The Last Exile of Jan Beneš

9-10 2007 Aktuality English
obálka čísla

It is shocking to observe how little attention was paid to the tragic death of Jan Benes - writer, prisoner of communism, émigré, worker, pedagogue, journalist…

Even though Jan Benes was for many an argumentative social partner, he was not a man who should be forgotten. He was a person who was able to fight communism irreconcilably and who lead his (almost private) war with it until the end. His life story is in a way very noteworthy. His father was a legionnaire (who was employed before the war at the headquarters of the fortification works which built bunkers against Hitler). Jan Benes was first imprisoned in the 1950’s. After he was released, he wrote and published. He was imprisoned for the second time 2 weeks after his wedding (at which Vaclav Havel served as his witness). He was released from prison in 1968 as one of the last political prisoners. As soon as he changed his clothes he received an invitation to attend a function at the Castle. Such was his life- once to be very low, then again to rise very high.

Even though Jan Benes was for many an argumentative social partner, he was not a man who should be forgotten. He was a person who was able to fight communism irreconcilably and who lead his (almost private) war with it until the end. His life story is in a way very noteworthy. His father was a legionnaire (who was employed before the war at the headquarters of the fortification works which built bunkers against Hitler). Jan Benes was first imprisoned in the 1950’s. After he was released, he wrote and published. He was imprisoned for the second time 2 weeks after his wedding (at which Vaclav Havel served as his witness). He was released from prison in 1968 as one of the last political prisoners. As soon as he changed his clothes he received an invitation to attend a function at the Castle. Such was his life- once to be very low, then again to rise very high.

Nobody was ever punished for this outrageous behavior. No wonder he was very critical of the conditions in today’s Czech Republic. Benes, who was an admirer of the brothers Masin, didn’t quite understand the development after November 1989 in his homeland. Was it only his fault?

Mr. Benes sometimes used to say that he probably returned home too soon. Instead of emigrating for the second time, he voluntarily chose to go to eternity. I wrote this story because it might be too easy to forget this somewhat “inconvenient” man. May he rest in peace and may he not be forgotten.

Ludek Navara
Translated by Marie Dolanska
Editor, MF DNES

Vydavatelem Českého dialogu je Mezinárodní český klub

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