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Doubts Punctuate The 1950 Milan Kundera Spy Case

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“Mirek rewrote history just like the Communist Party, like all political parties, like all peoples, like mankind. They shout that they want to shape a better future, but it’s not true. The future is only an indifferent void no one cares about, but the past is filled with life, and its countenance is irritating, repellent, wounding, to the point that we want to destroy or repaint it. We want to be masters of the future only for the power to change the past.” The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

As if taking a cue from one of his characters a dark secret from the past threatens to crash on the opening chapter of Milan Kundera’s life. In October 2008, the Czech weekly Respekt published a story that claimed Kundera informed on one of his countrymen in 1950, leading to the man’s imprisonment for 14 years in a hard labour camp.

The basis of the assertion was an old police report that fell into the hands of Adam Hradilek, a historian researching the bleak days of Czechoslovakia’s Communist past. The police document reopened the story of Miroslav Dvoracek and that of his childhood friend Iva Militka. The report also brought the past of arguably the most brilliant literary surgeon of communism in Eastern Europe to the forefront. It is a widely reported and misreported story in which the jury is still out on the truth and doubt remains the only certainty.

The 1950 Police Report
The police report dated March 14, 1950 says: “Today at around 1600 hours a student, Milan Kundera, born 1.4.1929 in Brno, resident at the student hall of residence on George VI Avenue in Prague VII, presented himself at this department and reported that a student, Iva Militka, resident at that residence, had told a student by the name of Dlask, also of that residence, that she had met a certain acquaintance of hers, Miroslav Dvoracek, at Klarov in Prague the same day. The said Dvoracek apparently left one case in her care, saying he would come to fetch it in the afternoon… Dvoracek had apparently deserted from military service and since the spring of the previous year had possibly been in Germany, where he had gone illegally.”

The most important thing is the veracity of the police report and from what has come out the document is being considered as genuine (though there is speculation on whether its contents are genuine). Jerome Depuis of the French magazine L’Express travelled to Prague and cited the historian Rudolf Vedova from the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (USTR), the same institute Hradilek works for: “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.”

Around the same time Jiri Grusa, a Czech poet and in 2008 the president of the international writers association PEN, told a German radio station that he went to Prague to see the 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 is no denunciation, it’s a police annunciation. And if Kundera says, I didn’t do it, then I have to believe him.”

The Background
In 1948 a putsch in Czechoslovakia led to a communist takeover. This resulted in the armed forces being purged and veteran airmen who had flown with the RAF in the war (about 40 per cent of Czech Air Force) were demoted, kicked out or sent to labour camps due to their exposure to the West. Even students were not spared. Two boyhood friends, Miroslav Dvoracek and Miroslav Juppa, who had attended the same school in a small town in Eastern Bohemia were included on a list of expulsions in a memorandum from January 1949. When they were ordered a month later to join an infantry unit, Dvoracek and Juppa, aided by Juppa’s girlfriend Iva Militka and her relatives fled to West Germany.

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A Friend And A Golfer

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Roughly about six years ago, starting around a Delhi autumn and leading up to the coming spring, I spent a good part of the capital’s pleasant season where a visit to the Delhi Golf Club on Zakir Hussain Marg was not an anomaly. The outdoor veranda of the club where tea and snacks are served is a beautiful place from where one can see the lush green course and have a relaxed conversation (I don’t know if the veranda still looks like that). It was in this unrepeatable season that I learned a little bit about golf because a lot of things converged to make it possible.

An old friend and roommate of mine had left a job in Bangalore and found another one in Delhi. I had spent the past few years staying alone and I looked forward to having an old friend for company and someone to share the rent. The most-important factor was that my roommate had joined Golf Digest India, which was and still is, edited by a common friend Prabhdev Singh.

The benefit of Golf Digest coming to my house every month courtesy my roommate and the company of an avid golfer and a golf editor gave me some idea about the game. It made me appreciate Arthur Daley’s quote: “Golf is like a love affair. If you don’t take it seriously, it’s no fun; if you do take it seriously, it breaks your heart.”

The first television major I enjoyed watching was the Augusta Masters in 2005; where Woods pulled off a win in a playoff against Chris DiMarco. An anonymous one-liner says: “Golf is life. If you can’t take golf, you can’t take life.” The part below is from an edit Prabhdev wrote for the magazine he heads.

“I have seen the Woods effect on women from quite close. First, the 2008 Masters. Waiting at the crossover at the par-3 sixth, an eye-catching blonde parked herself next to me. Soon after she started emitting sounds, the kind people make when they see something they like. I shuffled and smiled but unfortunately she wasn’t into turbaned men. The object of her desire strode purposefully down the slope from the tee and quickly walked past us, eyes fixed on his golf ball on the green. There was no way he couldn’t have seen her (or heard her!) but Tiger had golf on his mind. I was impressed with his single-mindedness.

Last year my wife accompanied me to the U.S. Open at Bethpage, just outside New York. One of the days she decided to make the trip to the golf course to see what the fuss was all about. It so happened that while she was there, Tiger finished his day’s play, and he was then to come to the informal interview area just outside the clubhouse for a quick Q&A. My wife heard about this, and she started to wait for Tiger. It began raining and I ran for cover, but there was no budging her. A security official, who seemed to have seen plenty of this before, lent her a pen in case ‘the man’ happened to be in a mood to sign. When he finally arrived was the time I actually should have run for cover. The wife was suddenly transformed from an almost middle-aged (my golf clubs lie hidden as I write this) housewife to a squealing college goer. It became quite a task to get her to leave the place even long after Tiger left, the wife insisting that he might return. I did get sympathetic looks from my colleagues.

You would have to be carved out of stone to remain impervious to such adulation, and Tiger has been subject to this kind of attention on a sustained basis ever since he started playing big-time golf. People chose to think he is god, but Tiger has shown that he is human.

As for those who have invested large sums of money in him, they would have profited equally-well by all accounts. Money on the PGA Tour has grown more than four-fold since Tiger joined it in 1996. Journeymen pros have him to thank when they dive into their swimming pools in the backyard. Like millions around the world, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Tiger Woods play golf, and I hope I get to see more of the same.

He does have some matters to settle before that. There are three people he is answerable to—his wife, on an immediate basis, and then his two kids when they are old enough to comprehend what they are being subjected to. Of course, how he goes about that is his business.”

Written by Deepan Joshi

January 19, 2010 at 12:02 am

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