Slovakness in the Making: The Concept of “Nation” and “National Literature” in the Works of 1930s Literary Critics


The study outlines the opinions on and sources of the so-called Slovak question in the interwar Czechoslovak republic amongst the writings of three Slovak literary critics: Stanislav Mečiar, Andrej Kostolný and Michal Chorváth. Each author stood for a different contemporary ideology; nationalist/autonomist, Czechoslovakist and communist, respectively. The current article details the ways and reasons these critics legitimised national self-determination, whether by invoking the legacy of the national awakening and those stereotypical historical narratives of Slovak oppression, equality and fulfilment within a common Czechoslovak state, or through the idea of social revolution and stark opposition to tradition deriving from modernist distrust and a general fragmentation of the world and society. Opinions on the problem with the Slovakness of national literature are also illustrated, as well as its place within the context of world literature, including an analysis of how these ideological rivals shared certain attitudes towards the national self-determination of Slovaks, yet differed greatly in their ideas on its manifestation. On the one hand, cooperation among literary intelligentsia may be seen as an effort to remain internally united while facing an impending world war; on the other hand, it could be interpreted as another part of the ideological struggle, as the case of the famous Congress of Slovak Writers seems to demonstrate.