Final Word from Monday, March 7, 2011

The Czech nation was born (several different times born), wrote Milan Kundera in "Encounter," not because of its military conquests but because of its literature. "And I don't mean literature as a political weapon," he said. "I mean literature as literature." He was living in Paris during the Soviet occupation, but the heart of his native land was for him in Toronto. It was there that Zdena and Josef Škvorecký lived, in their little house with one room set aside for publishing the Czech writers banned in their own country. Nothing was more important to them than their publishing, he said. No political organization subsidized them; they did it because they were patriots. It's hard to read these lines without wondering what Kundera would say about the decision to impose 20% VAT on books. Would he opine that literature is being used as a political weapon? Or that a small piece of the Czech nation is dying? Hard to say, but some comparison of the Communist and Coalition regard for literature would likely be hard to avoid.

Glossary of difficult words

"Encounter" - see the chapter beginning on Page 117 of the American hardback edition, entitled "On the Two Great Springs, and on the Škvoreckýs";

conquest - the subjugation and assumption of control of a place or people by use of military force; 

publishing - the publishing company was called '68 Publishers; 

to opine - to hold and state as one's opinion; to declare; 

Coalition - meaning the ODS, TOP 09 and VV coalition of Petr Nečas.


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