Home Institution

Susquehanna University

Publication Date

Spring 2005

Program Name

Czech Republic: Arts, Community, and Transition


Much of Czech literature of the twentieth century leans heavily on the political and historical context of a given time period. This is not true of Franz Kafka, but his work is nonetheless reflective of many elements of Czech history after the turn of the century. This paper explores the role that Kafka’s The Trial and Czech political and social history plays in the formation of works of fiction and drama, and concludes that Czech authors Hašek, Hrabal, and Havel all deal explicitly with political and historical themes, and draw from Kafka, while the authors Škvorecky and Kundera are also forced to reconcile with history despite the fact that the historical and political themes in their novels are secondary to the interests of the fiction. The first group of authors is linked by their use of absurdity; the second group does not utilize absurdity, but rather a more straightforward narrative approach. The paper also examines Czech history as relevant to the settings of the novels in an attempt to show that authors had no choice but to deal with their historical and political situation because of the totalitarian nature of the political (and often military) forces occupying the Czech lands. It is argued here that Czech fiction is inextricably linked to its historical context and that the authors’ reconstruction of this context plays an important role in the development of the fictional worlds and characters.


European History | History | Slavic Languages and Societies


Article Location