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Memorandum


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A: Václav Havel Pf: 1965, Prague Pb: 1965 Tr: 1965 G: Pol. com. in 12 scenes; Czech prose S: Czech office building, 1960s C: 12m, 3fGross, the Managing Director of a large firm, is disturbed to receive a memorandum written in ‘Pytdepe’, a new bureaucratic language which is to be imposed on all businesses. When he orders his deputy Balas to put a stop to the introduction of this incomprehensible language, he learns that he is already too late. A large number of Pytdepe experts are already installed in the building, forcing the accounts department down to the cellar. Gross now sets out to find out the meaning of his Pytdepe memo. He visits the Pytdepe classroom and translation section. As he becomes more and more demoralized, he breaks down and confesses to a minor breach of regulations which Balas had induced him to commit. He resigns in favour of Balas, but Balas, recognizing that it is in fact the second in command who wields the true power, restores Gross to the Managing Directorship. As Pytdepe proves too difficult for the employees to learn, Balas puts pressure on the disgraced Gross to introduce a new language, ‘Chorukor’.

A: Václav Havel Pf: 1965, Prague Pb: 1965 Tr: 1965 G: Pol. com. in 12 scenes; Czech prose S: Czech office building, 1960s C: 12m, 3f

In this satirical comedy, Havel depicts a broad range of typical office life (not confined to the Communist Czechoslovakia on which it is based): the empty routines, the complacency of those with a little power over others, the time-wasting as office workers chat, smoke cigars, and wander off to the toilets. What to Western audiences might seem an amusing parody, was for the Czechs a disturbing analysis of a society where claims to open up channels of communication (represented here by the introduction of Pytdepe) in fact led to greater oppression – witnessed in the banning four years later of all Havel's work.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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