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Research Colloquium | Dalibor Dobiáš on Jiří Gruša: Metaphors of Postnational Writing in Central Europe

Where? Room 319, Altes Finanzamt, Landshuter Str. 4

When? Thursday, 20 July, 14:15-15:45


If "third spaces" are distinguished by hybridity and uncertainty (H. Bhabha), the question of their genesis arises as well as that of their further development beyond the interaction of distinct cultures with homogenizing mechanisms. The work of Jiří Gruša (1938–2011) offers unique insights into the role of literature in this process in contemporary Europe. The Czech-German writer and translator, who became a “public intellectual” and after 1989 a diplomat active in mass media, shaped the new discourse on the German-Czech relationship, which had been so deformed by the totalitarianisms of the 20th century. At the same time, his diplomatic efforts, which include numerous essays on German-Czech discourse on the past, were clearly rooted in literature, in the general search for a "world language of poetry" as opposed to its cultural-political instrumentalization, a search Gruša already shared with his European contemporaries in the 1960s (e.g. H. M. Enzensberger, J. Brodsky). The lecture examines Gruša’s literary background and especially his late work, which is characterized by numerous literary and broader – cultural – translations (D. Bachmann-Medick), in an attempt to model the relevant "third spaces" of post-communist Czech and German cultures and their development. These include both Gruša's crisis of poetic language during his exile in the 1980s and, in particular, his translations-adaptations from and into Czech that are directed against cultural tradition-establishing "literariness" and his critical essays for a dual – Czech and German – audience linked to his own diplomatic career (“Beneš als Österreicher” addresses hybridity in its very title). By analyzing Gruša's work with languages and his (auto-)translations, the lecture attempts to determine his "post-national" definition of authorship, translation as culture-building techniques, and his view of the discourses of literature and politics.

Dalibor Dobiáš:

Dr. Dalibor Dobiáš is Senior Researcher at the Institute of Czech Literature at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague.

For more details see.