Almanac Literary Archive

Upcoming almanac edition

The Third Space of Czech Literature
56th (thematic) issue of the annual Literární archiv (Literary Archive) for 2024

Guest Editor: Marek Nekula (University of Regensburg)
Editor-in-Chief: Tereza Sudzinová

As recently as the eighteenth century, Czech literature was not written exclusively in Czech. This began to change in the first half of the nineteenth century. During the second half of the nineteenth century, “proper” Czech and patriotic content became the gauge for evaluating and determining whether literary works were part of Czech literature. It was not until Czech modernism that Czech literature once again more frequently looked beyond Czech and Czech literature’s boundaries. So-called exile and migration literature give cause to question what Czech literature is beyond national borders. The authors of exile literature still chose Czech for their literary work, thus addressing both the first-generation exile community, which they sometimes represent linguistically and otherwise (Josef Škvorecký, Jan Novák), as well as readers in the country from which the authors emigrated or were expelled. Thus, during the communist period, the trinity of Czech literature, official, samizdat and exile literature, gradually became established in Czechoslovakia and beyond.

Some exiled authors, such as Milan Kundera or Jiří Gruša, however, eventually began writing literature in a different language. In addition, their model readers, i.e., their primary audience, also changed. By moving from a “minor” to a “major” language, they became transnational, world authors, rising from Francophone or Central European cultural space. Theaforementioned linguistic shift was not, however, only linked to a change in addressing and circulating literary texts, i.e., to the sociology of literature, but also to changes in their literature’s aesthetics. For example, Jiří Gruša creates a distinctive literary language in his poetic works, in which the structures and metaphors of the source language (Czech) materialize in the words of the target language (German). Libuše Moníková hybridizes her German literary language by, among other things, changing codes (languages), thanks to which the uncertainty of meaning and hybridity of the modern world comes to life “on the literary border” (D. Pfeiferová).

In addition to authors who have gone into exile, where they have found a new “home in the word” (R. Cornejo), there are many second-generation migrant authors for whom the linguistic and cultural shift is part of their biography, while the starting point of their literary language is the language of the country in which they were born or grew up. These authors are particularly abundant in Central Europe, for example Michael Stavarič and Stanislav Struhar in Austria, Katja Fusek in Switzerland or Maxim Biller in Germany. The shift from Czech to German, or from “minor” to “major” language, also takes on a postcolonial dimension in the literary and cultural traditions of Central Europe, although similar authors can be encountered elsewhere. For example, the starting point of the literary language of Mark Slouka or Joseph Hurka is English.

So-called migrant authors were previously relegated to the periphery of the literatures whose literary language they claimed. In the country of their origin, whose cultural heritage they refer to in their works, they were and remain virtually unknown. Sometimes they react to this with rejection. For example, Maxim Biller, who was born in Czechoslovakia and grew up in Germany after the emigration of his Russian-speaking Jewish family, alternates between German and Czech in his works, referring also to Czech literature and culture. However, he sees himself “sometimes as a German, sometimes as a Jewish author” who ultimately belongs nowhere (M. Nekula). On the other hand, today, works of so-called migrant literature are at the center of the literary scene of “major” European literatures, from where they enter world literature by way of their transculturalism. While this is certainly in some way related to the demographic transformation of society, it is more closely tied to these works’ characteristic poetics, which appeal to the reader and are also the subject of this thematic issue.

This issue asks the question of the formation of the so-called third space (H. Bhabha) in literature, among other things, through the hybridization of literary language and literary characters and their characteristics, or the poetics of narrative alternation here and there, in the intersection of which present and past space-time is deconstructed and a third space beyond these interconnected worlds is articulated. The planned issue poses this question in regard to migration literature related to Czech space in terms of theme and/or hybrid literary language. In addition, it examines to what extent these works and their authors on the literary border represent a third space in Czech literature.

Abstracts (studies or editions) of between 500 and 1,500 characters that thematically fit into the outlined literary interspace and address the proposed questions will be accepted in Czech, Slovak, German, English or French until June 15, 2022. Notification of acceptance of submitted proposals will be given by August 15, 2022. Submission of accepted papers in one of the aforementioned languages and no more than 30 standard pages (1 page = 1800 characters) in length, together with a brief abstract and keywords, is expected by June 30, 2023. Accepted German, English and French contributions will be translated into Czech. The issue will be published during the first half of 2024.

Abstracts should be submitted by email to the following addresses: marek.nekula@ur.de and sudzinova@pamatnik-np.cz.