June 5-7, 2009, was an exciting time here on the campus of Texas A&M University. We were honored to host a regional SVU conference with the central theme “Contributions of Czechs and Slovaks to the American Southwest.” About forty scholarly papers were read, along with speeches and musical presentations, and, as usual at such conferences, participants did not limit themselves to the conference theme but brought with them a broad range of interests on a variety of topics. A few of the papers were expanded into articles and essays that were subsequently submitted to Kosmas, and among the contributions to this issue, readers will see examples of these.
We believe that the four articles in our first section make important contributions to historical scholarship, each in its own distinctive way. Anyone who has studied the religious history of Central Europe has encountered various images of Jan Hus, and Thomas A. Fudge offers an in-depth analysis of those images of a man who dies a horrible death in 1415 as a heretic but is reborn as a saintly hero for many. Among numerous interesting observations by Fudge, who has studied more than 140 images of Hus from the time of his death until the early eighteenth century, it is “almost certain” that the historical Hus did not wear a beard. That surprised me, and I suspect that others might be surprised as well. Most importantly, Fudge’s study helps us to understand the religious history of the Czech lands and, more broadly, of early modern Europe. Moving forward in time, Zdenek V. David adds to our understanding of T.G. Masaryk’s philosophical position. Masaryk, the first President and founder of Czechoslovakia, was an exceptionally intellectual statesman, and David’s detailed analysis of his views of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche emphasizes the fact that, in the final analysis, Masaryk found these two thinkers “too far bound up with the German philosophical tradition of subjective metaphysics and epistemology leading to despair or violence.” Vlado Simko’s discussion of circumstances surrounding the death of the celebrated Slovak politician and diplomat Milan Ratislavgtefanik in a 1919 airplane crash helps to answer questions that have arisen through the years about that tragic event. Finally in this section, Miloslav Rechcigl surveys the significance of Czech (especially Moravian) immigrants in the early history of the American state of Texas. As one who has spent a great deal of time researching this topic in the past, I sincerely appreciate his interest in it, and I can only say that we at Kosmas are doing our best to carry forward the Czech-American heritage of Texas.
In his essay on “Native Americans of the Southwest as Seen Through Czech Eyes,” retired anthropologist Zdenek Salzmann gives an account of this rather specialized topic that he is uniquely qualified to provide, and we expect that many readers will be fascinated by his anecdotal information and his generalization that Czechs tend to empathize with the American Indians. The following essay also features a personal perspective that is very special indeed. The name William Harkins will be familiar to readers who have read his translations of some classic Czech texts, and we are pleased to offer his insights about his work through the years. Closer to home, our own Managing Editor David Chroust recently supplemented his credentials as a professional librarian at Texas A&M by acquiring a PhD in History, and his dissertation topic on Czech-American journalism and subsequent thoughts about Czech-American history lead him to re-examine his own history as the child of Czech immigrants who settled in Cleveland, Ohio.
Tracy Burns contributes two essays to this issue. The first, focusing on the production of Vaclav Havel’s play Leaving at the Slovak National Theatre, will remind our readers of her account of the Czech
production of the same play in our Fall 2008 issue, and her comparison of the two productions should be of interest to many. (Speaking of Havel, just as we were putting the final touches on this issue of Kosmas on the twentieth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, I received an e-mail message from my son-in-law who has been living with my daughter in the Czech Republic for several months: he had just seen Havel at a public gathering. Svet je malk.) In her second essay Burns interprets the complex plot of Leopold Lahola’s novella The Bird Song. Our final essay was contributed by Annie Burton, a British university student who had submitted it to an essay competition sponsored by SVU. Her topic, the current situation of minorities
living in the Czech Republic, may remind some readers of the address about Roma (Gypsies) in the Czech Republic by Professor Ian Hancock of the University of Texas at Austin, delivered at the SVU conference here at Texas A&M last June.
In the past, Kosmas has published numerous interviews with prominent authors, artists and public figures. We are pleased to include in this issue Virginia Parobek’s interview with Heather Trebaticka, an important translator of Slovak literature.
Several book reviews are included, beginning with Book Review Editor Mary Hrabik Samal’s review of a massive compilation of articles from the journal Skuteonost that appeared during the period 1949-53, edited by Vilem Preean. Other important books reviewed here are by authors and editors Madelaine Hron, Vera Bofkovec, Robert Murray Davis, and Dan Hrul*
Our new Assistant Editor is Kati Raymer, and I appreciate her hard work on this issue. As usual, Managing Editor David Chroust was also very helpful, and I am pleased that this issue includes an essay which grew out of his research as he pursued a doctorate in History from our university.
Cliton Machann, Editor