I also bought seven bulky Czechoslovakian photo albums, for three euros all in all. Two about Bohemia and five about Eastern Slovakia. They have the stamp kézikönyvtár, reference library on the first page, so they have not left the library for forty-fifty years since they arrived to Hungary, they are now squinting in the strong sunshine. Nevertheless they must have had their prehistory, for some of them have an inscription in a peculiar mixture of Czech and Hungarian: Mĕstská Knihovna aj. – Gift of the City Library.
The albums include many modern factories and blocks of flats, many Socialist monuments – we will organize an exhibition post for them –, many nature photos of a popular romanticism. And many, many jewels. Villages and peasants since then disappeared, street views suspended in time for fifty years, old towns photographed with an already unknown black and white sensitivity. Subjects where the photographer – because these albums were made by good photographers – could relax and photograph what he liked to photograph.
In the album Střední Čechy, Central Bohemia by Jiří and Ivan Doležal for example there are, wedged between the landscapes of Neveklov and the castles of Sázava, eight unnumbered and uncaptioned pictures of a subtle etude on the railway in the manner of Josef Sudek, somewhere on the Czech fields of the 70s. These eight photos tell about Bohemia of those years everything that could not be told in a full album. They have in themselves Menzel’s closely watched trains, Věra Chytilová’s trains clattering along the modern housing estates, Hrabal’s trains standing for months on a provincial side-track while the Prussian royal library rescued in them from Königsberg gets fully soaked. The loneliness and sense of loss one always felt in post-68 Czechoslovakia kde se zastavil čas, but also that sensitivity, creativity and humor which always gave reason for hope.
|A hóba-fagyba dermedt ország|
sok éve nem látott napot,
a koromsetét éjszakában
fáznak az árva csillagok.
Didergő tájak csontkeményen
derengenek a holdsütésben,
s az éjszakai ég alatt
sötéten világít a fagy.
Ember csak néha-néha mozdul,
gyereknép csúszkál a havon,
kóbor kutyák árnyéka surran,
kering, megáll, továbboson.
Meggyújtják odabenn a gyertyát,
remeg a gyenge világosság,
nagyokat pislogat a láng,
sehogy se látja a szobát.
|The country frozen in snow and ice|
for years has not seen the sun
the orphan stars are shivering
in the night that is black as soot.
Quivering landscapes, white as bones
are looming in the moonlight
and under the sky of night
the frost shines with a dark light
Only rarely moves a person
children sliding about on the snow
shadows of stray dogs sneaking, stopping,
lurking around, slipping away.
The candle is lit inside the house
the weak light is shivering
every then and now a large blinking
in no way it can see the room
János Pilinszky: The sun-haired princess (detail)