This was my first encounter with ‘dissidents’: the people who, to my later astonishment, would be the first democratically elected leaders of post-communist Czechoslovakia. And I felt towards these people an immediate affinity. Nothing was of such importance for them as the survival of their national culture. Deprived of material and professional advancement, their days were filled with a forced meditation on their country and its past, and on the great Question of Czech History that has preoccupied the Czechs since the movement for national revival in the nineteenth century. They were forbidden to publish; the authorities had concealed their existence from the world, and had resolved to remove their traces from the book of history. Hence the dissidents were acutely conscious of the value of memory. Their lives were an exercise in what Plato called anamnesis: the bringing to consciousness of forgotten things. Something in me responded immediately to this poignant ambition, and I was at once eager to join with them and make their situation known to the world. And I recognized that anamnesis described the meaning of my life too.

Roger Scruton