From plurality of poetics to socialist realism 1945-1948

‘The years 1945-1948 represent a typical transition period in the history of the Slovak 20th-century literature’ (Šmatlák, 1999, p 510), with a plurality of poetics by authors from the inter-war period. Immediately after the end of the Second World War no stylistic typological changes were yet evident in Slovak fiction, but the departure from the prose of lyricism and naturism was already foreshadowed by the polemics over the so-called ‘angel countries’. Jozef Felix, who initiated the problem in Slovak literature with his article O nové cesty v próze (‘For New Avenues in Prose’, Elán, 1946) accused Slovak prose writers of autotelic poeticising of texts, emphasising form to the detriment of the content, and of the thematic breaking away from reality, escapism to the world of imagination or to the past. It was in that spirit that naturist prose writings (Margita Figuli’s Babylon, František Švantner’s Nevesta hôľ, The Upland Bride, Hana Zelinová’s Anjelská zem, The Angel’s Country, all from 1946) and texts by authors continuing with lyric imagery in their epic writing (pars pro toto Jozef Horák’s Zahmlený návrat, The Misted Return, 1946) were perceived. Yet it was Švantner’s Nevesta hôľ (The Upland Bride) – notwithstanding the period reservations – which exemplified the paramount work of Slovak naturism. In his prose Švantner anthropomorphised natural existence to such a degree that the borders between him and the human world faded; he created one of the most beautiful female protagonists of the Slovak prose: the capricious, unconfined, unattainable Zuna – the upland bride, as well as the character of the werewolf in whom he efficiently combined irrational and realistic elements, the animal and the abstract evil.
The texts of the authors that took the Slovak National Uprising or the Second World War for their themes represented a return to reality: Peter Jilemnický’s documentary novel Kronika (The Chronicle, 1947), Ján Bodenek’s naturalistic collection of novellas Z vlčích dní (From the Wolves’ Days, 1947), the partly-mythicised Horák novel Hory mlčia (Mountains Keep Silence, 1947). The authentic experience of the Uprising was captured by Vladimír Mináč in his debut Smrť chodí po horách (Death Visits the Mountains, 1948) and the period of the Slovak state was portrayed by Dominik Tatarka in this novel Farská republika (The Parish Republic, 1948).