One year ago our Fall 2007 issue included an essay by Matthew Konieczny about Professor Bronislava Volkova and the Czech program at Indiana University. Our current issue opens with an article by Volkova herself in which she extends her “endeavor to look at Czech literature in terms of the human values it reflects.” Her discussion of attitudes toward death in well-known works by Macha, Nemcova, Neruda, Capek, Hrabal, and Kundera should be of interest to everyone who cares about nineteenth- and twentieth-century Czech literature. This is followed by a study of one distinctive aspect of Prague’s cultural history by Eric Dluhosch. His look at the history of the city’s “coffee house culture” will surely appeal not only to those who have lived in Prague or have a special interest in the city but also to many readers who have visited the city only briefly but understand in a general way that Prague’s coffee houses have played an important part in the development of intellectual, artistic, and political movements through the years. Dluhosch’s colorful account stresses their significance during the period “between the great wars.”
Our emphasis on political and religious history in recent issues continues with three articles that focus, respectively, on the Eighteenth Century, the period leading up to the Second World War, and the period after the War up to the Velvet Revolution. Paul Shore’s discussion of eighteenth-century Jesuits in Prague centers on the key figure Antonin Konia§, whose fascinating career is described in some detail so that we may better understand his importance to “nationalist historians, Jesuit apologists, Communist writers, motion picture directors, and now historical revisionists.” Patrick Crowhurst contributes a study of the “rise and fall” of the Sudeten Nazi Party in Czechoslovakia, explaining how a group of people who had enjoyed status and authority under German Hapsburg emperors “became an ethnic minority in a democratic state ruled by people they felt were inferior.” JOzef Szymeczek’s analysis of policies adopted by Christian churches in Czechoslovakia during the period 1945-1989 shows in some detail how the Communist regime benefitted from conflicts among the Christian groups. We believe that each of these articles makes an important contribution to our understanding of Czech and Slovak history.
The essays in this issue offer a wide variety of topics, but the subject of the first one, by Miloslav Rechcigl, will be a familiar one indeed to many of our readers. His account of the “formative years” of SVU, the organization that sponsors this journal, is based on his book On Behalf of Their Homeland: Fifty Years of SVU, its publication in 2008 timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of SVU. It is appropriate that his essay be read in conjunction with my review of the book, which also appears in this issue, and I also urge readers to re-read the articles by Francis D. Ra§ka in the Fall 2006 and Fall 2007 issues of Kosmasdealing with the Council of Free Czechoslovakia, which helped to prepare the way for SVU. As editor of Kosmas, I do not normally review books, but I made an exception in the case of Rechcigl’s book because this history of SVU by a man who served as its president for so many years will be a very special reading experience for members of SVU.
Other essays may be paired with book reviews. Joseph Masheck’s essay on the important, innovative architect Adolf Loos, whose work is being displayed in a current exhibition in the City of Prague Museum, should be read in conjunction with Mascheck’s review of two recent books on Loos. Additional essays include two by Tracy Burns: one deals with Vaclav Havel’s latest (and, apparently, last) play Odchazeni, which opened at the Archa Theatre in Prague last May, and the other with Slovak author Dusan Mitana’s 2000 novel Vianoena cesta (The Christmas Trip). Burns’s review of the recently published novel Vra2da v Slopnej (Murder in Slop* by Slovak author Daniela Kapitanova also appears in this issue. Also among our essays this time is another personal commentary by Zdenek Salzmann and a historical essay by Peter Toma in which he discusses the history of Czechoslovakia in a context that suggests parallels between the foreign policies of Great Britain and France regarding Hitler’s Germany prior to his invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and the modern US “strategy of pre-emption” in Iraq.
In addition to the reviews already mentioned, this issue includes a review by Peter Hruby of a new book about Czechs and Slovaks in Latin America, Milu§e Saskova-Pierce’s review of a new edition of the
textbook Colloquial Czech, and Frank Safertal’s review of T. Mills Kelly’s Without Remorse, a historical study of the Czechoslovak National Socialists.
It is my pleasure to welcome the new Assistant Editor of Kosmas, Ayde Enriquez-Loya.
Clinton Machann, Editor