Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Picking Up the Pieces

Vaclav Havel once compared mending the societies re-emerging from the Soviet Bloc to putting back together an antique, inlaid desk that had been smashed with a sledge-hammer. He also said this:

“The freedom of speech that had been suppressed by Communism overnight could, forty-one years later, be restored overnight as well. It was also possible to rapidly abolish the constitutional provisions concerning the leading role of the Communist party, to establish other parties and to hold free elections. We even succeeded rather quickly in transferring the greater part of our nationalized economy into the hands of concrete owners. In the realm of civil society, things are much more complicated; its restoration is a task that will take years. The reason is self-evident: civil society is an intricately structured, very fragile, sometimes even slightly mysterious organism that grew for decades, if not centuries, out of a natural development, reflecting the continuous evolution of the human mind and morality, the degree of societal knowledge and self-knowledge, and a certain type of civic awareness and self-confidence. After so many years of virtual non-existence, civil society, therefore, cannot be restored by any single act from above, such as a law, a directive or a decision of the political leadership.”

The sad and very beautiful Romanian film Beyond the Hills seemed to me to put Havel's words into visual form, illustrating the dilemma he described so clearly. I thought it was a really good film. For more see here.


  1. That's a great quote. I can't imagine being able to understand what it was really like under Ceausescu and I'm sure it’s the same for practically any other outsider. I'd love to see the movie but it's unlikely.

    1. I could send you a description, via hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of tweets. If it's any comfort, it was one of those films that is truly wonderful but also quite tedious (does that make sense? Many of my favourite films are quite boring)

  2. Yes, it makes perfect sense to me. I am the same. Some movies I just like to get inside of and watch them go by, like people on the street or in a bus.

    Others, of course, are simply boring and pretentious.