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The Czech Avant-Garde Literary Movement Between the World Wars

edited by Ondrej Sládek and Michael Heim

Thomas G. Winner, Ondrej Sládek and Michael Heim

The Czech Avant-Garde Literary Movement Between the Two World Wars tells the little-known story of the renaissance of Czech literary arts in the period between the two world wars. The avant-garde writers during this period broke down the barrier between the elite literary language and the vernacular and turned to spoken language, substandard forms, everyday sources such as newspapers and detective stories, and forms of popular entertainment such as the circus and the cabaret. In his analyses of the writings of this period, Thomas G. Winner illuminates the aesthetic and linguistic characteristics of these works and shows how poetry and linguistics can be combined. The Czech Avant-Garde Literary Movement Between the Two World Wars is essential reading for courses on modern Czech literature, comparative literature, and Slavic literature.
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Chapter Seven. From Poetism to Surrealism


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From Poetism to Surrealism

One drizzly Sunday morning in April 1990 my wife and I found ourselves in a large hall in Prague watching the solemn inaugural meeting of the Karel Teige Society. I had been invited to become an honorary foreign member of a society aiming, as I was told, to re-ignite a Czech surrealist tradition that, though it had never lost its vigor, had been forced underground for many decades. On the dais facing the packed hall sat the artistic and theoretical leaders of Czech Surrealism, including, among many others, Jan Švankmajer, Jiří Brabec, and Josef Zumr. Some were missing. They had not survived the years of totality, as the communist period has been called: Karel Teige, the leader of Czech Surrealism, died in 1951after being brutally persecuted by the Stalinists. Nor had his successor, Vratislav Effenberger, survived. As one of the original signers of Charter 77 he too had been relentlessly persecuted. But his widow and son, Jakub, both attended the meeting, which lasted many hours and was marked by a passionate debate about the role of Surrealism in the cultural milieu of free Czechoslovakia. The debate was suffused with a feeling of pride: surrealist art had not been defeated during the communist decades and now nurtured ambitious plans. The Teige Society would publish a journal called Jarmark umění (Art Fair) after the title of one of Teige’s works of the 1930s (Teige 1936).

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