Jan Patočka's Reversal of Dostoevsky and Charter 77

Jozef Majernik

Abstract


Jan Patočka became politically active for the first time as a spokesperson of the dissident movement Charter 77. In this capacity he wrote several essays, the first of which, entitled "On the Matters of The Plastic People of the Universe and DG 307", I interpret as the explanation and justification of his turn toward political engagement. The following article is a reading of Patočka's essay that pays particular attention to a peculiar formal feature of the essay – namely that it's presented as a reversal of Dostoevsky's short story "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man". In reversing this story, Patočka shows us the two basic ways of human life and explains his political engagement as an action taken on behalf of the properly human way of life, which he calls "life in truth" or "the responsible life". The purpose of his political engagement thus wasn't defending human rights, but defending life in truth, to which human rights provide suitable conditions. "On the Matters…" also presents Patočka's assessment of the Communist regime with clarity and severity not seen elsewhere in his writings, and shows a shift in his views of youth and youthful rebellion.


Keywords


: Jan Patočka, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Charter 77, responsibility, political engagement, way of life

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25180/lj.v19i1.70

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