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Living in The Merry GhettoThe Music and Politics of the Czech Underground$
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Trever Hagen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190263850

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190263850.001.0001

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From Socialist Realism to the Prague Spring

From Socialist Realism to the Prague Spring

(p.21) Chapter 2 From Socialist Realism to the Prague Spring
Living in The Merry Ghetto

Trever Hagen

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 explores aesthetic models, forms, and materials of creative practices in Czechoslovakia from the 1940s to the 1960s. It centers on how people made available aesthetic resources: the practice of furnishing an ecology. I examine the historical conditions of artistic production of post–World War II Stalinism’s “socialist realism” to the Czechoslovak Prague Spring and its political direction of “socialism with a human face” beginning with Egon Bondy’s work. I focus particularly on his biography as a producer and early poetry works after the 1948 coup, emphasizing two styles he developed with Ivo Vodseďálek from 1950 and 1951: Total Realism (Totalní Realismus) and Poetry of Embarrassment (Trapná Poezie). These poetic styles and content served as a response to the perceived absurdity of post-1948 Stalinist culture felt by Bondy and Vodseďálek. By examining this body of work, I investigate what Total Realism and Poetry of Embarrassment afforded, solved, and transmitted. On the heels of Stalin’s death and Khrushchev’s secret speech in 1956, I continue onto the boom and popularity of rock ’n’ roll during the 1960s and the initial, inchoate formation of the Underground following the Prague Spring of 1968. I analyze people’s engagement with circulating cultural media during this period that contributed to a cosmopolitan music scene in Prague, detailing the proto-underground rock bands of the 1960s and the emergence of psychedelic music in Prague.

Keywords:   Stalinism, poetry, rock ’n’ roll, radio, magnitizdat, proto-underground, repression

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