ACF: Prague Spring Edition

 

Friends, this edition of the podcast is dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Prague Spring — on the night of August 20-21, the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact armies invaded Czechoslovakia and put an end to the hopes for reform of the Communist regime. It would take more than a generation for freedom, destroyed by invasion, to come back to Prague. On January 16, 1969, Jan Palach, a 20-year-old student, burned himself in Wenceslas Square in protest against the resurgent tyranny. Agnieszka Holland, the Oscar-nominated director of the Holocaust movie In Darkness (2011), also made Burning Bush (2013), a three-episode mini-series on Jan Palach’s self-immolation and its aftermath, one of the best works of art we have about late totalitarian government. Flagg Taylor and I talk about this movie and about the Prague Spring itself, the Charter 77 movement, and Jan Palach’s legacy up to the return of freedom to Czechoslovakia.

Flagg has written about Burning Bush for NRO, here, here, and here.

He also has a book he edited, the translated essays of Charter 77 co-founder Vaclav Benda, The Long Night of the Watchman. (Hear him talk to Ben Domenech about it on the Federalist Radio Hour.)

Flagg and I have recently talked about totalitarianism in our The Death of Stalin podcast, but also previously on the great Oscar-winning movie, The Lives of Others.

Finally, here’s one of Flagg’s essays I like to recommend — on Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, the remarkable novel about Stalinism.

There are 12 comments.

  1. Percival Thatcher

    I remember. I shall never forget.

    In February, 1989. Václav Havel was charged with inciting others to participate in a banned demonstration, obstructing the police, and spitting on the sidewalk. (Okay, maybe not the sidewalk thing.) He was sentenced to nine months, which was up in May 1989 because nobody in Czechoslovakia was having any more. 

    In December, he was named President.

    I am looking forward to this.

    • #1
    • August 20, 2018, at 11:34 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member

    I recommend to adults and children the fantastic book The Wall by Peter Sis.

    From the publisher’s blurb:

    “I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side―the Communist side―of the Iron Curtain.” Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Peter Sís shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe. But adolescence brought questions. Cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Sís learned about beat poetry, rock ‘n’ roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. Then came the Prague Spring of 1968, and for a teenager who wanted to see the world and meet the Beatles, this was a magical time. It was short-lived, however, brought to a sudden and brutal end by the Soviet-led invasion. But this brief flowering had provided a glimpse of new possibilities―creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed.

    By joining memory and history, Sís takes us on his extraordinary journey: from infant with paintbrush in hand to young man borne aloft by the wings of his art. This title has Common Core connections.

    The Wall is a 2007 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, a 2008 Caldecott Honor Book, a 2008 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year, the winner of the 2008 Boston Globe – Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, and a nominee for the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids.

    • #2
    • August 20, 2018, at 12:04 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    I recommend to adults and children the fantastic book The Wall by Peter Sis.

    From the publisher’s blurb:

    “I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side―the Communist side―of the Iron Curtain.” Through annotated illustrations, journals, maps, and dreamscapes, Peter Sís shows what life was like for a child who loved to draw, proudly wore the red scarf of a Young Pioneer, stood guard at the giant statue of Stalin, and believed whatever he was told to believe. But adolescence brought questions. Cracks began to appear in the Iron Curtain, and news from the West slowly filtered into the country. Sís learned about beat poetry, rock ‘n’ roll, blue jeans, and Coca-Cola. He let his hair grow long, secretly read banned books, and joined a rock band. Then came the Prague Spring of 1968, and for a teenager who wanted to see the world and meet the Beatles, this was a magical time. It was short-lived, however, brought to a sudden and brutal end by the Soviet-led invasion. But this brief flowering had provided a glimpse of new possibilities―creativity could be discouraged but not easily killed.

    By joining memory and history, Sís takes us on his extraordinary journey: from infant with paintbrush in hand to young man borne aloft by the wings of his art. This title has Common Core connections.

    The Wall is a 2007 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, a 2008 Caldecott Honor Book, a 2008 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year, the winner of the 2008 Boston Globe – Horn Book Award for Nonfiction, and a nominee for the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids.

    This sounds like a good story!

    • #3
    • August 20, 2018, at 1:09 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Percival (View Comment):

    I remember. I shall never forget.

    In February, 1989. Václav Havel was charged with inciting others to participate in a banned demonstration, obstructing the police, and spitting on the sidewalk. (Okay, maybe not the sidewalk thing.) He was sentenced to nine months, which was up in May 1989 because nobody in Czechoslovakia was having any more.

    In December, he was named President.

    I am looking forward to this.

    I think you’d enjoy the series–it has moral seriousness. It doesn’t flinch.

    • #4
    • August 20, 2018, at 1:09 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member

    Titus Techera:

    Finally, here’s one of Flagg’s essays I like to recommend — on Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, the remarkable novel about Stalinism.

    You might not think that a man who can write so well can also bake a mean pie…

    • #5
    • August 20, 2018, at 3:55 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    Titus Techera:

    Finally, here’s one of Flagg’s essays I like to recommend — on Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, the remarkable novel about Stalinism.

    You might not think that a man who can write so well can also bake a mean pie…

    Flagg does it all!

    • #6
    • August 20, 2018, at 10:59 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Percival Thatcher

    It was as good as I thought it would be. Thank you, gentlemen.

    • #7
    • August 21, 2018, at 4:53 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member

    I just realized that Agnieszka Holland directed one of our favorite children’s movies, The Secret Garden.

    • #8
    • August 21, 2018, at 5:13 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    Percival (View Comment):

    It was as good as I thought it would be. Thank you, gentlemen.

    Glad you enjoyed it!

    • #9
    • August 21, 2018, at 5:44 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    I just realized that Agnieszka Holland directed one of our favorite children’s movies, The Secret Garden.

    Yup. Also, the Washington Square movie. Not as I might have wanted, but then it’s a book I love…

    • #10
    • August 21, 2018, at 5:45 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. The Reticulator Member

    Titus Techera: Finally, here’s one of Flagg’s essays I like to recommend — on Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, the remarkable novel about Stalinism.

    Excellent essay. I need to re-read that book. It has been many years, and some of it had stayed with me, but I certainly didn’t get all of that out of it at the time. However, in the intervening years i have learned more about the show trials and have tried to understand them. This is very helpful. 

    • #11
    • August 21, 2018, at 6:30 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera Post author

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Titus Techera: Finally, here’s one of Flagg’s essays I like to recommend — on Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, the remarkable novel about Stalinism.

    Excellent essay. I need to re-read that book. It has been many years, and some of it had stayed with me, but I certainly didn’t get all of that out of it at the time. However, in the intervening years i have learned more about the show trials and have tried to understand them. This is very helpful.

    Glad to see it find the right audience!

    • #12
    • August 21, 2018, at 10:21 AM PDT
    • 1 like