The life and work of the somewhat forgotten inter-war Ruralist writer, Václav Prokůpek (1902-74) provide a rich case-study in twentieth-century Czech literary historiography. Prokůpek exemplifies how the ideological polarization that intensified in Czech culture in the 1930s has repeatedly distorted both the reception of writers’ works and their place in twentieth-century Czech literary history. In 1945 he faced accusations of collaborating with the German occupier, and in 1952 was imprisoned after a show-trial for allegedly conspiring against the state. Vilified and marginalized in literary history by Party ideologues, he became almost a martyr-figure for the Roman Catholic anti-Communist opposition, yet both interpretations poorly serve Prokůpek’s work. His personal and literary fate mirrors in extremis that of many writers associated with conservative nationalism and Ruralism, whose work and place in Czech literary history scholars have commonly struggled to assess outside these ideologized perspectives. The perpetuation of a binary opposition between ‘collaboration’ and ‘resistance’, moreover, hinders Czech engagement with international efforts to devise more complex maps and definitions of people’s responses to life under oppressive regimes. In the case of Ruralist writers, it also hinders comparative literary-historical analysis of the fate of the theme of the countryside and of conservatism in Czech literature since the war. Through the close analysis of Prokůpek’s fiction, his correspondence and preceding interpretations of both the man and his work, this article serves as one model for how this historical polarization might finally be overcome. In his fiction, Prokůpek never strays from the perspective and problems of the struggling Czech farmer, and the central contention of this article is that Prokůpek’s work, his response to the Occupation and to the post-1948 government is best understood as both a defence and an active realization of the farmer’s approach to life.
|Number of pages||36|
|Publication status||Published - 2013|