Smrt v Praze: schizofrenie a sebevražda v éře radostného budování socialismu a „normalizace“
Death in Prague: Schizophrenia and Suicide in the Era of Gleefully Building Socialism and ‘Normalisation
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As early as 1956, psychiatrist Svetozar Nevole, in a case study on the problem of suicide and its pre vention, stated that suicide in the Czech lands is one of the highest in the world. The occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops (joined by the armies of Warsaw Pact countries), together with the era of so called normalisation that followed, deepened not only the feelings of hopelessness and desperation, but also a phenomenon known as ‘social schizophrenia’ (Tzvetan Todorov). This text follows the ‘schizophrenic symptom’ as part of the politicization of life in Czechoslovakia 1948–1989, both in relation to the concept of ‘normality’ and in works by the poet and clinical psychologist Zbyněk Havlíček. The occupation of August 1968 and period of normalisation that followed struck precisely at the moment of greatest hope, when a sense of confidence in the prolongation of the horizon of our world and renewal of life in it had just seemed to place new possibilities within our grasp. In that atmosphere, and with the knowledge that the occupation of August 1968 would last ‘forever’, suicide was seen by many as the last tragic act of freedom vis à-vis a situation where ‘the walls are closing in’, as Jean Améry wrote in Hand an sich Legen (Reach Out for Yourself), and as the poet Jiří Pištora (1932–1970) wrote in his farewell letter: ‘I stand by the wall, and not one step further.’ A wri ter of nursery rhymes, Pištora was compelled by the occupation to take his own life in September 1970. Psychiatrist Svetozar Nevole, one of the most original figures in Czech psychiatry, committed suicide in September 1965.
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