In the Slovak Republic there is a broad spectrum of awards in area of the art and culture. First of all they are the honour awards which have a character of high honour of the state like a public acknowledgement for lifelong work or previous creation. They have a high credit in the society and they contribute to strengthening of national pride. They may be awarded to significant personality also in memoriam. Further there are motivating and initiatory awards that serve for support of further creation of artist, they are helpful to origin of the next works and they are connected with a financial remuneration; the awards are linked with symbolic financial reward which is usually a supplement of prize (medals, small statue, plaquettes … at the festivals, shows and so on); further awards for exceptional work, concrete act, contribution, quality, they are annual as a rule and awarded by artistic creative and professional associations and institutions; there are awards designated for young creators exclusively – for aimed support of young talents. Also regional prizes are awarded to the individuals and collectives: prizes of self-governing regions, prizes of the chairmen of self-governing regions, prizes of cities, awards of town Mayors; honour citizenships of towns for development of culture in district/country, in region, town, for excellent artistic results, exceptional creative performances, for pattern representation of the district, region, town – in area of artistic creation, interest artistic activity, in cultural and educational labour, popular artistic creation and protection of cultural heritage.
In the Slovak republic a lot of competitions in area of art and culture exist. There are the competitions, festivals or competitive shows in all kinds and genres of artistic creation, in professional also amateur creation where the participation alone in finale is a quality mark and a form of award. In the area of artistic creation the international and domestic (national) competitions take place – in all artistic kinds: plastic/visual/fine arts and architecture, literature, music, theatre and broadcasting/radio, film and television. Similarly the all-state competitions also in particular kinds of nonprofessional artistic creation (also with international participation) take place. The minor rounds (district, regional and country rounds) of amateur artistic creation in all areas have a regional character. The competitions for young creators have particular importance, which serve like the awards for support of young talents with on objective to establish them in a professional environment. Activation and motivation above all of young creation is a warranty of the culture and art continuity in national scale and its integration into the European and world context. The confrontation with abroad at the international events significantly contributes also to an experience exchange and to mutual enrichment. Also the competitions for age categories of children and young people are carried-out, i.e. of pupils of elementary schools and students of high schools (folkloric, literary, singer´s, fine art schools and other) also for schoolchildren of primary artistic schools in Slovakia (schools of instrumental playing, chamber playing, fine art and literary schools and so on). They importantly contribute in the whole spectrum of contribution to the development of national culture and they secure its continuity and full-valued applying in all-European and world context.
There are a number of professional periodicals published in Slovakia that deal with various aspects of traditional folk culture. These include Slovak Ethnography, Ethnographic Debates, Slavistické štúdie (Slavic Studies), Musicologica Slovaca et Europaea. The youngest of them is Ethnomusicologicum novum. ÚĽUV – Centre for Folk Art Production publishes a magazine regarding the issues of traditional and present craft, design and applied art entitled RUD (R-remeslo-crafts, U-umenie-arts, D-dizajn-design). The National Centre of Culture publishes a Národná osveta (National Public Education) with articles from the field of folklorism.
One could avoid ideologisation in literature by means of the thematisation of the past rather than of the totalitarian present. The historicising fiction of the Ballek-Jaroš-Šikula generation can be understood in the context of the inter-war and post-war novel, magic realism, postmodernist tendencies and Bachtin’s concept of the carnivalesque (for more details, see Jenčíková-Zajac). Three novels in particular should be mentioned: Tisícročná včela (The Millennium Bee, 1979), by Peter Jaroš, which blends the high (the metaphor of a busy bee) and the low (corporeality of characters), the publicising and the lyrical means (less convincing is the free, ideology-laden sequel to the novel Nemé ucho, hluché oko, The Mute Ear, the Deaf Eye, 1984); Majstri (Masters, 1976) by Šikula (followed by the free sequel Muškát, Geranium, 1977 and Vilma, 1979) which presented the Uprising from the point of view of a ‘little’ man forcibly dragged in the war, the novels by Ballek from Southern Slovakia as a multicultural environment, with the monumentalisation of the main protagonists, Pomocník (The Assistant, subtitled Kniha o Palánku, 1977) and Agáty (Acacias, subtitled Druhá kniha o Palánku, 1981). Confrontation between the powerful and the weak is highlighted in different ways by Ján Johanides in the novel Marek Koniar a uhorský pápež (Marek Koniar and the Hungarian Pope, 1983) and by Lajos Grendel in the book Odtienené oblomky (Tinged Fragments, 1985). The potential reaction of Anton Baláž to the scrapping of his debut work Bohovia ročných období (Gods of Seasons of the Year, 1971) was the escape to history in the work Sen pivníc (The Dream of Cellars, 1977). Likewise, Anton Hykisch switches from the thematisation of the present to the past in his novels Čas majstrov I, II (The Era of Masters I, II, 1977, 1983) and Milujte kráľovnú (Love the Queen, 1984). History is also actualised by Ján Lenčo in his texts Egypťanka Nitokris (The Egyptian Woman Nitokris, 1972), Žena medzi kráľmi (The Woman Among Kings, 1985) and others.
Milan Ferko also authored the historical novel trilogy Svätopluk (1975), Svätopluk a Methodus (Svätopluk a Methodus, 1985) and Svätopluk´s Legacy (1989), initially presenting himself as a schematic poet. In this sense, his texts are not an escape, but rather an exploitation of the sub-genre of historical discourse. Ivan Izakovič blends the techniques of historical fiction and non-fiction in his novels.
While the debuts of Ján Johanides, Rudolf Sloboda, Peter Jaroš, Ladislav Ballek and Vincent Šikula were influenced by modernism or neo-modernism, the end of the 1960s witnessed the first attempts at postmodernism in Slovak prose.
Already in the early books of Pavel Hrúz, Dokumenty o výhľadoch (Documents on Outlooks, 1966) and Okultizmus (Occultism, 1968) we find postmodern elements such as intertextuality, the ironic attitude of the narrator, the plurality of voices, the eclecticism of languages and styles, the blending of mass and elite cultures, nostalgia for the past, the fragmentation of the text, a playfulness of words, sentences, units and perceptions, and so on. Hrúz’s protagonist is often a man on the fringe of the society, confronting power because of his being different. The title of Pavel Vilikovský’s debut, Citová výchova v marci (Sentimental Education in March, 1965) is in the words of Peter Zajac (from the epilogue to the 2005 edition of Vilikovský’s works) a paraphrase of the title of Gustav Flaubert’s novel l’Éducation sentimentale (1869), which itself makes reference to Jean Jacques Rousseau’s novel Émile ou de l’éducation (1762). Vilikovský also makes use of the implicit citations inside his short stories while drawing attention to the relevant problem of his creation – parodically created sentimentality (also in subsequent texts such as Eskalácia citu, Escalation of the Sentiment, 1989, and Slovenský Casanova, The Slovak Casanova, 1991 – written with Lajos Grendel Krutý strojvodca, The Cruel Engine Driver, 1996). However, postmodernism in Slovakia did not develop further in the ensuing years because of circumstances outside the domain of literature – Pavel Hrúz could not publish for political reasons, while some of the texts of Pavel Vilikovský written in the 1970s were also not published.
A number of prosaic texts of the 1980s ushered in the fall of the so-called real socialism before its demise in November 1989. Instances of a more radical disruption of schematism can be seen mostly from the publication in 1982 of Rudolf Sloboda’s novel Rozum (Reason, 1982), which brought forward the discussion of authenticity or the truthfulness of the art work and roused the anger of a section of official critics with its unconcealed frankness of statement. In this novel, “…perhaps for the first time ever, the aspect of our present stigmatisation appeared, of the simulation of life in past decades leading to brutalisation and the decline of elementary humanity in basic social relations’ (Zajac-Jenčíková, 1989, p 64). In the context of the literature of the 1980s we cannot ignore the prose works by Vilikovský, Mitana, Dušek, Ballek, Johanides or Rakús which, through playful experimenting, open up the theme of Central European space and portray the tragic perceptions of characters, polemically opposed the reappearance of the proclaimed poetics of socialist realism from the 1970s. Martin Bútora, a representative of the middle-aged generation, also made a delayed debut. In his collection of short stories Ľahkým perom (With a Light Pen, 1987) he created tragicomic, disenchanted and ironically portrayed characters of intellectuals. The novella Prvá veta spánku (The First Sentence of Sleep, 1983) by Pavel Vilikovský foretold the revival of postmodernism with the subversion of the genre of crime fiction, i.e. blending the techniques of crime fiction and artistic literature. The detective plot was also exploited in Dušan Mitana’s novel Koniec hry (The End of Game, 1984).
Peter Juščák in his debut Komu ujde vlak (Who Will Miss the Train, 1986) demythologises the picture of the labour hero in the ‘young’ prose of the 1980s; an implicit criticism of atheism is found in the debut of Edmund Hlatký (História vecí, The History of Things, 1988). In his ensuing prose works Hlatký develops the character of the ‘killed man’ from Sloboda’s novel Rozum (Reason). The prose works of Peter Pišťanek, Dušan Taragel and Igor Otčenáš, published in magazines, also played a not insignificant role in the ironic erosion of the socialist realism-inspired literary model in the late 1980s.
The debut collection of short stories by Ján Tužinský, Bičovanie koní (Whipping of Horses, 1983) gives a more traditional impression in the context of the 1980s. Štefan Moravčík enhances lyrical tendencies in epic literature in his debut Sedláci (Farmers, 1988).
The 1960s were a time of a fundamental watershed in Slovak literature with debuting authors switching from the thematisation of outer social reality to the convincing portrayal, mainly in shorter prose, of human intimacy. This is apparent from the very titles of the early books of Ján Johanides, Súkromie (Privacy, 1963), Rudolf Sloboda, Narcis (Narcissus, 1965) and Peter Jaroš, Popoludnie na terase (An Afternoon on the Terrace, 1963). In these first fruits, the commonly idealised hero of the world of work from the 1950s changes into an individual seeking his or her place in life and hence also in society, at the cost of making frequent errors. For example Urban Chromý, the protagonist of Sloboda’s debut work, Narcis, quits university studies to work in the mine but is repulsed by physical work. Chromý has a conflicting, at times hateful relationship with his girlfriend Dana. Also conflicting are his contemplations of God – from atheism to religious belief, etc. Troubled outsider characters are also found in Sloboda’s novels Britva (The Razor, 1967) and Šedé ruže (Grey Roses, 1969). Sloboda’s protagonist not only compensates for the triviality of the plot with his extraordinary vision of reality, but also becomes a vehicle for strangeness owing to his sharp intellect and complicated, perpetually unsatisfied nature which is not determined solely by social circumstances. In his texts Sloboda mixes the high and the low, questions of existence are blended with existential problems, bodily motifs intermesh with reflection and mystification is coupled with an autobiographic quality. In the same way the protagonists of Ján Johanides, in his later works Podstata kameňolomu (The Essence of the Stone Pit, 1965) and Nie (No, 1966), suffer from feelings of alienation and emptiness, which may be interpreted as the influence of existentialism. Later Johanides’s texts demonstrate the author’s ability to ‘de-tabooise’ the inner world of man and to see his dark passions, and often also the family curse. A disposition to the tragic alongside the grotesque may also be seen in Balada o vkladnej knižke (The Ballad of a Passbook, 1979) and in Najsmutnejšia oravská balada (The Saddest Orava Ballad, 1988). Experimental elements may also be found in Ladislav Ballek’s debut Útek na zelenú lúku (Flight to the Green Meadow, 1967), the influence of the nouveau roman can be traced in narratives by Peter Jaroš in the novel Zdesenie (Consternation, 1965), the novella Váhy (Scales, 1966) and the bi-novella Putovanie k nehybnosti (Journey into Numbness, 1967). However, the formal innovation of these debut works by the afore-mentioned authors is motivated by the transformation of the character, the efforts of prose writers to see man from all perspectives – in everyday problems and conflicting social relations.
In the context of the 1960s we must also mention Alfonz Bednár’s novel Hromový zub (The Thunderous Tooth, 1964), a complex, multi-layered saga of several families comprehensively thematising the post-upheaval village with its contradictions between the individual and the community, the old and the new, hard work and proprietorship etc. Though Bednár finished the sequel to the novel Deravý dukát (The Punctured Ducat) in the second half of the 1960s, it could only be published as late as in 1992, subtitled Role III-IV, jointly with Hromový zub (subtitled Role I-II).
Vlado Bednár presented a humorous and satirical generational voice (of a young man) in his books Uhni z cesty (Get Out of the Way, 1964), Divné hrušky s divnou chuťou (Strange Pears with Strange Flavour, 1966) and Veterné mlyny (Wind Mills, 1967). Dušan Kužel’s debut Vráti sa niekto iný (Someone Else Will Return, 1964) is also an account of a young man, though his posthumously-published novel Lampa (The Lamp, 1991) is rather more convincing.
A different voice in the 1960s was presented by Vincent Šikula, who in his books Na koncertoch sa netlieska (You are Not Supposed to Clap at Concerts) and Možno si postavím bungalow (I May Build Myself a Bungalow), both printed in 1964, revived the joy of elementary narration and the child’s pure perception of the world. His novella S Rozarkou(With Rozarka, 1966) is a suggestive story of a mentally disabled girl, of empathy and humanity drawn through the care of her brother. Here Šikula explores complex life situations in a lyrical way while also exploiting folkloric (balladic) techniques. In his subsequent prose Nebýva na každom vŕšku hostinec (There is Not an Inn on Every Hillock, 1966) he was again drawn to the differentness of people from the periphery.
Besides V Šikula, other emerging authors also attempted a ‘healthy differentiation of the young Slovak prose’ (Števček, 1986, p 69) during this period. Noteworthy examples include Ján Papp with his debut Kára plná bolesti (The Cart Full of Pain, 1969), Ján Lenčo with his book Cesta na morské dno (Journey to the Seabed, 1966), Ján Beňo with his short stories Každý deň narodeniny (Every Day a Birthday, 1964), Peter Kováčik with his debut Portréty (Portraits, 1964) and Belo Kapolka with his alpine stories Kanadské smreky (Canadian Spruces, 1967).
A number of factors make the typology of Slovak prose after November 1989 more intricate. They include mainly the plurality of individual authors’ poetics and the absence of generational groupings, with the exception of the so-called ‘Barbarian generation’. Of the latter we need to mention particularly Ján Litvák, who stirred immediate interest with his debut Samoreč (Talking to Oneself, 1992), and equally with his hybrid books in terms of genre and class Pijem vodu z Dunaja (I Drink Water from the Danube, 2006) and Bratislavské upanišády (The Bratislava Upanishads, 2007). Ivan Kolenič’s prose debut Mlčať (Keeping Silent, 1992) is equally shocking in terms of both its subject matter and its lexicon, getting closer to Litvák’s Samoreč with its motifs of language dominance, the potential problem of stylisation of utmost despair and the eratic solitariness of the protagonist. An interesting experiment from an evolutionary point of view is the mischievously-created and graphically striking debut of Kamil Zbruž, the folding picture book Spitý imidž (Inebriated Image, Magazine for Lower 10.000 Income Bracket, 1993), that forebodes different lines of desemantised writing in Slovak prose (from the attempts of Koloman Kocúr to Macsovszky’s ‘steriles’).
Numerous texts written earlier, in the 1970s and 1980s (for example, works by Pavol Hrúz, Ivan Kadlečík, Pavel Vilikovský and others) were also published after 1989, therefore they do not necessarily give the impression of being ‘breakthrough’ literature in the changed social situation. One exception is the prose work of P Vilikovský, Večne je zelený… (The Eternally Green…), written in the 1970s but published as late as 1989 along with Vilikovský’s prose collections Eskalácia citu, The Escalation of Sentiment and Kôň na poschodí, slepec vo Vrábľoch, The Horse Upstairs and the Blind Man in Vráble. The prose of Vilikovský formally reminds one of a history textbook, which relates to the thematisation of man in history, but at the same time, links the discourses of different provenance. Vilikovský’s text makes intertextual references to the reportage of E E Kisch, but also makes use of the elements of adventure discourse, professional literature or ideological language. Postmodernist techniques may also be found in the mystifying and intertextual novel of Dušan Mitana, Hľadanie strateného autora (Searching for the Lost Author, 1991). Apart from postmodernist works by authors, literary science also discusses the poetics of coolness (Rassloff, 1999) and the so-called text generation (Šrank, 2000). These are however different terminological denotations of the works, mostly by the same authors, which are related to the poetics (parodic, demystification, intertextual) of authors Peter Pišťanek, Dušan Taragel, Igor Otčenáš, Tomáš Horváth, Peter Macsovszký, Balla, Marek Vadas, Eman Erdély, Martin Kasarda, Viliam Klimáček, Karol D Horváth, Silvester Lavrík and others.
Foreign texts of different provenance are often in prose, as in the case of Balla’s Tekuté poviedky (Fluid Short Stories) from the prose collection Unglik (2003), in which he ‘rewrites’ the prose works of F M Dostoyevsky, W S Burroughs, Charles Bukowsky, the Bible etc. Equally, references are made to the manuscript of Tomáš Horváth only with the vulgarisms and theorems, systematically used in his palimpsest-persiflage text, as is well evidenced in his book with the apt title Antikvariát (Second Hand Bookstore, 2004). In it T Horváth parodically draws on various texts from different periods (from the classical detective story to the naturalist prose), adapting the style and language of his prose. Intertextuality and intratextuality also relates to the depersonalisation of characters in the literature of the past two decades, their anonymisation, metonymisation and metaphorisation and the potentially different transformations and configurations of characters (making references also to the book of T Horváth, Niekoľko náhlych konfigurácií (Several Sudden Configurations, 1997). The functions of characters are often arbitrarily modified the detective in Horváth’s Pokazená hra (Spoiled Play, from the book Vražda marionet, The Murder of the Marionettes, 1999) can become the murderer, the potential victim turns into a special agent. Also transformed are the reading codes – for example the detective story is quickly, without any motivation, turned into its own parody or into some other sub-genre. Barthes’ ‘diversity of diction’ shows in the narration (the dominant voice of the narrator is often lost in prose) and in the lexicon (blending of different languages). In these bearings, T Žilka contemplates a cultural ‘hybridisation’, the so-called bastard culture (compare Žilka, 2004, p 12). Many contemporary prose writers find insufficient, not only the standard vocabulary of the language but also the Slovak language as a whole. In their texts they use various other international, even lesser-known national languages (for example Czech). Hybridisation also concerns genres and styles. For example the debut of Inga Hrubaničová, Láska ide cez žalúdok (Love Goes Through the Stomach, 2007) is made up of dramatic, epic and lyrical parts. Jana Bodnárová transforms video scripts into short stories (2 cesty, Two Ways, 1999), subjectively interprets fine art models (bleskosvetlo/bleskotma/, ‘lightninglight/lightningdark’, 1996), uses jump cuts or a diary style, and in some texts captures the world through the eye of a photographer. Peter Krištúfek, and on a different level also Karol D Horváth, exploit film compression. Silvester Lavrík, Laco Kerata and Peter Pavlac are in part inspired by theatre art.
The dissimilarity of writing in the early 1990s is evidenced in P Pišťanek, who, as one of the first authors, in his debut novel Rivers of Babylon (1991), not only reflected the post-November social climate by modelling his characters on those from the social periphery or the Bratislava gangland (prostitutes, underhand moneychangers, traffickers, gypsies and parking lot guards, using as locations public toilets, boiler rooms, hotels, buffets etc.), but also had both his characters and the narrator speaking a radically different language, reflected at both a syntactic and a lexical level (simple, snippy sentences, sub-standard expressions, neologisms, etc.). P Pišťanek and his co-author D Taragel (in the prose collection Sekerou & nožom, With Axe & Knife, 1999) polemically oppose the tradition of lyric, imaginative prose and different forms of realism (Pištanek’s second book Mladý Dônč, Young Dônč, of 1993 convincingly parodies not only the poetics of Timrava’s Ťapákovci, The Tapak Family, but also that of Slovak inter-war naturalist and naturist prose). P Pišťanek pushes further the boundaries of the reader’s ‘good taste’ (Krčméryová, 2008, p 109), giving grounds for the functional use of the techniques of popular fiction in subsequent parts of Pišťanek’s trilogy, Rivers of Babylon 2 or Drevená dedina (The Wooden Village, 1994), Rivers of Babylon 3 and Fredyho koniec (Freddie’s End, 1999). This also involves the issue of popular fiction crossover that is visible in the work of some contemporary writers, such as Viliam Klimáček, Pavol Rankov, Karol D Horváth and Tomáš Horváth. To the parodic texts of P Pišťanek and D Taragel we may also a I Otčenáš’s prose debut Kristove šoky (Christ’s Shocks, 1991), a work which has not thus far received due critical appreciation, in which the author similarly strives to demythologise the Slovak countryside and the era of so-called real socialism. Similarly, we can find an ironic and frustrating portrayal of post-November reality in the texts of Marek Vadas and Eman Erdély. Univerzita (University, 1996) demythologises the academic environment, while the prose collection Diabol pod čapicou (‘The Devil Under the Cap’, 2002) removes the taboo from the subjects of crime and sex associated with police characters. While in Univerzita the authors parodically imitate the lectures of university teachers promptly adapting to the transforming school system, Diabol pod čapicou also makes use of the techniques of popular fiction, action films and jokes. The values of Vadas’ prose collections Prečo sa smrtka smeje (Why is Death Laughing, 2003) and Liečiteľ (The Healer, 2006, an Anasoft Litery Award winner) stand unchallenged, the author’s sense of the absurd, the irony, the grotesque, the irrational dreaminess and the often shocking punch lines are reaffirmed. The frolic line, with similar black humour, a grotesque attitude to the changed (partially virtual) world and expressive means is further explored by Karol D Horváth, Silvester Lavrík and Agda Bavi Pain.
Márius Kopcsay draws on the ironic, demythologising line in Slovak prose in another way. He belongs to the post-November authors with the most characteristic handwriting. In his prose works Kritický deň (The Critical Day, 1998), Stratené roky (The Lost Years, 2004), Domov (Home, 2005) and Zbytočný život (Worthless Life, 2006), Kopcsay records, often in a journalistic manner, the negativity and absurdity of being that is epitomised by a type of worthless, physically and often mentally distorted (obese, allergic, depressive, hypochondriac, etc.) character. Unlike Balla, however, Kopcsay thematises the living, often anomalous ordinariness that he describes virtually realistically despite his use of hyperbole and irony.
Compared to the non-communicative, mostly intertextual prose of, say, T Horváth, Balla or Macsovszký, Taragel´s Rozprávky pre neposlušné deti a ich starostlivých rodičov (Fairy Tales for Naughty Children and Their Caring Parents, 1997), P Pišťanek’s Rivers of Babylon trilogy and Kniha o cintoríne (The Cemetery Book, 2000) by Samko Tále (D Kapitáňová) were not only innovative texts but also the ones that made it as bestsellers. The efforts to achieve book marketability is openly manifested in the ‘brand’ form devised by Michal Hvorecký, who partially reduces the book to a commodity designed for a target group of readers. In a world abounding with brand names, Hvorecký created his own logo, which for his second prose work Lovci & zberači (Hunters and Collectors, 2001) was accompanied by a corresponding advertising campaign and graphic design elements which included an illustrated bar code on the packaging. Although Hvorecký (like Peter Šulej) attracted the critics’ attention with his debut work Silný pocit čistoty (A Strong Feeling of Purity, 1998), particularly with his so-called poetics of coolness, elements of cyberpunk and science fiction and generational message presented via a language influenced by electronic media, his novels were designated not only for the target group of (young) readers but, first and foremost, for the so-called ‘naive recipient’. Indeed, their characteristic features include the thrilling action story, information satiety, visualisation of characters and settings, thematisation of topical issues of the time (globalisation, hypermarkets, situation comedy dependence, internet pornography, homosexuality, paedophilia, etc.) and simple language. It is possible to view in a similar way the works of V Haratík, who made his debut with the so-called action novel Vojna psov (The War Dogs, 1997), Peter Bilý, Maxim M Matkin, Eva Urbaníková and to some extent also Denisa Fulmeková and Juraj Rayman. These ‘trendy’ authors (a term used by V Barborík) ostentatiously show their own erudition, their prose works are full of references to literature or philosophy, displaying a typical ironic distance and social criticism, their protagonist is commonly a rebel against the entire world, the plot dominates, the character stratification is unequivocal, the subjects are attractive – in other words, they offer ‘entertainment and art in one’ (Barborík, 2007, p 15).
The genre of the novel is currently productively fragmented and innovated particularly by representatives of the older generation such as Pavel Vilikovský (with for example Posledný kôň Pompejí, Last Horse of Pompeii, 2001) and Stanislav Rakús (with his loose trilogy Temporálne poznámky, Temporal Notes, 1993, Nenapísaný román, The Unwritten Novel, 2004, and Excentrická univerzita, The Eccentric Universe, 2008). The texts of Rakús show evidence of his capacity to create pure expression, conditioned by the dioecism of the author – a literary theoretician – and contain an intellectually challenging and simultaneously witty narration. Still, the dominance of shorter genres in literature after 1989 is not indicative of a literary crisis, but rather of the fading social order, and the growing autonomy and intimateness of contemporary literature.
Besides intertextual and frolic texts, ‘trendy’ prose works or ‘recreational’ genres, there are works in post-November 1989 literature that more or less incline to magic realism. Elements of magic realism are found particularly in the texts of Václav Pankovčín, who made his debut, in 1992 with the prose collection for adults Asi som neprišiel len tak (I May Not Have Come Just Like That) and the children’s book Mamut v chladničke (The Mammoth in the Fridge). While the other authors of the 1990s demythologised literary and non-literary reality, V Pankovčín in his prose creates not only magic stories but also a myth of a single region in the form of the fictitious Rantaprapán or Marakéš. The partial mythologisation and the ‘magic quality’ of the East Slovakian region in the texts of V Pankovčín is related to the modelling of its inhabitants and the space: Vasil Gonduľak gets pregnant and gives birth to a 25-litre beer keg; subsequently the old woman Ovaňa discovers eggs in a cut up rooster; the concrete comes into blossom with yellow flowers; Janko Šalamaha is born with teeth and starts a conversation with the midwife and so on. The world of the living and the dead (spirits) is blended in the work of Pankovčín similarly as in the works of magic realism. Víťo Staviarsky explores narrative prose differently from Pankovčín. In his debut Kivader (2007) he thematises the issues of the Roma community without sentiment, exotica or moralisation.
The dreamy, unreal and also ‘textual’ worlds encountered in the prose works of Jozef Kollár, Pavol Rankov, Peter Karpinský and Jana Bodnárová are often in confrontation with reality. The excessive sensitivity of Bodnárová’s characters is often seen as an adequate reaction to the pragmatic, anaesthetic world that her heroines shun, seeking security in their own rooms, in the anonymity of the hotel room, where they communicate by virtual means, but above all are rescued by their creations, writing and painting.
The prose characters of Monika Kompaníková inhabit set aside, dark, closed-in, gloomy and often hygienically-inadequate spaces. Their otherness is frequently manifested through the motif of the ill-fitting clothes of the characters (small or large), nudity, premature ageing, etc. The attachment of the person to the home in Kompaníková’s work (Miesto pre samotu, A Place for Solitude, 2003, Biele miesta, White Spots, 2006) is so strong as to make the thing anthropomorphised. The failure to recall words and the alteration of language highlight the lack of communication skills of Kompaníková’s characters, frequently associated with the shaping of the motif of an incomplete family. In Kompaníková’s prose the internal or external intervention in space and the conscious and voluntary departures of characters is common, but the mobility of characters is to a large extent limited by space. No matter how unpleasant the symbiosis of the man and the environment is, it gets often disrupted by an alien element, which (by convention, in the context of women’s writing) is a man but without unequivocal negative attributes.
With regard to the different phases of women’s writing we may also consider the diversity of the ‘feminist’ texts of Jana Juráňová or Uršula Kovalyk and the ‘women’s’ prose works of Monika Kompaníková, Jana Beňová, Irena Brežná, Jana Bodnárová, Svetlana Žuchováj and Inge Hrubaničová, and this despite similar motifs (of women’s alliances, troubled relations with a mother, desire for purity, discovery of one’s own body etc.). One of the differences is the stratification of the world, which in feminist texts is commonly unequivocal (men are aggressors, women are their victims, men are more active than women, by contrast, women are more sensitive than men etc.), and, particularly, the erosion of gender stereotypes. Women’s prose thematises gender-conditioned experience without protest against the men’s world. Feminist prose can also be perceived as an intertextual dialogue with the texts of male authors – in this sense Juráňová’s prose work Utrpenie starého kocúra (The Sorrows of an Old Tomcat, 2000) makes partial reference to Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther, 1774) but above all challenges Vilikovský’s work Eskalácia citu (The Escalation of Sentiment) through a different rendition of the motif of the disabled woman’s rape presented from the perspective of the victim. The texts of Zuzana Cigánová, Jana Beňová, Danka Závadová, Rút Lichnerová, Mária Bátorová and Svetlana Žuchová are difficult to categorise in women’s or feminist prose, let alone the ‘genderless’ prose of Daniela Kapitáňová / Samko Tále.
Exile in the post-November 1989 prose is linked mostly to the authenticity line, but compared with Czech literature, diary and memoir publications did not take a dominant position in Slovakia in the 1990s.
One exception was M Šimečka’s novel Záujem (The Interest, 1997), widely discussed and mostly accepted by critics. Some texts by older authors may also be placed within the authenticity line: Tatarka’s Písačky pre milovanú Lutéciu (Writings for Beloved Lutécia) (1999) and Navrávačky s Dominikom Tatarkom (Dominik Tatarka Interview Transcripts) from 2000 (prepared by E Štolbová), Memoáre Rudolfa Slobodu, Láska (Memoirs of Rudolf Sloboda, Love, 2002), Hana Ponická’s Lukavické zápisky (Lukavice Records, 1992), Jaroslava Blažková’s Happyendy (Happy Endings, 2005), Dežo Ursiny’s letters to Zdenka Krejčová Moja milá pani (My Dear Lady, 2007) and certain texts by Ivan Kadlečík and Pavol Strauss, etc. Slovak readers were also impressed by the work of Irena Brežná, a Slovak author living in Switzerland, particularly the blending of rational and emotional attitudes in her debut work Psoriáza, moja láska (Psoriasis, My Love, 1992), the fiction and journalistic techniques in her collection of artistic reports and journalistic short stories Tekutý fetiš (Liquid Fetish, 2004) and the depiction of childhood in the 1950s in her prose work Na slepačích krídlach (On Hen’s Wings, 2007). Fictitious autobiography was attempted by Jana Bodnárová in her last book to date, Takmer neviditeľná (Almost Invisible, 2008).
While spiritual prose is less represented in contemporary Slovak literature, issues of faith, church, or transcendence are implicitly or explicitly explored by a number of authors, including Róbert Bielik, Juraj Jordán Dovala, Ján Litvák, Edmund Hlatký, Peter Bilý and others. In this regard we must mention the work of E Hlatký in particular, who already, in his debut História vecí (The History of Things, 1988), anticipated the development of Slovak prose after 1989 through the ‘de-tabooing’ of the question of faith, and through the type of character presented – a man with a disturbingly anguished spirit. Hlatký’s História vecí intrigued the critics of the period, not only because of its remarkable exigency of presentation of the subject of faith, as opposed to rationalism, but also with its indirectly-created question of the collective manipulation of the individual’s consciousness with the complexity of the process of searching for one’s own inner self. The problematisation of the good and evil in both novellas of Hlatký’s debut makes indirect references to Dostoyevsky’s concept of guilt and punishment – the man remains powerless against violence, fatally helpless, often a tragic victim of complicated life situations. In his subsequent prose works Jesenný opar (Autumn Mist, 1999), Iní ľudia (Other People, 2000), Sláva a tajomstvo (The Glory and the Secret, 2001) and Abraka dabraka (Abracadabra, 2008), evil is (socially, physically and nationally) intangible and abstract, the man is threatened by his own anxieties (from within) rather than by concrete adversaries (from without).
We may note that the post-November 1989 prose with its plurality of poetics comes close to inter-war literature, with equally productive postmodernist and realistic tendencies, and ironic and authentic gestures by the authors.
The natural selection of intimate themes and various formal techniques was forcibly eroded by circumstances outside the literary domain: following the occupation of the country by the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact in August 1968 a ‘programme of “consolidation” of literature was being promoted along the spirit of the doctrine of socialist realism’ (Marčok, 2004, p 43). In 1968 the journal Kultúrny život came to an end, as did the journal for young literature, Mladá tvorba, in 1970. A number of writers and literary scholars (including Ladislav Ťažký, Dominik Tatarka, Peter Karvaš, Milan Hamada, Kornel Földvári, Michal Gáfrik, Michal Nadubinský, Juraj Špitzer, Dušan Kužel, Pavel Hrúz and Katarína Lazarová) were excluded from the Union of Writers or could not publish. For some authors (Jaroslava Blažková, Ladislav Mňačko) emigration was the solution to the political situation, while others opted for internal, dissident exile (Dominik Tatarka, Hana Ponická, Ivan Kadlečík, Pavel Hrúz, Rudolf Dobiáš, Pavel Strauss and representatives of the so-called Catholic Modernism, for example Janko Silan, and later Martin M Šimečka, Oleg Pastier, Jiří Olič and others). In contrast, texts were published by authors who more or less conformed to socialist realism, e.g. Jozef Kot (Horúčka, Fever, 1973, Narodeniny,Birthday, 1978, Kolkáreň, Skittle Ground, 1983), Ján Jonáš (Jedenáste prikázanie, The Eleventh Commandment, 1975) and Miloš Krno (the novel trilogy Cnostný Metod, The Virtuous Method, 1978). The novel by Jonáš brought about a discussion on the productiveness of the realistic method in depicting the subject of socialisation. Thus after 1970 no radical changes were seen in Slovak prose, in fact quite the contrary, literature resumed the model from the 1950s. ‘Equally, no principal new horizon was created on the thematisation of the living world or any radical change in posing traditional themes and problems. Equally after 1970, it was more a change in the figuration within the given literary situation, which got reviewed from within, with corrections and reductions of previous movements, the relapses of already overcome starting points’ (Zajac-Jenčíková, 1989, p 52).
Neither was there any strong generation grouping formed after 1970, but rather, by the end of the 1970s, authors with different individualist poetics entered literature: Peter Glocko, Milan Zelinka, Peter Andruška, Július Balco, Anton Baláž, Ivan Hudec, Ľuboš Jurík, Ivan Habaj, Dušan Kováč, Jozef Puškáš, Milan Šútovec, Andrej Ferko, Viera Švenková, Nataša Tanská, Etela Farkašová, Oľga Feldeková, Michal Dzvoník, Alta Vášová and others. Hence we cannot speak of quantitative or qualitative stagnation here. The opposite is true, the prose works of Stanislav Rakús, Dušan Mitana or Dušan Dušek in particular can be compared with the texts from the 1960s in terms of their values. Stanislav Rakús made his debut with the collection of narratives Žobráci (Beggars, 1976), the plot of which is situated in a period of monarchy that is not specified more closely, which may be taken as a departure from the proclaimed realistic method of the period. Unlike the joy of narration with which Rakús enlivens the stories of people from the social periphery in his debut work, in his second book Pieseň o studničnej vode (The Song of Well Water, 1979) we encounter tragic tones with the lyrical formation of the subject matter going beyond the tradition of the lyrical, imaginative prose, inter alia by an efficient psychologisation of characters. With his debut Psie dni (Dog’s Days, 1970) Dušan Mitana drew on the methods of modern world prose, and in the subsequent prose collections Patagónia (1972) and Nočné správy (Night News, 1976) he also turned concrete everyday situations into the irrational, even the absurd. In his debut collection of prose Strecha domu (The House Roof, 1972) Dušan Dušek already demonstrated the qualities of being a sensualist observer of reality, which is underscored by the title of his second book, Oči a zrak (The Eyes and the Sight, 1975). In subsequent prose too, Dušek created the positive life feeling of man, hence forming the necessary counterweight to disillusioned prose (Poloha pri srdci, The Position at the Heart, 1982, Kalendár, Calendar, 1983, Náprstok, Thimble, 1985, Pešo do neba, On Foot to Heaven, 2000, and others). Dušek´s world is full of low joy stemming from the world’s trifles, discovery of details, empathy with people and confidence in meaningful relationships between man and women.
Slovak Romanticism in literature (1830-1860) is associated with the ‘Stúr generation’, which managed to reach Romantic aesthetics mainly during their peak phase. Organisational centres of the Romantic generation were the Evangelical lyceums in Bratislava and subsequently in Levoca (following the arrival of Ludovít Stúr and his supporters in 1844 from Prague to protest against Štúr’s removal from his position as representative of the Ústav reči a literatúry česko-slovenskej (Institute of the Czechoslovak Language and Literature).
The Romantic generation of Slovak authors frequently used native folk rhetoric in their aesthetics, particularly for some genres (ballads or songs). The proofs of this orientation were the results of a creative process by students at both lyceums, which were published in two almanacs: Bratislava’s almanac Plody (‘Fruits’, 1836) and Levoča‘s almanac Jitřenka (Morning Star, 1840).
A qualitative breakthrough in the artistic work of this generation came with the decision of its leaders (Ludovít Stúr, Jozef Miloslav Hurban and Michal Miloslav Hodža) in 1843 to use a new standard language based on Central Slovak dialects. In this language, which has become the common language of Slovaks, they started to publish the Slovenskje národňje novini (Slovak National Newspaper, 1845) with the literary supplement Orol tatránski (Tatra Eagle), the magazine Slovenskje pohladi (Slovak Views, 1846) and the almanac Nitra, which from its second edition in 1844 used a codified standard Slovak. From an artistic point of view we can consider the latter almanac a breakthrough, because one of the protagonists of Slovak Poetic Romanticism, Janko Kráľ, published his poems in it.
After the revolutionary years of 1848-1849, Slovak Romanticism divided into two lines. The first was represented by authors of the messianic orientation (Samo Bohdan Hroboň, Michal Miloslav Hodža and Joseph Podhradský), while the second included authors of the ‘pragmatic orientation’ (this was the rest of the Romantic generation who supported the pragmatic national programme of Ludovít Stúr). These authors tried to adapt the great ideals of Romanticism to the needs of the real national-cultural life.
Among the wide range of authors of Slovak literary Romanticism, Janko Král, Samo Chalupka, Andrej Sládkovic and Ján Botto became the most acclaimed representatives of poetry. The predominant literary genre in the Slovak literary Romanticism was poetry that used a syllabic verse system. It was especially in the field of Slovak lyrics that the greatest artistic works were created which have since become part of the national cultural heritage; these include Král‘s ballad Zakliata panna vo Váhu a divný Janko, A Sládkovic’s lyric-reflexive compositions Marína and Detvan, Botto‘s allegorical ballads Žltá ľalia (Yellow Lily) and Margita a Besná and elegiac composition Smrť Jánošíkova (The Death of Jánošík) and S Chalupka‘s elegiac poems with the motif of the national revival (Kráľoholská, Branko, Turčín Poničan).
The period of Realistic literature in Slovakia dates back to the years 1870-1918. Its beginning was, in comparison to European Realism, somewhat retarded because of unfavourable after-revolution conditions and the strong influence of Romantic authorities. The first significant appearance of the young Realistic generation of authors (Koloman Banšell, Pavol Országh, Július Botto, Gustáv Dérer, Ján Alexander Fábry, Andrej Halasa, Daniel Laucek etc) at the start of the 1870s (with the almanac Napred, 1871) was still marked by post-Romantic poetic features.
An important role in the establishment of literary criticism and the theory and aesthetics of literary Realism in Slovak literature after 1878 was played by the literary magazine Orol, which offered a platform to a young generation of authors, notably Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav, Svetozár Hurban Vajanský and Jozef Skultéty.
Slovak Realistic literature was internally differentiated. It was represented by the founding generation of Realism (Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav, Martin Kukucín, Svetozár Hurban Vajanský, Teréria Vansová and Elena Maróthy-Soltésová), then by the generation of Late Realism (Jozef Gregor Tajovský, Božena Slancíkova-Timrava, Janko Jesenský and Ladislav Nádasi-Jégé), the intergenerational group of poets (Ondrej Bella/Horal – real name Peter Dobroslav Bella, Kýcerský – real name Pavel Kokes, Somolický – real name Izidor Ziak, Tichomír Milkin – real name Ján Donoval, Ľudmila Podjavorinská, Dlhomír Polský – real name Andrej Majer) and by the ‘Slovak Moderna’ (Ján Botto – pseudonym Ivan Krasko, Janko Jesenský, Jan Halla – pseudonym Ivan Gall, Frantisek Votruba – pseudonym Ivan Klas, Ľudmila Groeblová – pseudonym Ľudmila Osenská, Vladimír Roy, Vladimír Hurban – pseudonym Vladimír Hurban Svetozárov, Martin Rázus, Samuel Cambel – pseudonym Kosorkin, Juraj Slávik – pseudonym Neresnický, Vladimír Konstantín Hurban – pseudonym Vladimír Hurban Vladimírov).
In poetry, folk poetry was replaced by the tendency to the poetry of ‘artism’ and to modern lyrical forms. Syllabic verse was replaced by accentual prosody. The most important Realistic author working within Slovak poetry was Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav, who wrote prose and poetry which was full of difficult constructions. Ivan Krasko, together with other authors of the Symbolist generation (Vladimír Roy, Ivan Gall, Janko Jesenský) stressed lyrical self-realisation. Krasko also loosened the strict stanzaic organisation of verse as well as sentence intonation. In addition, he abolished boundaries between poetry and epic.
Prose was the most important genre in Realism. It reflected the conflicts of social and individual reactions of man towards his surrounding reality. From the authors of the founding generation of Realists, S H Vajanský devoted his attention to the development of the social novel, M Kukučín concentrated on epics in folk surroundings, and T Vansová and E M Soltésová responded in their prose particularly to the needs of the female section of the reading public. Authors of the Late Realistic generation adopted ‘Pessimistic Realism’ (B S Timrava, J G Tajovský and J Jesenský) and a modernistic type of prose (J Jesenský, I Krasko, L Groeblová and S. Cambel). In dramatic literature a kind of folk-national playwriting became popular (Ján Palárik, Samuel Bodický, Pavol Sochán, Jozef Hollý, Ferko Urbánek and J G Tajovský) which fulfilled more education and training tendencies than the aesthetic function. Country people had not yet been prepared for the type of ‘high drama’ (as represented for example by Hviezdoslav’s drama Herodes and Herodias).
During this period there also developed popular literature and literature for children and youth. A significant historic event was the publication of the first children’s magazine in Slovakia, Včielka (Little Bee, 1878 -1883).