The Rambler :: blog

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


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Just as an addendum to the arts under communism post from the other day, and the subsequent comments running here and at Clap Clap, here's a quotation from the Czech playwright and writer Václav Havel, who as it happens was one of the names referred to in that Guardian piece. This is from 'Six Asides about Culture', written in 1984 and reprinted in Living in Truth (London: Faber, 1986), and gives the lie, I think, to any assumption that we should regard the years under communism as a golden period for the arts in Eastern Europe, and other times as somehow inferior.

"There are no more gifted writers, painters or musicians in Czechoslovakia today than there were at any time in the past. The disappointment that the 'parallel culture' is no better than it is, to be sure, is quite understandable. The more one is repelled by the official culture, the more one expects from the other, and the more one turns towards it. Still, such disappointment is not objectively relevant. By what odd whim of history would there be more of everything, and better, today in our stifled conditions, than ever before? ...

All this, I know, is obvious. Still it seems that even such obvious matters need to be aired from time to time, especially for our exiles whose perspective, often influenced by the random selection of domestic texts that they happen to come across, might at times be distorted."

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