Ivan Klima

Letter From Prague: Ivan Klima Describes how Pop Singers Threaten a Great Literary Tradition


Literature and in particular, writers have played an exceptional role in the history of the ·modern Czech nation. It was mainly writers who were responsible for the National Revival and the rebirth of the Czech language at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In this century’s atmosphere of strong nationalism, writers (often mediocre ones) became national heroes, the mouthpiece of society, the public’s celebrated darlings. In 1895, for example, a collection of mediocre, socially patriotic verses from Svatopluk Cech’s Songs of the Slave appeared in 24 editions in under a year, something that to any poet today would be unthinkable. Literature retained its exceptional status even during the free republic’s short period of existence between the two world wars, and, due primarily to the political situation, also under the Communist regime . Writers were the most active sector of society during the Prague Spring in 1968 and the period leading up to it. For many years, the writers’ association’s weekly newspaper, Literání noviny was the principal tribune of the opposition intelligentsia.

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