Yesterday afternoon, as we made our way back home, we passed through Hostišov. For me, this place holds a certain poetic allure, even though I have only ever journeyed through it and never spent any time there. It evokes not so much the well-known book by Herben as it does the imagery that Slavíček’s letters conjured up in me. In that moment, I felt more strongly than ever before that this poetic world belongs entirely in the past. I have never felt so certain as I do now that it is time for art to renounce the past. I don’t mean to diminish the significance of Slavíček’s time, but I feel the moment has arrived to let go of everything to which we still cling out of mere sentimentality, inertia, or convenience.
Dictatorships understand all too well their reasons for persecuting modern art. They do so with the same ferocity with which Jesuits once burned independent thought. They want to quash the earliest signs of a new spirit. I know that wise people point out that much of modern art has been mere snobbery; then again, every age and every style has had its share of snobbery. Oh, how deeply many people hated modern art, and how readily they retaliated for being ever compelled by circumstances to recognize its value. They loathed the modern painting or book just as they detested the individual who boldly waved a banner bearing the word “Freedom” instead of kowtowing to them. People resent the book and the painting that, instead of catering to their comfort (how often do we hear these days that art should “serve”? We should question the purpose of such service!), screams loud and unpleasant words in their ears. So many liberal minds have assured modern art of their benevolence and interest, only to gain the right to suggest it should pull in its horns. And it usually did, but if it did, it was not true art. So much is clear now, believe me: it may have been entertainment, reminiscence, culture, good business – you name it; but it was not art. The sweet and poignant stories of Mr. X and Mrs. Y were not art, and neither were the diverse social environments portrayed in a similar manner. The latest example has been just another liberalist
So, I salute all the artists who have the courage to break away from the past. I applaud their work, even when it may be technically and intellectually less advanced than that of their comrades. Long live art! Long live modern art, for it leads the way for those who proudly bear the badges and symbols of human progress and freedom on national holidays. The works that face burning and persecution, though they themselves may be of questionable quality, pioneer the direction of art. Long live persecuted art! History has proven that persecuted ideas often anticipate future development. How far we have come since Hostišov!
Yesterday, we listened to the radio with bated breath: Albania stands up to aggression.
Our nation was not allowed to stand up to aggression; from September to March, it was constantly emphasized that even the slightest resistance would pose a threat to the nation. We fell for the ruse and the ploy, accepting all the humiliation without protest. Finally, the cup is full. Finally, we hear voices in the press urging the nation not to endure unwarranted humiliation, to avoid needless subservience, and reject degradation. It is Mr. Beran, of all people, who is now recommending this to us. Only six months ago, he pleaded with us, his eyes filled with tears and his heart bleeding, not to plunge the nation into even greater misfortune by the slightest rebellion. Perhaps Mr. Beran is not so evil; perhaps it’s only the unfortunate style in which he expresses himself (…)
In his Memoirs (1948), Churchill emphasized that if Czechoslovakia had resisted, there was a clear possibility that the Western powers might have been compelled to intervene via facti. At the same time, however, an examination of documents from 1938 indicates quite conclusively that Russia would under no circumstances have entered the war as an ally of Czechoslovakia, had the Western powers remained uninvolved in the conflict. (2 December 1948)