Josef Váchal (1884–1969) was a Czech writer, painter, printmaker and book printer. In 1900 he wrote his first poems, by 1903 he joined the Prague Theosophy Society, and later became a painter and graphic designer. In 1910 Váchal published his first two books. Between January 1912 and January 1913 he enjoyed a short but intense friendship with the mystical Catholic writer Jakub Deml. In March 1913, Váchal married Máša Pešulová, and began a friendship with the collector J. Portman, to whom this book is dedicated.
A Set of Cycles of Wood Prints / Ode to the Very Genial Doctors and Medieval Practitioners is written in what the Czech-born illustrator Peter Sis calls “a very spaced out language” that goes like this:
Workers of the Spirit
This barbarian is singing a song to you
You are among the most esteemed you preservers of mankind
Cult of the future priests
You who bring joy and surprising disease
just like when the sun comes to surprise the night
To you I sacrifice, you the enablers of power, pride and beauty
In healthy body three, who let blood and had surgery and
were newly born to life
During World War I Váchal served on the Italian front, where, like many of the German Expressionists with whom he emulated, he was impacted by its horrors. During the 1940s he went into internal exile to avoid Nazi occupation.
The publishing house Paseka was inspired by the character publisher Paseka in Vachal’s Bloody Novel. Portmoneum, Váchal’s museum in Litomyšl, was founded by Paseka publishing house in the early 1990s.
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