Tomas is listening to a program about the Czech emigration. It is made up of private conversations recorded by a Czech spy who infiltrated the émigré community, and it is mostly meaningless conversations sprinkled with some negative comments about the occupation. The program is intended to prove not only that emigres have bad things to say about the occupation, but that they have bad things to say about each other. “Every country has its secret police,” Tomas says to Tereza. “But a secret police that broadcasts its tapes over the radio—there’s something that could happen only in Prague, something absolutely without precedent!”
Tereza later says that it is exactly this lack of privacy that makes Czechoslovakia so oppressive. By broadcasting private conversations publicly, the government pits the citizens against one another, creating dissent and strife, a maneuver that is typical of oppressive governments. By keeping the citizens busy fighting each other, they are too occupied to band together and rise up against the government. Tomas’s comment that every country has secret police suggests that all governments are, in some way, oppressive and dishonest.
Tereza tells Tomas about a time when she was a young girl and kept a secret diary. Tereza’s mother found the diary, Tereza says, and read it out loud at dinner. Tereza was humiliated, and her siblings laughed so hard they could barely eat.
Tomas implies that the level of oppression found in communism is completely unprecedented, but Tereza’s story suggests it isn’t. Kundera argues that all political regimes are oppressive, not just communism—and what’s more, interpersonal relationship often mirror the same oppressive dynamics.