Czech version

Ferdinand Peroutka
"Democracy is based, of all things, mainly
on a well-functioning public opinion, on the irresistible stream within a nation that condones something but rejects something else, and calls some things honest but rejects other things as foul play."

Ferdinand Peroutka

The Life of Ferdinand Peroutka

Ferdinand Peroutka, born on 6 February 1895 in Prague, made his first mark as an academic student at Královské Vinohrady by writing for miscellaneous magazines, including Čas. Serving briefly after World War I as editor-in-chief of Tribuna daily, he stirred much emotion by a series of leaders on the theme "Who We Are," that took issue with Masaryk's motto: "Hussite Revolt - Our Programme." That earned him a lot of public interest and sympathy from the President of the Republic. In 1924, he became senior leader writer for Lidové noviny and, on the initiative of President T. G. Masaryk, went on to establish the weekly Přítomnost (Presence). Together with Jaroslav Stránský, Karel Čapek and other authors, Peroutka rallied the Czech intellectual elite in support of Masaryk's leadership principles of governing a young state. Thanks to Peroutka's creative writing and meticulous choice of collabrators, Přítomnost emerged as a leading Czech political magazine, whose standards have yet to be surpassed.

"The Building of the State," first published from 1933, is a monumental saga, masterfully yet without bias encompassing the first years of the Czechoslovak Republic, the development of its democratic instruments, and providing lively portraits of some of the masters of this momentous game.

Throughout World War II, Peroutka was an inmate in the Nazi camps at Dachau and Buchenwald. Upon repatriation, he assumed the leadership of Lidové noviny (albeit under the communist-imposed new name, Svobodné noviny), and the restored Přítomnost (now renamed Dnešek - Today). After the communist coup of 1948, Peroutka left his homeland to help establish Radio Free Europe, for which he wrote close to a thousand pages of script of his regular broadcasts home.

The essays by Ferdinand Peroutka culminated in his "Democratic Manifesto." Here, the personal link between the author and his work becomes even more organic and intimate than in his previous efforts. How tremendously fitting this volume is for the man, who lived and breathed democracy while it was alive, languished in jail when democracy wore shackles, and left his homeland when democracy became an expatriate. The principles of democracy are projected against the coarse screen of totalitarianism. Democracy here is not the code of survival. Rather, it is posed as a challenge of growth, maturity, adult thought. It was said - and rightly so - that the "Democratic Manifesto" may well be the start of an intelligent new realism in literature - of democracy.