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Another One Down


I finally finished one of the books I was reading for pleasure: James's The Europeans, which I chose for a number of reasons, particularly its description of a tram on the second page. Well OK, there were a few other reasons too, like its discussion of European-American relations and its author. But anyway, toward the end I found another passage that I identified with, albeit somewhat contrarily to the way than James wrote the scene. We join the Baroness Münster, who came to America to seek a new fortune (and perhaps a matrimonial prospect), on a wet Sunday morning in her sitting room:
To-day her irritation had a peculiar keenness; it appeared to feed upon itself. It urged her to do something; but it suggested no particularly profitable line of action. If she could have done something at the moment, on the spot, she would have stepped upon a European steamer and turned her back, with a kind of rapture, upon that profoundly mortifying failure, her visit to her American relations. It is not exactly apparent why she should have termed this enterprise a failure. . . . Her irritation came, at bottom, from the sense, which, always present, had suddenly grown acute, that the social soil on this big, vague continent was somehow not adapted for growing those plants whose frangrance she especially inclined to inhale and by which she liked to see herself surrounded — a species of vegetation for which she carried a collection of seedlings, as we may say, in her pocket. . . . She felt the annoyance of a rather wearied swimmer who, on nearing shore, to land, finds a smooth straight wall of rock when he had counted upon a clean firm beach. Her power, in the American air, seemed to have lost its prehensile attributes; the smooth wall of rock was insurmountable.
According to the jacket bio (of the Penguin Popular Classics), Thomas Hardy described James's style as a "ponderously warm manner of saying nothing in infinite sentences." James captures so much of the sentiment of those moments in which people want to express fundamental things — which shouldn't be so difficult, should it? — but can't, won't, or don't get the chance. I would feel guilty about offering this passage since it foreshadows the end, but of course Henry James novels aren't really events as much as they are inter-personal encounters often metaphorized by properties (that is, objects of an inanimate nature). The appearance of a deus ex machina, who walks in through the open parlor windows at the end, seemed a bit facile, but overall it's a good read.

I may have a bit more to say about Euro-Am relations soon as I think about my response to a travelogue presented in yesterday's Rovnost that presented a rather jarring, distasteful, and downright culturally insensitive account. (In fact, it was so bad that it seemed likely an American had written it about a visit to the Czech Republic and it was then translated to Czech and the people, places, and things were changed to protect the identities of the innocent.)

Since I can't find the article on their Web site, here are a few other recent events of note:

Most [Czech] celebrities support ODS.
The mushroom season begins.
Boby Centrum hosts the dance competition of the Czech Republic.

And in election news, Deleted by Tomorrow reports on Macek's attack on Minister Rath. Haha. Hilarious? You decide. These Europeans! Of course, if it had actually been a duel, it would have been not the first this election season!

Image of "Europeans and Natives" courtesy of the British Library online images catalog.

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Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said . . .

ODS has lot of influence in media. But their rethoric is rather vulgar and they as a rule attack every other party under any circumstances. I am afraid that's all its leaders can do well. I very much doubt, that any politically mature celebrities like Zdenek Sverak or Ladislav Smoliak would consider unharming, not to say profitable for our country to have ODS in the lead. In fact, I have seen Ladislav Smoliak on a demonstration organized by the SND ED party ( http://www.snked.cz/ ).    

7:12 AM, May 22, 2006


Anonymous Anonymous said . . .

Celebrities for SNK ED: http://www.snked.cz/index.php?dok=1333    

7:28 AM, May 22, 2006


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