Czech Literature since the 1980s

Jiri Holy

Institute for Czech literature, Czech Academy for Sciences

Jan Culik's note: This is a lecture, given by Dr. Holy at Glasgow University. It is based on the final chapter of his study Ceska literatura: od roku 1945 do soucasnosti (Czech literature: From 1945 to the present), which was published in Prague in 1996.

Two final chapters of this important study in the Czech original are available on the net at this address.Those who are interested in reading examples of contemporary Czech fiction in English, should order the anthology "This side of reality", edited by Alexandra Buechler, published in 1996 by Serpent's Tail, 4 Blackstock Mews, London N4 and 180 Varick Street, 10th floor, New York, NY 10014

After the communist takeover of power in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, there existed a single, united, official youth organization, the Czechoslovak Union of Youth, a kind of Czechoslovak Komsomol. Seemingly the situation was identical after the Russian invasion of 1968, although the centralised, communist-run organisation for young people had regrouped and changed its name to Socialist Union of Youth, the SSM (Josef ákvoreckù called it, scathingly, the SS Youth).

In fact, the situation in the 1970s and 1980s differed considerably from the 1950s. After the Second World War, a large number of young Czechs actually believed in communism. In the 1960s, young Czechs started losing their communist faith and after 1968, sincere faith in communist ideology became almost extinct in Czechoslovakia. In the so-called post 1968 "normalisation", hypocrisy ruled almost all the time. People ceased being interested in ideals and supported communism in order to advance their careers. The post 1968 Socialist Union of Youth was a formal, hollow organisation. Its officials proclaimed that they were devoted to the regime, yet at the same time the organisation gave protection to groups of actors, musicians and environmentalists, whose aims were totally against the official ideology.

In 1983, the commanders of the Warsaw Pact decided to station Soviet nuclear weapons on the territory of Czechoslovakia. Until then, the Czech media had systematically and emphatically protested against NATOÕs nuclear weapons, stationed in Western Europe. Suddenly, the Czech media started a campaign supporting the stationing of Soviet missiles in Czechoslovakia. Thingking people in Czechoslovakia were obviously irritated by this. The unofficial human rights group Charter 77 made statements to the effect that the idea of peace was inseparable from the concept of human rights and that international tension could only be reduced if governments behaved responsibly ad if information was allowed to flow freely.

Czech young people also protested against the Russian missiles. Everey year, on 8th December, they gathered together in the Old Town of Prague, on the Kampa island, by a symbolic monument to John Lennon, whose assasination became for them a symbol of protest against violence. Informal performances of protest song took place at this "graveside". In 1984, these groups of young people filled the whole Charles Bridge, a 14th century bridge with Baroque statues in the centre of Prague. The police attacked the demonstrators with batons and trained dogs. A year later, some young demonstrators marched to the Prague castle, the seat of the Czech President, chanting, "No missile is a peace missile!" "Give peace a chance!" "Abolish the army!" A spontaneous petition was organised: "We do not agree with the stationing of any nuclear missiles either in Western or Eastern Europe."

This period produced a large number of poems and protest songs by non-conformist song-writers like Slavek Janousek, Jaromir Nohavica and Jim Cert. These songs expressed indirectly the resistance of young Czechs against the nondemocratic regime. It was impossible to write open poetry of protest. Festivals of so-called "folk music" became extremely popular. The songs, played at these festivals, were inspired by the Western, Dylanesque tradition and had typically Czech, obliquely political content. For instance the Porta Festival was eventally attended by a hundred thousand young people.

What did these songs sound like? Here is a song by Jarom’r Nohavica.

Listen to the common manÕs blues, common manÕs blus

this is a common manÕs blues

beautiful common manÕs blues

When I saw the pyramids for the first time in my life

I cursed all the Cheopses and Rameses

I am one of the billion people

who always have to carry the burden of those above

The rulers draw plans for their sandstone statues

to make sure history remembers them

I then have to make the nuts and bolts for the Pershings

if I refused they would smash my head in

For a bunch of radishes and also for some onions

I have become the clown of history, the nameless human being

I am the doormat for Caesar, the lance for Caligula

I am the negative of history, always ready for the retouching

Whenever I raised my head, I was always punished

under various guises of democracy

I now hardly believe in Lord Jesus Christs and good in the world

I doubt Christ even exists

They write about me in the newpapers saying I am the backbone of the world

but I am just one of its tired muscles

Spaceships fly to the moon

I crawl about the ground like a dung beetle

But I also have a heart, it does beat

donÕt you presume that I only think of food

why does nobody ever listen to me

Why must I be only a workhorse?

I donÕt believe in any noble speeches any more

I just believe in myself

What I donÕt manage to claw together for myself I wonÕt have

Why are you promising me heaven after death

I have been born for once, and so I want to live now

I am one of a billion people

a cogwheel that nicely fits into the mechanism

I do not want to build your stupid pyramids

leave me alone and fuck off

These kind of lyrics expressed the feelings of a generation which had grown up at the time when Czech society decomposed in subjugation within tightly closed borders, under pressure of foreign domination. The young Czechs of the 1970s and 1980s were deeply impressed by rock music and by punk culture. They felt that rock and punk were capable of expressing the coarseness and cruelty of society around them, as well as their own personal emotions of disappointment. Musical bands of the so-called "New Wave" expressed the feelings of emptiness and irony towards society as well as towards oneself. The names of these bands were often deliberately absurd, such as Prazsky vyber (the Prague Choice - this is a wine label), Jasna paka (A Clear Lever), Garage, Visaci zamek (Padlock). Young people created informal associations connected to sporting clubs. They met in pubs, they founded informal environmental and religious groups. They were looking for a philosophy which would have nothing in common with the officially prescribed ideology.

The mental attitudes of the generation whose members were born at the end of the 1950s and during the 1960s penetrated into samizdat, into the so-called "grey zone in the arts" and partially also into officially permitted literature. The typical features were pessimism, loneliness, obsessive images of walls or catastrophic floods, alcoholic intoxication, mental illnes and lunatic asylum, dream-like images of flying. The young people of the 1970s and 1980s felt a close affinity to the Czech poets of the Second World War, in particular to the proto-existentialist Jiri Orten, a young Jew, living in Prague, who was killed in an accident, by a German ambulance at the age of 22 in 1941. OrtenÕs poetry, which is intensely concentrated on the poetÕs personal existence and which expresses fear and depression, internal purity and wounded tenderness, was regarded as very topical. Just as topical was distrust towards optimism, grand gestures and pompous statements, scepticism towards politics and public affairs.

It is obvious that this scepticism was the product of the political situation in Czechoslovakia in the 1980s, nevertheless it went beyond its framework. The scepticism of the young Czechs grew into distrust towards the whole contemporary civilisation and its consequences. "I was totally disinterested in any Prague Springs,foreign invasions, falls of governments, differences between East and West," says the narrator of Daleko od stromu, Far from the Tree, a work of fiction by Zuzana Brabcova from 1984.

In 1985 a volume of poetry by young samizdat authors was gathered together by Andrej Stankovic. It had a title, typical for the atmosphere of the times Uz na to seru, protoze to mam za par. Go fuck yourself I am buggering off soon. Two very strong young talents appeared in this collection of poems for the very first time, Jachym Topol and Petr Placak, both poets and prose writers. They both belonged to the writers gathered around the samizdat periodical Revolver Revue and they also collaborated with non-conformist rock musicians. Topol wrote lyrics mostly for the band "Dog Soldiers", run by his brother, also PlacakÕs brother Jan is a well known rock musician.

Jachym Topol is the son of the playwright Josef Topol, who became famous in the 1960s by his lyrical, existential plays, performed in Prague in Otomar KrejcaÕs Divadlo za branou: A Theatre Beyond the Gates. Jachym Topol gathered together his first three collections of poems into a volume, entitled Miluju te k zblazneni, I am crazy about you, (samizdat 1988, Brno 1991). The features of this and TopolÕs next volume of poems, V utery bude valka (On Tuesday, there will be war, 1992) are the typical features of TopolÕs generation: feelings of danger from the outside as well as from the inside, heighened emotion, agressive language, four-letter words, which are mixed with literary, bookish style. The outside world seems to Topol totally unacceptable. It is devoid of any value. It is sickening. The lyrical hero of the poems sees himself as an outcast, full of despair. The only positive motive is his sympathy towards the "threatened species such as Red Indians, the white whale or "my beautiful sister".

Jachym Topol (1962)

My writing will be ugly

While my brother has been arrrested

I mess around in pubs

I talk rubbish sleep with girls

and tell myself IÕm writing

While the chief of the tribe is trying to commit suicide

I am not using my mental energy

to go anywhere. I am just effing about

with variations to the sixtieth verse about nothing

While my dear one is praying somewhere in a funny farm

I start fights at railway stations hit on loose women

laze around chainsmoke cheap cigarettes sit in the cinema

drink beer and out of my skull try to finish writing this

hellish fiction

While my friends are getting married

trying to pray away abortions fainting

in lunacy, illegally leaving the country

starting new lives elsewhere

I work like the clappers, running around from one mess to another

and back again

While I am in prison while I have committed suicide

while I have gone mad while I am drunk while I am dead

while I have gone through an abortion and pregnancy and happiness

the book is swelling up and grimacing

It scares me, chasing me from the corner of the room

to the centre of the room

the crossroads called Angel in Smichov in Prague

will be now called Moscow Station

This will be ugly

The motif of "my beautiful sister", which points towards a mystical bond of love, once lost and now again sought after, is only implied in TopolÕs poems. This motif has become one of the main themes of TopolÕs large prosaic work, Sestra, Sister, (1994), whose origins date back to the 1980s. Sestra is again filled with TopolÕs brutal sensitivity, his gloomy view of contemporary civilisation, his anxious expectation that the end of the world is nigh, his foreboding, anticipating the Apocalypse. Sestra tells the story of what happened to a group of young people from Prague after the fall of communism in 1989. Their life, partially set in an apocalyptic underworld, which freely mixes with the highest establishment circles in new Czechoslovakia is very adventurous.

What is particularly interesting about Sestra is its style and its narrative technique. The narration is permeated with long lyrical passages, reminiscent of incantations. "the stream of text rolls on like a swollen river", said the Prague critic Josef Vohryzek.

Petr Placak, who is two years younger than Topol, published his first work, Medorek, in samizdat in 1985 (it came out in print in 1990). Placak, who was twenty-one, when Medorek appeared in samizdat in 1985, thus drew considerable attention of unofficial literary critics to himself. Medorek remains to date his most significant work. The work tells the story of one Medor who in Chapter One starts working in a factory as a sixteen-year-old. PlacakÕs fiction is slightly more realistic than TopolÕs texts. But Placak also works with a very loose style, dream-like and phantasmagoric scenes. He also uses satirical hyperbole.

Petr Placak, by the way, was in the 1980s a leading member of a rather unusual opposition civic grouping, calling themselves Ceske deti, The Czech children, who demanded the restoration of monarchy in Bohemia. (The last king of Czech nationality was George of Podebrady in the 15th century.)

At the porterÕs lodge, he asked for the personnel department. He climbed the stairs and knocked at the door. That bloody swine, the Karenin woman was sitting in the office. At that point though, he did not know yet what she was about.

"Good morning," he said.

She raised her tortoise head from the desk and barked: "What do you want?"

"I am supposed to start working here."

"WhatÕs your name!"

"Medor, Karel Medor," he said.

"Oh, thatÕs you," she made a grimace and then her ugly mug contracted,

"where have you been? How dare you, we expected you a month ago. We were about to report you to the police!"

"I was ill," he whispered.

"Oh yes? I donÕt believe a word of what you are saying," she puckered her nigger lips.

Medor - a character with a number of autobiographical features - escapes the joyless present of the "really existing socialism" into the world of pubs, into the world of dreams, into supporting football clubs, into samizdat writing and into setting up secret oppositionist associations.

The third important writer of the 1980s generation is Zuzana Brabcova. She published her prose Far from the Tree in Czech samizdat in 1984 (the work was published in Prague in 1991).

Even BrabcovaÕs narrator, the twenty-year-old Vera feels caught in joyless isolation. After attempting suicide, she ends up in a lunatic asylum. The outside reality, the public arena, is seen as a threat. Prague appears to be a "glass metropolis, devoid of people", which is being sumberged in a flood.

The theme of the flood is typical for Czech prose of the 1970s and the 1980s. It appears in the cult prose from the Czech underground, Invalidni sourozenci, The Disabled Siblings from 1974 by Egon Bondy, in the most mature work by Bohumil Hrabal, Prilis hlucna samota, Too Noisy Solitude (1976) and also in Ivan KlimaÕs novel Laska a smeti, Love and Garbage (1988). The territory of the novels - in Hrabal, Brabcova and Klima it is the territory of Prague - is claimed by the deluge. In HrabalÕs work, the outside world is turning into a huge hydraulic press, in KlimaÕs novel it is turning into a gigantic heap of rubbish, which are about to devour everything.

Zuzana BrabcovaÕs hero Vera escapes into her inner world. In despair, she looks for her own identity and for a semblance of order. She finds solace in her memories, in her relation to her ancestors and in creative writing, in the language of poetry, which survives when confronted with empty propadandistic rituals. The themes of memory and poetic creativity merge in the motif of the tree from the title. The image of a large plane tree at the Prague island of Kampa recurs. It is connected with the Poet and the Clown - that is with the great Czech poet Vladimir Holan and the famous intellectual comedian Jan Werich, who both lived in Kampa.

BrabcovaÕs Far from the Tree is also a rather fragmentary, loose piece of fiction. There are many different narrative lines, the chronology of the work is not linear, there are many symbols and fantastic elements. However, unlike TopolÕs and PlacakÕs work, BrabcovaÕs ficton has a firm fundament. It has a well thought-out composition, a subtle and complex system of hints and recurrent thematic cross-references.

The most recent work by Brabcova, Zlodejina, Thievery, published ten years after her debut, in 1995 has a similar construction, which is based on a similar recurrent whirlwind of motifs and keywords. Zlodejina tells the seemingly different stories of two characters. The first of them, Eman Podoba, was beaten up by the police during demonstrations in Prague in November 1989 (Podoba refers to the biblical Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale, as well as to Jesus). The other character is shop assistant Hana Mateju who comes to be stuck in a lift in a block of high-rise flats. At the end of the work, both characters find redemption, or at least hope.

Other Czech authors work within a very similar poetics. Vit KremlickaÕs work Lodni denik A ShipÕs Log (1991, earlier published in the samizdat Revolver Review) is related to Jachym Topol. The emigre writer Iva Pekarkova is close to PlacakÕs Medorek. Pekarkova has written a coarse story of a Czech woman intellectual who out of the goodness of her heart becomes a prostitute on the roads. This novel, Pera a perute, Feathers and Wings, was first published by 68 Publishers, Toronto in 1989, then in Prague in 1992. Ludvik Nemec, a young officially permitted writer, attracted attention in 1982 with his second novel Hra na slepo, A Blind ManÕs Buff . Through its critical attitude to Czech reality, as well as by a number of its motifs, NemecÕs work is related to the works discussed earlier. For instance, the hero of NemecÕs Blind ManÕs Buff is also confined to a lunatic asylum.

Many Czech prose writers who started writing in the 1980s, have been inspired by postmodernism.

Postmodern authors like to concentrate on bizarre situations, on violence, on sexual deviations - viz. the well-known films by David Lynch. In fiction, postmodernist belles letters are mixed up with essayistic passages. Narratives are being reflected upon and analysed. Czech postmodernists are Vaclav Jamek, Michal Ajvaz, Sylvia Richterova, Vladimir Macura, Jiri Kratochvil and Daniela Hodrova. Jan Kresadlo uses the form in a more debased form, intended primarily for entertainment.

Jiri Kratochvil, who could not publish in the 1970s and 1980s, wrote two novels, Medvedi roman, The Bear Novel, (completed in 1985, published in samizdat in 1988, in print in Brno in 1990), and Uprostred noci zpev, Singing in the Middle of Nights (Brno 1992). Then followed Avion , The Hotel Avion (1995) and Siamsky pribeh, A Siamese Story, 1996. Other volumes of work contain a number of other pieces by Kratochvil, in particular the novella Orfeus z Kenigu, The Orpheus of Kenig, which is a part of Brno.

KratochvilÕs novels belong to the best works of Czech fiction from the 1980s. Yet it has been difficult for KratochvilÕs work to find its way to the readers. Kratochvil was the son of a political emigre. His father, an ornithologist and an author of books for children, defected to the United States in 1952. Thus it was very difficult for Jiri Kratochvil to gain access to further education in Czechoslovakia and failed to find a job in his field.

By his age Jiri Kratochvil belongs to the generation of the 1960s. However, before the post 1968 clampdown, Kratochvil managed to publish only a few short stories in periodicals. The first volume of his texts to be published in book form was banned. Kratochvil remained an unknown author, living in Moravia, where he worked as a porter on a chicken farm and as a night watchman. He was not even known among dissident writers.

Kratochvil published his first work when he was fifty.

Jiri KratochvilÕs fiction is of a very original style. He frequently uses metaphores, juxtaposes vulgar expressions to high literary style, he resorts to local Brno slang, the so-called "hantec". This Brno slang contains a considerable number of German and Jewish expressions. A large number of Germans lived in Brno before the Second World War.

The construction of KratochvilÕs narratives is also unusual. Kratochvil in fact negates the concept of construction and the concept of story-telling. The narrator begins telling a gripping story. Then he interrupts the narrative and tells the reader it has all been invented.He plays games with the reader, mocks the more traditional methods of writing a novel, uses quotations and parodies earlier texts, implies hidden meanings.

In each of the two novels, Singing in the Middle of the Night and The Hotel Avion, there are actually two narrators, each of them telling a different story. To begin with, we do not even notice this. Concrete Brno locations and realistic accounts of life (such as the experience of a child growing up in the 1950s, whose father had defected to the West) are juxtaposed with fantastic and grotesque elements and brutal and horrifying scenes.

KratochvilÕs method of writing is similar to the "magical realism" of the Argentinian writer J.L.Borges, whom Kratochvil acknowledges as his model in his essays. Like Borges, Kratochvil uses playful mystification, motifs of doubles, mirrors and photograps. Above all, Kratochvil consistently casts doubt of the final meaning of his texts. The facts he presents are constantly re-evaluated, re-weighed and re-analysed from a different angle. Nothing is fixed. Everything remains open.

Daniela Hodrov‡ has many things in common with Kratochvil. Hodrov‡ was even less known than Kratochvil in the 1980s because her work was not published either officially or in samizdat. It remained in manuscript form.

Hodrov‡Õs first novel, Podoboj’, In both kinds, which was completed in 1977-1978, did not appear in print until 1991, when the author was 45 years old. Also in 1991, Hodrov‡ published Kukly, Cocoons, (which was written in 1981-1983) and then the third part of a loose trilogy of novels, Theta, (1992) (the Greek character, at the same time a proof reader's sign for "delete"), written at the end of the 1980s. After Hodrova published a novellistic essay Vidim mesto velike, I see a large city, 1994, her latest novel to date is Perunuv den, PerunÕs day (1995).

Also Daniela Hodrova is a poeta doctus. Just like Kratochvil, she precisely thinks through her writing and writes essays on literature. Hodrova is by profession a literary scholar (she has this in common with two other contemporary Czech writers of her age, Sylvie Richterova and Vladimir Macura). In her scholarly work, Hodrova, concentrates on the theory of the novel. She has written studies about the novel of initiation.

Thus it will come as no surprise that HodrovaÕs fiction is very sophisticated. Each of her texts is made up of a thick undergrowth of allusions, repetitions, variations and echoes. The point of view of the narrator changes. Sometimes the narrator has a very narrow view of reality, at other times the narrator is omniscient, he knows what will happen in future. Even Hodrova uses fantastic motifs: puppets and doubles, transformations of human beings into animals, people from beyond the grave re-entering the world of the living. In the third part of her trilogy of novels, Theta, Daniela Hodrova appears herself both as a character and as an author. Thus there is a connection between the novel as fiction and the novel as reality.

As we have mentioned, the Moravian city of Brno comes alive in the work of Jiri Kratochvil as a real city and at the same time a place of magic. In HodrovaÕs fiction, the same role is played by the borderline between the Prague buroughs of Vinohrady and Zizkov. Vinohrady was historically a higher middle class quarter of Prague, while Zizkov was a thoroughly working class part of Prague. The blocks of flats in the few streets on the borderline between the two quarters are for Hodrova "an insecure, tempting and disquieting territory". The technique of making the reader uncertain of himself is a typical feature of HodrovaÕs style. Her narration constantly undermines received versions of events. Thus, Hodrova casts doubt on the traditional interpretations of modern Czech history, even though historical events such as the German occupation, post 1968 Husakesque normalisation and the 19th century Czech national revival have only a muffled impact on HodrovaÕs texts.

After the fall of communism in November 1989, the situation of Czech literature changed radically. On the one hand, a number of hitherto banned books, circulating only in samizdat form, could be published in print. On the other hand, writers lost their high social standing.

The American writer Philip Roth said the following in the 1980s about the differences in the arts in the West and in the East. "In the West, everything is allowed but nothing matters. In the East, nothing is allowed and everything matters." When it lived under totalitarianism, Czech literature played a very significant social role. It was regarded as important by many strata of Czech society - paradoxically, this was often due to the fact that it was officially persecuted.

Writers and their writing often substituted activity in the political arena. Literature, theatre and film fulfilled a political and an ethical role. However, since the beginning of the 1990s, the appropriate institutions of a free civic society have resumed playing their proper roles in the public arena. One of those affected, the celebrated Hungarian writer Gyorgy Konrad characterised the new situation succintly: "One can no longer be a great preacher or a great heretic. Political deviations no longer happen in literature. Criticism occurs in parliament or in the newspapers. It no longer needs to hide in theatres. Poetry has again become a mere hobby. In a liberal society - if we do live in a liberal society - the writerÕs text has become a private matter. The artist feels he is out of fashion. The state does not need him, the market cannot yet help him financially."

This is undoubtedly connected with the loss of prestige which Czech prose and poetry enjoyed from the times of Romanticism up to the interwar Avantgarde. Political developments in the Central and East European countries of the Soviet Bloc froze this unique role of literature in time. In 1968-1969, Czech writers and journalists were the main engine of social reform. The subsquent persecution, the appearance of the dissident movement and the influence of the so-called "alternative culture" seemed to confirm the importance of the non-literary, political role of writers.

It is true that even after the fall of communism, writer Vaclav Havel remains President of the Czech Republic, playwright Milan Uhde was until recently Speaker of Czech Parliament and even Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, HavelÕs political opposite number, likes to speak of publishing articles in the literary magazine Tvar, Face, in the 1960s and is proud of his membership of the Czech PEN Club. Nevertheless, this is just a coincidence. It does not mean that writers play an important role in contemporary Czech society.

The boom of entertainment culture, television, video and multimedia, including computers and CD ROMS, is pushing literature to the margins. People no longer read. They perceive culture through image and sound. As Miroslav Petricek has remarked, open civic society is a "media market". In the marketplace of information and ideas, the writers are losing their privileged position. Maybe a whole epoch is drawing to a close here.

"From the beginning of the Czech national revival until very recently, Czech literature was a literature with a task, with a social role. Although it could changed in the course of time, the social role of the writer was always present. But since the fall of communism, we have found ourselves in a totally new situation. The witerÕs profession has quickly fallen to one of the lowest rungs of the social ladder. Never in history has Czech literature been as free as it is today. But it has now been left entirely to itself. It has only a handful of faithful readers. Books, which used to be almost objects of worship, have now become mere products. Often they are now being got rid of at greatly reduced prices. This predicament affects even those titles for which people recently queued for long hours."

Jiri Kratochvil, The Reintroduction of Chaos into Czech Literature, 1992

Jiri Kratochvil says in this essay that chaos is not necessarily just confusion, maybe it is also the beginning of a search for a new territory. There are now three groups of authors in Czech literature. Apart from the formerly officially permitted writers and officially banned writers, there is a third group, authors of the youngest generation, amongst whom there are a handful of middle aged authors.

The members of this third group reject the notion that an artist should have a non-literary, social role. These writers names are: Typlt, Pizl, Brabcova, Kremlicka, Kasal, Jachym Topol, Spravcova, Murrer and T. Kafka, the older writers among them are Ajvaz, Hodrova, Reznicek and Kratochvil.

These authors are inspired by postmodernist techniques, which they use loosely. They understand art to be deliberate fiction. At the same time, they name reality directly, not shying away from its coarse and drastic aspects. They use the editing techniques of a fast moving film: they juxtapose conflicting images and angles of vision. They are aware even more than the generation of the 1960s that there is no single view which could explain everything.

This approach can be seen in the novels of Michal Viewegh, which take place in the "idyllic" environment of the small central Bohemian town of Sazava. After an excellent detective story, turned upside down, Nazory na vrazdu, Views of a Murder, 1990, Viewegh wrote Bajecna leta pod psa, The Blissful Years of Lousy Living, 1992. In this work, the thirty-year old author gave an account of the years of post-1968 HusakÕs "normalisation" using light humour. In this he differed both from those authors who saw these years as a time in which Czech society flowered, as well as from those authors who saw the period as an era of general moral degeneration. Even these lousy years cannot be denied, abolished, wiped out. This was the time when the narrator of VieweghÕs work was young and sometimes happy. The Blissful years of lousy Living contains a new kind of artistic truth which it is impossible either to confirm or to deny from an ideological point of view.

Viewegh is an exceptionally talented raconteur. His works are truly absorbing. He also toys with reality, trying playfully different versions of it on the reader. It turned out in later works by this author, however, that VieweghÕs huge talent as an entertainer is actually a drawback. VieweghÕs later works are sometimes nothing more but sparkling entertainment.

Thus, Czech fiction is standing at a crossroads. Most older authors, such as Hrabal, Kundera, Skvoreckù, Klima have now written their great work and exhausted their poetics. The members of the middle and the younger generation of writers have been able to publish their works freely only for a few years. It is not clear yet whether their work will be negated by a new generation of writers. Indeed, we cannot even be sure, what role literature as such might be playing in the future.