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This report is taken from PN Review 78, Volume 17 Number 4, March - April 1991.

Letter from Prague Barbara Day
The word has been freed in Czechoslovakia, and like an amnestied prisoner blunders in unforeseen directions. The late eighties was a time of hopeful anticipation for many Czech and Slovak intellectuals; they saw that Communism was going to collapse, although few of them expected it to happen so quickly. Therefore they allowed themselves to dream a little. The samizdat historian Petr Pithart (author of 'Let us be gentle to our history') imagined himself one day becoming the editor of a review modelled on the pre-war fortnightly Prítomnost (The Present). Jirí Müller, director of a multitude of underground initiatives, planned to start a publishing house which would bring out officially all the volumes of philosophy he had lovingly prepared for the samizdat press. Well: Pithart has started his review, and Müller has registered his publishing house; but neither has time to spend on these activities - Pithart having been made Czech Prime Minister and Müller, head of the Bureau for the Protection of Democracy and the Constitution.

However, both of them, like many of their colleagues, are concerned with problems of publishing and printing on a national scale. It was expected that with the coming of freedom the samizdat presses would legalize, and produce volume after volume of previously censored works for an eager public. This could even have happened in a gradual way under a slowly-crumbling régime (I remember in 1987 suggesting this possibility to a rather flustered official of the Writers' Union). But when the barriers to free ...


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