In a powerful essay in Electric Lit, Erica Eisen examines the writing of Czech dissidents and its relevance to current events. During the Soviet era, officials stifled writers and artists who failed to hew to the party line. In Czechoslovakia, several of Bohumil Hrabal books were destroyed after publication and others were blocked from being distributed. In contrast, writers who stayed in a narrow range of acceptable themes could flourish.
Eiesn notes that Hrabal and other writers of his era explored the collapse of language, reflecting how government propaganda and spin deteriorated the meaning of words and the concept of truth. “With the current global rise of the far right, when phrases like ‘post-truth’ and ‘fake news’ are uttered by pundits and plutocrats alike without so much as the bat of an eyelash, the literary investigations of writers from the Eastern Bloc can take on an eerie second life, like Cassandra’s prophecies recollected as Troy burns,” she writes.
Eisen’s essay provides a flicker of hope as totalitarianism roars back around the world. There’s consolation in knowing that truth does eventually win out over powerful forces that declare their greatness in direct contrast with reality.
Is your work providing a light in dark times? Read this essay and think about how your writing can defend the weak or speak out against oppression. Consider raising the stakes not just for your protagonist, but for yourself and your work.
Read the full essay here
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