24.1 – Fall 2010: Notes from the Editor

In the past our readers have learned much about the foundations of philosophical and political thought in early Czechoslovakia and the ideas of its first president, Tomas G. Masaryk, from Zdenek V. David. We are pleased to open this Fall 2010 issue of Kosmas with another article by David, one in which he explores Masaryk’s ideas about the psychological and philosophical causes of World War I, placing them in the context of the German philosophical tradition and emphasizing “the murderous desire to escape from sickly subjectivism” rather than the economic, political and military issues that are usually stressed in such discussions. David’s conclusion that Masaryk’s expectation that, after the war, Germany would leave its spiritual isolation and return to humanistic ideals came “one war too early” is especially poignant.

Jaroslav Panek, another author familiar to readers of Kosmas, then offers a survey of humanities scholarship in the Czech Academy of Sciences and Czech universities since the Velvet Revolution (1990­2010). This is a very relevant topic for our journal, which publishes articles on subjects related to history, culture, philosophy, literature and other disciplines in the humanities on a regular basis, but who would have predicted that Panek would begin his fascinating discussion with an account of Czech Egyptology?

Moving to an international political topic, Petr Andel analyzes the “asymmetric” structure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a key to understanding “mutual Czech-American military cooperation.” Readers may recall an earlier article in which he discusses the implications of NATO enlargement for the former Czechoslovakia (Spring 2007).

In recent issues we have published several studies of individual political and cultural figures of some significance in Czech and Slovak history. Now Josette Baer gives us an “intellectual portrait” of Franko V. Sasinek (1830-1914), Slovak Catholic priest, historian and patriot, who can be compared to the Czech Frantisek Palacky. Sasinek was an eccentric man, in some ways old-fashioned in his views, but Baer emphasizes his commitment to Slovak nationalism.

We turn to a literary topic with Laura Ivins-Hulley’s “Amorphous Identity in Eva

Svankmajerova’s Baradla Cave.” Anyone with an interest in Czech and Slovak surrealism is probably aware of the work of this painter, ceramicist, and writer, the wife of filmmaker and sculptor Frank Svankmajer. Ivins-Hulley offers sociopolitical interpretations of Svankmajerova’s 1981 novel but stresses “the fluidity of meaning in the surrealist text and the importance of shared knowledge.”

The article with the broadest coverage in this issue is Miloslav Rechcigl’s “critical retrospective look” at publications that have been written about the history of Czechs and Slovaks in America. As is widely known, Rechcigl has devoted much of his career to historical and bibliographical studies of Czech and Slovak cultural heritage in America, and we can be sure that this comprehensive survey of historical works will be consulted by researchers in the field for many years to come. I hope that many readers of our journal will pass along Rechcigl’s article to children and grandchildren who have an interest in Czech-American and Slovak-American history.

The first essay in this issue is by Ivo K. Feierabend, who takes a look at Mary Heimann’s controversial new book,Czechoslovakia: The State That Failed. Feierabend’s critical comments can be compared with those of Peter Hruby in his review of the same book, later in this issue, but I want to assure our readers that the critical opinions independently submitted by Feierabend and Hruby were not the result of some sort of collaboration by Kosmas contributors or editorial staff.

Kenji Hotta’s essay about Hideo Satsuma’s Tales from Czech History provides a unique perspective on Czech history: Hotta himself is a graduate student at Tokai University in Tokyo who analyzes a popular Czech history book written by a Japanese scholar. (Hotta’s professor and dissertation director, Joseph N. Rostinsky, has published in Kosmas, as readers may recall.) These men are informed by an implicit comparative Japanese-Czech point of view. Some readers may be surprised to learn that Satsuma’s books about the Czechs are “readily available” in Japanese bookstores. Interesting indeed.

Readers who attended the 25th World Congress of the SVU in Tabor, Czech Republic, last June 27-July 2 may very well recall the moving account that Eva Stanovska Jonas gave of her father, the heroic WWII pilot and tragic political figure Vilem Stanovksy (1896-1972) in her presentation there. I am pleased to say that a version of Jonas’s memoir appears in this issue, and I should note that the articles by David and Panek, as well as the essay by Feierabend, also originated in papers delivered at the conference.

This issue also includes Virginia Parobek’s interview with Andrew Wachtel, editor of Writers for an Unbound Europe, who formerly served in academic positions associated with Slavic studies in the US and is now president of the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

In addition to the review of the Heimann book by Hruby, there are reviews by Tracy Burns, Anthony C. Slaughter, Aurel Braun, and Zdenek Salzmann. Among the authors and editors covered are Ivan Klima, Peter Hruby, Mitchell A. Orenstein, Stephen Bloom , Nicole Lindstrom , and Petr Karlik.

I want to thank our new Assistant Editor Sofia Prado, as well as Book Review Editor Mary Hrabik Samal and Managing Editor David Chroust, for their hard work on this issue.

Clinton Machann, Editor