It’s about time I wrote more about The Garden Party. Around the time of Havel’s death over a year ago, I wrote a post detailing my enjoyment of the play. Also, a few months following his death, I found myself in Prague once again and was witness to how influencing he was to the Czech people. There was in memoriam graffiti all throughout the city.
Czech literature, especially in the 1960s, is filled with humor and satire that came from its rocky political history. I don’t know why lately I’ve been thinking of The Garden Party but I do lament the fact that almost every book I own is sitting sadly in a storage unit–my copy of The Garden Party: and Other Plays included. But as luck would have it, I found a scanned PDF on my computer of just that one play from the collection. I was thrilled and hurriedly took to it.
The Garden Party concerns itself with the Pludek family. Hugo, one of the sons, is at the age when his father thinks he should be doing something productive with his life. A friend of his father, Kalabis, is invited to the house to meet Hugo and size him up, but, alas, the man cancels at the last minute citing his involvement at a garden party for the liquidation office. Hugo is sent off to the party to meet him.
What ensues is Hugo’s ability to quickly ingrain himself into the bureaucratic environment of the liquidation office. The clerk and secretary often repeat the same words and phrases over and over again leading to a bizarre irrationality to their rationale (or is their bizarre rationale to their irrationality). Specific bureaucratic language is also called upon throughout the dialogue.
Over the course of the party, Hugo so impresses them that the employees think he is a seasoned worker. The Garden Party ends with Hugo being put in charge of liquidating the liquidation office. His language has changed and he has metamorphosed into one of them. While in costume, Hugo’s parents don’t even recognize him because he has become a bureaucrat.
Havel’s play can be enjoyed simply as an absurdist work but its historical context is an important one. He is satirizing the Communist regime which was devoid of ideals like creativity and culture.
In the earlier mentioned post, I also spoke about a Czech film, A Report on the Party and Guests, which I absolutely love but only saw once because I had a hell of a time trying to find it. Well, good news! It’s on Criterion Collection and is available in the US through Hulu.