vocab note: m. Npl. hosté; návštěvník; guest
This text was originally written as a newspaper essay. Naturally, it deals with the political and cultural climate of Czechoslovakia in early 20th century. The relevance of the issues raised in this text, however, goes beyond this specific period. Think about the contemporary situation in the Czech Republic. Try substituting president Havel with president Masaryk, and the brick-made Disney Land-like atmosphere of the Old Town Square in Prague with the atmosphere of the early 20th century.
Čapek, juxtaposing seriousness and humor, exposes some aspects of Czech mentality. His slightly self-ironical tone touches on the problem in the Czech society after the turn of 19th and 20th century: turning one’s back to the outside world and stressing the domestic issues. Such self-absorption is not an issue limited to Čapek’s times. It is often discussed by President Havel’s New Year’s Addresses. Consider a long list of famous people who were born in the Czech Lands but eventually left (Rainer Maria Rilke, Gustav Meyrink, Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Edmund Husserl) or spent some time here and left again (Robert Musil; Lion Feuchtwanger or Mann brothers could be added to the list after Hitler’s take over). Incidentally, only one personality that came the other way: Giacommo Cassanova, a famous womanizer, came to Northern Bohemia to spend his last days…
Čapek’s slight irony also questions the way Czechs try to create the image of the newly established Czechoslovakia: forcing visitors to perceive Czechoslovakia in a way we wish them to. This attitude echoes the National Revivalists’ effort to promote distinct characteristics of the Czech or Slavic mentality? What are Čapek’s messages? Are these issues specific to the Czech context? Can we find parallels in other contexts?