The Czech Republic is known for its brilliant and magnificent minds that unite people through their literary works. Check out the best Czech authors and their best books which would broaden your horizons in culture, politics, and art. 

The Joke (1967) by M. Kundera

It is one of the readings that is closely connected with Czech history and politics. The events in the 1960s influenced each person’s vision of the political regime and their life in it. In the book, the author expressed his perspective on such crucial issues as the totalitarian era of Czechoslovakia, self-delusion, and Stalinism. For example, Ludvik Jahn separates himself from the communist party due to religious beliefs (Christianity cannot coexist with communism).

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via Goodreads.com

For his writing, Kundera faced censorship, and it was even banned from the public for several years. After the Prague Spring, the novel was adapted to the movie Czech New Wave, which was lucky to not be banned by the government. A year after, the Joke was translated to the English language, which brought some negative feedback from the author – some of the chapters were altered or even omitted. In 1982, a new translation by M. Heim satisfied Kundera, and he was finally happy to have ‘the first valid and authentic version.’ Nevertheless, his vision changed after some years, and the final translation works were finished only in 1992. 

The Good Soldier Švejk (1921-1923) by Jaroslav Hašek

It is one of the most famous Czech literature and culture writings. The story combines the surprising wordplay, which creates the futility of war. In fact, a satirical dark comedy novel was translated into various languages around the world. The author intended to write six volumes of the book; however, he could cover only half of the planned work. The reason for that was his death from heart failure.

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/a5fd00f21573f4ef6c2f0bab9a49f504_8.jpg
An illustration of Švejk, by Josef Lada

Švejk, the book’s main character, is one of the most loyal Czech soldiers in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. When he was called on the outbreak, he faced different challenges that restrained him from getting to the front line. For instance, playing cards or getting drunk is a secret gem of the soldier that helps him deal with doctors, police, and officers. On the other hand, the military authority often got frustrated by Švejk’s behavior. It was full of stupidity, absurd, and passive resistance. In one of the episodes, Švejk is taken as a prisoner because he wore a Russian uniform.

Suppose you stroll around Prague or any other Czech city. In that case, you can notice the figure of Švejk in some of the cafes and restaurants. Without any doubt, it is used for the attraction of tourists, and plenty of people take photos with the figure for their warm memories about the Czech Republic. 

The Trial (1925) by F. Kafka

A vivid example of the classic in Czech literature that gained popularity in some areas. According to the author, Prague’s mystery, various myths, and intrigues were the primary source of the motivation that stands behind the novel. In 1999, Kafka’s novel was listed in the ‘100 books of the century, and it was ranked the second-best German novel of the twentieth century.

The Trial by Franz Kafka book cover
via bibliofreak.net

The writing plot is based on the crime scene: a bank chief officer is accused of committing the crime, which is never revealed to him. Here you can see the influence of such literary works as ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ by F. Dostoyevsky. When reading the book, you experience all feelings, thoughts, and challenges of the main character, Josef. It is amusing to discover how he defends himself in front of higher authority for the never-committed crime. The novel unites people from different periods – it shows the totalitarian regime’s cruelty and its naked truth. 

Critiques are still debating on the novel’s interpretation. It can be viewed from various perspectives – biographical, historical-critical, religious psychoanalytic, and sociological. Every person sees the novel from a different angle, which is one of the significant reasons why Kafka’s work is timeless.

Sofia Chesnokova

Sofia Chesnokova

Passionate about digital marketing, copywriting, and Prague!
Sofia Chesnokova
Sofia Chesnokova