Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Snitch from Tesin - Udavač z Těšína

There’s been a bit of controversy swirling through Moravian music circles these last weeks. The two main characters in the drama are Jaroslav Hutka and Jaromir Nohavica, with Karel Kryl in the running for best supporting actor. All three are highly respected singer songwriters known for songs of protest against the former communist regime.

A few months before the revolution in 1989, Nohavica travelled to Vienna and played at a concert with Kryl. When he returned he was interrogated by the secret police and told them some things about Kryl and the other émigré dissidents that he met. Nohavica says he didn’t tell the police anything they didn’t already know but Hutka says he’s a snitch and wrote a song about it entitled ‘Snitch from Těšín’.

Some commentators accuse Hutka of not being qualified to criticize because he emigrated to Holland in 1978 and couldn’t possibly comprehend the pressures of 1980’s Czechoslovakia. Hutka himself says it’s a songwriter’s right and duty to speak openly, and that a songwriter should be “an independent spirit, fearless, someone on whom people can rely. Nohavica behaved like that, but in the meantime he was collaborating with the secret police”.

Nohavica spoke about the interrogation back in 1993 and declined to respond to the new criticisms, until last week when he republished the song Bud’ vítán (you’ll be welcome), that was written shortly after his trip to Vienna. The song offers Kryl the keys to his house so that he’ll have somewhere to live when he returns, which hopefully will be soon. The article republishing Bud’ vítán goes on to talk about the interrogations and includes copies of the reports that Nohavica says were written after he’d left and without his signature.

Reacting to a recent newspaper article Nohavica says “I don’t consider forced meetings with state security under the threat of violence to my family and the interrogation of my ill mother, cooperation. In my entire life and work my first priority has been to help people, never to hurt them. I feel I can look anybody in the eye with that”

Music critic Petr Dorůžka says “It is very difficult to transfer information between that era and this era. People who are living now cannot possibly feel, understand, or believe what was really going on at the time…Nohavica has the talent to put incomprehensible things into words – I hope it will push him to write something which will help contemporary audiences understand the way things worked in the past”.

So who is right and who is wrong? There seems to be no black and white or right and wrong. Everything is shades of grey, everyone a little bit guilty, a little bit innocent, a little bit cowardly and a little bit heroic. Perhaps this was the real greyness of life under the old communist regime?

The only thing that's certain is that Karel Kryl deserves the last word...

1 comment:

Michael said...

Of course, it's easy to be fearless when you've cleared off to live in another country. It sounds like a case of professional jealousy...