Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Shakespeare and Sons, Vršovice

It was twenty years ago today that the music died for the communist regime in Prague.  I went to Shakespeare's hoping to get a portrait of local celebrity Vrat'a Brabenec, the musician whose proto-punk band The Plastic People of the Universe so enraged the authorities with their free-thinking lyrics and anarchic sounds that they were all imprisoned.

The band's arrest was the spur for the human rights movement Charter 77, which finally achieved its goals a decade later with the Velvet Revolution of November 1989.  Playwright Václav Havel was the powerhouse of that movement, but Vrat'a and his band can claim to have been the inspiration.

Unusually, he wasn't there (perhaps the anniversary had spirited him to a loftier drinking location) but the evening wasn't wasted.  I spent a happy few hours chatting with my friend Jan, whose father had been made to work for Hitler's war effort and later became a rabid anti-communist, at one stage being arrested for accidentally-on-purpose ejecting a bust of Klement Gottwald, the massively unpopular Stalinist president of Czechoslovakia, from a window: a typically Czech act of defenestration.

As the evening wore on, it became increasingly obvious that I wasn't going to be able to get a very focused picture of the day, but by sitting the camera on the table I managed to get this one, of the chairs stacked for closing time - an appropriate enough image by which to recall the end of the long totalitarian nightmare.

4 comments:

Jilly said...

I love this image, Alex. And just fascinating to read your commentary and learn things I regret I didn't know.

Gunn White said...

The text and the photo goes well together. I like it!

Anonymous said...

"my friend Jan, whose father had been made to work for Hitler's war effort and later became a rabid anti-communist"

"forced to work" for Hitler and then, by coincidence, became a rabid anti-communist.

i'm doubtful.

The Prague Vitruvius said...

It was not at all unusual for the victims of fascism to turn against their liberators when they turned out to be just as bad. Nevertheless, I will check my source and get back to you.

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