Dear Mrs. M.S.,
It is difficult and time-consuming to respond to a letter like yours. Perhaps my letter won’t even catch up to you at the address you gave me, and then I don’t know how we will communicate. I was there when you left, and it seems that I should say something now that you will not be returning. I’ve been thinking about this for half a year now; and I guess the result is one yes and one no. The yes is in regard to literature and what belongs to it; the no is in regard to politics and, therefore, what doesn’t belong to literature. You are working out your artistic, meaning your human and life problem; you’re resolving it in the most difficult way of all, but you are doing so irrevocably. My only hope now is that you maintain this course – humanly and artistically. To live without a homeland, and at your age (I’d say at our age, because neither of us is twenty anymore) means that it’s too late to find a new homeland, and that is and will be bad. I think that I also know why you don’t want to return here, why you’ve burned the bridges: that they are not political reasons. But that is what I hold against you and what I am rejecting: your political statement. Because that is not true; you’re mixing in here something that doesn’t belong and that confuses everything – maybe even you. I will try to formulate this more objectively. That which is happening politically in the world today, no matter if it done by these or those people, has nothing to do with art, and has nothing to do with the destinies of a person in whom art is able and obliged to intervene, and which – I am convinced – are and will prove themselves later to be pivotal. For in politics, one is an object that is decided upon; in art and all that belongs to it, one is a subject that decides. I’m convinced that ultimately one will decide for himself; I will not relinquish this optimism.
Therefore, I will also not relinquish faith in the necessity and usefulness of art.
Recent months have proven my hunch to be correct; it has been full of hardships and has meant that I and others have had to revise many things that we believed and contributed to with our little work; as a writer, I cannot align myself with this group, but neither can I align myself with another. No matter what happens, I don’t belong at the front with Zenkl and Kovárna. I will not suddenly become a Sokol, nor a Beneš supporter. Don’t speak to me about tactics; we writers, from the moment it occurred to us that we should intervene in reality in that crude and obvious way that politicians do, have sinned with tactics to such a degree that it should suffice to learn the lesson. That’s also why I’m staying here; whether I am here or there, I have the same choice: to be nobody or to save my civil status by serving some politicians. The difference is only where there is “lesser evil” (but the politics of lesser evil is also a tactic and also something malicious); so, if I had to choose, I would prefer Zápotocký over Zenkl. One group has good intentions, even if the result is very different. The other group seems rotten at the core. But as a writer I will do what I can. I am abandoning all claims to publish what I’m writing and will write; if my time does not come, it will come for others; one day, however, it will happen to us. Of course, you had to choose differently, you had to leave. You there and I here
You see, I’ve remained that Talmudist.