LEARNING FROM SMALL NATIONS
Can you tell us about your family origins, and the intellectual and cultural milieu in which you were raised?
I was born in Prague in 1932. My parents—both Czech by origin—had come to the city from the provinces in the 1920s. My father was a skilled worker who went on to become a technician; a socialist, but Catholic and strongly anti-Communist. Perhaps, later on, his difficulty in understanding my decision to study humanities, which he saw as pointless, inclined me more to study topics that would have some social relevance. My mother’s father was also a socialist, but with staunch anti-clerical and national feelings. Religion was never discussed in the family and played little role in my formation, beyond the not-very-attractive teaching at elementary school. The decisive intellectual environment for me was the eight years spent at the Gymnasium, where Latin and Greek were the core of the syllabus.
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