By Thomas Ort (auth.)
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Additional info for Art and Life in Modernist Prague: Karel Čapek and His Generation, 1911–1938
Chapter 2 explores the tensions between these two conceptions of modern art in the years before the First World War. The third chapter, “The Lessons of Life: Karel Čapek and the First World War,” examines the impact of the First World War on the life and thought of Čapek. The war and its aftermath—the collapse of AustriaHungary and the foundation of the new state of Czechoslovakia— were arguably the central events in the life of Čapek and his peers and their effects can hardly be overstated. For Čapek, the war prompted a thoroughgoing reevaluation of his prewar aesthetic program.
Chapter summary Art and Life in Modernist Prague begins with an intellectual and social historical analysis of the pre–World War I cubist movement in Prague and the coalescence around it of the writers and artists of Čapek’s generation. The first chapter, “Prague 1911: The Cubist City,” asks why there was a cubist movement in Prague but not in Vienna and Budapest. It locates the turn to cubism in Prague in the social, national, and cultural differences among the three principal cities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
42 Before the war, Čapek had styled himself something of a cosmopolitan, shunning Czech national agitation as crude and chauvinistic. By the end of the war, however, he was swept up in the wave of national feeling that accompanied the creation of the new state. If earlier he had kept aloof from politics altogether, now he breathlessly attended to every twist and turn of the state’s political development. ”43 Although Čapek was still refining his own ideological orientation in the late 1910s and early 1920s, he was closely attuned to the politics of cultural life and entered into heated polemics with the artists of the young avant-garde who declared revolution to be the goal of their art.