One Literature?

Literary history faces a major challenge in assessing the literature of the second half of the 20th century – how to deal with the political circumstances that significantly influenced the writers of this period, while not privileging these conditions over the quality of the work itself. The exhibition presents official, samizdat and exile literature, including borderline literature from the so-called grey zone.

In the last room, several distinguished figures from the second half of the 20th century raise questions about the integrity of contemporary writing. This is not a staged debate as in the first room, but a real dialogue addressing a current, palpable issue. 

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The Eyewitness

In the first decade after the November events of 1989, the Memorial of Czech Literature organised several exhibitions describing the situation of Czech literature after the Communist coup in February 1948. The first exhibition was V. Z. D. O. R. (R.E.S.I.S.T.A.N.C.E.) in 1992, followed by a project on the "notable figures of Czech samizdat and exile literature in the period between 1969 and 1989", entitled "...nemlčeli" (...they did not remain silent). The third of these, Ztráty a nálezy. 1950s-1960s v české literatuře (Lost and Found. The 1950s and 1960s in Czech Literature) was held in 1998. Their shared ambition was to present the part of literary production that had been created in an atmosphere of restrictions and in the face of bans. The contributions in MCL Literary Archive's single-topic collection from 1991 were also focused on independent literature and samizdat. The final part of the Museum's permanent exhibition presents exhibits that reflect upon the period between 1948 and 1989, chiefly through videos of authentic testimonies by banned authors that are complemented by samizdat works and other evidence of literary activity from MCL archives and book collections.

Engineers of Human Souls

Marching Forward, Not One Step Back. The Designers of Communist Cultural Policy
The radical changes that occurred in the way culture was perceived, following the Communist coup of February 1948, are reflected in the preparations and proceedings the Congress of National Culture held on 10-11 April 1948, which was covered in contemporary press reports and in a collection of documents published shortly afterwards, in June 1948.
The speech given by Gustav Bareš at the Congress of National Culture was accompanied by an article in Svobodné noviny [Liberated Newspaper] published on 11 April 1948, the second day of the congress:
“The February events have shown that cooperation with reactionaries leads to a united front with the arch enemies of the republic, to the path of treason. Everyone now has the opportunity to reflect upon and draw lessons from the February events, and to align with the people...”

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Say No to the Devil

The Power of the Powerless

One Literature?

Cultural magazines between 1959 and 1989

The Ideological Commission of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia relentlessly monitored the mission and activities of cultural magazines. The topic was repeatedly featured on the agenda of the Committee meetings, and the documents, usually classified secret, became binding directives for the editors-in-chief. It was therefore surprising when on 3 April 1964, the Rudé právo daily published a statement of the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, addressing certain phenomena in cultural magazines. The text was published in the exile review Svědectví [Testimony] that same year. The termination or temporary suspension of a cultural periodical for ideological reasons was not an isolated phenomenon (e.g. Květen [May] was shut down in 1959, and Tvář [Face] was suspended in 1965). The official periodicals in our selection are represented by Tvář and Plamen [Flame], while Jednou nohou [One Foot], Spektrum [Spectrum] and DRU were selected from a wide array of samizdat magazines, and the semi-official periodicals published under the banner of SSM (Socialist Youth Union) are represented by Kavárna A.F.F.A. [Café A.F.F.A.] and the exile quarterly Svědectví [Testimony].

Adéla Matasová

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