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Philip Roth on Czechoslovakia's tryst with Commercial Television

In 1990, in the immediate aftermath of Czechoslovakia’s November 1989 Velvet Revolution" that led to overthrow of its Communist government, during a trip to Prague, American novelist Philip Roth asked Czech novelist and playwright Ivan Klíma:
As Czechoslovakia becomes a free, democratic consumer society, you writers are going to find yourselves bedeviled by a number of new adversaries from which, strangely enough, repressive, sterile totalitarianism protected you. Particularly unsettling will be the one adversary that is the pervasive, all-powerful archenemy of literature, literacy, and language. I can guarantee you that no defiant crowds will ever rally in Wenceslas Square to overthrow its tyranny nor will any playwright-intellectual be elevated by the outraged masses to redeem the national soul from the fatuity into which this adversary reduces virtually all of human discourse. I am speaking about the trivializer of everything, commercial television – not a handful of channels nobody wants to watch because it is controlled by an oafish state censor but a dozen or two channels of boring clichéd television that most everybody watches all the time because it is entertaining. At long last you and your writer colleagues have broken out of the intellectual prison of Communist totalitarianism. Welcome to the World of Total Entertainment. You don’t know what you’ve been missing. Or do you?
Ivan Klíma in his response quoted a memorandum that was doing the rounds at that time in their country. According to this memorandum:
Television, owning to its widespread influence, is directly able to contribute to the greatest extent toward a moral revival. This of course presupposes…setting up a new structure, and not only in an organizational sense but in the sense of the moral and creative responsibility of the institution as a whole and of every single member of its staff, especially its leading ones. The times we are living through offer our television a unique chance to try for something that does not exist elsewhere in the world.


Found it in a little book by Philip Roth called Shop Talk


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