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122 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 In conclusion, I found this book highly informative and stimulating. Its main attraction may be to Canadian archaeologists themselves, but it should be of some interest to all readers interested in the heritage of Canada. Perhaps a fair measure of the success of this book is that, before reading it, I thought I knew quite a lot about the history of archaeology in this country. I was mistaken. Others may not be as woefully ignorant as myself, but will certainly benefit from a careful perusal. (DAVID G. SMITH) Derek Sayer. The Coasts ofBohemia. A Czech History Princeton University Press. viii, 442. us $29.95 The music of Bedrich Smetana, Antonin Dvorak, and Leos Janacek, the art of Alfons MuchaJ the operatic voice of Jarmila Novotna, the films of Milos Forman, the literary creations of Karel Capek and, more recently, Josef Skvorecky, Vaclav Havel, and Milan Kundera, are well known in the West. However, few westerners outside of the 'professional ghetto ,of "Slavic Studies'" are well acquainted with the land and the historical context that nurtured them. The history of the Czech lands (Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia), located in the geographical centre of Europe and since 1993 known as Czech Republic, and of the Czechs, a small people who through the centuries made a significant contribution to European civilization, remains largely terra incognita. To be sure, readers of Shakespeare today are not likely to identify the land-locked Czech Republic with the deserts and coasts ofThe Winter's Tale; but it is probably also true that, for most, the Czech lands still remain II/a far away country" inhabited by quarreling people IJ of whom we know nothing," I as Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, described Czechoslovakia after its betrayal in Munich in 1938. DerekSayer's excellentJ elegantlywrittenwork is based on an enormous amount of research, especially in the area of Czech culture, both high and popular. The sources range from archival materials to literature, music, and the visual arts; they also include book illustrationsl art exhibition catalogues , postage stamps, banknotes, and the all too frequently changing names of Prague streets, squares, and palaces. Sayer weaves together this diverse and immense wealth of information into a unique, complex, yet extremely readable multilayered work. On the most basic level it highlights the significant periods in the turbulent history of the Czech lands. On another, it presents a history of Czech culturein its wider European context;certainly the most comprehensive and wide ranging in English and perhaps in any major western language '. On yet another level, the most original and thought-provoking, it provides a critical appraisal of the uses of Czech history and culture for nationalist and political aims. Sayer focuses on the nineteenth and twen- HUMANITIES 123 tieth centuries and shows how respective elites, including the cultural establishments, from the national awakeners to the communists, mobilized and manipulated culture to shape the national identity, the Czechness, of the Czechs in their own image; that is, to serve their particular political and national, and in the case of the communists, ideological aims. Sayer argues convincingly that with the notable exception of the modernists, a total preoccupation with Czechness was the norm, and its natural result was the cultural marginalization, if not exclusion, of 'the other.' In the preindependence , Habsburg, period this meant the Germans of the Czech lands and those Jews who chose to remain in the German linguistic and hence cultural orbit; in the post-independence years, the various and numerous non-Czech national minorities; and, after the communist takeover in 1948, all ideological opponents and sceptics as well. The "Czechization,' this homogenization ofcultural life, naturally tended to sap its vitality, deprived the culture of the Czech lands of the potential contribution of 'the other,' and culminated in the indiscriminate expulSion of the Germans (a third of the population of the Czech lands) at the end of the Second World Was, and the establishment of commtmist rule. The author touches on, but does not devote as much attention to, the 'why.' Why was there such a preoccupation, indeed, obsession, with national identity, with Czeclmess? This question could be legitimately raised about virtually all the 'small...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 122-123
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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