Physical Dramaturgy: Ein (neuer) Trend?

Dramaturgie im zeitgenössischen Tanz ist ? positiv gemeint ? ein heißes Eisen. Idealerweise sind Dramaturginnen und Dramaturgen während der Erarbeitung eines Stücks die besten Freunde der Choreografen. more more



It's time Kundera talked

A dementi is not enough. Milan Kundera should come out with his version of the story, because Iva Militka and Miroslav Dvoracek deserve the truth. By Anja Seeliger

The eighty-year old Miroslav Dvoracek will probably die without knowing who betrayed him to the Czech police back in 1950, condemning him to 14 years hard labour in a uranium mine. The 79-year old Iva Militka who, in the same year told her then boyfriend and later husband, Miroslav Dlask, about Dvoracek's visit to her student hall of residence, will probably never know whether it was her husband who subsequently went to the police with this information, or his friend Milan Kundera, or indeed both. She will only know that her school friend Miroslav Dvoracek spent the rest of his life believing that she had betrayed him. This is not just about Kundera, this is about Iva Militka and Miroslav Dvoracek.

But no one seems interested in them. The Czech magazine Respekt published an article about the events surrounding a police report, dated 14 March 1950, which stated that a man by the name of Milan Kundera, born 1 April 1929 in Brno, had informed on Miroslav Dvoracek. A barrage of sharp criticism from writers and intellectuals ensued. In Le Monde, writer Yasmina Reza wrote that the document should have been handled "with caution" and really shouldn't have been published at all. Writer and former Czech president Vaclav Havel spoke in Respekt about defaming Kundera's name, Hungarian writer Gyögy Dalos expressed his fear in the German magazine Freitag that "this affair has been seized upon by the media as if it was a secret police exposure." German writer Rolf Schneider explained in die Welt that secret-police files should not be trusted anyway (and managed to overlook that the document in question was not a secret-police file but a normal police report). In the French magazine Le Point, Bernard-Henri Levy questioned the authenticity of the police report with giving his reasons. In Le Monde, historians Pierre Nora and Krzysztof Pomian expressed their outrage that such a document could be published without first subjecting it to "minute scrutiny". Eleven other prominent writers, among them Rushdie, Coetzee, Marquez, Semprun and Roth, have expressed their anger at the publication. And the Czech Academy of Sciences has reproached the historian, Adam Hradilek, who first reported on the document in Respekt magazine, for publishing the police report, saying that this "testifies to a lack of scientific thinking." (pdf in Czech)

What should Hradilek have done instead? Put the report back into the pile of files and keep his mouth shut? Stick it in the shredder? Or should he have simply informed his colleagues and hoped that the media would not get wind of it? But it would have been impossible to keep this sort of thing under wraps. Rumours would have spread uncontrollably. And Kundera would have been justified in talking about defamation. Instead Hradilek put all the facts known to him on the table: the document, the statements by Militka and other witnesses. He also tried to present the affair within the context of its time. This is stuff that can be argued about. Rumours are not.

For all the information in circulation, there are no eye-witnesses left to consult. The police officer who wrote the report is dead. Iva Militka's husband Miroslav Dlask died in 1990s, without telling his wife what really happened on that fateful day in March. He only admitted to her that he had told Kundera about Dvoracek's visit. Miroslav Dvoracek suffered a stroke. The aged literary historian, Zdenek Pesat, who soon after the affair broke explained in a written statement that Miroslav Dlask had personally confessed to him about informing on Dvoracek, is on a respirator and cannot speak. As such we neither know when Dlask made this confession and what exactly he is supposed to have said. Other files, which might shed more light on the event have yet to be uncovered.

The only person who might be able to explain what happened is Milan Kundera. And it's high time he did so. He rebuffed Adam Hradilek's article, describing it as "pure lies", a mere dementi. But he has not said a word about the events at the time or about Miroslav Dlask. And Havel, Dalos, Schneider, Reza and Rusdie et al. have not asked him to. They are not interested in who denounced Dvoracek. In their defence of Kundera, Dvoracek and Militka play at most a marginal role.

Instead they are telling historians to treat the whole affair with kid gloves and to review it in the light of its time. But how we should assess Kundera's actions in 1950, whether he deserves criticism or whether his work needs re-reading, is secondary. First we have to know whether on 14 March 1950, Milan Kundera informed the police about Dvoracek's visit to Militka, or not.

At the moment there is only one document which proves that he did: the police report from 14 March 1950. No one has proved that the document is a fake. The examination which Nora and Pomian called for has since been carried out and there can be little doubt as to the authenticity of the document, according to Jerome Depuis in the French magazine L'Express. Dupuis travelled to Prague and cites the historian Rudolf Vedova from the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes: "We had the document analysed by the Czech Secret Forces archive. The paper, the names listed, the identity and the signature of the officer were all examined – and the document was found to be authentic."

Two days ago Jiri Grusa, a Czech poet, dissident, post-1989 diplomat and politician, and now president of the international writers association PEN, told a German radio station that he had been to Prague to see the controversial police document for himself. Grusa said that he now has no doubts that "the document is real. There's no denying it. Only it is not Milan Kundera's document, it it no denunciation, it's a police annunciation. And if Kundera says, I didn't do it, then I have to believe him."

It wouldn't hurt to subject the document to another full forensic report. But if the paper is an original, and everything points to this, what about its contents?

- Of course someone could have gone to the police and fradulently used Kundera's name. Miroslav Dlask for example. Is this likely? Was it not necessary in those days to show identification papers when filing a police report? Kundera's name, date of birth, and postal address given in the report are correct. And why would Dlask have pretended to be Kundera? Why would he have wanted to involve him? If it was so easy to hide his real identity from the police, wouldn't he rather have given an invented name? I don't know what the normal procedure was in a Prague police station in 1950. But Vaclav Havel knows. Ivan Klima knows and the academics at the Czech Academy should know too. So why are they saying nothing?

- Kundera did not sign the report. Why would he? The document is not an interrogation protocol, it's an internal report listing the events of the day. The police officer not only reports that a notification was made at 16 hours, he also lists the measures that he subsequently undertook: searching and monitoring Militka's student residence and arresting Dvoracek at 20 hours. Why would someone who notified the police at 16 hours then sign this report?

- And Zdenek Pesat's statement, that Militka's friend Miroslav Dlask told him that he had informed the police about the unwanted visit, does not prove anything. What was the exact nature of this confession? Did Dlask tell Pesat that he had used Kundera's name at the police station? Because otherwise Dlask's alleged denunciation does not rule out Kundera's. One could have gone to the police, the other to the secret police, independently of one another. This is not as absurd as it sounds. As Jiri Grusa explained on the radio: "Everyone knew in those days, three years after the Communist putsch, that every failure to report suspicious behaviour came with a five year prison sentence. The level of fear in the country was staggering."

Milan Kundera has every right to defend his name. But before he talks about the "assassination of an author" and demands an apology from Respekt, he and the media should spare a thought for Iva Militka and Miroslav Dvoracek. They deserve the truth.


This article was originally published at Perlentaucher on 23.10.2008. It has since been updated with new information.

Anja Seeliger is a journalist and co-founder of the German internetmagazine perlentaucher and

Translation: lp

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles. - let's talk european.

More articles

This kiss for the whole world

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Who actually owns "intellectual property"?  The German media that defend the concept of intellectual property as "real" property are the first to appropriate such rights, and they are using this idea as a defensive weapon. With lawmakers extending copyright laws and new structures emerging on the internet, intellectual property poses a serious challenge to the public domain. A survey of the German media landscape by Thierry Chervel
read more

Suddenly we know we are many

Wednesday 4th January, 2012

Why the Russian youth have tolerated the political situation in their country for so long and why they are no longer tolerant. The poet Natalia Klyuchareva explains the background to the protests on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on December 10th. Image: Leonid Faerberg
read more

The Republic of Europe

Tuesday 20 December, 2011

Thanks to Radoslaw Sikorski's speech in Berlin, Poland has at last joined the big European debate about restructuring the EU in connection with the euro crisis. The "European Reformation" advocated by Germany does not mean that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation will be established in Europe, but instead – let us hope – the Republic of Europe. By Adam Krzeminski
read more

Brown is not red

Tuesday 13 December, 2011

TeaserPicFilmmaker and theatre director Andres Veiel disagrees with the parallels currently being drawn between left-wing and right-wing violence in Germany. The RAF is the wrong model for the Zwickau neo-Nazi group, the so-called "Brown Army Faction" responsible for a series of murders of Turkish small business owners. Unlike the RAF, this group never publicly claimed responsibility for their crimes. Veiel is emphatic - you have to look at the biographies of the perpetrators. An interview with Heike Karen Runge.
read more

Legacy of denial

Tuesday 29 November, 2011

TeaserPicGermany has been rocked by the disclosures surrounding the series of neo-Nazi murders of Turkish citizens. In the wake of these events, Former GDR dissident Freya Klier calls for an honest look at the xenophobia cultivated by the policies of the former East Germany, where the core of the so-called "Brown Army Faction" was based. And demands that East Germans finally confront a long-denied past. (Photo: © Nadja Klier)
read more

Nausea in Paris

Monday 14 November, 2011

TeaserPicIn response to the arson attack on the offices of the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on November 2, Danish critic and semiotician Frederik Stjernfelt is nauseated by the opinions voiced against the publication, especially in the British and American media. Why don't they see that Islamism is right-wing extremism?
read more

Just one pyramid

Monday 10 October, 2011

Activist and author, Andri Snaer Magnason is among the Icelandic guests of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. His book and film "Dreamland" is both an ecological call to action and a polemic. "The politicians took one of the most beautiful parts of Iceland and offered it to unscrupulous companies," says the author in a critique of his native country. By Daniela Zinser
read more

Dark side of the light

Monday 3 October 2011

In their book "Lügendes Licht" (lying light) Thomas Worm and Claudia Karstedt explore the darker side of the EU ban on incandescent bulbs. From disposal issues to energy efficiency, the low-energy bulb is not necessarily a beacon of a greener future. By Brigitte Werneburg
read more

Lubricious puritanism

Tuesday 30 August, 2011

The malice of the American media in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a symptom of sexual uptightness that borders on the sinister, and the feminists have joined forces with the religious Right to see it through. We can learn much from America, but not when it comes to the art of love. By Pascal Bruckner
read more

Much ado about Sarrazin

Monday 22 August 2011

Published a year ago, the controversial book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany is doing away with itself) by former banker and Berlin Finance Senator Thilo Sarrazin sparked intense discussion. Hamed Abdel-Samad asks: what has the Sarrazin debate achieved beyond polarisation and insult? And how can Germany avoid cultivating its own classes of "future foreigners"?
read more

Economic giant, political dwarf

Wednesday 3 August, 2011

Germany's growing imbalance between economic and political competence is worsening the European crisis and indeed the crisis of Nato. The country has ceased to make any political signals at all and demonstrates a conspicuous lack of responsibility for what takes place beyond its own borders. This smug isolationism is linked to strains of old anti-Western and anti-political, anti-parliamentarian sentiment that is pure provincialism. By Karl Heinz Bohrer
read more

Sound and fury

Monday 11 April 2011

Budapest is shimmering with culture but Hungary's nationalist government is throwing its weight about in cultural life, effecting censorship through budget cuts and putting its own people in the top-level cultural positions. Government tolerance of hate campaigns against Jews and gays has provoked the likes of Andras Schiff, Agnes Heller, Bela Tarr and Andre Fischer to raise their voices in defence of basic human rights. But a lot of people are simply scared. By Volker Hagedorn
read more

The self-determination delusion

Monday 28 March, 2011

TeaserPicA Dutch action group for free will wants to give all people the right to assisted suicide. But can this be achieved without us ending up somewhere we never wanted to go? Gerbert van Loenen has grave doubts.
read more

Revolution without guarantee

Monday 21 February, 2011

Saying revolution and freedom is not the same as saying democracy, respect for minorities, equal rights and good relations with neighbouring nations. All this has yet to be achieved. We welcome the Arab revolution and will continue to watch with our eyes open to the potential dangers. By Andre Glucksmann
read more

Pascal Bruckner and the reality disconnect

Friday 14 January, 2011

The French writer Pascal Bruckner wants to forbid a word. Which sounds more like a typically German obsession. But for Bruckner, "Islamophobia" is one of "those expressions which we dearly need to banish from our vocabulary". One asks oneself with some trepidation which other words we "dearly need" to get rid of: Right-wing populism? Racism? Relativism? By Alan Posener
read more