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  You are in: Home > Literary Criticism & Linguistics > Writers Under Siege  

Writers Under Siege
Czech Literature since 1945

Jiří Holy

The author, Jiří Holy, is Professor of Czech Literature at Charles University in Prague.

The translators: Jan Ćulík is Senior Lecturer in Czech Studies at the University of Glasgow, Scotland; Elizabeth S. Morrison is a graduate of Glasgow University.


This History presents a broad canvas of post-war Czech literary developments within the cultural and political context of the times. Information is provided about the many English-language translations from Czech literature, and the circumstances in which these translations came about. Analysis is by way of quoting from original Czech works, especially poetry, with English translation. “Profiles of the Most Important Czech Writers since 1945” gives biographical and bibliographical details about the most important post-war Czech writers, and links to secondary literature in English. The volume also includes a bibliographical list of the most important works in English on Czech history, literary history and politics, as well as a list of anthologies of Czech post-war literature in English.

Originally published in Czech as part of a larger project (Ćeská literatura od počátků k dnešku [Czech Literature from its Beginnings to the Present Day], Prague, 1998, expanded edition 2002), an updated version of this History was published in German as Geschichte der tschechischen Literatur des 20. Jahrhunderts (Vienna 2003). This English translation has been entirely re-worked, taking the needs of the English-speaking reader and student into consideration. The translation was made by Elizabeth S. Morrison, in cooperation with Jiří Holy and Jan Čulík, Senior Lecturer in Czech Studies at the University of Glasgow.

Writers Under Siege is intended for all readers interested in or studying the literatures and cultures of Central Europe. It is essential reading for students of Czech and Slavonic Studies.

Preface and Acknowledgments

The Development of Czech Literature

From May to February
1 Reverberations of War
2 The Testimony of Poetry
3 The Politico-Cultural Debate
4 The War Generation
5 Prose

The Bleak Years
1 Stalinism
2 Literature in the Grip of Dogmatism
3 Exile
4 Underground Literature
5 Signs of the Thaw

The Thaw
1 The Decline of Stalinism
2 Poetry
3 Drama and the Theatre
4 Prose

Between Dogmatism and Reformism
1 The Rise of Criticism
2 Freedom of Expression
3 Politico-Cultural Polemics

A Happy Era in Literature
1 Poetry
2 Changes in Prose
3 Novels of Disillusionment
4 Literary Criticism

The Sixties Generation
1 The Development of the Younger Generation
2 Poetry
3 Drama and the Theatre, Prose
4 Singers and Songwriters

The Experimental Era
1 Poetry
2 Prose

Nineteen Sixty-Eight
1 Writers in Conflict with the Communist Party
2 “The Prague Spring”
3 Defeat of the Reformers

1 Restoring “Order”
2 Literature Divided The

Three Worlds of Literature
1 Literature Published in Czechoslovakia
2 A Grey Area
3 The Creation of Samizdat
4 Samizdat Literature
5 Literature in Exile
6 Drama and the Theatre
7 Literary Criticism

The Eighties Generation and Postmodernism

1 The Eighties Generation
2 Prose and Postmodernism
3 Drama and the Theatre
4 Poets and Songwriters

Literary Life without Barriers
1 Change of Function
2 Poetry
3 Prose

Conclusion: Lines of Development
Profiles of the Most Important Czech Writers since 1945
Anthologies of Czech Postwar Literature in English


“This new English translation of Holy’s work offers a comprehensive overview of postwar Czech literature, focusing not just on the best known figures such as Milan Kundera and Vaclav Havel but also including many writers who are completely unfamiliar to international readers. During the communist period, as was the case across the Eastern Bloc, some of the most influential writers were erased from official literary criticism for political and ideological reasons. Since the end of communism, Czech scholars have been able to present a more complete account of their nation’s recent cultural history, and with the publication of Holy’s monograph in English, Western readers now have access to one of the most important Czech literary reference works of the last decade.

Holy’s Writers Under Siege is an essential source for scholars in Slavic and Central European studies, and may become the definitive reference work in English on post-war Czech literature. Hopefully, its appearance (published in the 40th anniversary year of the historic ‘Prague Spring’) will serve as a starting point for the further study and translation of Czech writers whose work has until now remained unknown outside their native language.” Europe-Asia Studies

“The curious general educated public will receive a well-rounded picture of Czech literature in the years under consideration. As for specialists, they too will find much to ponder and possibly even come away with a reading list of potentially rewarding works hitherto overlooked.” Slavic and East European Journal, Michael Heim, University of California, Los Angeles

“The appearance of Holy’s book in English fills a long-felt gap, as there has not been an English-language compendium on the subject since Arne Novak’s 1976 Czech Literature (revised edition 1986) which describes what happened up to the Second World War . . . Holy’s book, already published twice in Prague as part of the multi-authored project Czech Literature from its Beginnings to the Present Day, 1998; expanded edition 2002) and translated, in a somewhat different version, in German (2003), will remaind a standard teaching aid for Czech and Slavonic Studies courses for years to come.” Central Europe


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
360 pp. / 246 x 171 mm
Release Date:
November 2007
  Illustrated:   Yes
Hardback Price:
£55.00 / $69.50
Paperback Price:
£22.50 / $37.50

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