The proposed visit by the Glasnost Tsar to the very country that is governed by those opposed to glasnost has evidently aroused many expectations. It has brought an unprecedented number of journalists to Prague. They arrive in good time; it is the Glasnost Tsar himself who keeps postponing the trip. And so the waiting newsmen occupy themselves as best they can. Dozens of them call on me; they all want to know what I think of the new Tsar. But it is embarrassing to have to keep repeating the same thoughts over and again, especially as none of them seems at all original to me: whatever I say, I am struck by the feeling that I have heard it or read it before somewhere.

Finally he arrives, and I can relax. The journalists now have something more interesting to do than listen to me telling them things they have already written.

I live near the Prague National Theatre; it’s half past nine in the evening, not a reporter in sight, so I take my dog for a walk. And what do we see? Endless rows of parked limousines and a vast number of policemen. Of course: Gorbachev is in the National Theatre watching a gala performance. Unable to resist, I make for the theatre, and thanks to my dog, who clears a path through the crowd, I manage to struggle through to the front. I stand and wait; the show must be over any minute. I look around at the people on the pavement and listen. They’re just passers-by, not an organized ‘rent-a-crowd’, nor even people who came to catch a glimpse of Gorbachev – just nosy individuals, on their way to or from the pub or out for an evening stroll and who, like me, noticed something unusual and stopped out of curiosity. Their talk is full of sarcasm, aimed in particular at the long ranks of secret policemen, who remain impassive, obviously under orders not to do anything that might cast a shadow on Gorbachev’s visit.

Letters to the Editor