A series of events in Autumn 2009, involving both LSE students and LSE staff, has got off to a vigorous start. On 14th October staff specializing in Eastern European affairs confronted a hand-picked team of undergraduates (most of whom had taken the Literature options dealing with the Cold War and its aftermath) and were narrowly able to see them off (by a margin of one point). The atmosphere in the LSE Underground Bar was widely welcomed and there were many requests for a repeat match on some other theme later in the academic year. (Several staff expressed their disappointment at being unable to take part.) It is planned that there will be a similar event at the time of the next LSE Literary Festival, in February.
The second event, an evening of modern drama and poetry, was, if anything, an even greater success. A packed Shaw Library saw LSE students present Beckett’s Catastrophe, a rare, explicitly political work within his oeuvre which was dedicated to Vaclav Havel in the 1980s, when he was still a political dissident playwright in communist Czechoslovakia after the crackdown following the Prague Spring.
This was followed by Largo Desolato by Havel himself, and finally Rock’n’Roll by Stoppard, who has translated Havel into English and been associated with human rights in Eastern Europe. The dramatic performances were prefaced by a poetry reading by Hungarian-born George Szirtes, who received the T S Eliot Prize in 2004, which met with great acclaim.
The third event, this time in the New Academic Building, was the premiere UK showing of German director Marco Wilms’s Comrade Couture, which takes a radical angle on the Velvet Revolution, showing how subversive fashion contributed to the eventual overthrow of the totalitarian regime in East Germany. This was complemented by an exhibition of photographs of the fall of the Berlin Wall (loaned from the German Government), and a large scale model of the Wall, commissioned by the LSE Language Centre. A wide range of LSE departments came to the showing, at which the film’s director took questions from the floor.