“Years ago we saw No-Man’s-Land, in a film, and because the film took place in 1918, we thought, fools that we were, that it was past history. We went home from the cinema with a feeling of pride in the free radiant future toward which the people of today walk hand in hand. At that time we had not yet experienced the strange twists and turns, the detours, dead ends, blind alleys, that history creates” (Milena Jesenská, “In No-Man’s-Land,” Přítomnost [The Present], 29 December 1938; translated by A. G. Brain, in Jana Černá, Kafka’s Milena, Northwestern University Press, 1993, p. 201).
Three months later Czechoslovakia was dismembered and Bohemia and Moravia invaded by Hitler’s Wehrmacht and turned into a Protectorate of the Third Reich. Milena Jesenská was arrested in November 1939. She died in Ravensbrück concentration camp in May 1943.
Today, almost 100 years after Czechoslovakia declared independence from Austria-Hungary and 28 years after the Velvet Revolution, Czech history veers off down another inimitably Czech country lane.
Miloš Zeman, who has warned that if the Czech Republic accepts more refugees from Syria (currently it has admitted a grand total of 12) “unfaithful women will be stoned, thieves will have their hands cut off and we will be deprived of the beauty of women, since they will be veiled” was re-elected as President of the Czech Republic. At least the margin of victory was narrow (51.36% to Jiří Drahoš’s 48.63%) and the major cities of Prague, Brno and Plzen turned out in force for Drahoš.
Moral: history is never past. Good thing Václav Havel appreciated the absurd.