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Europe and the Nation-States

Photo: Arno Burgi / EPA Europe: A Shared Subject? Can we say that the European Union is gradually turning, by fits and starts, into a new kind of community of nations? Is there a many-headed, thinking being by that name seeking its own portrait, its own determining values? I think so. Nowadays we are all learning a new version of ourselves, discovering what it means to be citizens not only of our own countries but of the EU at the same time. What is novel about our new situation, compared to how we have seen ourselves in the past? Is […]

Krakowska, krakowska, krakowska

Photo: Peter Župník People say that ever since the good old days of communism ended the quality of our food has gone to the dogs. It’’s now full of chemicals, additives and taste enhancers… Those who claim this usually cite Wedel’’s chocolate with whole hazelnuts as a prime example. The post-communist variety is apparently made with Chinese nuts and the chocolate allegedly contains more sugar than it used to. I don’’t know if this claim is fuelled by nostalgia for the old days that are now gone forever or if it’’s based on an objective assessment of consumer data. In […]

A suicidal novel

Photo: Peter Župník This book, mercilessly critical of contemporary Russia, has been written by someone who knows the country well – indeed thoroughly. It is a daring book that spares neither those in power nor the people. It doesn’t spare the Russian intelligentsia either. It is a book that speaks of the degradation of the country and the state. I read it with growing amazement. It is written passionately, in the spirit of the famous 19th century Russian writer Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The History of a Town, a sharply satirical novel published in 1870 that presented a scathing portrait of Russia. […]

Svätopluk’’s Horse

To talk, let alone write, about genitalia, and, particularly those of horses, is a rather tricky undertaking but since what I have in mind are matters of national – indeed: international – import, as well as matters of literature, I have perpetrated this text in the hope of offending neither human nor equine feelings. 2008, if I remember right, saw the collapse of a highly influential Polish literary magazine. It was called Studium. This journal occupies a place particularly close to the heart of the writer of these lines. It is exactly ten years since I made my literary debut […]

We’’ll treat you to a Euro to remember!

I’’ve been meaning to write this article since early April but kept putting it off every day. However, following the explosions in Dnepropetrovsk, one of the largest industrial cities in Ukraine, just before the long weekend in May, I finally set to work. For me this came as the last warning: life in Ukraine is no longer just restless, uncomfortable, ugly and colourless: it is becoming dangerous, gradually coloured by blood. OK, I’’m willing to accept that the government isn’’t behind the explosions. Why bother? But the very fact that in a situation like this society directs its suspicions primarily […]

Po krvavom výprasku / Esej

Táto Putinova inaugurácia na post prezidenta, tretia za šesť rokov, mala v sebe čosi z ťažkej ruskej pitky. Na jednej strane vyzváňali moskovské zvony, jazdecká prehliadka, pozlátené interiéry, tajné odovzdanie atómového kufríka, požehnanie Patriarchu, zvučné – ako keď plieskajú facky – tlieskanie dvoranov, lokajov a medzinárodných lobistov Ruska, na druhej strane – ponurý deň po nemilosrdnom krvavom výprasku. Možnože po prvýkrát za celé ruské dejiny sa inaugurácia odohrala na druhý deň po  bitke, ktorou policajti rozohnali Putinových protivníkov. Niečo podobné sa stalo len raz, v tisíc osemstodvadsiatom piatom. Vtedy sa revoluční šľachtici, dekabristi, vzbúrili proti novému cárovi Nikolajovi 1. Skončili […]

Tu máš nič a dobre ho drž! / Esej

Pokúšam sa odosobniť, hoci to celkom nejde, aby som neupadol do jednostranného subjektivizmu pri posudzovaní toho, ako ľavicová vláda naložila s ľudskými právami. Presnejšie – ako sklamala v agende, v ktorej by sa od nej očakávalo práve posilnenie, a nie výrazné oslabenie či zúženie tejto štruktúrovanej témy. Žiaľ, vláda svoj program nepostavila na dôraze na princípy ľudských práv, hoci neskromne hovoriac, by možno stačilo, keby pokračovala  v niektorých už naštartovaných inštitucionálnych zmenách a politikách. Dokonca by mohla, napríklad v oblasti sexuálnych menšín presadiť také politiky, ktoré sa ani mne v bývalej konzervatívno-liberálnej koalícii nepodarilo (je to totiž ľavicová téma par […]

Všetko je na predaj / Esej

Nedávno, na jednom stretnutí ukrajinských a francúzskych vydavateľov odznel referát o Ukrajine: krajina má 45 miliónov obyvateľov a rozlohu väčšiu ako Francúzsko. “Veď to je obrovský trh!”, zvolal jeden z Francúzov prekvapene. Ľudia zväčša o našej krajine veľa nevedia. Vedia, že na jeseň 2004 tam bola Oranžová revolúcia. A teraz vedia, že máme bývalú premiérku vo väzení a že je chorá. Je to najhlbší bod smutného príbehu, ktorý sa pritom začal víťazstvom slobody. Po neslávnom prezidentovaní Viktora Juščenka nastúpil do čela štátu jeho bývalý protivník z dní Oranžovej revolúcie Viktor Janukovyč. Iróniou osudu mu k víťazstvu pomohol jeho niekdajší protihráč […]

Bathory, cube and magic hair tonic

23 March is the Day of Polish-Hungarian Friendship. The relevant resolution was adopted by the Hungarian parliament on 12 March 2007 by 324 votes. There were no abstentions. On 16 March of the same year the Sejm of the Polish Republic unanimously adopted a similar resolution. This touching unanimity of the two parliaments begs for a reworking of the well-known Polish adage. Instead of the Hungarian and the Pole, always friendly / jointly riding, jointly drinking. Boisterous and joyous both / may God bless their souls, it should read: the Hungarian and the Pole / always friendly/ jointly voting, jointly […]

Putin is Getting Married

As of today at least half of Russia is worthy of Vladimir Putin and he is worthy of that half. Our presidential election resembles a wedding. Putin has made all the preparations, including lending his face a youthful appearance, writing or having ghostwritten seven articles promising his bride – Russia – to be her defender, protector, commander-in-chief and brother. He has invited his freeloading fans from all around the country for a feast of free food and drink. But there’s a problem: the bride is split into two halves. One part of her – basically the lower half, the workers, […]