Smrt jako sémiotická událost: Mácha, Němcová, Neruda, Hrabal a Kundera
DEATH AS A SEMIOTIC EVENT: MACHA, NEMCOVA, NERUDA, HRABAL, AND KUNDERA
This article follows on from the authoress' previous investigations into Czech literature from the point of view of the values reflected in it, for example, her 'Semiotic Odyssey through Czech Literature' (1997). It compares the approach to death in some important Czech works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. First, she compares the conception of death in Karel Hynek Macha's 'Maj' (1836) and Nemcova's 'Babicka' (1855) and comes to the conclusion that although Nemcova does not manifest of fear of death like Macha does, she subconsciously reflects a certain trauma, characteristic for society at the time and projects that trauma into the character Viktorka, the outcast. She then points out the unexpected similarity between Macha and Nemcova in the relationship between death and sexuality. Both Macha's hero and Nemcova's Viktorka meet violent deaths in consequence of a mistaken sexual relationship, cheated by their lovers. Death is thus directly related to the absence of love. The only difference is that Macha is in this respect critical of the role of society, whereas Nemcova passively accepts it. The next part of the article analyzes the conception of death in Jan Neruda's 'Povidky malostranske' (1878). It argues that here death is a regular everyday matter, usually accompanied by the indifference of the deceased's neighbours and kin and sometimes even caused by their cruelty. It has no concealed symbolic value as it does, by contrast, in Macha and Nemcova. Neruda presents death as a realistic external observer. The last part analyzes the conception of death in works by Bohumil Hrabal and Milan Kundera. On the whole it concludes that the approach to death is contingent on individual and period styles and social values characteristic of a particular area, time, and social strata, as well as on personal approach and experience, indeed even on the age of the authors at the time they were writing. The article points out that if one considers death a semiotic event, one can never avoid the question of the semiotics of the narrator's life.
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