‘Either Death Will Vanquish Me or I Shall Vanquish Death’: Vilém and Božena Mrštík’s Anežka Cover Image

Buď Smrt zdolá mne, nebo Smrť zdolám já. Anežka Boženy a Viléma Mrštíkových
‘Either Death Will Vanquish Me or I Shall Vanquish Death’: Vilém and Božena Mrštík’s Anežka

Author(s): Petra Ježková
Subject(s): Literary Texts
Published by: Památník národního písemnictví
Keywords: Czech drama; National Theatre; Realism; Naturalism; Impressionism; Fin de siècle

Summary/Abstract: Vilém Mrštík was not the only one who, with his work, found himself outside the mainstream of literature in the early twentieth century. Uncertainty, searching, and verifying forms were present in the arts throughout Europe. In the emerging variety of models and trends, the truly great artists turned inward, in order to avoid cheap imitation, and they achieved their own expression within themselves. It was a difficult, painful search, which went right to the core. The artists who emerged victorious from the search then experienced a fundamental rebirth of their means of expression as artists. In his last play, Anežka (Agnes, 1912), written with his wife Božena, née Pacasová (1876–1958), Mrštík gives testimony of his creative struggle. He did not, however, live to see the play performed. From 1905 onwards, he repeatedly reworked the drama and offered it to the National Theatre, Prague, and the Municipal Theatre, Královské Vinohrady (a Prague suburb). A letter from the literary adviser to the National Theatre, Otokar Fischer (1883–1938), stating that he would recommend that the play be produced, was sent on the day Mrštík committed suicide, St Agnes’s Day. The critical response to the posthumous première at the National Theatre, Prague, which was influenced by the sad death of the playwright, was controversial. For us today, it is a play that, in the lengthy declarations of the painter character (Mrštík’s alter-ego), reflects the impulses of modernist art. It is a moving statement about a personal crisis of creativity and a remarkable document about art in the early years of the twentieth century.

  • Issue Year: 2013
  • Issue No: 45
  • Page Range: 97-110
  • Page Count: 14
  • Language: Czech