Homage to an Abandoned Latrine

Man grows melancholy when forced to witness how all things go to rack and ruin—how the glory of yore dissipates.

The abandoned latrine on the former military training grounds at Dejvice is a depressing sight to behold. It lies at the foot of a mountain, where a trail begins winding upward toward a shrine to St. Matthew and a pedestrian bridge spans the stream. In bygone times, when the water level remained sufficiently high, the stream carried all the refuse that flowed out of the latrine in the direction of the zoological gardens. Oh, much water has passed under the bridge since the days when the drums sounded, the snorting and galloping of horses were heard, the gunfire of men’s rifles roared, and the imperial flags fluttered on the fields of Dejvice.

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The Chamomile Drops

Old lady Pešek supplied numerous pharmacies in Prague with dried medicinal herbs, such as chamomile and centaury. She sold most of this chamomile and centuary to the pharmacy owned by Mr. Kološka.

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Both in the summer and in the fall she would turn up at the store with a giant pannier on her back, and, without bothering to haggle over how many kreuzer she should receive per kilogram, she would simply weigh the herbs and take the money owed her.

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I Make Soft-boiled Eggs


I have a lovely old aunt. Every once in a while she is gripped by feelings of affection for kin. For some fifteen years I had not heard from her, when suddenly the postman delivered a package that my aunt had sent to her nephew in one such affectionate mood.

The last time, over fourteen years ago, she sent me a massive cake, and the postman now delivered to me a huge basket. In it were to be found threescore of eggs, along with the touching letter that follows:

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Vodka of the Wood—Vodka of the Strawberry: sketches from Galicia

No priest enjoys such enduring gratitude amongst his parishioners as does Ojciec Plebań in Dąbrowice.

This fine old fellow will long be remembered in the entire region of Tarnów, and the descendants of today’s parishioners will, in turn, recount to their children what they heard from their parents about this good man.

It was not the soulful sermons, which certainly bestowed satisfaction upon the souls of good-natured farmers, nor even his piety that won him immortal renown in Dąbrowice, in its environs, and even in Tarnów. It was rather his green vodka, which he sometimes claimed enthusiastically to be the blood of his body, the essence of his mind, and the child of his intellect.

And the name of this product sounded scarcely less poetic: Vodka of the Wood—Vodka of the Strawberry.

Renoir, Strawberries c. 1905
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Strawberries (1905)

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The Story of a Respectable Person

Every evening Mr. Havlik took stock of his entire day’s activities, to ascertain whether he had trespassed in any way against societal mores and public order, and whether he had fulfilled, with proper thoroughness, his obligations as a citizen, a parishioner, and a Catholic.

And every evening he could complete this accounting in the following manner: “I have found nothing that would result in my expulsion from respectable society.” His chambermaid, an old lady, claimed that he was an eccentric, because every time he ventured out, he would say to her in a good-natured tone: “Please, Mrs. Mlitschek, be so kind as to confirm that I have buttoned my pants!”

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Šafler, the Cunning Catholic

As everyone knows, if one gathers up several coins, it adds up to one or even more bills, assuming one makes use of this opportunity for saving. The small, shrewd eyes of old Šafler examined the ballot paper calculatingly. Because he believed in God, he undertook to sell his vote to the Christian Social Party.

“Praise Jesus Christ!” he said, as he entered the polling station of the Christian Socials. “I come on account of the elections.”

Paul Klee- The Lamb
Paul Klee, The Lamb (1920)

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