Free Roman Polanski!

Milan Kundera
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Milan Kundera

This article is part of a special edition of Haaretz, to mark Israel's book week.

I have never met Roman Polanski. I know him only through his work, which I have loved ever since his first films, and through whatever I have been able to learn of his life. He has always seemed to me to be of an exemplary European character, given his childhood encounter with anti-Semitism, his repeated experiences as an emigre, and his classic and beautiful blend of Polish and French cultures.

However, although I do not know him personally, he has been on my mind more than any other person for the past eight months. I can envisage him forcibly confined and continually monitored in a Swiss chalet where he is trying to work but - as I well know - is unable to.

Roman Polanski.Credit: AP

When you are accused of a crime, you are always in prison. The accusation preoccupies you; it prevents you from thinking about anything else. It deprives you of life itself.

I will say nothing here about the legal aspect of this entire affair. Nonetheless, I do wish to say that European art, literature and theater have taught us that we must tear the curtain off all judicial, religious and ideological rules and that we must view human existence in all its concrete reality.

As someone who feels a loyalty to that culture, I refuse to be blind to the absurdity of Polanski's situation: He is being persecuted for an act that took place 33 years ago. All the protagonists in the drama long ago pardoned him. For this act, he is the defendant in an endless trial that will benefit no one. Absolutely no one.

If Europe is still Europe, if it is still heir of its own culture, it cannot give tacit agreement to the absurdity of the cruel pantomime that is currently being played out in a Swiss chalet.

The writer, winner of the Jerusalem Prize, authored "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," among other novels.