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The Czech horror

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by Martin Jiroušek

Černý bod (=The Black Spot) is a study which popularises Czech horror. It focuses mainly on literature (fiction and poetry and contemporary non-fiction), but it also pays attention to the visual aspect and the film context.

It understands the book as a unique object made from a unique material. It therefore analyses, among other things, the quality of dust jackets, illustrations and film posters which are connected with the topic of horror.

The name itself, “The Black Spot is based on a story by the naturalistic writer Anna Marie Tilschová, but it is also metaphorical. Currently, horror is perceived mostly as an Anglo-Saxon genre, somewhat distant to the Czech cultural environment. This cliché spread primarily due to the influence of socialistic ideology which saw horror as taboo from both the esthetic and ideologistic point of view.

In the post-totalitarian era, the cliché has persisted because previous historical links had disappered. However, specific examples from the period from 19th century to the end of WW2, as well as 1960s (called the Golden Era of the Czech culture) prove that the opposite is true.

Horror has a rich tradition in the Czech cultural environment and this environment has contributed significantly to the development of the genre world-wide. It can boast of significant authors, unique places (genius loci) and cultural interchange.

And it is not only Czech authors who have a difference, but authors writing in German, too. Moreover, E. A. Poe of all writers was influenced by authors coming from the Czech environment. Elements from both Czech and foreign literatures are creatively used in Czech horror.

There is a considerable influence of Edgar Allan Poe, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, George Gordon Byron, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Machen and Ambrose Bierce. The uniqueness of Czech horror is due to its specific political positioning and its multicultural environment. The mixing of Czech, German and Austrian elements is unique.

Christian Heinrich Spiess, an author of horror knight romances, the so-called der schauerroman, became very popular at the end of 18th century. Although Spiess was a German, he lived in Prague and in Bezděkov near Klatovy and he wrote stories which took place in the Czech lands.

Other personalities of Spiesscast deserve to be mentioned, too; for example Gustav Meyrink, Hanns Heinz Ewers and Karl Heinz Strobl from Jihlava, who was a co-editor of the first magazine specialising in fantasy, Der Orchideengarten (a predecessor of the American Weird Tales). There are, however, dozens of native Czech authors who absorbed and transformed both the foreign and domestic infuences in an original way, spicing the German horror tradition with absurd, slapstick comedy elements.

In the multicultural area of the Czech lands, not only various European influences (from France, Russia, Germany), but also Asian ones can be discerned. Inspired by them all, Czech horror makes its distinctive view felt in fiction, poetry, fine arts and films. The opening chapters follow these influences and stress the native roots of Czech horror: for example, in the chapter called The Bloody Saga The Vampire Transformation, the influence of the Czech environment on Johann Wolfgang Goethe is described.

The following chapters discuss the Lovecraft motifs, which appeared in the Czech horror even before Lovecraft. They mention the common features of the different subgenres of the Gothic novel (der Schauerroman, Volksroman versus „krvavý román“); they remind one of the influence of surrealism, its specific development, the expresionistic elements in the Czech horror and of the extremely abundant scene of the Czech decadence and Satanism.

Czech horror is a unique phenomenon which can compete on the international scale. It contributes significant qualities, to be originally found nowhere else, to ‘world horror’. For example, mixing horror with folklore is first done in the work of Karel Jaromír Erben, who later influenced Jan Neruda, Jakub Arbes and Jiří Sumín alias Amálie Vrbová. Similarly, film qualities are uniquely present in the fiction written by the Czech Karel Sabina, Josef Jiří Kolár, Anna Marie Tilschová, Josef Šimánek, Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic, Emanuel z Lešehradu or Karel Trachta.

 

Nakladatel: Protimluv
ISBN: 978-80-87485-27-9, EAN: 9788087485279
Popis: 1 x kniha, brož., 272 stran
Rozměry: 155×210 mm
Rok vydání: 2015 (1. vydání)
Cena: 249 Kč

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On 26 dicembre 2015
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