edited by Ondrej Sládek and Michael Heim
My interest in the Czech avant-garde grew out of the experiences of my youth and young adulthood. I was born in Prague during the period in which the Czech artistic avant-garde flourished, and I became an enthusiastic reader of the works of the poets, prose writers, painters, dramatists and theatrical artists who were members of the poetist and surrealist movements of the time. I read the avant-garde literature, visited the exhibits of paintings, and attended the theatrical productions of the two principal avant-garde theaters in Prague, the Liberated Theater (Osvobozené divadlo) directed by the young student-actors Voskovec and Werich, popularly abbreviated simply as V+W, and the theater directed by E. F. Burian, known popularly as 2Déčko (The “D”), which changed its name every year as D (for divadlo, theater) plus the current year: D31, D32, etc. The spirit of the avant-garde art persisted in spite of the threatening clouds of German Hitlerism and war that hung over us all during the second half of the thirties. In 1939 I won a refugee fellowship to Harvard University where I pursued my studies of literature. My interest in the Czech avant-garde was further stimulated when I went to work for the U.S. Office of War Information’s overseas branch charged with preparing and spreading anti-Hitler propaganda to occupied Europe. My duties lay in the area of Central and Eastern Europe, and I had the opportunity to work personally with the leading spiritus moventes of the V+W theater, Jan Werich, Ji...
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