Inedible Inedible

Zdenek Nejedly
, 1878 − 1962, served well and at the same time deteriorated Czech culture, he brought honour and damage to his hometown which praises his good deeds but denounces the bad ones – such is the inscription at his statue in the town of Litomysl. This small Czech town has a long and rich cultural history, as we can read in a guide book. Its renovated and shiny castle, the main historical square and above all its personalities including the famous composer Bedrich Smetana are exposed proudly. One could therefore suppose that Litomyslers have had enough celebrities to be able to throw some controversial figures overboard. This is not the case.

Whereas the bust of Zdenek Nejedly — a teacher, a musicologist and a post-war communist minister of education,was simply removed from the National Museum’s Pantheon of the most important personalities of the Czech history and culture, the approach of his hometown resembles the train route leading from Ceská Trebová to Litomysl. It is definitely not straight. Litomysl seems to believe that Nejedly was a controversial person that should stay as a part of the town’s heritage.

In the 1990s his sinister political activities were weighed against contributions to his hometown. He did not help students from Litomysl in political processes but he was neither Gottwald nor Stalin, the town’s former mayor Mr. Brydl alleged. What is praised is that he founded Smetana’s Litomysl Festival and wrote The History of Litomysl. In the view of Mr. Skrivánek , a local historician and the author of the memorial’s incription, not only was Nejedly’s influence on culture important locally, he also assisted in raising national consciousness.

For members of older generations of Czechs Nejedly was just an infamous figure. He was nicknamed rudej or plesnivej dedek (red or rotten dotard). The notoriety of Nejedly is even more widespread among teachers from the 1950s. This was the period when Nejedly was influential in forming communist education system. A former teacher from Eastern Bohemia reacted especially strongly after having heard about Litomysl«s solution to the question of Nejedly: Should I pass again Litomysl on my way to Moravia, I would have to fly over it. Younger generations are not familiar with these nicknames as they mostly ignore who Nejedly was. However, youth in Litomysl while watching J. Menzel’s film Skrivánci na niti (Larks On a String) may notice that a senile communist official in one scene very much resembles the statue standing in front of their secundary school.

There have been recurring reactions to the statue’s being left at its place after 1989 that made the Mayor of Litomysl create a standardised letter to defend the position of the town against some furious visitors or natives. The town council has thoroughly considered and discussed at its meetings the reasons for dismantling or leaving the statue in front of the school, the letter explains. As M. Brydl further specified in an interview, the most heated debates took place in 1993. We asked three historians and intellectuals to express their opinions about Nejedly. A public discussion was then held in the local school, which turned out to be stormy. One of the options considered was to move the statue by fifty meters where his birthplace is. In the end the town council decided neither to change the memorial place nor to demolish it but to annex a motto by Balzac and the aforementioned inscription.

The statue of Nejedly has been standing at its place since the childhood of some of the locals. He’s part of our history. We can’t simply get rid of him, said an employee of the town council, Mrs. Kadidlová who considers it strange to destroy statues with every regime change. Meanwhile Litomysl’s solution was warmly welcome by the satirical theatre of Jára Cimrman.

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