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Czech literature

Modern Czech Literature

After 1890 realism gained force with the writings of the influential critic Thomas Masaryk. Proletarian and rural themes were developed, and writers such as Jaroslav Vrchlický, J. S. Machar, Petr Bezruč, and Otokar Březina won fame at home, while Karel Čapek brought Czech literature into the mainstream of world letters. In the period from 1918 to 1938 Czech literature was the most cosmopolitan of the Slavonic literatures; at the same time native themes were cultivated. A dominant trend was the movement away from the intellectual and the individual toward the abstract and the hedonistic. Jaroslav Hašek produced his classic war satire, The Good Soldier Schweik (4 vol., 1920–23), and Franz Kafka dominated the literary circles of Prague.

The German occupation saw the destruction of Czech literary art and the death of many outstanding figures. After World War II a reorientation of Czech writing toward Russia ensued, and socialist realism became dominant in Czech literature. Postwar novelists of note include Egon Hostovský and Jan Drda. Some relaxation of the strictures of socialist realism was evident in the 1950s and 60s. The postwar emigration produced a great flowering in Czech letters, including two writers with world reputations, Milan Kundera and Josef Škvorecký.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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