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Paper on Ladislav Mňačko

  • Jan Kulísek
  • 11/29/2020, 17:47:39

This is my recent paper on Ladislav Mňačko as part of my studies at Franklin University

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Ladislav Mňačko was a Slovak journalist and writer, who’s work was defined by the horrors of World War Two and the rise of Communism in Czechoslovakia. He was born in 1919 in Valašské Klobouky, which is today’s eastern Czech Republic and was growing up in Martin, Slovakia. Mňačko died in 1994 in Bratislava. At the very young age he was inspired by the Marxist thoughts and identified himself with the politics of the Czechoslovak Communist Party.

Ladislav Mňačko is today sadly almost forgotten even in his homeland Slovakia and in Czech Republic as well. During his prime time in 1960’s and especially of the later period of the decade he earned a fair level of fame and respect among his contemporaries even in the West. He was even compared to Alexander Solzhenitsyn for the detailed and skillful exposure of Communist regime as a criminal enterprise in his novels and newspaper articles.

At the age of 20 as the World War Two started in 1939 he attempted to emigrate to the Soviet Union, but this failed and during another attempt to get out of the Nazi’s reach while crossing the borders to Netherlands he was caught and imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and then transferred to a forced labor camp, from which he managed to escape in 1944 to Slovakia, where he joined an anti-Nazi guerrillas in Slovakian mountains. The guerrilla life was harsh and brutal and perhaps this experience hardened him and prepared for the later life as a journalist and writer (Gazdík, 2020).

After the war he joined the ranks of Czechoslovak Communist Party and gave his whole heart the the ideas of Communism and Marxism. At those times he may be called by his opponents as a fanatical supporter of the Party. However, later during 1950’s he saw through what horrific regime it was and became more and more critical. As since the late 1950’s when the regime started loosing its grip on society, Mňačko managed to get published his first defining work in form of the novel Smrť sa volá Engelchen (Death is Called Engelchen), which described his experiences with Slovak guerrilla fighters and gave the true picture of the guerrilla warfare in Slovakia during the war. The novel caused a major sensation since it didn’t depict the traditional Communist heroes in the Slovak uprising against Nazis, but a true life of guerrilla fighters that from time to time was very much on the opposite of any type of honorable conduct. In 1963 a movie with the same title was produced and based on the novel by the both Czech and Slovak state owned movie producers.

Not only because of his earlier support and cooperation with the Communist regime, but also by proving himself as an exceptionally skilled writer, he earned a prominent position among journalists and was employed by the two major Communist Party newspapers in Czechoslovakia, the Czech Language Rudé právo and the Slovak language Pravda (not the be confused with the Soviet Pravda published in Soviet Union and in Russian). Because of the earned trust with the Communist authorities, Mňačko was sent abroad on numerous occasions to report on major events such as it was the trial with Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, Israel in 1962.

Since Mňačko was married to a Jewish woman, he identified with the cause of Jews and perhaps the reporting on Eichmann’s trial strengthened him as being a part of the worldwide Jewish community. When Czechoslovak government sided with Israel’s enemies at the start of the Six-Day War in 1967, he decided to emigrate to that country. While in Israel, he helped many of his friends and associates to arrange for a study or work visa and to gain life defining experience in that country. However, in March of 1968 the situation in Czechoslovakia rapidly changed for the better and the events known as “Prague Spring” took place including abolition of censorship and guaranteeing a true freedom of expression for all the writers.

So Mňačko returned in less than six months of stay in Israel. It was at that time when a short novel The Taste of Power was published, which gained him an irreplaceable spot not only on the Czech and Slovak stage, but also instant world wide fame. The Taste of Power was translated into all major world languages including German and English and even today is available also on Amazon.com.

The Taste of Power was ground-breaking especially for the Czech part of Czechoslovakia. It is a fictional story about a Communist leader’s funeral, in which the reader is kept engaged while thinking whether or not it this a real description and report about a real funeral or rather a fictional event. And in addition, the sequence of events of the story is communicated in such a way, that one has the conviction that the real names of the Communist officials’ and the departed leader’s name will be revealed if not in the next sentence, but for sure on the next page. But no real name is ever mentioned and the reader is forced to keep guessing. The Taste of Power certainly contributed to earning him a reputation as a “Red Hemingway” among his western contemporaries (Jesenský, 2009).

After the Soviet crushing of the Prague Spring in 1968 Mňačko emigrated for the second time to Austria, where he stayed until the fall of the Communist regime in 1989. He became disillusioned with the Slovak politics after the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993 and emigrated for the third time, this time to Prague, Czech Republic, which was not as radical change of life and culture as before. Sadly, he didn’t enjoy his stay in Czech Republic too long and passed away during a visit to Bratislava, Slovakia on 24. of February, 1994.

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Gazdík, J. (2020, September 22). Buřiče Mňačka se režim bál. Soudruha i veřejně zfackoval, říká autor jeho životopisu: Aktuálně.cz. Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://zpravy.aktualne.cz/zahranici/burice-ladislava-mnacka-se-komuniste-bali/r~d00eedaaf97f11eab1110cc47ab5f122/

Jesenský, M. (2009, November 06). Štát terorista zabíjal a unášal aj vlastných. Retrieved November 29, 2020, from https://domov.sme.sk/c/5098845/stat-terorista-zabijal-a-unasal-aj-vlastnych.html Wikipedia. (2020, March 25). Ladislav Mňačko. Retrieved November 29, 2020, from https://sk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladislav_M%C5%88a%C4%8Dko