"> Name: Milan Kundera's "The Joke"

Date:  1951 - 1975

Location:  Europe

SubjectPolitical/Economic/Social Opinion


Artist: Milan Kundera

Confronting Bodies: Czechoslovak authorities

Date of Action: 1968

Specific Location: Czechoslovakia

Description of Artwork: "The Joke" is the tale of a young communist party official who sends a postcard to his girlfriend. On it he writes the joke, "Optimism is the opium of the people! The healthy atmosphere stinks! Long live Trotski!" For this he is found as being an enemy of the state, expelled from his university, and sentenced to work in the coal mines.

Description of Incident: "The Joke" was published in 1967, but after the Warsaw Pact invasion of 1968, it was banned completely. Not only that but Kundera was expelled from the Communist party, kicked out of film school, had all his works confiscated from libraries and bookshops, had his plays banned from theaters, and was forbidden to travel to the West.

Results of Incident: In 1969, Kundera worked with American publishers to make an English translation. Although the English version managed to keep the parts about the oppression of writing in eastern Europe, Kundera was disappointed that they did not follow his use of punctuation and reflect his writing style. Not until 1992 was an English version that satisfied him published.

Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Ed. Derek Jones. Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.

Submitted By: NCAC

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