On the literary depiction of identity in post-war Czechoslavakia

Source document: Brünner Beiträge zur Germanistik und Nordistik. 2013, vol. 27, iss. 1-2, pp. [169]-178
  • ISSN
    1803-7380 (print)
    2336-4408 (online)
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The present paper deals with the question of identity and its formation in post-war Czechoslovakia as depicted in two chosen literary works. It compares a Czech novel Město na hranici by Zdeněk Ptáčník with a German novella Božena by a German author Peter Härtling foucusing on the main literary characters and their existence in the Czech society immediately after the second world war. Paradoxically, the main protagonist of the Czech novel is a German woman (Käthe) while a Czech woman (Božena) is the central character of the German novella. Both characters differ from the vast majority of people living in Czechoslovakia. Käthe is of German origin and has been active in the anti-fascist movement in the German Reich, and Božena has had a deep affection for a German lawyer, her employer. Consequently, Käthe and Božena are both stigmatized and excluded from the society ending up on its fringe. The paper analyses the reasons for their social exclusion as well as the influence of the society and the family members on the literary characters' self-perception within the "otherness" discourse of that time. Last but not least, it examines how the Czech society perceived otherness of its individuals, i.e. being of different origin or character, and whether the Czech society was willing to accept pluralist identities.