Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Marketa

“The Joke” by Milan Kundera

Written in March 22, 2007, before I started my blog

Kundera was responsible for the incarceration of a citizen in the 1945 when he was a staunch communist.

He was young and his position might have changed and evolved, but it is a sign of his character and his writings do express a few of his apologies.

Ludvic Jahn was a bright student and played clarinet in Moravian folk bands. His is a staunch member of the communist party that came to power in Czechoslovakia after WWII and was attending university with prospect for higher responsibilities.  He wrote a joke on a postcard for his girlfriend Marketa who was enjoying a “healthy atmosphere” at a training camp that says:

Optimism is the opium of the people! A healthy atmosphere stinks of stupidity! Long live Trotsky!”

Ludvic was expelled from both the university and the Party by his student colleagues; he had to do his two years military service as the enemy of the people in a brigade wearing black insignia.

He worked in the mines but was paid for his work unlike the patriots doing military service; this brigade worked seven days a week with a one day pass every two weeks if the commander was pleased with their production and obedience. He met Lucie and fell in love with her.

Lucie left town without giving notice after she refused to have intercourse and without explaining her reluctance.

We learn later on that Lucie was with a gang in her hometown and that the gang chain-raped her, but kept hanging out with it until the police rounded up the gang for thievery.

Ludvic lived 15 years as a marginal with bitter needs for revenge on his friends who abandoned him, especially Zemaneck whom he thought would defend his case but turned out to be the most virulent opponent.

Ludvic returns to his hometown in order to meet Helena, the wife of Zemaneck, who was falling in love with him and didn’t know that her husband knew Ludvic or the schemes of the latter.

Ludvic wanted revenge on Zemaneck through his wife ,but Zemaneck would not care less because he had another young girlfriend and going with the flow of the new generation who didn’t care of what happened during the early communist take over of power.

It dawned on Ludvic that it was too late to physicalyl hit Zemanek: he should have done it when he was castrated from the Party instead of wasting 15 years in bitterness and failing to taking care of the present.

The 3 harrowing days that Ludvic spent in his hometown opened his soul to new facts and new realities. Ludvic has been rationalizing his behavior toward Lucie as “a function of his own situation” when he needed understanding and tenderness in his military service stint and, as adolescent behave wearing masks to overcome their shyness and uncertainty, he failed to ask questions with the purpose of understanding the real Lucie and her predicaments.

Lucie used to gather flowers and roses from the cemetery to offer them to Ludvic when he was on leave; she used to stand outside the fence of the camp waiting for her Ludvic to steal a few minutes and talk with her.

Communism had the spirit of the great religious movements: it had religious gestures and feelings but remained empty and godless within.

Communism tried to supplant religious faith by adopting the same rites camouflaged in secular mass ceremonies and practiced excommunication extensively in the name of “the historical optimism of the victorious working class” and delivered by the youth instead of professional, matured, and responsible people.

The Marxist teachings were secular in origin, but the significance assigned them was similar to the significance of the Gospel and religious commandments.  They have created a range of ideas that are practically untouchable, thus sacred.

For example, is the case of young Alexej who was banished to the black insignia brigade because his father stood trial as enemy of the people; he still thought and acted as a communist because “we are responsible for everything that goes in the camp” and he felt free enough to act like a communist by sending letters to the higher-ups condemning the camp commander’s behaviors as counterrevolutionary.

Alexej was twenty, an adolescent and his destiny hung on him like a giant’s clothes on a tiny body, and Alexej committed suicide by swallowing an overdose of medicines.  Although communism was a cruel religion, it was better than the new era of mockery, skepticism, and the mob of youth, coarse, cynical, and nasty, without enthusiasm or ideals.

This mob of incomplete youth is compelled to play-act as fully grown, adopting forms, patterns, models that please and enact them; the more the youth is aware of his boyish appearance, the more fanatical his devotion to the role of superman and the more forced is his performance.

Kundera views youth as terrible and that history often was the playground for the immature Bonaparte, Nero, and the likes whose simulated passion and simplistic poses metamorphose into a catastrophic real reality.

As Ray Bradbury said in his novel Fahrenheit 451: “Those who don’t build must burn; it’s as old as history and juvenile delinquents.”

Note: Finished reading the book on Tuesday October 21, 2008

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