A Woman in the Pantheon

Although the lion’s share of Milada Součková's work falls in the second half of the 1930s and the first half of the 1940s, the author's literary legacy is extremely relevant today. Součková combines the themes of individual identity against the backdrop of watershed historical events, and the exploration of personal memory with innovative literary techniques close to the key works of Anglo-American modernism.

“May your lists exclude my name…”

The lyrical heroine of the poem “Woman in the Pantheon” by writer and literary historian Milada Součková (1898–1983) scornfully views a museum exhibition devoted to her past. She profoundly rejects the story of literature predominantly formulated by men with its distinctly limited place for “women writers”, and also ridicules the fetishization of members of the cultural canon. Součková, who decided to remain in the USA following the communist putsch in February of 1948, was erased from the history of Czech letters for forty years. Yet the timeless quality of her writings, characterized mainly by a subversive treatment of literary schemes and conventions, the deconstruction of genres and numerous references to the cultural arsenal of European culture, has ensured her place in the imaginary “pantheon”.

The Talking Zone

Kalady or the Sanctuary of Speech

“Words of my mother tongue, when you are at your worst, do not hide yourself in the riverbank, do not hide in stone or tree, hide in the name of a small village.” The privately printed Mluvící pásmo was typographically arranged and illustrated by the poet’s husband Zdenek Rykr, who also illustrated her earlier bibliophile publication Kaladý, aneb: útočiště řeči (Kalady or the Sanctuary of Speech) from September 1938. In this prose poem, Součková reacted to the 1938 Munich Agreement and to the ensuing formation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Having resided in the nearby town of Bechyně, the couple well knew the south Bohemian town of Koloděje nad Lužnicí, concealed here under the name the locals used – Kaladý. Rykr drew from the motifs on the Baroque tombstones in his expressive illustrations accompanying the poem.

Selection of correspondence from Milada Součková to Jindřich Chalupecký from the 1940s

Milada Součková’s nearly fifty-year relationship with Jindřich Chalupecký is documented by their correspondence, interrupted for many years by the author’s emigration. At the time, Chalupecký had to break off their correspondence for fear of persecution. He writes in a letter from Prague: “We are saying goodbye, it would be risky for me to prolong this correspondence […] But I would at least like to read what you write: For I think that now you will be able to do what you should do.”

From the work of Milada Součková

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