- The Silenced Theatre: Czech Playwrights without a Stage by Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz, and: Soviet Literature in the 1970s: Artistic Diversity and Ideological Conformity by N.N. Shneidman (review)
- University of Toronto Quarterly
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 50, Number 4, Summer 1981
- pp. 152-154
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- Additional Information
152 LETTERS IN CANADA 1980 contains 'highly interesting psychological facts, together with explanatory observations, in which are laid open some of the most hidden recesses of the human mind: Almost two centuries later Mark Boulby has laid open, critically, sensitively, and drawing on his fund of knowledge of a host of major and minor figures of the German Enlightenment and periods beyond, the recesses of the mind, life, and times of Karl Philipp Moritz, which had hitherto been regrettably hidden from all but a few specialists in the English-speaking world. This monograph is a 'must' for all scholars working in the field of eighteenth- and early nineteenthcentury European studies. The publisher is to be congratulated on matching the taut elegance of Boulby's arrangement and style with equally elegant design and printing; the only fault I could find was the omission of two of Boulby's own articles from the 'Select Bibliography: which in turn leaves at least two footnotes (ch 1, n 15, and ch 3, n 12) dangling and incomplete. (ANTHONY w. RILEY) Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz. The Silenced Theatre: Czech Playwrights without aStage University of Toronto Press 1979· 319. $25.00 N.N. Shneidman. Soviet Literature in the 19705: Artistic Diversity and Ideological Conformity University of Toronto Press 1979. 128. $15.00 Scholars who study Soviet or East European literature are often faced with a unique kind of problem: political and ideological censorship prevents the official appearance of certain themes, styles, or individual authors, so that the literary and critical works which are published comprise a narrowed field, often excluding many of the issues most relevant for the society. In recent years the possibilities of foreign publication in the original and in translation and of samizda! (selfpublication through typed manuscripts), even in regularly numbered editions such as Czechoslovakia's Edice pet/ice (Padlock Press), have enabled writers who are blacklisted or forced into emigration to continue their serious artistic endeavours without censorship and to reach both an international audience and their own countrymen. The stature of this 'unofficial' literature is nowhere greater than in Czechoslovakia, where the Soviet invasion of 1968 and the subsequent 'normalization' of politics and culture resulted in the blacklisting ofall writers who had lent support to Dub~ek's 'socialism with a human face' and who refused to recant. This ultimately resulted in the official non-existence of an entire generation of the nation's writers, including the three major novelists Milan Kundera, Ludvik Vaculik, and Josef Skvorecky, as well as virtually all of the important dramatists of the 1960s. Thus, Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz's The Silenced Theatre is likely to remain for the foreseeable future the authoritative work on Czech theatre of the last two decades. A study of this highly creative period would clearly be impossible inside today's 'normalized' Czechoslovakia, and, in fact, the plays of the 1970S have never been officially published or performed in their home country. Even the gathering of the texts themselves was invaluable. In addition, the author has succeeded in smoothly incorporating accurate and concise descriptions of the structure , plot, and mise en scene of nearly fifty plays without slowing the book's lively and engaging intellectual pace. Goetz-Stankiewicz's purpose may be seen as twofold: first, to represent accurately and completely the evolution to date ofCzechoslovakia's major contemporary playwrights (Vaclav Havel, Ivan Klima, Pavel Kohout, Josef Topol, and Ladislav Smocek) and to discuss as well the most significant plays o(a dozen other dramatists; secondly, to place this body of drama in its historical context with respect both to Czech literature and to theatre in the West. The cornerstone for this latter consideration is the literature of the absurd. Thus, in the opening chapters the author discusses the legacy of two great Prague writers born in the same year, Franz Kafka and Jaroslav Ha§ek (author of Good Soldier Svejk), as well as the impact made in Czechoslovakia by such Western absurdists as Ionesco, Beckett, Genet, Pinter, and Albee. This framework allows consideration not only of similarities in style and structure but of interrelated themes: the alienation of the individual, the world's increasing automatism and amorality, the devaluation and destruction of...