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Miloš Zelenka


The paper evaluates the importance of the French-written Histoire de la littérature tchèque I–III [The History of Czech Literature] (1930–1935) by Hanuš Jelínek (1878–1944), a leading expert and authority on French–Czech cultural relations. His synthetic work destined for French readers and completed outside the modern methodological context of the 1930s draws on Ernest Denis’ concept of Czech literary development as the ‘literature of struggle’ against the German element, while its composition is inspired by Arne Novák’s history written in German, and his expository method follows in the footsteps of his mentor Jaroslav Vlček. Therefore, Jelínek conceives literary development as a continual motion of ideas within an aesthetic form, as a subject-stratified, multi-layered story unified by the central outlook enabling him on the one hand to emphasise the nationally defensive aspect of Czech literature, and, on the other hand, to present it through parallels and illustrative examples within the European perspective. Jelínek’s Histoire, supplemented with a number of his own translations of Czech authors, is a particular narrative–historical genre – the epitome of the young Czech nation’s cultural policy and an archetype of cordial relations between the Czechoslovak and French cultures.