If an entity called “Central European literature” truly exists, as some believe (and their most persuasive spokesperson is Milan Kundera, a novelist, playwright, and Pavel Kohout’s countryman), then it would exhibit features that could define the work of Kohout as well. It would be literature (and drama) concerned with the nature of reality. It would have an obsessive urge to unmask, to demythologize, and to tear off the disguises. It would try to approach the truth mindful of the fact that the ultimate truth remains hidden.
Rationalism, the belief underpinning the modern doctrine of progress, is itself challenged when the results of the application of the most progressive thought are as disappointing as the Central European experience suggests. Furthermore, there are areas in human life that resist cool, rational analysis, in which the inquisitor is helpless. Kohout dramatizes this belief in his triumphantly successful early play Taková láska through the ostensibly trivial but eternal love triangle, in which A loves B, but B loves C (who is unfortunately already married). The twist is that the love of two men and one woman leads to a tragedy, the suicide of the woman, Lida, and that this suicide is treated as a social case, like a murder, for which a judge—in the play identified only as “The Man in a Legal Robe”—attempts to find a cause, that is, a guilty party.
(The entire section is 2113 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Pavel Kohout Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!