Jozef Banáš, Jubelzone (Dresden: Weltbuchverlag, 2010), translated from the Slovak Zona nadšenia into German by Lydia Heinzl.
“Nobody is, by principle, a coward.”
What does this mean? With his very first line, the author thrills us, he makes the reader think. What does he mean with the concept of ‘cowardness’? In the sense of Jan Patočka, the distinguished Czech philosopher, the possibility to choose; a possibility to choose a way of life - and then to legitimate this choice by acting accordingly on a daily basis.
What does the philosophical concept ‘choice’ mean in a political system that denies the very idea of choice? How should I act in a political system that embodies the very denial of Rousseau’s liberty and equality?
Once you have finished the book – you want more from this author.
Because he is absolutely honest; Banáš is speaking from his heart. He is not sentimental, but describes matter of factly daily life in Slovakia during the spring of Prague, the period of normalization and the Velvet revolution in 1989. His personal honesty reminded me immediately of the texts of Ivan Klíma1.
Klíma and Banáš should be read together, because they are on an equal level. While Klíma describes his life as a Czech dissident, who has to take on menial jobs because he is not allowed to publish, Banáš was a Czechoslovak diplomat in East Germany before the wall came down. His descriptions of the political pressure a citizen on a high position in the state administration are unforgettable.
Finally, we have a memoir, which, besides the informative but personally somewhat restrained Letters from prison by Milan Šimečka2 describes daily life in Slovakia.
Banáš’s book should be read and discussed in every history class that is concerned with the communist system in the former Czechoslovakia. Because of this courage and honesty Zona nadšenia has been awarded the Slovak book of the year prize in 2008.
PD Dr. Josette Baer
Phone +41 44 634 30 98
1) Ivan Klíma, Moje šilené století I and II (Academia, AV ČR: Praha 2009, 2010)
2) Milan Šimečka, Letters from prison (Prague: Twisted Spoon Press, 2002)