A christening of the new book by the photographer Jan Saudek took place on 28 November in the Dobrovský bookshop on Wenceslas Square. He revealed to us why his book is called “Two” and why his publisher Slovart rejected the name he had originally thought up.
How long did you work on the book?
Very long in fact. I promised it to my publisher back when the original director still worked there, that was about seven or eight years ago. Well, I say worked… I tried it out on my girlfriend and friends in letters to see whether they would like it, and when they claimed that they did, I in the end allowed it to go to press.
Seven years is quite a long time.
Which genre would you classify your book in?
Confessional, autobiography. But it has the one advantage, just like some of my photographs, that I did not write this book for money. Or even to make myself famous. About eight years ago, I promised someone that I would do a text book with several pictures. And in fact, I did so.
The name “Two” – how did you come up with that and what does it express?
Ooh la la. The name was originally supposed to be smegma. Do you know what smegma is?
Smegma is the English and Latin word for the sebum around the clitoris and under the foreskin. It is a standard word in English, but the publisher told me that the critics would tear us apart. But it sounds good. Smegma.
I would have said it has something to do with magma.
Well, it more or less does. (laughs) So I investigated the matter, I’m quite an ingenious sort of person, and I came up with the name “Two”, but I wanted the two to be the number two. We haven’t seen that in literature yet, the name of a book being the number two. Only our publisher, and he is right, being an experienced man, said that people would think it is the second part of something. So, I compromised a little and the book is called Two – like yin and yang, the sea and the shore, day and night, man and woman. There is a 60-year-old photo on the cover of me doing a rock and roll dance with some prostitute or other.
What percentage of the book is a description of the experiences you actually had and how much is fiction?
I don’t have a very good imagination, I am only able to slavishly describe what happened from my point of view. There are two points of view in this book of one and the same banal or run-of-the-mill event. You can see it as something evil or something wonderfully good.
You clearly remember a lot of things from your life. Is there anything you would rather forget?
My memory is OK and I would most like to forget how I lost my fortune several times under exactly the same circumstances. Because I was a wealthy man who bought expensive cars for friends and girlfriends, and I can’t afford to do that anymore. But let them try to do that themselves.
What is your credo in life?
You must never stop: dig one more metre and you will find the treasure. You don’t know whether that treasure is down there, but you have to try to find it. Maybe it is there but I just haven’t found it yet.
What will we not find in your book?
Which of the foreign celebrities would you like to take a photo of next your mouldy wall?
When did you feel the happiest?
How do you recharge your batteries?
The greatest love of your life?
What lesson did the Czech people learn from the elections in October?
What would you never be able to give up?
Are you a benevolent father or do you favour a strict regime?
Which proverb do you believe in?
Why do women love you?
What are you most proud of in your life?
Why are the Czech people labelled a xenophobic nation?
Do you have any daily ritual?
Are you a jealous type?
I really like your hairstyle. Is that the work of a hairdresser or did you do it yourself?