Czech literature

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Czech literature is the literature written by Czechs or other inhabitants of the Czech state, mostly in the Czech language, although other languages like Old Church Slavonic, Latin or German have been also used, especially in the past. Modern authors from the Czech territory who wrote in other languages (e.g. German) are however sometimes considered separately, thus Franz Kafka, for example, who wrote in German (though he was also fluent in Czech), is often considered part of Austrian or German literature.

Czech literature is divided into several main time periods: the Middle Ages; the Hussite period; the years of re-Catholicization and the baroque; the Enlightenment and Czech reawakening in the 19th century; the avantgarde of the interwar period; the years under Communism and the Prague Spring; and the literature of the post-Communist Czech Republic. Czech literature and culture played a notable role on at least two occasions when Czech society lived under oppression and little to no political activity was possible. On both of these occasions, in the early 19th century and then again in the 1960s, the Czechs used their cultural and literary effort to create political freedom and to establish a confident, politically aware nation.

Contents

Middle Ages

Literature in the Czech lands originates in the 8th century AD, in the kingdom of Greater Moravia. The Saints Konstantin (i.e. Cyril) and Methodius, sent by the Byzantine Emperor Michael III to complete the Christianization of the kingdom, created there the first written Slavic language, Old Church Slavonic, written in the Glagolitic alphabet. Their translations of Latin liturgy into Slavonic are the earliest surviving literature created in the Czech lands.

After the collapse of Greater Moravia at the end of the 9th century, the political and cultural orientation of the Bohemian lands shifted from Byzantium to Rome. Very little is known about the next two centuries of literary development - fragments of works exist, but many are simply inferred from citations in works found elsewhere. The close of the century heralded the ultimate victory of Latin over Old Church Slavonic as the official language of liturgy and culture in Moravia and Bohemia, and cultural alliance shifted from east to west. The Legend of Christian, written in Latin verse in the latter half of the 10th century, describing the lives of Saints Ludmila and Wenceslas is the greatest surviving work; its authenticity however is under some dispute.

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