Valéry, in our business
ideas are so rare that
if a man hits upon one
he certainly won't forget it.8
Beyond the inherent limits of science, constraints are imposed externally,
too. As a survivor of both the Nazi occupation and Communist governance,
Holub is acutely aware how politics can enmesh honest and open inquiry.
Indeed, Holub had personal experience with the practice of government
control. During Communist rule, Holub chose not to join the Communist
party; he also, as mentioned, participated in reformist activities.
cussions of these decisions were significant. He was fired from his
position at the Microbiological Institute, his books were banned for
many years, and his travel abroad was restricted. He had to issue
a public apology in order to work at even a junior position.9
personal experiences suffuse his poetry with a hypersensitivity to
authority. In "Žito the Magician," for example, Žito is able to do
every-thing the king requests: "To amuse His Royal Ma-jesty he will
change water into wine. Frogs into footmen. Beetles into bailiffs."
However, when Žito is asked to "think up sine alpha greater than one,"
Žito cannot do it, explaining that "sine is between plus one and minus
Like Žito, Holub sticks to proofs. A friend and translator of Holub's
poetry, David Young noted: "He viewed science and reason as antidotes
to Communism. He put his faith in facts and was critical of all expressions
Although the spectrum of challenges can be discouraging, our survival
as a species depends upon our study of the world. Equally important,
there is pleasure to be derived from overcoming obstacles; this is
the very heart of the scientific quest. Describing Holub's approach,