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Dominik Tatarka: the Slovak Don Quixote

(Freedom and Dreams)


Mária Bátorová

The book deals with the question of resistance to Soviet hegemony in Central Europe after 1968, when Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. The political and cultural situation in the context of Central Europe is presented through the life and work of the Slovak dissident, the writer Dominik Tatarka, who signed Charta 77 immediately after Václav Havel. For the first time, the wider context of resistance to violence and to intellectual as well as material hegemony is explored here. Using the comparative method, this work considers historical, philosophical and sociological ramifications of this resistance. To understand the issues of dissent means to comprehend the alternative and parallel culture of the 20 th century. Thanks to this culture and the efforts of intellectuals in particular, the present-day relatively free conditions for creation and life in general were created. On the basis of the literary work and life of one of the Charta 77 signatories, Dominik Tatarka, this work addresses the topic of dissident literature. By the use of the comparative method Slovak literature is analysed alongside other literatures of Central Europe (e.g. the literature of Czech dissent Václav Havel, Ludvík Vaculík), as well as French (exploring the genetic connection between Dominik Tatarka and Albert Camus). This illustrates the wider context of the idea of freedom and free cultural values characterizing Tatarka’s work.
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3. Essays on culture (Aesthetic and political opinions)



       Essays1 on culture

       (Aesthetic and political opinions)

“Collective and unexpected disruption of connections and traditions unexplained by national and individual development and needs, each breach or scattering of the system of communicating symbols forming each national culture can be understood only as a defeat or a catastrophe, as an attempt at the disintegration of the human and national personality.”

Dominik Tatarka: “Vyznanie sochárom”. Kultúrny život, 1968.

Tatarka relates to the 19th century not only through his apology for Romanticism, but also through his use of a significant genre from this period – the essay. If a “posturing which is a form of the figurativeness of the narrative forms of literature” (Valček) is characteristic of the essay, this theoretical instruction is close to Tatarka. Discernment using the “subject-object synthesis” inherent to the essay, but not to poetry and the epic, however, cannot be applied in Tatarka, because he rather disproportionately and arbitrarily ← 69 | 70 → works with time and space, both in his essays as well as in his prose works. The author replaces loss of continuity, associational splits and time disjunctions, with back currents and repeated ideas. This is one of the reasons why some literary critics and historians assign the essays he wrote during times of internal emigration to the postmodern. These symptoms of form are not sufficient for such a classification, however. It is impossible to perceive the breaches of continuity, the spontaneity in presenting arguments...

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