Vaclav Benda and The Long Night of the Watchman

 

Me, Kamila Bendova, and Martin Palous (a close ally of both Benda and Havel and former Ambassador to the United States).

I’m the editor of a recently published edition of the essays of Vaclav Benda called The Long Night of the Watchman. Benda, who died in 1999, was a central figure in the Charter 77 movement in the former Czechoslovakia. I met his wife, Kamila Bendova, on my first trip to interview former dissidents back in 2011 and wrote about that encounter right here on Ricochet.

It was at that meeting that I asked if anyone had spoken to her about getting her late husband’s essays into an English translation. It took a bit longer than I had hoped, but it’s finally out and I hope it gets the wide audience it deserves.

The book is noteworthy for a number reasons. First, Benda was a keen analyst of totalitarianism. As a philosopher, he grappled with the depth of the evil and how it operated on human nature. Second, Benda confronted the question of dissent head-on. His most well-known essay is called “The Parallel Polis,” which he wrote as the Charter community was struggling with how to continue to attract allies in the midst of the harsh backlash by the regime. And finally, the book gives one a very concrete picture of the everyday life of a dissident. There is a rawness, an emotional power to many of the essays. His reflections are less detached, in certain ways, than those of his collaborator Vaclav Havel.

Rod Dreher interviewed me about Benda when doing the research for The Benedict Option. We kept in touch and he kindly asked me to do an interview about Benda when The Long Night of the Watchman was finally published. Here is the interview. We cover lots of ground, including how Benda’s writings might be relevant for us today.

There are 16 comments.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Thanks for the link, Flagg. Great interview.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    One wishes Hollywood would make this movie. Underground bishops … hidden congregations … the Church Triumphant doing a spell as the Church Subversive ….

    Probably only make a few hundred million. Not worth the effort.

    • #2
  3. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    No Kindle edition!?! What kind of book is that?

    I’ve added it to my wish list anyway. Maybe I can read it some time when we’re not traveling.

     

    • #3
  4. Flagg Taylor Member
    Flagg Taylor
    @FlaggTaylor

    Percival (View Comment):
    One wishes Hollywood would make this movie. Underground bishops … hidden congregations … the Church Triumphant doing a spell as the Church Subversive ….

    Probably only make a few hundred million. Not worth the effort.

    I might need to write that screenplay. The higher ed collapse might be coming!

    • #4
  5. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I couldn’t stop saying wow while reading the interview that you linked in your post.  Thank you for the research in putting together (preserving) these life lessons from those in the trenches.  It’s startling how Europe, especially Eastern Europe, after suffering so much, seems to be reverting back to the same behavior slowly.

    Also to have a young generation of Easterners state that America is looking more communist is an eye-opener.  I hope you have great success with your book. I would love to read it.  I also passed your post and interview onto Dr. Moynihan who publishes Vatican Magazine and writes the Moynihan Report.  He recently sent out several posts on the Vatican and China.

    • #5
  6. jzdro Member
    jzdro
    @jzdro

    Thanks for the update. And thank you for your efforts to make Benda available in English.

    • #6
  7. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Thanks for an excellent essay.

    When you have a system of government that is based upon looting it should come as no surprise that eventually it’s citizens become looters themselves. Add to that the blame for delaying the new socialist man must be placed upon groups, usually called enemies of the state, and then economic wreckers. After attempts to eradicate ethnic groups, or a class of people, the new workers paradise still hasn’t arrived, so malaise, and the cynicism of they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work becomes the new normal.

    In the new Russia Putin wants the excessive demonizing of Stalin to stop, and yet those who long for the old Soviet Union, if they emigrate, don’t choose North Korea as their destination.

    This has infected the countries that were occupied by the Soviet Union after WWII ended. American military advisers in Ukraine are not only teaching tactics they are also trying to reform, and change the Ukrainian military from a Soviet Union model to a Western model.

    • #7
  8. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Flagg Taylor: I met his wife, Kamila Bendova, on my first trip to interview former dissidents back in 2011 and wrote about that encounter right here on Ricochet.

    Bond. James Bond.

    • #8
  9. Quake Voter Inactive
    Quake Voter
    @QuakeVoter

    Harrowing.  Reminds one of the brave exploits of Bill Kristol, Max Boot and Brett Stephens today.

    • #9
  10. John Park Member
    John Park
    @jpark

    Thank you, Flagg! I’m with @frontseatcat Wow, indeed!

    • #10
  11. Flagg Taylor Member
    Flagg Taylor
    @FlaggTaylor

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Flagg Taylor: I met his wife, Kamila Bendova, on my first trip to interview former dissidents back in 2011 and wrote about that encounter right here on Ricochet.

    Bond. James Bond.

    Explain please?!

    • #11
  12. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Flagg Taylor (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Flagg Taylor: I met his wife, Kamila Bendova, on my first trip to interview former dissidents back in 2011 and wrote about that encounter right here on Ricochet.

    Bond. James Bond.

    Explain please?!

    Many of the females Bond met also had interesting names. Sorry.

    • #12
  13. Flagg Taylor Member
    Flagg Taylor
    @FlaggTaylor

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Flagg Taylor (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Flagg Taylor: I met his wife, Kamila Bendova, on my first trip to interview former dissidents back in 2011 and wrote about that encounter right here on Ricochet.

    Bond. James Bond.

    Explain please?!

    Many of the females Bond met also had interesting names. Sorry.

    Got it! I can be a little dense sometimes…

    • #13
  14. Flagg Taylor Member
    Flagg Taylor
    @FlaggTaylor

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    I couldn’t stop saying wow while reading the interview that you linked in your post. Thank you for the research in putting together (preserving) these life lessons from those in the trenches. It’s startling how Europe, especially Eastern Europe, after suffering so much, seems to be reverting back to the same behavior slowly.

    Also to have a young generation of Easterners state that America is looking more communist is an eye-opener. I hope you have great success with your book. I would love to read it. I also passed your post and interview onto Dr. Moynihan who publishes Vatican Magazine and writes the Moynihan Report. He recently sent out several posts on the Vatican and China.

    Thanks FSC. That parallel with China is striking!

    • #14
  15. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    I enjoyed your post and interview with Mr. Dreher.

    I thought the observation/question on Europeans seeing a culture emerge in the USA reminiscent of communism, of militant dehumanization and control disguised as liberation was frightening.

    Christianity of course is a humanizing religion; God took on our humanity and dwell among us. There must be a Christian revival to fight the dehumanizing forces of Islam, gender theory, relativism, communism, etc., etc.

    • #15
  16. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Flagg Taylor (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Flagg Taylor (View Comment):

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    Flagg Taylor: I met his wife, Kamila Bendova, on my first trip to interview former dissidents back in 2011 and wrote about that encounter right here on Ricochet.

    Bond. James Bond.

    Explain please?!

    Many of the females Bond met also had interesting names. Sorry.

    Got it! I can be a little dense sometimes…

    Gotta have a little humor on such a serious subject!

    • #16

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