The Czech Destiny as a Space In- Between? Victimhood and Fate in the Dissident Thought of Milan Kundera and Václav Havel - PDF

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The Czech Destiny as a Space In- Between? Victimhood and Fate in the Dissident Thought of Milan Kundera and Václav Havel Kati Ellen Temonen University of Helsinki Faculty of Social Sciences Political

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The Czech Destiny as a Space In- Between? Victimhood and Fate in the Dissident Thought of Milan Kundera and Václav Havel Kati Ellen Temonen University of Helsinki Faculty of Social Sciences Political History Master s Thesis January 2014 Tiedekunta/Osasto Fakultet/Sektion Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences Tekijä Författare Author Temonen, Kati Ellen Laitos Institution Department Department of Political and Economic Studies Työn nimi Arbetets titel Title The Czech Destiny as a Space In-Between? Victimhood and Fate in the Dissident Thought of Milan Kundera and Václav Havel Oppiaine Läroämne Subject Political History Työn laji Arbetets art Level Master s Thesis Tiivistelmä Referat Abstract Aika Datum Month and year January 2014 Sivumäärä Sidoantal Number of pages The Cold War research has recently experienced a change from the traditional perspective of confrontation and conflict to the interdisciplinary and dynamic study of its spaces, places and identities. The so-called spatial turn acts as a starting point of this Master s Thesis. It investigates the perspectives of Milan Kundera and Václav Havel regarding their space and spatial relations with their eastern and western others. Mental mappings of the Cold War space and places take priority over geopolitical concreteness with a strict focus on borders. The objective of this research is to analyse the concepts of victimhood and fate in relation to the demarcations in European space as narrated by the two Czechoslovakian dissidents. The source material comprises a variety of primary sources by Kundera and Havel published between 1968 and It includes a combination of novels, essays, plays, speeches and interviews, which reflect the four key themes of this research: the historiographical debates on Eastern and Central Europes, and the interwoven concepts of victimhood and fate. The primary material is supported with centrally relevant secondary literature such as book reviews and biographies. The methods are based on the historiographical debates as well as a theoretical framework combining both post-colonial and post-structural traditions. Instead of being a fullscale literature analysis, this thesis seeks to analyse the authors modes of perceiving and describing the hierarchies in the Eastern European space in the four different but interrelated categories, which follow the key themes of this research. This study shows that Milan Kundera approached the East with a great antipathy and an orientalist tone, whereas Václav Havel merely positioned himself against the totalitarian ideology, which forced him to live in a lie. Central Europe provided Kundera a way of escaping from the Eastern stigma, but he did not construe it as a unified political space. Instead, he sought to revive its culture and identity, which were on the verge of being forgotten. Václav Havel, on the contrary, did not regard Central Europe as a necessary or even a realistic concept. Both authors underlined their victimhood by the Eastern oppression as well as by the Western indifference; nevertheless, Havel regarded the Czechoslovaks simultaneously as victims and perpetrators. Kundera highlighted the ancient fate of the Czech nation, which Havel opposed by stressing the courage to face the difficult issues of the present rather than persistently reminiscing the fateful events of the past. Results of this research demonstrate that the dissident movement in Czechoslovakia was by no means a homogeneous one and disharmony existed despite shared ideological backgrounds. Kundera lived freely in exile and idealised his relationship both to his old homeland and to the West. Havel contemplated his relations to the others more realistically, which to a large extent was caused by the self-censorship under the communist system. Avainsanat Nyckelord Keywords Spatial turn, Dissidence, Eastern Europe, Central Europe, Post-colonialism, Cold War 92 2 Tiedekunta/Osasto Fakultet/Sektion Faculty Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta Tekijä Författare Author Temonen, Kati Ellen Laitos Institution Department Politiikan ja talouden tutkimuksen laitos Työn nimi Arbetets titel Title Tšekkien kohtalo väliin jäävänä tilana? Uhri- ja kohtalokäsitykset Milan Kunderan ja Václav Havelin ajattelussa vuosina Oppiaine Läroämne Subject Poliittinen historia Työn laji Arbetets art Level Pro gradu -tutkielma Tiivistelmä Referat Abstract Aika Datum Month and year Tammikuu 2014 Sivumäärä Sidoantal Number of pages Kylmän sodan tutkimus on viime vuosina muuttunut perinteisestä vastakkainasettelun ja konfliktin näkökulmasta tieteidenväliseksi ja dynaamiseksi tilojen, paikkojen ja identiteettien tarkasteluksi. Niin kutsuttu tilallinen käänne on tämän pro gradu -tutkimuksen lähtökohta. Tutkimus ottaa selvää Milan Kunderan ja Václav Havelin näkökulmista tilaan ja tilallisiin suhteisiin sekä idän että lännen toiseuden välissä. Kylmän sodan tilojen ja paikkojen mielikuvakartat ovat tutkimuksessa etusijalla verrattuna konkreettisiin geopoliittisiin kysymyksiin, joissa painotetaan rajojen merkittävyyttä. Tutkielman tavoite on analysoida näiden kahden tšekkoslovakialaisen toisinajattelijan käsityksiä uhriutumisesta ja kohtalosta suhteessa eurooppalaisen tilan rajauksiin. Tutkielman pääasiallinen lähdeaineisto koostuu Kunderan ja Havelin kirjallisesta tuotannosta vuosien 1968 ja 1989 välillä. Alkuperäislähteet sisältävät romaaneja, esseitä, näytelmiä, puheita ja haastatteluja, joissa tutkimukseni pääteemat ovat keskeisesti esillä: monisyinen historiankirjoitus Itä-Euroopasta ja Keski-Euroopasta sekä niihin olennaisesti liittyvät uhriutumisen ja kohtalon käsitteet. Alkuperäisaineistoa tukee keskeinen sekundaariaineisto, kuten kirja-arvostelut ja elämänkerrat. Tutkimuksen metodit perustuvat historiografiseen debattiin sekä postkolonialismia ja poststrukturalismia yhdistävään teoreettiseen viitekehykseen. Tutkielma ei tähtää perusteelliseen kirjallisuusanalyysiin, vaan se pyrkii selvittämään kirjailijoiden tapoja käsittää ja kuvailla itäeurooppalaisen tilan hierarkioita neljässä erillisessä mutta toisiinsa kytkeytyvässä kategoriassa, jotka mukailevat tutkimuksen pääteemoja. Tutkimus osoittaa Milan Kunderan suhtautuneen itään vihamielisesti ja kuvanneen sitä orientaaliseen sävyyn Václav Havelin taas asettuessa vastustamaan neuvostoaikaista totalitaarista ideologiaa, joka pakotti hänet elämään valheessa. Keski-Eurooppa tarjosi Kunderalle mahdollisuuden paeta itää leimaavasta häpeästä, vaikkei hän pyrkinytkään luomaan siitä yhtenäistä poliittista tilaa. Sen sijaan hän halusi elvyttää keskieurooppalaisen kulttuurin ja identiteetin, jotka olivat vaarassa tulla unohdetuiksi. Václav Havel päinvastoin ei pitänyt Keski-Eurooppaa tarpeellisena tai edes realistisena käsitteenä. Molemmat toisinajattelijat kokivat tulleensa niin idän sorron kuin lännen välinpitämättömyyden uhreiksi, vaikka Havel käsittikin, että tšekkoslovakialaiset olivat samanaikaisesti järjestelmän uhreja ja rikollisia. Kundera korosti Tšekin kansakunnan vuosisatoja vanhaa kohtaloa Euroopan keskiössä, mitä Havel kovasti arvosteli. Hänen mielestään tärkeämpää olisi ollut rohkeus kohdata senhetkiset vaikeat ongelmat kuin muistella menneisyyden kohtalokkaita tapahtumia. Tutkimustulokset paljastavat, ettei toisinajattelijoiden liike Tšekkoslovakiassa ollut homogeeninen, vaan ristiriidat olivat olemassa yhteisistä ideologisista taustoista huolimatta. Kundera eli vapaasti maanpaossa Ranskassa ja idealisoi suhdettaan sekä vanhaan kotimaahansa että länteen. Havel tarkasteli suhdettansa muihin realistisemmin, mikä johtui suureksi osaksi itsesensuurista kommunistisen valtakoneiston alistamana. Avainsanat Nyckelord Keywords Tilallinen käänne, Toisinajattelijat, Itä-Eurooppa, Keski-Eurooppa, Postkolonialismi, Kylmä sota 92 3 Table of Contents 1. INTRODUCTION Background and Motivation for Research Research Material and Methods Previous Research Research Questions HISTORICAL AND THEORETICAL BACKGROUND The East and the Centre Debated The Invention of Eastern Europe Central Europe or Střední Evropa Space, Identity and Others Post- colonialism Post- structuralism METHODS AND MATERIAL Sources: Literature by and of Kundera and Havel Categories of Interpretation ANALYSIS Russia and the East Central Europe or Střední Evropa Victimhood Fate DISCUSSION Culturally in the West and Politically in the East Determined Silence of the Misdeeds of the Other Side In the End It May Finally Actually Cease to Exist Evaluation and Future Research BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. INTRODUCTION [ ] we continue to live that same national history with its eternal di- lemma, with its perpetual tension between alliance and autonomy, with a sovereignty for which we perpetually struggle and which we perpetu- ally approach yet never attain [ ] (Milan Kundera, Czech Destiny ) We are unworthy of attention because we have no stories, and no death; we have only asthma. (Václav Havel, Stories and Totalitarianism ) Nineteen sixty- eight is not just any year in the history of East- Central Europe, but that year in particular comprises an endless amount of meanings, feelings and memories. Nineteen eighty- nine presents yet another turning point of this trou- bled and destined region, which lived and resisted under the communist rule for more than four decades. In Czechoslovakia, the communists were ready to surren- der power after the initial push by the Velvet Revolution in November In fact, unlike in the neighbouring East Germany, Poland and Hungary, in Czechoslo- vakia the political job of getting rid of Communism was already over after ten days (Keane 2000). In both 1968 and 1989 the dissident intellectuals were in the fore- front of the transforming events. They sacrificed their artistic and personal free- doms for the tight restrictions by the regime and spoke out for the sufferings these had caused. The quotations above have been chosen from two of the most outspoken resisting intellectuals of Czechoslovakia under the communist rule. With a number of na- tionally and internationally published fictional and factual works, Milan Kundera (b. 1929) and Václav Havel ( ) took actively part in the debate on the past, present and future of the lands in the middle, which were located between Germany and Russia, between Western capitalism and Soviet socialism. In this Master s thesis, my intention is to examine collections of novels, essays, plays, speeches and interviews of these authors in Through my analysis, I will seek to illustrate the narratives of the authors on two core concepts, victim- 5 hood and fate, with close relation to the nation s troublesome geographical posi- tion sandwiched between the East and the West Background and Motivation for Research Sari Autio- Sarasmo and Katalin Miklóssy (2011: 2) claim in their recent book Reas- sessing Cold War Europe that [ ] as far as the current scholarship is concerned, the Cold War world remains divided in two blocs, and confrontation and conflict are its main characterizing features. In this contribution, however, the authors take a unique approach to assessing the relations between the East and the West. Their main argument is that the East- West relations were not exclusively based on the basic assumption of confrontation but also on collaboration and vivid interac- tion. The change in focus of Cold War research from the traditional realpolitik line of thought to the critical approach is also the starting point of my research. 1 The framework, which this research is built on, is what scholars have recognised as the spatial turn (i.e. Massey, 2005; Struck, 2005). The approach, which I apply to the study of the two dissident Cold War authors, distances itself from the tradi- tional study of realist power politics of the two opposing poles focusing on essen- tially temporal aspects of events and developments. Instead, this thesis will turn to the study of space in the Cold War context. It does not aim to evaluate the concrete borders on the geopolitical map but instead, it approaches space in the imaginary mental mappings regarding one s space, place and identity in the contentious lands between the East and the West. Larry Wolff (1994) and Maria Todorova (1994; 1997) in particular have set the topics such as space and historical regions be- tween construction, structures and perception in the agenda of historical research (Struck, 2005). History and geography occupied largely separate intellectual nich- es for most of the twentieth century; yet, spatial thinking has recently become a primary preoccupation in numerous professions (Soja, 1996). It seems that this tradition, which fully emerged by the mid- 1990s along with the historiographical debates on spatial constructions, has remained popular on the historians agenda. 1 The change has been fairly slow, and much of the Cold War research was, at least in the beginning, oriented along the same geographical lines and published in the same kinds of journals as during the war (King, 2000). 6 A number of academics have claimed the intellectual movements in the former communist countries irrelevant and marginal (i.e. Abrams, 2011; Franzinetti, 2008a; Kennedy, 1994). This study seeks to show that intellectuals nonetheless played a vital role in fighting for their spaces, identities and cultures under the So- viet oppression. In particular, the period after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Prague in August 1968 triggered a new era of opposition activities in Czechoslovakia. At the time, Milan Kundera was still a fairly unknown name in the Czechoslovakian literature scene although he actively resisted the communist rule in his country. Looking back to the resistance movement of his country, he stated: [ ] [T]he Central European revolts were not nourished by the news- papers, radio or television [ ] they were prepared, shaped, realized by novels, poetry, theatre, cinema, historiography, literary reviews, popular comedy and cabaret, philosophical discussions that is, by culture (Kundera, 1984a: 10). Culture was the first target to be attacked and destroyed by the Soviet Russians. As their freedoms and livelihood were taken a way and many people were forced to choose exile over imprisonment in their home country, the dissident intellectuals can be claimed to be one of greatest sufferers of Communism. They were also the key figures speaking out about their victimhood and fate of their tormented place in the middle of Europe. Both the historiographical framework and the imaginative geographies narrated by the Czechoslovakian intellectuals create an inspiring and novel starting point to this research. The spatial turn and the subsequent historiographical debate on the European spaces create the framework for my analysis, opening up a whole new level to the study of Czech dissident intellectuals and their modes of perceiv- ing and describing their space and relation to their western and eastern others. Milan Kundera and Václav Havel of the young sixties generation of writers (Holý, 2008) can be argued to be the two leading and most relevant Czechoslovak intel- lectuals whose contentious views can be both compared and contrasted. Following the Prague Spring of 1968, Kundera and Havel got into a writers dispute over the destiny of the Czech lands (i.e. Holý, 2008; West, 2009). The trilogy of essays that followed is the origin for this research: it started with Kundera s inaugural essay 7 entitled Czech Destiny ( Český úděl 2 ) followed by Havel s Czech Destiny? ( Český úděl? 3 in 1969) and concluded by Kundera s response to Havel, Radical- ism and Exhibitionism ( Radikalismus a exhibicionismus in 1969). This thesis approaches the topic with an examination of the perceptions and descriptions by Kundera and Havel on their space, place and identity at the centre of Europe As this thesis aims to illustrate, the destined geographical position between Western Europe on the other side and Russia on the other often translates into sturdy claims over victimhood and fate Research Material and Methods This thesis is chiefly based on the translated 4 literary works of Milan Kundera and Václav Havel in In effect, these works do not strictly adhere to these years as for instance Milan Kundera started the writing of his earliest work, The Joke, in the early 1960s and published it in 1967 just before the Soviet invasion. However, the reason for including The Joke in the thesis is that it explicitly explains the developments and atmosphere before the 1968 uprisings. The novel became a great success, but soon after the Soviet tanks rolled in Prague, it vanished from the bookstores and libraries of the country (New York Times, 1982). Over the course of time, Kundera s writings began to dissociate themselves from the tones of re- sistance and the last texts analysed are from the mid- 1980s. Václav Havel, on the other hand, became more explicit about the fate of his country after the longest period in prison ( ). Havel s speeches and essays largely characterise the second half of the 1980s. One of his last works taken into consideration is his speech A Word About Words delivered in the summer 1989, thus, some months before the escalation of the Velvet Revolution in November and the beginning of Havel s presidency in December. The chosen works will be reflected to the historical and theoretical frameworks of analysis: How do the narratives of Havel and Kundera contribute and correspond 2 Originally published in the literature magazine Listy in December Published in the journal Tvar in January The translations are in English. Most of the texts analysed in this study are the newest editions and, therefore, also the newest editions to translations. 8 to the debate of the spaces and places of the Cold War Europe? What do we learn about their position between the East and the West? This research utilises the his- toriographical debates on Eastern and Central Europe and particular literature, which addresses the spatial formations of the Cold War. One of the most pertinent accounts is the analysis by Nataša Kovačević, 5 who has taken a bold and novel ap- proach to the study of Communism by applying post- colonial theory to the study of European borderlines in the East. In Narrating post/communism: colonial discourse and Europe s borderline civilization, she critically examines the debates of Eastern Europe as a colonial terrain of the Western tradition, which centrally relates to the debates raised by the dissident intellectuals. It engages in the post- colonial theory and critically adapts Edward Said (1979) and Larry Wolff s (1994) notions of Ori- entalism as a basic theoretical background, which applies to my research objec- tives extensively and can be used as a valuable model. Irrespective of Kovačević contributions (2008; 2010), a substantial gap exists in the literature to support my arguments since both the theme and the approach to it are unusual and still rather unexplored. This Master s thesis analyses the modes of perception and description of the Euro- pean space in the last twenty years of the communist period in east- central Eu- rope. Shadowing Bernhard Struck s (2005) approach in his article Historical re- gions between construction and perception: viewing France and Poland in the late 18 th and early 19 th centuries, I will claim that the narratives by Kundera and Havel can be reduced neither to a pure literature analysis nor to an all- encompassing discourse analysis either. Both historical and contemporary reflections to space act as the primary framework for an analysis of the dissident narratives Previous Research As highlighted above, there is an absence of previous literature that could be ap- plied as a useful model to the present study. In particular, no substantial compara- tive analysis of Kundera and Hav
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