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Ludvík Vaculík, acclaimed writer, journalist and anti-communist dissident dies at 88

 
photo:  (radio.cz)
 

Ludvík Vaculík, writer, journalist and anti-communist dissident died at the weekend at the age of 88. With his demise the Czech Republic has lost one of its prominent post-war writers and a strong moral authority.

 
 

News of Ludvík Vaculík’s death dominated radio and TV news bulletins on Saturday and the country’s public broadcasters quickly changed their scheduled programmes to pay tribute to one of the most respected personalities on the Czech cultural scene.

“We will all remember him as an important and brave man of pen and word who was free and independent throughout his life and under any regime,” the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka said in reaction to the news.

Ludvík Vaculíks deep engagement in social and political affairs shaped his professional life. Two moments stand out: the first was Vaculík's critical speech at the 1967 Czechoslovak Writers' Congress, for which he was expelled from the Communist Party. A year later, Vaculík wrote the "Two Thousand Words" manifesto, a key document of the Prague Spring reform movement, and signed Charter 77. This ensured that he would not publish officially for the next 21 years. Yet he did not remain silent. He became publisher of the samizdat series Edice Petlice, that released hundreds of books by banned authors, and one of the country’s leading dissidents.

I asked journalist and former dissident Jan Urban how he perceived the late writer.

“I think that Ludvik was a symbol of his generation. He was a communist in his young years, for three or four years and all his life he tried to pay for his mistakes. He was one of the key personalities of the reformist movement in the 60s, then one of the key dissidents, always against injustice. I personally liked him a lot because, albeit he was a provocateur, he had a wonderful human feeling for everybody, he helped the weak and always targeted injustice.”

Do you think he was an important moral authority for this country – someone that Czechoslovakia in particular badly needed?

“Czech society and Czechoslovak society always was, and still unfortunately is, in grave need of independent minds and Ludvík Vaculík was a scholar in this field.”

If you were to name one single thing –what is the most important legacy that he has left us?

“I think it is precisely his independence. One could recall the manifesto Two Thousand Words that he authored in 1968 or his dissident activities in the 70s and 80s. But I will always remember him for one quote. In 1990, when he was asked about the Charter 77 dissident movement in Czechoslovakia, he said “most people will never understand that Charter 77 was a rebellion of human character not that of political opinion “and I think that Czech society will miss his brilliant, sharp mind exactly in this sense.

Among Ludvík Vaculík’s best known works are The Axe, The Guinea Pigs, the Czech Dream Book and A Cup of Coffee with My Interrogator that established him on the international literary scene. As a journalist Ludvík Vaculík has written hundreds of essays commenting on every aspect of Czech cultural and political life, which some consider to be his most precious legacy and a valuable document of our times.

 
Author: Český rozhlas Radio Praha
 
Added: 11.06.2015
 
 
 

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