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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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This book is a contribution to the mosaic of knowledge about the development of culture, literature and artistic and sociopolitical thinking in Central Europe1, (Busek, Brix) part of which is the Slovak Republic2.

Little is known in the world about Slovak literature and culture, largely because this small but interesting country has been a part of other states for much of its history with its artistic achievements and leading figures often subsumed beneath another flag than the Slovak one. Its culture is a distinctive one, however, paradoxically preserved thanks to the long-lasting hegemonies it survived under. In this respect, Slovakia is unique within Central Europe; together with its official culture, there has always existed on its soil an alternative culture. This culture existed from the Middle Ages onwards on the crossroads of various trade routes and has endured, despite various kinds of linguistic and ideological pressure from outside, resistant to violence, universally and ecumenically Christian with a large measure of artistic inventiveness and warm sense of humour.

This book, translated into English, today’s Esperanto, deals with the complex developments of the 20th century and the sociopolitical processes much reflected in its art. The subject of analysis here is the life and work of the important Slovak author, Dominik Tatarka, signatory of Charter 77 – a Slovak Václav Havel. The English translation is the first monograph about him, a writer whose work was groundbreaking in several ways: in his essay Démon súhlasu (Kult...

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