The axe

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9780060144869: The axe

Alongside Kundera's The Joke, The Axe was one of the most influential novels to appear in Czechoslavakia during the cultural awakening of the 1960s.



In late Sixties Czechoslovakia, communist ideology is failing. A disillusioned middle-aged journalist retreats from the politics of Prague to the Moravian countryside of his youth. There he rediscovers the complex relationship with his dead father, a communist crusader. But when the journalist is accused of disgracing his father and his proletariat background, he realizes that he, too, is a leader--and that the stakes are now reversed.

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From the Back Cover:

Alongside Milan Kundera's The Joke, The Axe was one of the most influential novels to appear in Czechoslovakia during the cultural reawakening of the 1960s. Blending lyricism and iconoclasm, Vaculik portrays a culture in upheaval through the timeless story of father and son, joined by idealism but separated by a changing world. It is the mid-1960s, and in Czechoslovakia communist ideology is fading. One disillusioned, middle-aged journalist retreats from the politics of Prague to the Moravian countryside of his childhood. There he rediscovers a complex relationship with his dead father, a crusader for communism in the early days, who reappears through letters written decades earlier. When the narrator is accused of disgracing his father and his proletariat background, he realizes that he, too, is a leader - but the stakes now are reversed. He finds new relevance in his father's words: "An extraordinary time requires extraordinary measures". But now the son continues, "I followed the Party line in the first phase of my political life. In the next phase I tried to get rid of it when it prevented me from thinking for myself".

About the Author:

One of the outstanding Czech novelists of the postwar generation, Vaculik has been a shoemaker, teacher, soldier, and journalist. His first novel, The Busy House, appeared in 1963. He edited Literarni Listy from 1966 until 1968, when it was suppressed by the government. His novel The Axe, published in 1966, made Vaculik famous in Czechoslovakia. Neal Ascherson describes this novel as "the story of a lonely farmer who deliberately destroys his own family relationships and friendships to bring socialist collectivization to his village in Moravia and who---through the very challenge that his own integrity offers to the corrupt Stalinist bureaucracy of the new order---is himself destroyed. "Among the writers who criticized the Novotny regime at the Writers' Union Congress in 1967, Vaculik was expelled from the party but was readmitted during the Prague Spring of 1968. At this time Vaculik wrote the Two Thousand Word Manifesto, which was signed by thousands and which some believe contributed to the Soviet leaders' decision to intervene militarily.

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Vaculik, Ludvik
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