – – There’s future only for utilitarian poems, industrial
and business poetry, as Mr. Slavík manufactures it. When the boat of poetry
was already sinking in the sea of complete disinterest, you were saved on a
pirate ship, which is sailing to the Cape of Riches! You pushed yourself
through the army of fools directly to the source, to our epochal
with a thousand of udders and you practically stuck to one of them. I had
been already standing behind you as the following one and others behind me.
And now suddenly, without fighting, with the calm of a dead man, you let go
of the source in order to be flung back, among fools! Your place will be
occupied by another. Ten, one hundred, one thousand people have been waiting
for it. You’ll regret too late.
Evan: You see brightly into the world, Mr. Štìpánek but your philosophy has
in view only the material interests of a man. You are right though, a poet
is almost a disinherited son of our mercantile century. Present era – praises
poets but doesn’t read them – but what, does a poet need an era? Era – that’s
only a small crumb from the loaf of eternity. Just to have the courage to write
for oneself! For nobody but yourself and eternity – and perhaps also for the
closest being – and then enough! What would I give for it if I still could write a poem!
Štìpánek: What? You will begin writing poems again? If that’s true, then –
then you’re done for! Then you’re lost for good.
Evan: (for himself) I want to be lost so that I can find myself again.
Štìpánek: But that money, I say, you will still be glad to grab! Anyway,
it won’t grow forever. Jakub Orfan will pay you fairly, to the last penny,
but then – it’s over! Write poems then, a crown a line – and when they run
out, there won’t be Jakub Orfan any more!
Evan: If he had never been at all!
Štìpánek: Well, as you like it, master. I’ve promised silence to you –
can’t you promise something to me too? That is to say, I would like to
find me another Jakub Orfan to continue your work.
Evan: I renounce Orfan with both my body and soul. You can immediately
engage whoever you want. At least, he won’t be hiding like me.
Štìpánek: Now I understand why Orfan changes in another substance in the
last part of your memoirs. I considered that to be an excellent idea of
yours – a mysterious death – and in the following volume a great resurrection
from the womb of matter to the fright of his enemies and joy of our readers…
And you, in the meantime, really wanted to let him fall to pieces!
Evan: Yes, Mr. publisher. Nobody will ever wake my Orfan to a new life. Let
him rest in peace.
Štìpánek: Amen! Your work will be closed and your successor will be working
on the new, resurrected Orfan.
Evan: I have no objections.
Štìpánek: (getting ready to leave) And I will still hope though, master, that
the old Jakub Orfan will return to me again – –
Evan: Good bye.
Štìpánek: (bows in the doorway) I’m looking forward, I hope, I believe!
1) In Czech, this word is a slang word for God.
2) The Czech word Slavík means “nightingale” in English.