Artists Marginalized by Own Revolution

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 9, 2009 | Go to article overview

Artists Marginalized by Own Revolution


Byline: Natalia A. Feduschak, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

PRAGUE -- Martin Putna stood next to his favorite poster at an exhibit that opened here recently celebrating the life of Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright and former president who became the face of the peaceful revolution that brought down communist regimes throughout much of Eastern Europe 20 years ago.

Being in power makes me permanently suspicious of myself, reads the caption on the poster, which shows a smiling Mr. Havel sitting on an ornately decorated chair. A tagline notes that Mr. Havel made the statement in 1991, when he was awarded a prize for outstanding contributions to European culture.

Artists and other cultural figures played an outsized role in the demise of governments in the old Soviet satellites - a role that has diminished as societies have opened up to a freer interchange of ideas with the rest of the world.

Under communism, mimeographed manuscripts known in Russian as samizdat or self-published works, passed from hand to hand to avoid the censors. Other works were smuggled out to the West for publication. Western culture, from modern art to heavy-metal music, was coveted forbidden fruit.

The catalyst for the Charter 77 movement co-founded by Mr. Havel in 1977 was the arrest of a Czech psychedelic band known as the Plastic People of the Universe. The velvet revolution that remade Czechoslovakia in 1989 took its name from the Velvet Underground, a U.S. rock band that was a favorite of Mr. Havel's.

The role that culture and literature played in Central and Eastern Europe was bigger and more important than in the free world, said Mr. Putna, who is director of the Vaclav Havel Library.

Literature played a role in society. Literature played a role in politics, he said.

Now, American writers Dan Brown and Stephenie Meyer by far outsell Czech authors, and culture has lost its place here as a focus of political life.

The Havel Library, which opened its doors earlier this year on a quiet street in Prague's picturesque Old Town, illustrates a different time when the printed word could be a matter of life and death.

Born into a well-to-do family, Mr. Havel was not necessarily the most talented of those who opposed the communist regime, Mr. Putna said. Yet by the time he and four contemporaries founded Charter 77, Mr. Havel was on his way toward becoming the leader of the opposition.

Charter 77 was an informal civic initiative that lasted from 1977 to 1992. Beyond protesting the arrest of rock musicians, the group criticized the government for failing to implement human rights provisions in international treaties it had signed.

Pavel Pechacek, one-time director of the Czech Service at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and now a senior adviser to the radio's president, said Czechs who had earlier fled their homeland aided those left behind by publishing their works in the West.

Josef Skvorecky and Zdena Salivarova, a renowned literary couple who emigrated to Canada in 1968, founded 68 Publishers, a Toronto company that published works smuggled out of Czechoslovakia, including books by Bohumil Hrabal, Nobel Prize-winner Jaroslav Siefert, Jewish writer Arnost Lustig, human rights activist Vaclav Cerny and poet Ivan Blatny.

The couple surreptitiously sent printed materials back to their homeland to be passed hand to hand. They included a Czech translation of Alan Levy's Rowboat to Prague, an account of the 1968 Soviet invasion that became an underground classic here. For their efforts, Mr. Skvorecky and his wife were awarded the Czech Republic's highest order in 1990 by Mr. Havel, whose works they also published.

It was something very special, said Mr. Pechacek, himself a former dissident. The best Czech literature made its way to the West. In the Czech Republic, culture had influence.

Theater also played an important part in communism's demise. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Artists Marginalized by Own Revolution
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.