Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Small Hiccup

Having just read the response to the death of Vaclav Havel in the Guardian's Comment is Free section, I'm at a loss to know what to think. The paper itself does often have good and interesting reviews on its arts pages, but the fact that it even considered publishing this article on Havel - let alone actually accepted it - suggests that the the editorial staff believe that the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe was just a small hiccup in the advance of worldwide socialism, a little glitch in the march to victory for the one true faith. Consider this excerpt:

"No one questions that Havel, who went to prison twice, was a brave man who had the courage to stand up for his views. Yet the question which needs to be asked is whether his political campaigning made his country, and the world, a better place.

Havel's anti-communist critique contained little if any acknowledgement of the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women's rights. Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first."

That leaves me gasping. I wonder if the person who wrote it (who lists Pravda as one of his former employers, for goodness sake) has ever read with any concentration any of the great essays by Havel. One thing I can be almost certain of - he must never have visited any of the countries of the former Soviet bloc, while the Cold War was going on, let alone had any relatives who had to survive in those places.


  1. With a heavy heart, I shall await the fulfilment of your prediction, Anal, if I may call you that, (since I know you so well).

  2. Two days in Prague in 1988 was enough for me. The one image that sticks in my head is of a crowd of people, on their way home from work, all eating the same flavour of ice cream.

  3. Have you read Utz, by Bruce Chatwin - it is about a man who has a collection of priceless china hidden in his flat in Prague. I read it a long time ago, but my memory is that it evokes the city and the menace of the times very well. Glad your back at the blog grindstone by the way and looking forward to details of how to give you any business I may have.

  4. Simon Winchester argued in The Times today that North Korea wasn't all bad as it hadn't been infected by American commercialism and had retained more of a 'Korean' character. I kid you not.

    I do like Margaret Attwood's comment that 'stupidity and evil are the same, if you go by the results'.

  5. My brother mentioned that last night - unbelievable. I would like Attwood's comment slightly more if she didn't perpetually make it clear that she does not ever think of herself as stupid at all.
    I love your Hardy piece on the Dabbler, by the way - wonderful poem.