Sunday, November 02, 2008

More on the Kundera Kerfuffle

Previously related here

Thanks to Sign and Sight, we continue to learn about this most recent melee concerning literature, literary greatness and ethical purism. I've highlighted in red what I consider important points:

Polityka 23.10.2008 (Poland)

Jacek Kubiak has the following to say about the Milan Kundera case: "The corpus delicti consists of a police report. Why should we not believe a person who has exposed the communist system uncompromisingly, and paid a high price for it? But belief is only belief." Many commentators were shocked at what they perceived as a political U-turn taken by the magazine Respekt, which first published the incriminating document. Its editor-in-chief Martin Simecka argued that this was a 'non-personal search for truth'. Kubiak writes: "This argument unleashes a deja-vu wave in Poland. How many young journalists today are looking for truth, light, belief and hope under the aegis of the IPN", the Polish Institute of National Remembrance.

Tygodnik Powszechny 26.10.2008 (Poland)

Patrycja Bukalska reports on the Kundera debate in the Czech Republic: "The discussion continues: about the activities of the institute, about the credibility of the secret-police files, about their interpretation (some people are asking whether it is not too one-sided). The oppositional social democrats are again calling for closure of the institute (Ustr)– but as long as the conservatives are in power, they do not stand a chance."

Le Monde 24.10.2008 (France)

In Le Monde the historians Pierre Nora and Krzysztof Pomian join question the authenticity of the document containing Milan Kundera's signature. "The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union. How is it possible that 'Stalinist security service' documents can be brought to bear in a public allegation without first being subjected to the most thorough scrutiny. How to explain this total contempt for constitutional principles such as the presumption of innocence?"

L'Express 23.10.2008 (France)

There has been a thorough inspection of the Kundera document – and just to put Nora and Pomian straight, the object in question is not a secret police document but a police report. There can be no doubt as to its authenticity, reports Jerome Dupuis. Dupuis travelled to Prague where he talked to historian Rudolf Vevoda from the Institute for the Research of Totalitarian Regimes. Vedova told him: "We had the document from the archive of the Czech secret police analysed. The paper, the names listed, the identity and the signature of the officer were all examined – and the document was found to be authentic."

The Philadelphia Inquirer 26.10.2008 (USA)

The Kundera affair reminds Carlin Romano of how little interest is currently being shown in Eastern European writers. "The single newly published volume that enables one to size up and resist this long, strange spiral of brilliant literature into obscurity is Harold B. Segel's 'Columbia Literary History of Eastern Europe Since 1945'. Despite its reference-book title, it's a one-man show, the magisterial synthesis of a Columbia University professor emeritus of Slavic literatures whose 14 books display the same synoptic touch shown here. (...) Here, Segel examines the literatures of 15 countries: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, East Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine."

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