Christopher Harwood, lecturer at the Columbia University presented on February 10, 2021, in an event organized by the Society for the History of Czechoslovakian Jews (SHJCS) the representation of Eastern Jews in three of the most remarkable works of interwar Czech literature: Nine Gates by Jiri Langer, Golet in the Valley by Ivan Olbracht, and House without a Master by Egon Hostovsky all of them published in the year 1937. The lecture was called “Three Views to the East: Eastern Jews in Czech Interwar Literature”.
“Three of the most remarkable works of interwar Czech literature dealing prominently with Jewish themes were all first published in 1937, and they all feature depictions of Eastern European Jews and their spirituality presented as an alternative to the highly assimilated, secularized lifestyle shared by most Jews in the Czech lands. This lecture begins with an overview of the ways the traditional, mostly Yiddish-speaking Jews of Eastern Europe were widely viewed by assimilated Central European Jews in the early twentieth century and the interwar period, and then proceeds to analyze and compare the ways in which Eastern Jewish identity and spirituality function in Nine Gates by Jiri Langer, Golet in the Valley by Ivan Olbracht, and House without a Master by Egon Hostovsky.
Although the three books under consideration employ many of the same tropes for characterizing Eastern Jews’ mentality and way of life, they lead their readers to very different conclusions about the viability of Eastern Jewish identity and spirituality as models for contemporary Czech Jews to imitate or in some way incorporate into their own lives.
Christopher Harwood has been lecturer in Czech in the Slavic Department of Columbia University since 2001. He received his PhD in Russian literature with a minor in Czech language and literature from Columbia in 2000. His research and teaching focus on methods and materials development for teaching Czech as a foreign language, and on twentieth- and twenty-first-century Czech literature and culture. In 2019-2021 he is serving as Co-Director of the East Central European Center at Columbia’s Harriman Institute.”
You can watch the lecture on YouTube.