I owe Jean-François to the Soviet Invasion of 1968. Had this “border incident” not occurred, I would have never left Prague, given up a highly interesting work and a happy life..
Actually, Jean-François represented my only way out. Instead of following the crowds routing westwards at the sight of the Russian tanks, I stayed in Prague until a sordid truth dawned upon me: the majority of my fellow-countrymen prefer to chew their daily collaborationist bread rather than resist and get short of it, consequently. This means of sustenance was too much for my fussy stomach and not enough to keep my body and soul together. Nothing doing. Don’t throw the blame on me.
I didn’t feel either like affiliating with the “dissidents”. Many of them were the former builders and pillars of the communist regime and, since the Communist Putsch in 1948, the headsmen of my fellow creatures and of my most treasured values.
Thus I did not hesitate to use the password “scholarship” to force my passage through the border in February 1970 virtually closed. Going away was the only way of retaining my human dignity without giving up a decent way of life and my place in the sun. To keep my work would have meant signing a statement approving the entry of the Russian occupying forces and their allies. Otherwise I would have been sacked and forced to resume my former job of an unskilled factory hand, far from Prague and my other ties.
That my “deus ex machina” was Jean-François is both chosen and destined.
One rainy day of my childhood, I discovered in my grandfather’s library, that I was free to explore to my heart’s content, the novels of Madeleine de Scudéry. I struck up a lifelong friendship with her and her lot, an affinity that proved to be fatal. Mademoiselle de Scudéry made me understand that I can escape the real world by way of my imagination and thus turned me into a writer.
Jean-François Sarasin, the tender and unofficial friend of Madeleine de Scudéry, was fated to enter into this scheme as the catalyst of my two escapes, spiritual as well as concrete.