The Mystifications of a Nation: The Potato Bug and Other Essays on Czech Culture

Paperback | November 18, 2010

byVladimír MacuraEditorHana Píchová, Craig Cravens

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A keen observer of culture, Czech writer Vladimír Macura (1945–99) devoted a lifetime to illuminating the myths that defined his nation. The Mystifications of a Nation, the first book-length translation of Macura’s work in English, offers essays deftly analyzing a variety of cultural phenomena that originate, Macura argues, in the “big bang” of the nineteenth-century Czech National Revival, with its celebration of a uniquely Czech identity.
    In reflections on two centuries of Czech history, he ponders the symbolism in daily life. Bridges, for example—once a force of civilization connecting diverse peoples—became a sign of destruction in World War I. Turning to the Soviet and post-Soviet eras, Macura probes a range of richly symbolic practices, from the naming of the Prague metro system, to the mass gymnastic displays of the Communist period, to post–Velvet Revolution preoccupations with the national anthem. In “The Potato Bug,” he muses on one of the stranger moments in the Cold War—the claim that the United States was deliberately dropping insects from airplanes to wreak havoc on the crops of Czechoslovakia.
    While attending to the distinctively Czech elements of such phenomena, Macura reveals the larger patterns of Soviet-brand socialism. “We were its cocreators,” he declares, “and its analysis touches us as a scalpel turned on its own body.” Writing with erudition, irony, and wit, Macura turns the scalpel on the authoritarian state around him, demythologizing its mythology.

 

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A keen observer of culture, Czech writer Vladimír Macura (1945–99) devoted a lifetime to illuminating the myths that defined his nation. The Mystifications of a Nation, the first book-length translation of Macura’s work in English, offers essays deftly analyzing a variety of cultural phenomena that originate, Macura argues, in the “big...

Vladimír Macura (1945–1999) was a Czech writer, translator, and semiotician. Hana Píchová is associate professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of The Art of Memory in Exile: Vladimir Nabokov and Milan Kundera. Craig Cravens is Fellow of Czech Studies at the University ...

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The Mystifications of a Nation: "The Potato Bug" and Other Essays on Czech Culture
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Format:PaperbackDimensions:150 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.5 inPublished:November 18, 2010Publisher:University Of Wisconsin PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0299248941

ISBN - 13:9780299248949

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Read from the Book

“In the shadow of Yuri Lotman’s Tartu School, the essays in this book stand out marvelously humorous and small.”—Caryl Emerson, from the foreword

Table of Contents

Introduction


Peter Bugge, Aarhus University



Preface


Caryl Emerson, Princeton University



Where Is My Home


Mystification and the Nation


Dream of Europe


Prague


The Center


The Bridge


Michurin


The Potato Bug


The Spartakiad


The Metro


The Death of the Leader


Minus-Stalin


Symbol With a Human Face


Renaming


The Celts Within Us

Editorial Reviews

“While the essays in this volume are rather brief, they always present food for thought. Sometimes brilliant and often funny, they should be read, and not only by experts.”—European History Quarterly