Arnost Lustig - we believed in Stalinism

Arnost Lustig

Arnost Lustig is unquestionably one of the great post-war Czech writers. His novels and stories are known the world over and have been translated into dozens of languages. As a teenager he survived the Nazi concentration camps, a subject which has featured in many of his works. After the war he started his writing career as a journalist, here at Radio Prague, at one of the bleakest times in post-war Czech history. This was the early fifties, when Stalinism reigned at all levels of society and many, including journalists, were murdered in the purges. But strangely enough Arnost Lustig looks back to this period with nostalgia. Sitting in a Prague café over fifty years later, he told us how he and his friends at the radio had really believed in the brave new world of Stalinist Czechoslovakia.

"We were twenty years old. It was fascinating. World War Two was over. Life started. People were beautiful. I was an apprentice, so I worked in news, as a reporter, as a commentator, in the entertainment department, in the foreign service, in the central editing room. But I have only beautiful memories. For us there were no political pressures, because we were Communists. It was a very ironic situation. They kicked out all the clever people, ten times better than us, so we were even grateful to the political establishment, because they gave us jobs and said - do it comrades - and we did it. We believed it. It took ten years to find out that the things that happened were not just, that revolution is not always as spectacularly just as we'd thought. We thought this is right. It was our world. We were not happy with the world of Nazism, of betrayal of Great Britain and France. We thought we were in the right place at the right time. We were not, but we didn't know it. So we didn't have problems. It was our state, our Communist Party, our revolution. We were wrong, but you have only one life."