This volume is titled Close and Foreign: Jews, Literature, and Culture in the Czech Lands in the Twentieth Century. It attempts to capture the twofold nature of the mutual cultural coexistence between Jews and the majority Czechs, or as the case may be Germans, in the Czech lands. On the one hand there is “foreignness,” distance, wall-building, mutual animosity, and misunderstanding. These aspects manifest themselves in the construction of negative heterostereotypes. On the other hand, however, one finds “closeness,” attempts at openness, comprehension, and understanding, which are projected in neutral and positive images.
The topic itself, the reflection of Jews and Jewishness in Czech literature and culture, makes necessary the surpassing of literature’s conventional framework, which is based on a single national identity and is written in one language – in this case, in Czech. It is our ambition to present the thematization and reflection of Jewishness as a polyphonic occurrence that must be viewed from various perspectives, and to present literary life in the Czech lands as a transnational phenomenon.
In doing so, literature does not just mean the belles-lettres, but literary culture in broader terms – that is, non-fiction, journalism, theater, and film as well. The structure of this book is in keeping with this idea. It is divided chronologically into four sections; each section includes synoptic chapters in addition to studies focused on individual authors and works: besides literature, theater, film, and journalism are also examined. Methodological issues are dealt with especially in the first study of the first section (The Representation of Jews and Jewishness in the Late Nineteenth Century and the Early Decades of the Twentieth Century) and in the first study of the third section (Between Silence and a Scream: Czech Poetry on the Shoah).