Art and Literature

“In the twentieth century, the literary engagement of despots either in the making or already in power was by no means limited to openly propagandistic texts. It in fact covers a broad spectrum: from the founding of state-religious book cults (Hitler, Mao, Niyazov), to literary-critical submissions (Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Kim Jong-il), to the writing of novels (al-Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein), and onward to the duet of rifle shots and lyric recitations (Karadžić).”
From the Introduction of the book on literary output of political strongmen.
“Sometimes artistic production taking place at the height of a tyrant’s power bears witness to loneliness or indeed weariness of power.”

“At some point during my research, poetic fragments began to infiltrate my writing, parallel to or sometimes replacing the scholarly formulations of my subject. Simple factual details of my observations took on metaphorical meaning. My writing gradually became a journey toward a poetic language that echoed and emulated the spiritual poetic sound-milieu it attempted to describe.”
Based on extensive interviews, musical recordings, photographs and erudite analyses, a poetic testimony of the scholar of traditional Jewish music.
“This text is a series of prose poems, and the images are metaphors for the music through which I descended to the depths of prayer.”

“It is not the sword but culture that can sustain and make the Hungarian homeland great once again.” Accordingly, on this battlefield, artists, architects, and filmmakers became warriors, just as their paintings, buildings, movies, and other cultural products became weaponry.
The analysis of an early example of soft power.
“Could a happy audience of Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle—as magnificent as it is—change the way a foreign government viewed Hungarian political goals?”
“Cultural diplomacy did help establish Hungary’s legitimacy in the international arena, contribute to the modernization of the country, and establish a set of enduring images of Hungary.”

More CEU Press titles on artistic and literary themes, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

“Many residents of east Ukraine have nurtured a distinctive regional identity, which is now decisive for Ukraine’s next steps as a country. The expression this identity finds at the intersection of literature and memory. 

“Whether satiric or realistic, novels written after the 1971 coup in Turkey elaborate the ways masculinities and femininities settled in the traumatized power hierarchy of the period, questioning modernist utopias and authoritarian pressures.”

Through carefully selected art projects, the book explores representations of the Holocaust in contemporary art practices. It illuminates the specific historical, cultural, and political circumstances that influence the way we speak—or do not speak—about the Holocaust. 

“A period of intensive reacquaintance with international art of several centuries, and also with aspects of Russia’s own suppressed artistic heritage, began in 1954“. The collective book with 35 contributors analyzes artistic interactions within the Soviet bloc and with the West between 1945 and 1989.

“In the cultures of the communist era, dramatists expressed in their plays the politically forbidden. To paraphrase Solzhenitsyn’s dictum about writers in the Soviet Union, plays are powerfully subversive and insurrectional, and dramatists function as a second (or shadow) government.”
Playwrights used the stage to voice their denunciation of the oppressive political regime by drawing from the classical plays of Shakespeare, Molière, or Chekhov. Plays by Romanian, Hungarian and Bulgarian dramatists are examined, who are “retrofitting” the past by adapting the political crimes and horrifying tactics of totalitarianism to the classical theatre to reveal the region’s traumatic history.
“By transforming, editing, or reshuffling classical models in order to foreground their own political and cultural circumstances, these plays have been instrumental in identifying the conspiratorial, conniving, and scheming politics of the communist era in Eastern Europe.”

This book examines the relationship of religious people with the manifestations of unearthly, supernatural powers, and miracles. The images are from the author’s photo and postcard collection. They depict people along with divine beings or absent loved ones, accompanied by commentaries and explanations.
Topics include periodic appearances of Christ-like strangers in the Spanish countryside. The iconography of illustrated depictions of divine beings in conjunction with humans is also addressed, including how its conventions were incorporated into commercial postcards and personal photographs, culminating in photo montages of families and their absent soldiers in World War I. The electric moments in Spanish communities are presented when people ritually come into physical contact with saints and with animals, or transform themselves into saints or animals for ritual purposes.
The volume is an expanded and more highly illustrated version of a smaller book released by CEU Press in 2011.

Besides being a pioneer in science-fiction, The House of a Thousand Floors is highly regarded for its general merits as psychological literature. Jan Weiss (1892–1972) was one of the founders of Czech science fiction, alongside Karel Čapek whose futuristic plays and novels are known to English-language readers. Both writers had a disturbingly prophetic vision unparalleled by their successors.
The novel tells the story of a dream in fever of a soldier wounded in World War I. He finds himself in the stairway of a gigantic (and kafkaesque) tower-like building, which is a metaphor for modern society. After a number of surrealistic encounters in the building, during which he is hailed as a liberator by many and is hunted by the cruel security guards, the main character finds Tamara and faces the cruel lord of Mullerdom.
This is the 17th member of the CEU Press Classics series.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria thought himself an expert in artistic matters, and he judged the church designed by Jože Plečnik a mishmash of a Russian bath + stables + a temple to Venus. The Archduke had intervened to prevent his appointment to succeed Otto Wagner as professor of architecture in Vienna. This is the antecedent to Plečnik’s connection to Prague, which lasted twenty-five years.
The restoration of Prague Castle was a collaboration of three remarkable figures: President Masaryk, his daughter Alice, and the Slovenian architect. Jože Plečnik integrated reverence for classical architecture into distinctly modern designs. Their shared vision saw the Castle as the sacred center of the new republic, even the new Europe.
Plečnik refused any suggestion of modern upgrades to churches, such as central heating. “Such modern garbage does not belong in a Catholic cathedral of the Lord. A Catholic church is not a cinema, or a bar or a theater—it’s Calvary.”

The renowned British scholar discusses the Renaissance in Italy, elsewhere in Europe, and in the world beyond Europe as a prime example of cultural hybridization, a process whereby something new that emerges from the combination of diverse older elements.

Dispersed in four countries; many of its pages cropped, cut into four, or lost forever; still, in its fragmented state the Hungarian Angevin Legendary is a unique iconographic medieval treasure, presenting fifty-eight legends on richly gilded folios fully covered by miniatures.

Further titles on the arts and literature from the CEU Press backlist. Some of them are out of print, nevertheless bookshops or online distributors may get you print-on-demand copies, and all CEU Press titles are sold in digital version at the major electronic distributors.

  • Essays discuss the “museumizing” of the communist past in post-1989 east-central Europe;
  • Essays on women and war mirrored in the arts, ranging from women in novels, films and songs or on posters around World War II, up to recent armed conflicts;
  • Essays of thirty-three writers from thirty-three countries about common values of Europe;
  • An intersection of literary works on how twentieth century dictatorships are overcome; 
  • The story of Moscow Conceptualism, an art movement of avant-garde artists in the Soviet environment; 
  • A monograph unites ecology with conceptual art analysis uncovering the neglected history of artistic engagement with the natural environment in the Eastern Bloc;
  • The comprehensive analysis of literary resistance to east-European communism pays tribute to non-conformist writers, intellectuals and samizdat editors;
  • A compelling analysis of the works 19th and 20th century Polish woman writers;
  • Probably the most exhaustive book ever published on women’s writing in south-east Europe (on the subject); 
  • The evolution of modernism as reflected in the representation of national cultures;
  • The development of the Bauhaus school of architecture and applied design;
  • Metamorphosis as subject, device and philosophical tenet in twentieth-century Russian culture;
  • The effect of the Darwinian theory on Greek culture, focusing on Xenopoulos (1867-1951), novelist, journalist and playwright;
  • A concise history of Russian-Jewish literary prose, highlighting the oeuvre of 18 representative authors.