Prose in the 1970s

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.