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Unbearable slowness

Communism in eastern Europe created a unique literary-philosophical tradition. Lesley Chamberlain surveys this tradition both before and after the collapse of communism. She prefers Ivan Klima to Milan Kundera, but likes Christa Wolf best of all

Two cheers for communism. It gave us some wonderful books. What now? The Czech scientist and poet Miroslav Holub suggests, in the latest British Council volume of New Writing, that things aren’t all bad in the Czech Republic. That’s a characteristically superior view. But the question is why the books written under communism were so good, and stand the test of rereading out of season.

Milan Kundera can’t be ignored, because he has acquired such a reputation worldwide. But he has always seemed restless about that reputation, barely fictionalising bits of his biography to make a fantastic statement about all…

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