Photo: Courtesy of Vráťa Ebr
The description: Drawing after an invitation by Slávek Martenko
The last month of March, I spent a few hours at the signature event at Café de Sainte Ludmila on Náměstí Míru. On the one hand, I timidly distributed the signatures, on the other hand, I collected the signatures myself. But both moderately. In the first case because I’m not a famous character, in the second because I’m not even a real autograph collector. But yes! I also have a memorial, as was the custom during my childhood, and this year I looked inside and saw drawings by Věra Faltová and Miloš Nesvadba as well as a color photo of young Miluška Voborníková, whose concert I did not even attend at the time: the film brought me the enthusiasm of the parents. She said she was great.
Hmm. I think. But I was only ten years old and I loved Ladislav Vodička’s deep bass. You see, I still don’t have his initials. Despite the fact that I love the songs The driver has hard bread (“Where the bus turns, I once stood when a young driver was pouring for his job” and I know the country (“I walked alone on the road and cars passed me and the drivers swelled with them until one of them asked me if I wanted to get in, saying that he knew how difficult it was to carry his body on foot , he told me how many cities he had already traveled with his car, I said: Friend, that one I do not know the country less…)
Later, already in the 1990s, and as a physically mature guy (I’m not sure about the psyche), I had my books signed at the annual Holešovice fair (also this year – June 9-12 ).
I like it there – and it was an opportunity at the time to exchange at least a few words with one of my favourites. I first approached Ondra Neff, still in the company of his first wife, and I remember well, even too well, the inevitable Adolf Branald.
We were with the writer Jiří Navrátil (still underestimated in my opinion) not far from the stand where – already old – Mr. Branald distributed his dedications. Jirka grabbed my bag for fun and pretended to move away under its weight. He may have laughed at me a little, but friendly. No wonder and I took home not new books, but various older specialties. Chez Branald is the publication of the novel Wandering Wanderers with luxurious illustrations by Cyril Bouda. But again, it was my parents who asked Mr. Bouda to paint them another illustration at the beginning of the volume. He wouldn’t have given much thought and “cut out” a large giraffe with an incredibly tangled neck. Below, he wrote: Cyril Bouda.
I went straight from Cyril, who was keeping my backpack for a while, straight to Cyril, and showed the picture of the unfortunate giraffe. “How does it unravel?” And he signed next to him. It was fifty years apart. Unfortunately, Adolf Branald died a few years later.
It was only later that the famous Prague bookseller Vratislav Ebr (a man with an incredibly interesting and somewhat unhappy childhood) thought it might be effective if he organized an autograph session where as many celebrities as possible would meet. Specifically: also personalities who feel the same way, even though, uh, have only written one book that isn’t even very well known.
The event worked. Another and at least one outside Prague followed. This year there was a cafe on Náměstí Míru. Ebr’s partner Hanka Nováková (sister of recently deceased director Hanuš) asked me if I wanted to come. I could say signing my “travel diary” Inside Cameroon.
“But I’m going to catch a covid there!” I say shyly.
She shrugged. The departure was at three o’clock in the afternoon. It lasted an incredible five hours and a hundred people promised to attend. In the end, about sixty of them arrived. My friends Pavel Vespalec (president of the Čapek Brothers Society), Václav Gruber and Peggy Kýrová are also with me. Pavel is also a doctor of law, Vašek the doctor and Peggy the traveler. And a Trabant lover. I’m definitely a writer myself, but otherwise it’s just a jerk. I’ve always been interested in too many things, but always more on the basis of theory. For some of these “logies”, I then inevitably slip on the surface. But you don’t have to analyze yourself.
From the start, the cafe was dangerously full. No one had a veil or a respirator over their mouth; and when, he looked exotic.
We sat down (coincidence?) next to Benjamin Kuras. He was already active, selling his books professionally, debating. We also tried to sell something, but it was difficult. Subsequently, Ben definitely closed a nice case with his parts (Twilight of the White Man had just been released in reissue), stood up with dignity, and began to chat with Peggy. Otomar Dvořák and historian Jan Halada, for example, entered the café. Also Souček’s biographer (and mystic), Luboš Koláček. Lojza Marhoul also stood at a table – irreplaceable. “We talked,” and I bought him Cruel Truth About Dinosaurs. Older but good. I say, “I was interested in the Writers’ Fellowship having branches. For example, the Center of West Bohemian Writers. Well, Lojzo, but instead of the Central Bohemia branch, I read: the Central Bohemias of Alois Marhoul. How did you do? Hats off.”
He smiled – and he can do it beautifully. It also has a hotel school. He says, “About that, but near the house where my wife and I have been living for years, you, Ivo, would find Mobel Street.”
He nodded. To make you understand, every year he marries the so-called Mobel prize for his literary achievements. He founded them himself. Why not “straight” Nobel? Or the second Nobel Prize? Because the inventor of the laurel is called Marhoul. Not Narhoul.
He recites perfectly, even at the general assemblies of the Municipality. He does not suffer from fear, he has charisma. Magic. I also quite like his communicative verses: in simplicity they tend to be ingenious, in the possible complexity clear and understandable.
A lawyer (and another traveler) Václav Žmolík sat nearby. You’d be surprised what he’s already written in the books. They are, of course, based on his TV shows. The munch brought his color photos with a white stripe underneath; he signed me to this band for my sister. Dude in a good way. Charmer. He can smile even prettier than Lojza.
Honza Bauer, apparently the most prolific Czech author, also came to the cafe in about two and a half hours. It is a miracle and a farce of nature. I remember how his hundredth book was celebrated in moderation, and wonder how many dozens of other Honzas managed to send out into the world.
The publication I, Otto Skorzeny was not signed for me personally by Otto Skorzeny (he is already deceased), but by its charismatic author Roman Cílek. I thought: Does Roman even know that Otto Skorzeny is an action hero in Neff’s book, The Jerusalem Chainsaw Massacre? She probably doesn’t know. He writes book after book with such diligence that he has no time for anything else. Heda Bartíková (she was originally supposed to come too) once described to me how she made Roman a background moment in a cottage somewhere in Sázava. While she cooked, he slept in the next room.
The book When Buffalo Bill Was With Us was signed for me by the Čvančar brothers, and we – finally – came out on air in threes to stand by the subway. Surprisingly, no one in the crowd of collectors inside U Ludmila showed fear of the viruses, but they were threatening, and we risked that as early as March 31. And not five minutes: hour after hour. The large windows there, aka storefronts, can hardly be opened unless broken.
And the collectors? You know, they tend to be weird. They are self-cultivated. I offered my Columbo book to one of them (for free) and I replied spontaneously: “I don’t read! Tens of thousands of people. Almost no choice. Even if it’s clear. “I collect them all. He smiled and didn’t want my Public Enemy either: but he took five autographs. Of course, it is not excluded that they will one day have a certain value, but I doubt it: I have given too much.
Prior to the event featured here, organizers sent invitations to an incredible 1,660 addresses, so the flow of people didn’t die down — and viruses may have swirled invisibly. Guaranteed not to shine. Physician and writer Vašek Gruber finally got together and left first. He certainly wasn’t afraid of the covid, we were both vaccinated three times, but who knows, maybe the action disappointed him.
I would also pour it, certainly with Václav, but here… I see here the humorist Jarda Sypal! Do you know him. Moreover, I also see Jaroslav Suchánek, the father of the famous actor. And my sports commentator (graying) is already signing this – for a girlfriend. I say:
“Remember, Mr. Suchánek, how you pitched that (outgoing) song show How do you like it?”
Do not remember. “How do you like Jiří Schelinger?”
On the other hand, I did not approach Jiří Štědroň, it was impossible to cross the ocean of ladies. He will be eighty in a few days – and he still looks almost the same. I also saw him at Semafor when he played in the game with Jiří Suchý, however, the older ladies all around remind him that he played Cinderella “with Evička Hrušková and Honza Tříska”. Eva Hrušková and Jan Přeučil were also supposed to come, but they probably changed their minds in the end; I do not know. Instead, I opted for the dedication of Jirka Krampol, when it was already abandoned, and at the same time a second front was forming. Ursula Klukova? I was more fascinated by Ivanka Devátá. All the while, she sat at the table with a famous hat, hunched over her eyes. And she didn’t take it off. Specific lady, actress, author of many books. And Jiří Petrášek? Son of Jan Werich, nothing more, nothing less. It was as if he had fallen out of sight. Terribly nice, friendly, kind. Apparently smart. Only very far, but it reminded me of (once popular with) Milan Chladil.
After all, I fled two hours before the end: my classmate from the gymnasium, Luboš Morávek, took me by car. Peggy lasted the longest of the three of us and met, for example, Martin Petiška. Otherwise, however, it is quite possible that some people write on a poster to attract people from Ebr, after which he will not show up, which was already half the intention in advance. But I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings and I’m probably wrong. Anyway, De Niro came and sat for about an hour, if I’m not kidding.
However, (recommended) Jiří Lábus and Halina Pawlowská, Jiří Žáček or Ivo Šmoldas did not come. Unless they emerge completely in the final. Well, maybe Ondřej Kepka was sitting there somewhere (nicknamed Lieutenant Columba), but either I grossly overlooked him or didn’t recognize him.
Finally, I’m going to ask you a question. Do you think it was “just” a tabloid event? In my opinion it is a matter of opinion and beer was served there all the time. Good. I won’t tell Mark, come on.
Entered by: Ivo Fencl