Oct. 5, 2000

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (excerpt)

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Broadcast date: THURSDAY, 5 October 2000

Poem: from "The Ancient Mariner," by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

It's the birthday of Czech Republic president and playwright Václav Havel, born in Prague, Czechoslovakia (1936), the son of a successful restaurateur. When the Communists came to power in 1948, he got a job driving a cab, took night classes, and was soon writing plays satirizing the absurdities of the communist regime. These include The Garden Party, The Memorandum, and The Increased Difficulty of Concentration. After the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, his books were banned from libraries and his plays from theaters. In 1977, he spent four months in prison for being one of the founders of Charter 77, a dissident group that demanded human rights and an end to repression. For the next few years he was arrested so often that he began carrying his tooth-brush and toothpaste with him in case he was taken to jail. He refused to leave the country, saying, "Fourteen million people can't just go and leave Czechoslovakia." In 1979 he was sentenced to four and a half years at hard labor, and nearly died from pneumonia in prison. Early in 1989, he was imprisoned again, but was released after an international protest. A few months later, the "Velvet Revolution" toppled the Communist government, and the parliament named Havel interim president of Czechoslovakia. He was elected to the post in July, 1990.

"The reason I can be free is simply because I say the hell with it. Let them take my apartment. Let them not put on my plays. Let them throw me in prison...I'm not going to change what I say or how I live."

On this day in 1925, Ernest Hemingway published his first book in America, a collection of stories called In Our Time. It included the stories, "Big Two-Hearted River," "Soldier's Home," and "My Old Man."

It's the birthday of writer and humorist Brian O'Nolan, better known as Flann O'Brien, born in Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland (1911). His first novel, At-Swim-Two-Birds (1939), was unsuccessful when it first came out, but was reissued in 1960 to wide acclaim. For many years he wrote a column for the Irish Times under the pen name Myles na Gopaleen. It was written in Irish and English and occasionally a hybrid language of his own, full of puns, jokes, linguistic games, nonsense, satire and oddball characters. He wrote:

When money's tight and hard to get
And your horse has also ran,
When all you have is a heap of debt--
A pint of plain is your only man.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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