Ondřej MACL (*24. 12. 89, Hradec Králové, Czech Republic)
Andrew, Andreas, Андре, , أندرو, 安德鲁… with a weird last name.
His experimental book Miluji svou babičku víc než mladé dívky (“I Love My Grandma More Than Young Women”, 2017) won Jiří Orten Award 2018 organised by the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers. The book develops his diploma thesis on the variances of Eros in the history of European literature defended at the Charles University in Prague (MA, comparative literature). His second book K čemu jste na světě (“What You Were Born For”, 2018) includes feminist conceptual poetry. A novel Výprava na ohňostroj (“The Fireworks Expedition”, 2019) is dedicated to European Union and young people.
He graduated as well in authorial acting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (MA) and in social work and journalism at the Masaryk University in Brno (BA). He spent some time at the European House Bordeaux-Aquitaine (an year), Paris-Sorbonne IV (a half year), Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema in Lisbon (a half year), Visegrad Literary Residency in Budapest (three months) or TAKT Artist Residency Berlin (a month).
Together with Anna Luňáková, they organise cabarets, rituals, thematic walks… And due to success at university theatre festivals in France and in Morocco, they founded the artistic platform “Nothing Is A Problem Here”.
His experience includes also art criticism, poetry slam, photography or social work tourism.
Record of English friendly performative reading (What You Were Born For): www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO2Y2rBzLjI
Edited record of The Firework Expedition launch: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSrP4zCaNjs
Edited record of Magic Socialism ritual: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD6fiQ63LU0&t=
Excerpt from his first book “I Love My Grandma More Than I Love Young Women” (translated by David Vichnar):
“…Still I feel that record should be made of the life and works of Mrs K. Please, Ondrej, do it for your grandma’s sake. I think it could be a nice little piece and I’d be happy to have contributed,” some engineer Číž was insisting in his letter. The rest of the contents was no different from all the other letters my grandma kept receiving of late more numerously than advert flyers: illnesses, hobbies (ebbing with the flood of illnesses), family (boasting of the success of one’s children), common friends (and which of them has just passed away), memories, greetings and well-wishes.
And still – it was due to the petty demands of some engineer Číž that I began to take more notice of grandma. No, I’m not bringing consolation. At best a collection of the reflections of my hopeless love. I wanted to write coherently, clearly, literarily… but the text fell apart in my hands just like my grandma’s body, like my feelings for her. It ended up similar to that animal into which my grandma inadvertently breathed life with her brush: “I was going to draw a dog, but it looks more like a cow, except it has no horns… I’ve no idea what I’ve drawn here.”
I’m grandma’s favourite. It’s not my fault, she took to me from my earliest boyhood. Instead of dishabituating myself from my grandfilial bonds, circumstances granted me her presence more and more often. For her part, it was the need of higher-quality medical care that brought her to my town, I on the other hand had no idea what to do with a title-adorned unemployment, and rather than work at phone support or sell hamburgers I’d go to hers. I’d snuggle by her bed as she tickled me under the chin and professed her love to me childishly, and I sat by her even when in throes she would beg me: “Kill me and bury me in the ground!”
I myself didn’t like grandma very much. I was, just like Havel’s republic, round twenty years of age, the optimism of the hooray-90s twitching in spasm and I, following adolescent premonitions, was at last dramatically coming to terms with tradition imposed upon me as part of the process of humanising the animal. Gone was both artistic provincialism and disarrayed sexuality with its originator called the Catholic church, or possibly the love of one’s neighbour, neighbourer and neighbourest, including love grandfilial. I made the vulnerable grandma into a monstrous symbol of hypocrisy of all kinds. In chapels, which to my mind blended with coffins, while suddenly in the gust of life every single tree was suddenly asway, I even cursed her vulgarly, feeling myself morally superior to her from the position of the disappointed. We were both suffering.
My own shadow whispered to me about suicide. The new meaningless life was busy playing Nietzsche by urging me to seize my own body and turn it itself into word-value. And so I donated my eyes to studying, my legs carried me through the seven seas, my lap accepted the fate of ascetic dreams… Sadly, neither the previous period of Apostle Peter, nor the current phase of Judas brought me a sufferable inner composure. Even if I changed my name, emigrated, had myself operated on… there was no escaping the past. Its ultimate triumph, when upon setting foot to a desert island with my books in hands and seeing inside a pristine jungle saw the same icon grandma kept under her pillow, was the authority of Childhood.
My grandma! I’ve yielded to many a siren of this world and now it remains for me to discern this piece of banality that vainly I’ve been beating to death inside me in favour of imagination. I shall spread it out like something non-banal and fasten myself to it. […]
“School of life”
As I cut myself while depilating a kiwi – “Now you’re going to have to graduate from another school, the ordinary kind. You’ve got to learn to cook, tidy, change the sheets… I’ll be your schoolmistress.”
No fewer than three sturdy fellows dragged grandma up the church stairs today.
“Well at least I’ll give them something to remember.”
If only one could preserve those moments in which nothing special happened…
“I know that I know nothing”
- Socrates! (stuck in her head thanks to TV quiz shows)
- Where do you know him from? The factory?
- Yeah, he worked the drawing board next to me and wore a striped shirt.
“Although I’ve got nothing, I always give you something.”
Through these words, grandma defined herself more appositely than how she’s appropriated by the sociological dictionary, i.e. “the grandmother is a very important institution for the functioning of the family and a systemic feature.”
I’m growing old – I’m in the way – I’m more and more redundant – less and less self-reliant – only my hardships proliferate…
Old age needs to express itself sensibly, this even through its nonsensicality, once it ceases to be helpful by its own means. So what that grandma can look after the kids, help out in the household, have stories to tell… Days will come when she’s more helpless than a child, when she doesn’t help and can barely speak.
That’s when I’ll love her the most.
She never got drunk.
She fled all the skips immediately after she helped decorate the dancehall. No flirting, let alone Dionysus.
Her harshest swearword was “jiminy”.
She never saw, had no need to see, the sea.
She never climbed a mountain peak.
She’d been abroad only once, a work outing, no distinctive impressions.
No vestige of charisma, intellectualism, interest in sports…
Love has got its own understanding
She loved watching the stock exchange news on the TV. Without understanding one piece of information, she very much “liked” the curves of projected graphs.
“A combination of the microwave oven and puppet theatre.” /V. F./
Originally purchased as an attractive companion to grandma’s solitude. A distractive voice with no ears. Later an intruder in the time of our visits. I visited with view to the TV programme, so as not to disturb her favourite shows. And when sometimes we had nothing to say to each other, it was I turned the TV on.
The TV often clamoured for no-one. Clamoured while grandma was crying. Clamoured during our parting. In the background of every pathos trundled the prescribed, edited, regime-sanctioned… clamour.
“You’re so warm – and I’m so cold!”
She was caressing my hand, plump by the scrawny one.
I only feel warmth inside me in rare intervals, whereas she’s getting colder inexorably all the time…
On the fridge opposite us, the microwave.
Colour against grey hair, creme against wrinkles…
What about the beauty of grey hair, wrinkles? Or the beauty of the beloved in all her changes, the cosmic beauty…?
Before bedtime she’d come tuck us in, wishing goodnight to every single body part individually. Beginning with the head and down toward the feet:
“Good night, li’l hair, good night, li’l eyes, good night, nosey…”
“Leave out the li’l tongue, we’ve still got some talking to do.”
“Good night, li’l neck, good night, li’l hands, good night, li’l chest, good night, tummy, good night, li’l legs…”
“You’ve left out the wee-wee!”
One time I came to the hospital when she was down with the flu, and so I had to put on a plastic coat, a facecloth, a pair of gloves.
How terrible – kissing her mouth through a facecloth. Shaking her hand through a glove.
Turning to ashes
The lot bestowed upon humanity by ur-mother Eve.
From grandmother Marie I know the contrary obsession of dusting (as if cleaning-up were a revolt against death; in tidied-up spaces I don’t quite feel like myself).
There’re various kinds of dust (perhaps someone will find that comforting?): clay dust, flower dust, skin dust, book dust, even stardust, dust from the stool of mite who feed on dust. Dust in the form of a crust, wisp, wind or the dusty trail.
Dust gathers on anything long untouched.
While dusting, there’s new dust peeling off my hands.
Dust is born even when I touch you.
- I’ve broken a cup.
- Should I throw it away and buy a new one?
- This one got the Virgin Mary on it…
No demon of disintegration. All you loved will be carried to the dustbins (bazaars, dressing rooms and cellars) by your closest ones.
So it goes. I’m dating a young woman.
She’s been through enough for her years; she offered me a room, all the banality of love: Let’s be okay together, that’s enough; she gets sick quite often; grandma’s features in her face… But that’s another book.
Still, in order to seal the change, I considered it appropriate to spend a night with the young woman in the oasis of grandma’s flatlet. Meanwhile the old girl was lying at the hospital. I dressed us up in her clothes and made our bed underneath a bed trapeze unit, thinking that…
“I cannot sleep in here”
…was the title of the reportage my darling wrote for me regarding that night. The ancient décor, so appealing, took a terrible effect in her eyes from the first glance. Make love here?
Among other things she wrote:
She didn’t say “I cannot sleep in here”, but she would rather have said it. It was raining outside.
“Get dressed for bed in some of grandma’s clothes.”
“I’m not gonna sleep in your grandma’s clothes, am I.”
“But grandma’s my love.”
“I know, well…”
“Don’t be afraid”
Neither did I manage to do without a moment of horror that night: woken up by a dream about grandma’s funeral. “Don’t be afraid,” the girl dressed in her blouse was soothing me, “when you dream about these things they seldom happen.”
I recalled the words grandma would like to shout out of the casket at the mourners at her funeral:
“I’m still dreaming, thinking, remembering,
how for all I have I have to thank you.
To say this is a feat quite daring:
I love you from all my heart, I do.”
That night, sure enough, she didn’t die. Something worse happened however: What died was the exclusivity of my love for her.
Grandma, I love a young girl.
And just like you we’ll be spending most of our time together in beds.