Art and Life in Modernist Prague: Karel Čapek and His by Thomas Ort (auth.)

By Thomas Ort (auth.)

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49 But for his untimely death, Karel Čapek would have undoubtedly met a similarly tragic end. One of the ironies of Čapek’s career is that despite the fame he enjoyed in his lifetime, he is little known today outside his homeland and even there his reputation suffered in the post–World War II period. His career has followed a course almost exactly the opposite of Introduction 25 that of his close contemporary Franz Kafka (1883–1924), who in his own lifetime was barely known beyond a small circle of friends, but who now ranks as one of the giants of modern literature.

The generation of the 1890s In certain respects, however, the situation in Prague at the end of the nineteenth century was not entirely different from that in Vienna and Budapest. Not everyone was content with the overwhelmingly nationalistic tenor of Czech cultural life. On the contrary, as with Lukács’s generation, there was a significant reaction against these circumstances in favor of a more cosmopolitan, individualistic, and psychological orientation in the arts. ” The generation of the 1890s occupies a highly privileged place in Czech cultural history.

Only by understanding the way in which their social and national circumstances shaped their cultural aspirations is it possible to appreciate that which is unique to Prague. 19 Taking Schorske’s lead, the Hungarian historian Péter Hanák has provided a useful contrast to Vienna by way of an analysis of cultural life in Budapest during the same period. Hanák affirms Prague 1911 43 Schorske’s principal thesis of a retreat into private gardens of the self in Vienna and identifies similar attitudes in Budapest (though he sees Budapest’s cultural development lagging behind that of Vienna by about a decade).

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Categories: Modernism