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the Complete Review
the complete review - erotica

Edition 69

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To purchase Edition 69

Title: Edition 69
Authors: various
Genre: various
Written: 1931-33 (Eng. 2004)
Length: 137 pages
Original in: Czech
Availability: Edition 69 - US
Edition 69 - UK
Edition 69 - Canada
Nocturne sexuel - France
Sexuelles Nocturno - Deutschland
Emilie kommt im Traum zu mir - Deutschland
directly from: Twisted Spoon Press
  • This collection consists of:
    • Sexual Nocturne by Vítězslav Nezval (Sexuální nocturno, 1931)
    • Thyrsos by František Halas (Thyrsos, 1932)
    • Emilie Comes to Me in a Dream by Jindřich Štyrský (Emilie přichází ke mně ve snu, 1933), with a Postscript by Bohuslav Brouk
  • With artwork by Jindřich Štyrský
  • Translated and with an afterword by Jed Slast

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Our Assessment:

B+ : lovely volume; explicit, but much of it well-turned

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 8/4/2005 Nicholas Clee

  From the Reviews:
  • "(W)orth seeking out by anyone with a taste for a kind of writing that is distinctively middle European: intellectual, graphic and surreal. Nezval and Styrsky's writings, and Styrsky's punctilious drawings throughout the text, evoke the fin de siècle rather than their decade of composition." - Nicholas Clee, The Guardian

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Edice 69 was a series of erotic literature and art established by Jindřich Štyrský. He published six volumes in all, between 1931 and 1933, of which three are collected in this edition of Edition 69. (The other three were: the Marquis de Sade's Justine, a selection from Pietro Aretino's Ragionamenti, and a selection of works by Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Nougaret.) Because of their erotic nature, the original volumes were privately printed and not intended for public sale; they were also published as very limited editions: 138 copies of the works by Nezval and Halas printed, and only 69 of the Štyrský. (Helpfully, the colophons to each piece are also presented in translation -- the one to Štyrský's Emilie Comes to Me in a Dream warning: "It should be kept in a secure location and out of the reach of minors".)

       Sexual Nocturne by Vítězslav Nezval has its narrator looking back to his youth and early sexual experience (in the broadest sense of the term). He notes that nearly every year he returns to T., the town where he was a student from age eleven to nineteen -- and that: "T. is my Pompeii, my legend", his account then a meandering in memory and place.
       As a youth he is all sexual confusion and uncertainty, furtively masturbating. He observes how at age fifteen he still was more focused simply on a woman's face: "We want to be loved, and the eyes play the greatest role in this" -- and how: "I wasn't masturbating to bodies, but to heads, to eyes, and it dejected me". He then reports on an earlier crush, when he was just twelve, a back and forth between some girls and him, exchanging notes. The object of his adoration asked: "Do you understand these things ?" and while he can claim to -- "First you fuck and then after nine months a baby is born" is his response -- he only really has the vaguest understanding. The note gets him in trouble, too; he is confronted about it -- and its language, egged on in one exchange to: "Say the word ! Say the word !"
       The focus on the word, and with it the sense of the power of language and just how meaning-full a single word can be, is neatly conveyed. This word is also liberating for the youth, cutting to the quick ("I have little tolerance for its disgraceful and comic synonyms", the narrator also observes). It is this one word which hits the spot, so to speak:

     The word FUCK is diamond-hard, translucent, a classic. As if adopting the appearance of a gem from a noble Alexandrine, it has, since it is forbidden, a magical power. It is one of the Kabbalistic abbreviations for the erotic aura, and I love it.
       The word then follows him as he eventually dares go to the local bordello (with its: "archaic charm of a Max Ernst collage of etchings") and is initiated, a half dream-like experience Nezval captures particularly well.
       Sexual Nocturne is a neat little tale of memory and passion and language. Particularly impressive is how Nezval plays with the said -- notably that one word -- and the unsaid: at twelve, he wrote his: "princess a love letter in invisible ink" ("full of trite phrases") that seems to have gone entirely unread, for example, and in the closing scene the adult narrator encounters a woman who knew him when he was a child, who speaks to him but also says: "No, don't say a word".

       František Halas' Thyrsos is a sequence of erotic poems, amusing if largely inconsequential pieces. Very short, they describe small scenes. There is at least some creative expression, as in the verse from 'A Scene from Antiquity':
Oh his surprise as he feverishly shoves
through her lowered hair his little flute
that she deftly excites for his desire to shoot
and wet her prurient mouth with dewy love
       Translator Jed Slast presents the poems as rhyming as well, and they have an agreeable feel to them, but all in all they're little more than small divertissements.

       Jindřich Štyrský's Emilie Comes to Me in a Dream is also a story of recollection. While the opening lines claims: "Emilie quietly recedes from my days, evenings, and dreams", she is still very much a presence here. Her memory also colors that of several other women who have been significant figures in his life, across an account that veers often into the surreal-dreamlike -- most vividly with an expanding vulva ("increasing in size until it overflowed the bed and extended over the floor like lava filling up my room").
       So also there bits such as:
     The heaven's sleep and somewhere behind the hedge a woman sculpted from raw meat awaits you. Will you feed her ice ?
       The powerful figure of Emilie and what she evokes do help make for a piece that, for all its digressions, has a cohesive feel -- culminating also in the devastating final scene, a memory from his childhood with his sister.
       Emilie Comes to Me in a Dream also comes with a Postscript, by Bohuslav Brouk, not so much directly about Štyrský's work but considering, more generally, 'pornophiles' -- an odd little essay.

       All three works include artwork by Štyrský -- collages for the two prose pieces (albeit with a very different feel for each), and simple drawings accompanying Halas' poetry. They are certainly graphic, but also quite remarkable. They complement the texts but also impress on their own.
       Slast's Translator's Note also provides a helpful brief overview of the works.

       Edition 69 is a lovely little volume -- a beautifully produced book (as one can always expect from Twisted Spoon Press), with some significant (if explicit) artwork. Both Nezval and Štyrský's short prose pieces are well worthwhile -- more than curiosities -- and, though not nearly of the same literary quality, Halas' poems are an amusing enough accompaniment.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 March 2021

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Edition 69: Reviews: Other books by Vítězslav Nezval under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Authors:

       Czech author Vítězslav Nezval lived 1900 to 1958.

       Czech author František Halas lived 1901 to 1949.

       Czech author Jindřich Štyrský lived 1899 to 1942.

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© 2021 the complete review

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