The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination 

Issue Twenty-One

Three Stories from the transformations of mr. hadlíz by Ladislav Novák
Time Machine by Guido Eekhaut
Three Stages in Learning to Fly by Vanessa Gebbie
It Says Here by Mickey Z.
Flylephant by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky


irreal (re)views


Three Stories from
the transformations of mr. hadlíz
by Ladislav Novák

Mr. Hadlíz as Plaything Mr. Hadlíz as Plaything
for Those Condemned
to Death

We are all condemned to death. Mr. Hadlíz is well aware of this. (Only we often don't realize it; we forget...) Clowning and dissimulating, he invites us to have fun with him. To make our forgetting even more profound? To easily get us under his control? Under no circumstances should we trust him too much.

—He cannot grant us clemency. The sentence is irrevocable. For us there is no clemency. Take note: of the persons in the lower right-hand corner, only their shadows remain, as it was with several victims of Hiroshima.

Mr. Hadlíz as a Monster
Threatening the Homes of
Respectable Families
Mr. Hadlíz as a Monster
Larger version

A person wounded all too often turns into the cruelest of beasts. He wanders through the night, sniffing and smelling blood. Those people there behind seven different locks and bolts live their tranquil lives, their family idyll. Maybe they are just about to light the candles on the Christmas tree. Or they are lulled to sleep by a melodrama on television. They are warm, full bellies digesting contentedly. In a moment they might make love (more out of habit and boredom). Someone is alone (a short time ago he suddenly left the warm house where he was ridden with anxiety...), wandering the night, howling, sniffing, smelling blood.

Mr. Hadlíz as Dance of Elves
Larger version
Mr. Hadlíz as a Dance
of Elves
(as Autumn Decay)

Mr. Hadlíz has become wiser and now knows that to assert his ego obstinately is the folly of follies. He is disintegrating (though we would be more correct in saying that he is dispersing himself). As trees lose their magnificently colored leaves in autumn, Mr. Hadlíz is losing his peculiar thoughts and desires. (Sometimes too peculiar thoughts and desires.) He's no longer quite himself. The wind gently circulates him like an autumn leaf. And you can be sure there is fruit here from which new beings and new fruit will grow. Water, silent, eternal water, having appeared on the first sheet to return in various guises on several others, has now culminated in this final scene. Silent, still water: a picture of eternity.

(translated by Jed Slast)

Ladislav Novák (1925-1999) grew up in the Moravian city of Třebíč, in a house that overlooked Hadlíz Lane. Considered one of the most versatile Czech artists of the second half of the 20th century, Novák was a pioneer of phonetic and visual poetry. These pieces are from a series of 12 "froissages" (a method invented by Novák of interpreting crumpled paper) he created in 1976, made from a large Danish calendar his brother gave him as a New Year's gift. Sixteen years later, on October 7, 1992, he composed texts to accompany the froissages, correcting and transcribing them the following day. These pieces are reprinted from the transformations of mr. hadlíz (Twisted Spoon Press, Prague, 2002).

Back to the Top

Home | Archives | Theory | Links | Guidelines

translation copyright by Twisted Spoon Press 2002 all rights reserved
original text and illustrations copyright 1995 by Ladislav Novák