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Milan Uhde: A new beginning

Photo: tomáš kubeš
We remember one of the most exposed politicians of the ‘90s mainly as the culture minister and chairman of the parliament, whose credo is “be yourself and be responsible.” His dissatisfaction and frustration with the smugness of ODS, which culminated in 1996, led him to defect to the Freedom Union. But that was his political death, and he acknowledges that it was his greatest mistake. What did writer, playwright, and poet Milan Uhde learn from it?

“FORGETTING IT would be my first choice,” Uhde (69) now confides, explaining that he erroneously thought politics had to be corrected from without. So when he was disenchanted because ODS wasn’t keeping its promises to voters he chose a radical solution – defection to the newly forming rightwing party. “But in just three weeks I realized it was a mistake,” he says self-critically. His career had been meteoric prior to his cartwheel. After signing Charter 77, in 1990 this writer and playwright, whose works were banned by the communists for 20 years, became the culture minister and later the chairman of the Czech Republic parliament (1992- 1996). He was happiest as culture minister, where his main task was to bring culture into the privatization sphere, which was very unpopular with artists who didn’t understand why the state shouldn’t continue subsidizing culture. Today he recalls with a smile how thousands of librarians signed petitions calling for his recall.
What has life without politics brought him? “A new beginning,” says a smiling Uhde, who in June 1998 returned to Brno and resumed his work. Uhde wrote several plays, and the musical Nana, which he co-wrote with Miloš Štědroň is currently showing at the Brno Musical Theater. He is completing a book, My Anthology, about major Czech writers, while teaching creative writing at the Literature Academy in Prague. And as vice chair of the Czech Radio Council, he’s trying to ensure that public radio presents itself seriously and doesn’t slide into commercialism. He shuttles between Brno and Prague once a week, which gives him a chance to attend all the premieres and exhibitions and visit his son Michal, an entrepreneur living in Prague. His wife, Jitka Uhdeová, is the executive and director of Atlantis publishing house, where his daughter Jana also works.

© The Prague Tribune, 2005
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