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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: October 14, 2008 @ 11:27 am

    People who are not what they seem

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    It’s sad to read that Czech novelist Milan Kundera stands accused of being a police informer in his younger days and was allegedly responsible for sending another young man (an agent of the US) to prison for 22 years. Although documentation has been produced to back up the charge, Kundera emphatically denies it (click here for more information).

    Along with Vaclav Havel, he was one of the literary icons of the Prague Spring of 1968 with his celebrated novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.   Hopefully the story of his youthful collaboration will prove not to be true but, even if it is, one could argue that he was young, the guy he allegedly sold out was a deserter from the Czech airforce who was then recruited as a spy by the CIA or one of its equivalents.

    If the story turns out to be true, then it would have been better to hear it from “the horse’s  mouth” accompanied by a plea for forgiveness or at least understanding. Confession is good for the soul, although it’s better early than late. German novelist Gunther Grass waited 62 years before he ‘fessed up to having been in the Waffen-SS during the second World War. A Nobel Prizewinner, he had denounced poor Helmut Kohl and Ronald Reagan for visiting Bitburg cemetery in 1985, because some of those buried there had been SS members. The gall and hypocrisy of that!

    Maybe you should have to give up your Nobel Prize when something like that comes out. The late Denis Donaldson of Sinn Féin was quite well-known to journalists in Northern Ireland and used to say, when asked how he was, “I’m OK for someone who’s living under British occupation” (or words to that effect). He later turned out to be a British agent and was shot dead in a cruel, gangland-style execution at a cottage in Donegal.

     Someone recently sent me, as a curiosity, an old election poster of Donaldson’s when he ran for Sinn Féin under the slogan, “The voice of principled leadership”. At least he was never given the Nobel Prize! But what a tragic and twisted life and what an indictment of violence as a means of resolving the problems of Northern Ireland.

    Meanwhile, the website www.poetry.org has been busy searching for verse to console us in the current economic hurricane. I rather like this one, even the telegraphese could be taken from a modern-day text-message sent by a desperate soul at Wall Street to someone in the London Stock Exchange:–

    The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less
     
    by Gerard Manley Hopkins

    The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less; 
    The times are winter, watch, a world undone: 
    They waste, they wither worse; they as they run 
    Or bring more or more blazon man’s distress. 
    And I not help. Nor word now of success:      
    All is from wreck, here, there, to rescue one- 
    Work which to see scarce so much as begun 
    Makes welcome death, does dear forgetfulness. 
     
    Or what is else? There is your world within. 
    There rid the dragons, root out there the sin.  
    Your will is law in that small commonweal…  

    Post by Deaglán de Bréadún


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