Milan Kundera

Today in Mailbox: the Czech team's qualification for Euro 2008, author Milan Kundera, plans by a neo-Nazi group to march through Prague's historic Jewish Quarter, response to an interview with Czech-Japanese businessman Tomio Okamura, and the proposed US radar base to be built in the Czech Republic. Listeners quoted: Ted Schuerzinger, Tom Lane, Jana Zimmer, Hanka Stibingerova, Lynda-Marie Hauptman.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox, the programme for your views and comments. And let's start off with a note Ted Schuerzinger from New York included in his reception report.

"Congratulations on qualifying for Euro 2008. I have relatives in Germany, so I normally root for Germany (sorry!), but it's nice to see the Czechs qualify - even if they did beat the US at the World Cup last year."

Tom Lane from California is responding to a recent report on Radio Prague about the Czech-born Paris-based author Milan Kundera who received the Czech Republic's State Prize for Literature in October.

"Any questioning of Mr. Kundera's authenticity as a Czech author is rhetorical and mean spirited. He described the Czech experience under the long occupation in unforgettable books that make that surreal episode almost comprehensible to the wide world as well as to those, Czechs included, who were born too late to know it first-hand. The loss & humiliation he endured during those years in his homeland were as great as anybody's, short of those who died in the Stalinist paranoia, and that he finds humor in it is very Czech, I think. He has explained his unwillingness to be interviewed, joined the moral debate ...and best of all refused to join the either/or politics of that time or of the present. Any criticism must be literary, the work and not the man. And one would have to be a blind fanatic not to recognize his achievement or its particular significance to Czechs."

Jana Zimmer is responding to Radio Prague reports on the plans by a neo-Nazi group to stage a march through Prague's historic Jewish Quarter on November 10, the anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom of 1938.

"As a Czech born daughter of two survivors of the Shoah I have been following your articles on the efforts of the neo-Nazis to march through the Josefov with some grave concerns. While I am a strong supporter of civil liberties, including freedom of speech and assembly, there are appropriate time, place and manner restrictions which should prevent such a deliberate assault on a nearly extinguished community from occurring in that particular place on that particular date. I appreciate the efforts of the Prague Town Hall to prevent this from happening, and I applaud the courageous intention of the small Jewish community to stand up and object. However, I think this moment calls out even more for the non-Jewish, 'unaffected' Prague community to stand up against this attack on collective memory... In 1933 the Czechs and perhaps all Europe had the excuse that they did not know what it would come to. Now that excuse no longer exists."

Hanka Stibingerova is currently living in Tokyo, studying Japanese, and found an article on Radio Prague's website relating to her subject of study:

"By coincidence I came across an article on the Internet about Mr. Tomio Okamura. He describes the difficulties of his dual nationality, Czech and Japanese. The article is so 'unbelievably' related to what I have studied about Japan and in general about the difficulties of having a dual nationality in Japan. I understand so well what Mr. Okamura describes about his experience as a child in Japan and also about communist Czechoslovakia. I grew up in communist Czechoslovakia, but I was one of those kids who witnessed the 'Velvet Revolution' during my primary school. Now I am finding myself in Japan and thinking of people like Mr. Okamura. I am very happy that he, as a Japanese, has a relation to the Czech Republic and that despite the hard time in his childhood he has a close relation to both countries. Thank you for releasing this article on Radio Prague, I have now added [the site] to my favourites."

And finally Lynda-Marie Hauptman from the United States returns to the subject of the proposed US radar facility to be built in the Czech Republic.

"I agree, wholeheartedly, with Czech objections to the concessions of the presence of Russian 'advisors' at the proposed American radar base on Czech soil. The Velvet Revolution was only 18 years ago - the Czech people are still revelling in their hard won freedom - freedom which was denied them by the communists of Russia for nearly 50 years. Presidents Bush and Putin agreeing on what should happen on Czech soil, without consulting the Czechs themselves, is eerily reminiscent of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who promised 'Peace in our time,' also without consulting the Czech people, before betraying them to Adolf Hitler, the most brutal tyrant of the 20th century. What happens on Czech soil is rightfully the responsibility of the Czechs and their democratically elected representatives. To come to a decision about occurrences in the Czech Republic, without approval of the Czechs is not only illegal, but immoral and cowardly, worthy only of tyrants and other enemies of freedom."

Thank you very much for sending us your views on our programmes as well as current events in the Czech Republic. As always, you can take part in our monthly contest in which we look for the names of famous people of Czech or Bohemian ancestry. Before I say good-bye, let me repeat our November quiz question:

This time we are looking for the name of a Moravian-born American economist and political scientist. Some of his most important contributions to global economic thinking include his theories of business cycles and development, entrepreneurship, his theory of growth, and creative destruction.

Your answers should reach us by the end of November at [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague. There will be small prizes for four of you who will be drawn out of the hat at the beginning of December. Until next week, thanks for listening and please, keep those letters coming.