Thursday, August 06, 2009


     I don’t know whether it is an atmospheric effect or an acoustic one or something else, but the fact of the matter is, that (though I never know what the day is or the date, usually figuring this out from the masthead of the newspaper) on Sunday mornings I usually feel some special pressure right when I wake up, a disinclination to rise, an overall weakness of will and a simple insufficiency of enthusiasm for any task or type of work; you could also call it indolence, sloth, spleen, or just plain boredom. Normally I am vexed by confusion about this sudden depression for a little while until I finally say: “Oh, it’s probably Sunday.” And it always is.

     So, as I have said, I do not know where it comes from, maybe it is some atmospheric pressure or magnetic disturbance or something. It is possible that something in the universe just does not work on Sundays, by which the daily order of things is disrupted. It ought to be scientifically ascertained if the trees or grass grow on Sundays, or to test if it is an empirical fact that it rains more on the red days on the calendar or is hotter than usual; if spiritual activity is dampened, if the dogs stink particularly badly and the children are more vexing, to see if it is always windier outside, if more people drown, if there are a larger number of automobile accidents, actors performing worse, the trains and trams run badly, problems with digestion and beer and handwriting are worse than at any other time. It is possible that there are periodic cosmic interruptions on Sundays and holidays and that one wakes up on Sunday with a tangible foreboding that something is not in order. There is the hidden trouble.

     Or perhaps it is an acoustic phenomenon; one awakens and does not hear the vast and wide hum of human endeavor; the result of which is that something seems lacking. Is is as unnerving as a mill that ceases to turn. That explanation is a simple one and consequently it cannot be correct, for I wake up with a catastrophic feeling on Sundays in completely foreign cities, even alone in the mountains, and if a storm cast me on a deserted island without so much as a Friday I would still wake up one morning with a terrifying feeling that something was not in order and that I didn’t feel like doing a thing. “Aha,” I would finally say, “it’s probably Sunday.” And indeed it would be.

     I maintain that weekends, excursions, and all human holidays are just desperate attempts at flight from this Sunday depression; people think they have to fatigue themselves to forget the crushing burden of holidays. Woe to them; for Sundays find them at the feet of St. Jan’s, in Divoká Šárka4 and at the stadium of Sparta. Better served is he who confronts the streets of his town face to face or passes his Sunday at home, lounging around as though he has the flu. Well then, in cities people show that it is possible to bear Sunday afternoons after a fashion—actually, there is almost something exalted about it, for the girls are prettier and on top of that you get to read the Sunday papers. Well into the afternoon a true Sunday state blooms, as the city shrugs off its somnolence and people come into the street whom you never see at any other time. There are thousands of people who only exist on Sundays; old women, widows, orphans, mustachioed men, uncles and aunts, nuns and grandmothers, strange people who look like they were put away in the wardrobe thirty years ago and let out on Sundays so that the moths do not eat them. They have strange, washed Sunday faces; pale, long-nosed, whiskered, ginger-haired, freckled, and doughy, dressed somewhat poorly, as a rule, but the clothes are clean; there is something old-fashioned about each of them, even anachronistic; other than on Sundays, you only meet these people and these sorts of clothes at a third-rate funeral. Towards about four or five o’clock you meet whole families who only exist in public on Sundays; on normal days you meet families with unpleasant little boys screaming at every step, with little girls peeping out from the edge of their mother’s skirts, with a mother swaying like a ship, and with a father smoking a cigar in a holder and criticizing the state of the roads and the construction. I swear to you that this is human nature on Sundays, which is exactly the same in Rome, Paris, or London, and which returns the whole world to an indestructible and horrible thing: into a small town. The town dweller does not flee from the city and its uproar, or the small town and its boredom, its slow pace and its slothful disorder. This suppressed small town, hidden during the week in shops and work floors and houses has Sundays and holidays to itself to dominate the streets; these aren’t walks, these are a manifestation. We are here. We, the old maids, the fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts. We the anachronistic. We the eternal.



1 [Svatojanské proudy (St. Jan/John's rapids/streams) no longer exist, having been dammed downstream and turned into a reservoir. Pictures survive, of course. Divoká Šárka is a large park and nature preserve in the northern outskirts of Prague.]

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