- God, What a Beauty
As I have written elsewhere,1 in 2009 Argo, the most prestigious Czech publishing house located in Prague, launched a series called “Jiný Jih” (“Another South”), the introductory volume being Things Beyond Us, a selection of Fred Chappell’s short stories. Thus far, this concept has given considerable opportunity to introduce readers to Flannery O’Connor (A Good Man Is Hard to Find, Wise Blood, Everything That Rises Must Converge) and enabled the premiere publication in Czech of James Dickey (Deliverance) and Lewis Nordan (Wolf Whistle). The plan is, as the editor directing this series Martin Svoboda proudly announced, to publish at least one title per year. In 2016, this was Eudora Welty’s Zlatá jablka (Golden Apples), appearing chronologically as number 6, having taken so long to be translated and other titles of later numbers were published ahead of it. Zlatá jablka includes “Zlatá sprška” (“Shower of Gold”), “Červnová besídka” (“June Recital”), “Pan Králík” (Sir Rabbit”), “Měsíční jezero” (“Moon Lake”), “Všichni vědí” (“The Whole World Knows”), “Hudba ze Španěl” (“Music from Spain”), and “Poutníci” (“The Wanderers”).
The choice, as Svoboda pointed out,2 was obvious: once he started searching for a book by Welty that had not been translated into Czech yet is crucial for understanding the key literary style of the author, he picked Golden Apples as an ambitious modernist work that is additionally full of classical and regional influences. He knew that to publish such a demanding title without a grant would be impossible; thus, once he received financial support from Palacký University in Olomouc, he was overjoyed, even though he was aware—together with the benevolent owner of the publishing house—that Golden Apples would not be likely to make any profit. As Svoboda was quick to point out, though, he understands this project to be mainly a cultural service to the Czech reading public and that everyone involved in this series feels flattered by the mostly positive critical response to their books—and in case of The Golden Apples, there were only words of praise.
The most comprehensive review was published on June 14, 2016, in Lidové noviny (People’s Newspapers), the most widely read serious daily in the Czech Republic. It was written by Ondřej Horák, himself a writer and a literary editor; he dubbed The Golden Apples the event of the year, as far as [End Page 1] foreign literatures in Czech translations are concerned, and expressed hope that this particular book might situate Welty in the Czech cultural context next to the more famous southern female authors Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor. Relying probably on data collected by Marcel Arbeit, Horák made a survey of all Welty’s texts translated so far, including the novels Srdce Ponderova rodu (The Ponder Heart) from 1964 and Optimistova dcera (The Optimist’s Daughter) from 1979 as well as the short story collections and anthologies (see Arbeit). Then, Horák indicated his personal opinion that the true masterpieces from The Golden Apples are “June Recital” and “Music from Spain,” but he is clearly appreciative of the whole volume. As the title of his review “Jižané … Bože, jaká je to krása” / Southerners … God, What Beauty” suggests, he concludes with a few remarks on the state of southern letters in general, his belief being that southern literature in the original sense of the word is gradually disappearing, but at the same time being replaced by new and vigorous themes, forms, and voices.
The second important review appeared on the pages of the online literary magazine iLiteratura.cz (E-Literature.cz) on September 4, 2016, in the book section, sub-section USA. Its author (and also my former student) Johana Labanczová titled her review “Od kolébky až na hřbitov na jižanském venkově” / “From the Cradle to the Grave in the Southern Countryside”) and claims that the main conflict Welty presents is that of an independent individual in a stable, traditional community. Similarly to Horák, Labanczová comments on the whole of Welty’s oeuvre as well as comparing her to other southern...