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Sunday, 22 October, 2000, 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK
Czechs return to compulsory texts
Havel
Vaclav Havel: "Recommended" but not "required"

By Ray Furlong in Prague

"Twas late eve on the 1st of May..."

The opening words of the classic work of Czech Romanticism, Karel Hynek Macha's epic poem, May.

They are instantly familiar to everyone in this country and now work is afoot to make sure this remains so.

Education reforms in the Czech republic are set to herald the return of "obliged reading" - a system scrapped after the fall of communism.

But now previously banned authors will be obligatory for all Czech children to learn.

During the communist era, all pupils at secondary schools were required to read particular books - it was one of the regime's tools for influencing minds.

But the system, scrapped after democracy took root in 1989, ensured that everyone was acquainted with the classics of Czech literature.

Classroom anarchy

Now teachers have been calling for its return. They say that anarchy has prevailed in literature classes over the last 10 years.

One of the ironies of this is that writers who were previously banned will now be part of the status quo, forced upon school pupils in state exams.

These include the exiled author Milan Kundera, best-known for his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

But the works of Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright and essayist who is now the Czech president, will not be required reading.

Pedagogues have merely included him in the list of "recommended writers".

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See also:

25 Aug 98 | Europe
Remembering the Prague Spring
11 Oct 99 | Iron Curtain
Writers without a cause
02 Nov 99 | Iron Curtain
Czech writer's path to fame
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