This article deals with the proceedings against the general secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, Rudolf Slánský, and thirteen other high officials. The most striking feature of confessional trials such as his is the lack of any manifest culpability for gross miscarriages of justice. To explain the phenomenon, this essay draws an analogy to poetic techniques that inform Franz Kafka's universe of discourse (prolepsis, actualization of figures of speech, illocutions lacking conventional force). The concluding section illustrates howguilt that was suppressed for fifteen years burst into the open in Milan Kundera's novel The Joke, and howthis text prefigured the discourse of reformist Communism during Prague spring of 1968.

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