In response to:

Victims from the November 28, 1974 issue

To the Editors:

A year ago (Nov. 28, 1975), I described in a letter here the tribulations of my colleague Karel Culík, a Czech mathematician who was hounded from his position by the authorities, refused permission to travel or to publish at home or abroad, and denied the right to emigrate. For a time, it seemed that Culík and his family might indeed be permitted to leave a state which is plainly unwilling to tolerate their existence, but the doors were once again slammed shut. On July 30, 1975, Dr. Culík addressed an open letter to the President of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Dr. Gustáv Husák, demanding permission to emigrate, citing inter alia the pending Helsinki agreements. In the letter, he described his situation in these terms:

Many times I thought that I am being treated as a serf. This is wrong, however. True, serfdom is unjust but it is rationally comprehensible. The lord wants to live in wealth and so he keeps a serf to work for him. It is only a lord who lacks common sense who prevents his serf from working and refuses him anything to eat. But the humiliations we must endure are devoid of any rationality and have no purpose or sense. They are simply the expression of a despotic caprice, reminiscent of the conditions of a prison. This is why I concluded my last letter to you by saying that “a home with barred windows and doors turns into a prison.” In my powerlessness, in the senselessness of the whole situation, I really feel like the land surveyor K. from Kafka’s Castle.

To date, there has been no response from the authorities. Dr. Culík and his wife, a logician, are denied professional employment and their situation grows increasingly desperate. I would like to suggest that readers protest directly to the Embassy of Czechoslovakia or to President Husák himself.

Noam Chomsky

Cambridge, Massachusetts