Cultural Cut – Heda Margolius Kovály – Innocence; or, Murder on Steep Street

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Create Date3.1.2018

To say that the ‘noir’ detective novel is not usually associated with communist era Czechoslovakia would be an understatement. Heda Margolius Kovály’s Innocence, which we present an excerpt from here as our fourth ‘Cultural Cut’, should change that. And, while Murder on Steep Street unsettles the assumptions of time and place that we associate with this genre, it should also unsettle some of the assumptions and stereotypes that remain common currency for understanding the lives of those who lived under ‘actually existing socialism’. Heda’s son, Ivan Margolius, notes in his introduction that the characters, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances - detectives, the women who work at the cinema, the people they meet and who try to meet them – “struggle to overcome the stranglehold of the Communist regime.” But many of them also try to turn the regime’s particularities to their own advantage. As the artist Jenny Holzer has noted, abuse of power comes as no surprise, but it is the small (ab)uses at every level of power, and the interplay of power, resistance and acquiescence, often in search of ‘innocence’, that echo the theoretical sophistication of Michel Foucault and the moral philosophy of Václav Havel. We are grateful to Ivan Margolius and to Soho Press for the chance to publish this excerpt.