JIŘINA ŠIKLOVÁ'S APOLOGY: A COLUMN IN TWO PARTS
by Andrea Goldbergerova
After publishing my column about Marek Šindelka last November, which now seems a century ago, I set out to prepare a new installment. Motivated by my mission to excavate what's been happening on the Czech literary scene, I did what any reasonable person living in a consumerist culture would: I went shopping. Knowing fully well that pay day money should not be left sitting around, lest it disappear, I went for the ultimate magic trick. After what could only be described as paper-induced brain fog, I soon found myself carrying around eight books. *Poof* and the pesky question of what to spend my money on was quickly resolved.
Choosing a book out of that fresh pile of both hardcovers and paperbacks was easy as pie—having picked many of the titles at random, I went for the one that I had been drawn to for a long time. The book in question contained correspondence penned by Jiřina Šiklová, a Czech sociologist who had been imprisoned for smuggling literature in the 1980s. The letters were mostly sent to her (already adult) children and address topics both serious and mundane. In short: a no-brainer in terms of good content not only to read and ponder about, but also to share with others.
I have a keen sense of irony, perhaps owing to the fact that I'm by nature very cynical, but I could never foresee just how true I'd stay to the book's title. "Omlouvám se za svou nepřítomnost"—literally translated as "I Apologize for My Absence"—now sounds like a tagline for my unplanned hiatus. Months of threading the needle condensed into a few minutes of reading, as if no time had passed at all.
As November turned into December and 2017 rolled into a brand new year, I often wondered about the primary intention behind this very column. The writing process happened in fragments that turned into a somewhat cohesive piece of writing, yet it didn't feel right. In front of me, I had this incredible volume of intimately congenial writing and ahead of me, only a prospect of summing it up in several dry paragraphs. I couldn't quite see that unfolding into anything of interest. As I kept opening the text file to type something up, I was overpowered by the limits of my imagination—nothing quite seemed to fit.
Suddenly, it was spring. A few drafts later, I realized that my writer's block had a poignancy to it that I had not anticipated: it told me to redirect my focus. On life itself and, in a way, on striving to reach an end that wasn't even necessary. The beast of perfectionism got me stuck between two very disparate problems: not considering my work to be good enough, and ascribing too much importance to it—in other words, I didn't realize that all I had to do was play around with it.
Perhaps I should have started that the moment I sat down to continue with my work when, having given the column its final title, I accidentally broke the spine of my paperback copy and thereby tore it in half. What I'm left with now is a column in two separate, yet connected parts about a book which is now, physically speaking, also split into two.
Here's to round two...