The Plague Column

The Plague Column

The Plague Column

The Plague Column

Excerpt

A régime which attempts to silence its country's greatest living poet sins against high heaven. In Vienna they may have thrown Mozart into a pauper's common grave, but at least they did not stop him from publishing his music. In Prague, at the age of 77, Jaroslav Seifert, today and for the last twenty years, indisputedly the greatest Czech poet of his age, has had to resort to samizdat to get his latest collection of poems published.

"The Plague Column" was first circulated in this form in Czechoslovakia a few years ago. In 1977 it was published abroad for the first time -- in Germany and in the original Czech. Now, thanks to Mr. Osers' skill, patience and understanding, we can read it in a fine English translation.

The system of the "padlock" was frequently applied to writers in Russia in Tsarist times, as we can recall in the case of Pushkin, but it has become much more widely practised there under the Soviets. Indeed the treatment meeted out to Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn, to mention only those who are best known, is now applied to writers in other lands, who happen to have the misfortune to be held in the Soviet protectorate. It is these whom the Soviet régime has the least right to censor. What makes Seifert's case a crying injustice is that he is essentially a lyric poet and these poems which have had to be smuggled out are purely autobiographical and carry no political message. Indeed they become political only by the fact of their suppression.

But Seifert's work is banned not for what he writes, but on account of his "profile", which has long made him, if not an "unperson", at least a writer in semi-disgrace. He started life as a protégé of the Communists, a natural proletarian poet -- a quality much appreciated by the Party . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.