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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ten, jenž přijímá vše nové

Here is the text of Robert Hýsek's Czech translation of "Embracing-the-New", from Martin Šust's anthology Trochu divné kusy 2, which looks to have a great table of contents. It also appeared, as a teaser for the anthology, in the magazine Pevnost. I repost it here with Mr. Šust's kind permission.

Apparently "Start the Clock" has already come out in the Czech F&SF (I had a long exchange with its translator Petr Kotrle), and "Droplet" is forthcoming.

This makes me especially happy as I've visited Prague several times, and I love that entrancing city.

In preparing for the anthology, Mr. Šust also asked me for "an original epilogue, at least 500 words about the creation of the story, about your work as an author of fantastic literature, about the connections to Czech Republic if you have some etc". I'll include what I sent him here after the break:

In 1990, studying in Italy, I was fascinated with the ongoing revolutions -- for the first time in my life, I was a witness to history. Your Velvet Revolution, amid the muddle around it, seemed the most elegant and generous. Anything The Economist and Il Manifesto agreed on was worth seeking out; and I wanted to see the city of Kafka, and Kundera's "Book of Laughter and Forgetting". A schoolmate from Brno found me an English-speaking hostess.

So I went to Prague.

Following my schoolmate's directions, I navigated from the great gray Prague train station through the futuristic, beautiful subway (mosaic tiles, shimmering bronze...) and into the suburbs.

There was an announcement in Czech, and everyone got off the subway car, peering at me curiously through the windows. Then I rolled, alone, into a great trainyard strewn with the dark hulks of silent trains. Night had fallen.

The conductor, surprised and a little annoyed, led me out. And there, in the empty, high-vaulted rooms of the subway service depot, I met the Velvet Revolution. A socialist-realist statue of the heroic subway worker, biceps bulging, twice as tall as a real man, stood in somber granite in the hall. On his head was a party hat, and in his hand a Coke can.

I found my hostess, and spent a week in Prague: fell in love with the stern and joyful statues and foggy gray bridges and puppetmakers and glassblowers of that stony, whimsical tumult of a city; met a hedgehog (magical animals to Americans, though for you they are probably nuisances like squirrels) on a suburban lawn under the moon; danced in clubs where MTV had its brief historical moment as apparently righteous harbinger of joyful freedom.

My hostess was an ambitious student eager to build a business empire. Her official job was cleaning the lights of the cinema across the street, which took her half an hour a day and earned her half a doctor's salary; she made triple that amount subletting her rent-controlled city apartment at market rates. I asked her if she knew any dissidents. Of course she did, she said, everyone knew dissidents; being a dissident had been kind of a respected but mildly aberrant lifestyle choice in her high school, like being a punk in mine.

Every society has its dissidents; "Embracing-the-New" is about one. I wrote it in two sleep-deprived jags the first week of the 2001 Clarion West workshop in Seattle, Washington, USA, at the direction of Octavia Butler, our teacher that week. I only knew her that week, but I miss her very much; she was one of our very best dissidents. "Embracing-the-New" involves just the sort of uncomfortable, unsettling interdependence between species which she wrote about. It was inspired by thinking about biological symbiosis, and by a book of writing advice which said you should not write stories with only aliens and no humans. I like to break rules.

Posted by benrosen at January 28, 2007 10:15 AM | Up to blog
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