Repression, literature, and the growth and metamorphosis of Czech national identity in the 20th century
McQuinn, Ilana Rachel
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Czechoslovakia in the 20th Century followed a tumultuous path that led it to freedom from the three-hundred year yoke of the Habsburg Empire, an existence as a small democratic nation surrounded by dictatorship, Nazi occupation twenty short years later, and finally the total and complete de-individualization under Soviet Communism. Pushed to independence by the frustration with a protracted existence as the “other” in the German dominated Habsburg Empire, Czechs continued to struggle with developing an identity independent of the crutch of the “other.” Some have argued that the muted method of resistance that the Czechs employed through the majority of the Nazi and Communist control of Czechoslovakia weakened the Czech claim to a unified identity as a people. The ironic comedies of Jaroslav Hašek and Bohumil Hrabal, however, exemplify how crucial intellectual and literary figures became for solidifying the Czech national identity. This paper examines the manner in which Czech culture and national identity developed in the 20th Century with special attention to The Good Soldier Švejk, Closely Watched Trains, and Too Loud a Solitude from the repressive periods of World War I, World War II, and Communist control.