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Dominik Tatarka: the Slovak Don Quixote

(Freedom and Dreams)


Mária Bátorová

The book deals with the question of resistance to Soviet hegemony in Central Europe after 1968, when Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. The political and cultural situation in the context of Central Europe is presented through the life and work of the Slovak dissident, the writer Dominik Tatarka, who signed Charta 77 immediately after Václav Havel. For the first time, the wider context of resistance to violence and to intellectual as well as material hegemony is explored here. Using the comparative method, this work considers historical, philosophical and sociological ramifications of this resistance. To understand the issues of dissent means to comprehend the alternative and parallel culture of the 20 th century. Thanks to this culture and the efforts of intellectuals in particular, the present-day relatively free conditions for creation and life in general were created. On the basis of the literary work and life of one of the Charta 77 signatories, Dominik Tatarka, this work addresses the topic of dissident literature. By the use of the comparative method Slovak literature is analysed alongside other literatures of Central Europe (e.g. the literature of Czech dissent Václav Havel, Ludvík Vaculík), as well as French (exploring the genetic connection between Dominik Tatarka and Albert Camus). This illustrates the wider context of the idea of freedom and free cultural values characterizing Tatarka’s work.
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1. “Internal emigration” as a gesture of freedom (Dominik Tatarka and Ludvík Vaculík after 1968)



       “Internal emigration”1 as a gesture of freedom

       (Dominik Tatarka and Ludvík Vaculík after 1968)

“…As a medium of human self-esteem literature can never simply be fully emancipated from the climate of its place and time. Therefore, where politics so noticeably pervades everything, literature is also more penetrated by it…”

Václav Havel: A scream of epiphany (Introduction to the book Démon súhlasu, 1985)

The ability to express one’s own opinion even at the price of exclusion from public, social and even professional life, the risk of being shut away and ostracized for writing has always been an aspect of civilization since the time of Socrates’ “wantonness” and subsequent persecution.. Such an ability follows official policy and official thinking as a shadow, as their corrective, as a reservoir of other thinking, of potential transformation. Václav Havel describes this ← 13 | 14 → internal mechanism as follows: “It is impossible to register the action radius of this strange power through numbers of followers, voters or soldiers because it lies in the ‘fifth column’ of social awareness and of the hidden intentions of life, the suppressed aspirations of a person for his own dignity and the fulfilling of fundamental rights, his actual social and political interests. It therefore involves a power which is not inherent in the power of any clearly defined social or political groups, but lies primarily in the power of the potential hidden in the...

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