Patrik Ouředník

    is a Czech writer and translator. In 1984 he emigrated to Paris and from 1986 to 1998 served as editor and head of the literature section of the quarterly L’Autre Europe. In 1992 he was instrumental in founding the Free University of Nouallaguet, where he has lectured since 1995. He translates from French into Czech (François Rabelais, Alfred Jarry, Raymond Queneau, Samuel Beckett, Henri Michaux, Boris Vian, Claude Simon) and from Czech into French (Bohumil Hrabal, Vladimír Holan, Jan Skácel, Miroslav Holub, Jiří Gruša, Ivan Wernisch), among others. His own books that appeared in English include Europeana. A Brief History of the Twentieth Century (2005 – the most widely translated Czech book since 1989), Case Closed (2010) and The Opportune Moment (2011). “We might assume that the New Testament is infinitely more pacific than the Quran but no holy book, however modern, guarantees modernity and no text, however backward, anticipates backwardness. There was a time when the Islamic elite used to be more tolerant than the Christian. Like every great religion, Islam has also generated distinctive works of art as well as art de vivre. All the more reason not to treat Muslims as inferior beings – or inferior citizens – as we do by ‘respecting the religious feelings of the Muslim minority’. Democracy is far from an ideal community. It is not difficult to find fault with its imprudence, its contradictions and misdeeds, to point to the growing infantilisation of Western society, the gradual destruction of thinking, the inevitable decline of what used to be known as the aristocracy of the spirit, the shallowness of the media, the boorishness of politicians, the brainwashing by advertisements, the hollowness of our actions. We could even ask ourselves whether, in terms of history, democracy hasn’t exhausted its possibilities and whether it isn’t simply headed for definitive domination by a consumerist and hedonist logic. If that is indeed the case, the birth of a non-lethal totalitarianism, of a Huxleyan Brave New World, might be regarded as its controversial achievement. If, however, despite all this, we still share Voltaire’s belief that ‘Deprived of freedom, what would the human soul be? A peculiar thing, wandering blind and deaf’, then we must recognise that in being as belligerently anti-democratic as it is, Islamism is, right now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, probably the most evident manifestation of fascism.”