THE NEW YORKER publică recent, sub semnătura lui  David Remnik,  o interesantă viziune asupra autorilor esențiali pentru literatura antitotalitară, disidentă și pentru intelighentsia din Europa de Est, de rangul lui VACLAV HAVEL și din jurul acestuia. Așadar, este descris un grup de elite autentice, egale prin valoare estetică și calitate est-etică.
NORMAN MANEA, compatriotul nostru, figurează în acest grup dominat de Havel, prin romanele nominalizate: Întoarcerea Huliganului și Dictatorul și artistul.
Angela Furtună
18 ian.2012
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December 18, 2011

Reading List: Havel and Beyond

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Vaclav-Havel-Books.jpgIn the spirit of the season, and in honor of Vaclav  Havel, who died Sunday (and whose life I’ve remembered  in another post), what follows is a top-ten list, the first entry being  Havel’s greatest hits, and the rest books and writers whom Havel  admired—contemporaries or near contemporaries who lived in the same region and  under similar regimes. (I am sticking here to non-fiction prose.) They, like  Havel, are men and women who lived, and wrote, within the truth:

1. Vaclav Havel’sLetters to Olga”; “Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990,” particularly “Dear Dr. Husak,” “The Power of the Powerless,” and “Anatomy of  a Reticence.”

2. Joseph Brodsky’s two volumes of essays, “Less Than One” and “On Grief and Reason”; particularly “Less Than One,” “On  Tyranny,” “The Child of Civilization.” Also, the transcript of his 1964 trial,  as written down by Frieda Vigdorova—it appears on the web and, in eloquent  bits and pieces, in biographies like Lev Loseff’s new work on Brodsky.

3.Nadezhda Mandelshtam, the widow of the great poet Osip  Mandelshtam, who died in Stalin’s camps, wrote two volumes of memoirs— “Hope Against Hope” and “Hope Abandoned“—which describe the daily existence of the  mind and body and soul under totalitarianism better than any other prose  imaginable.

4. Czeslaw Milosz, who died in 2004, wrote “The Captive Mind” after leaving Poland in the early 1950s;  it describes the internal processes of capitulation to the totalitarian state.  Like Brodsky, Milosz considered himself first, second, and third a poet, but  while Brodsky is, without question, the singular Russian poet of his generation,  his translations, many done by himself, are inconsistent at best; Milosz, with  help from the American poet Robert Hass, lives more easily in English verse than  his great friend and fellow Nobel Laureate. There is also a fine edition of  Milosz’s selected prose called “To Begin Where I Am.”

5. Who reads any longer Alexander Solzhenitsyn and “The Gulag Archipelago”? Solzhenitsyn was not the only  Russian to write of the camps during the Soviet era (Varlam Shalamov’s “Kolyma Tales” is one of many other  examples), but he was the first insider to describe the camp system it on the  epic scale. Even today, its moral force and descriptive set pieces read like  Dante’s tour of hell.

6. Andrei Sakharov, who died in 1989 in the midst of a  fierce political battle against the crumbling Communist Party hierarchy, wrote  the story of his life as a physicist, dissident, and political prisoner in “Memoirs.” (A more slender postscript volume, “Moscow and Beyond,” takes up his last years in Moscow after  retuning from internal exile with his wife, Yelena Bonner, in Gorky.) The  ethereal, yet diamond hard, tone of Sakharov’s humanity and thinking is most  precisely and movingly located in his 1968 essay, “Reflections on Progress,  Peaceful Coexistence, and Peace.” I especially love the conclusion to his Nobel Lecture:

Thousands of years ago, tribes of human beings suffered great  privations in the struggle to survive. In this struggle it was important not  only to be able to handle a club, but also to possess the ability to think  reasonably, to take care of the knowledge and experience garnered by the tribe,  and to develop the links that would provide cooperation with other tribes. Today  the entire human race is faced with a similar test. In infinite space many  civilizations are bound to exist, among them civilizations that are also wiser  and more “successful” than ours. I support the cosmological hypothesis which  states that the development of the universe is repeated in its basic features an  infinite number of times. In accordance with this, other civilizations,  including more “successful” ones, should exist an infinite number of times on  the “preceding” and the “following” pages of the Book of the Universe. Yet this  should not minimize our sacred endeavors in this world of ours, where, like  faint glimmers of light in the dark, we have emerged for a moment from the  nothingness of dark unconsciousness of material existence. We must make good the  demands of reason and create a life worthy of ourselves and of the goals we only  dimly perceive.

7. Yelena Bonner, who died earlier this year, was not merely  Sakharov’s wife and loyalist (though she certainly was that). Her memoirs, “Alone Together” and “Mothers and Daughters,” take in as much of the Soviet  experience as Mandelshtam.

8. Norman Manea, a Romanian writer who was deported as a  child to a Transnistria concentration camp by the pro-Nazi authorities, became a  remarkable novelist and essayist who was finally forced into exile in 1986. (He  lives in New York and teaches at Bard.) His essays, “On Clowns: The Dictator and the Artist,” and his  autobiographical work, “The Hooligan’s Return,” are remarkable works, describing the  Romanian regime and Manea’s struggles against it.

9. Danilo Kis is the most remarkable Yugoslav novelist that I know of, but  the most telling prose documents of the era came from the  Communist-Party-official-turned-dissident, Milovan Djilas. His  books “New Class,” “Conversations With Stalin,” and “Memoir of a Revolutionary” provide the rare view from inside from a liberated voice.

10. A final recommendation (because the list could go on and on, including  Gyorgy Konrad’sAnti-Politics” and dozens of others): The most remarkable  Western chronicler of the liberation movements that saw their culmination in  1989 is Timothy Garton Ash. Fluent in Polish and German, an  Oxford historian with a Fleet Street metabolism, Garton Ash was writing from  Eastern and Central Europe (particularly in the New York Review of  Books) when nearly everyone else saw the region as static and  uninteresting. His books from that period—”The Polish Revolution: Solidarity” (1984); “The Uses of Adversity: Essays on the Fate of Central Europe” (1989); “The Magic Lantern” (1990); “In Europe’s Name” (1993); and “The File” (1997)—form a picture far more vivid, and  immensely more accurate, than anything in overrated volumes of revolution like “Ten Days That Shook The World.” Garton Ash was a close friend to Havel, and the  portrait he paints of the great man in “The Uses of Adversity” and “The Magic  Lantern” are almost as keen and thrilling as the portrait that, over time, Havel  drew of himself.



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