Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness of a Good Name

Sign and Sight published the horrific news that

"In March 1950, as a student in Prague, the writer Milan Kundera informed on an anti-Communist resistance activist. The victim, 22-year-old Miroslav Dvoracek was subsequently arrested and sentenced to 22-years in prison. The State prosecutor at the time demanded the death sentence for espionage." The young Czech historian, Adam Hradilek of Ustr, who found the letter of denunciation with Kundera's signature in an archive, describes the affair in a detailed report in the magazine Respekt. The Slovakian internet magazine Salon then published an English translation of the report. The article reads like a sinister novel about love, betrayal, freedom, Communism, heroism and failure. The commentary, by Respekt editor-in-chief, Martin Simecka, is also available in English here. Read the full story in English at the New York Times. "

This is reason for much consternation on the part of those who love Milan Kundera, as I do, for his extraordinary literary talent, as well as his ethical perspicuity. Fortunately, distraught as I was, I continued to read the following paragraph, in which we are told that the matter is far from solid:

In the Milan Kundera affair Hans-Jörg Schmidt reports on a witness, literary historian Zdenek Pesat, whose testimony could exonerate the great Czech writer. According to Pesat, it was not Kundera who betrayed the western agent, but Miroslav Dlask, the man originally suspected of the denunciation. "Dlask, Pesat says, personally confided in him about betraying Miroslav Dvoracek to the police. ... Pesat's testimony is music to the ears of people in Prague who, since the affair came to light, have been fighting to save Kundera's name, preparing a case against the Ustr bureau of investigation, for using dirty methods. Ustr, however, is sticking to its story."

Hopefully, Sign and Sight will continue to apprise us of the development of this story.


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