Humour and satire played an important role during the First World War and in recent research have been called âthe art of survivalâ (as in Libby Murphyâs 2016 study). Jaroslav HaĆĄekâs comic masterpiece The Adventures of The Good Soldier Ć vejk, which was published in 1923, remains the most read and best known example of the Czech humour. HaĆĄek definitely experienced many influences of the European tradition of satirical magazines, which were thriving from as early as the mid-19th century, such as the Italian L'Asino, the French Le Charivari, the German Simplicissimus, or the British Punch, to name just a few. However, here I would like to give a glimpse of the Czechsâ own tradition of satire and humour, which might not feature so prominently outside Czech and Slovak culture.
The three satirical magazines established before the first Czechoslovak republic (1918- 1938) were the conservative HumoristickĂ© listy (âHumourist Pagesâ), the Social-Democratic KopĆivy - list satirickĂœ (âThe Nettle: satirical pagesâ) â both produced in Prague, and RaĆĄplĂ (âRaspsâ) published in Brno. Several other, probably less established magazines, like MalĂ© humory (Little Humour), KoĆĄĆ„ĂĄtko (Broom) and MlĂĄdeneÄek (Baby), were published in Austria.
Of these titles, the British Library, unfortunately, holds only an incomplete set of KopĆivy (PP.8006.cu). The magazine was launched in Prague in 1909 and ran through the inter-war years until 1937. While flicking through the 1913 issues, I noticed that illustrations by one artist appeared in almost every one. This artist was VĂĄclav HĂŒbschmann, who was born in Prague in 1886 and died in PrÄice in 1917. The surname HĂŒbschmann is better known even to art historians in relation to VĂĄclavâs elder brother, the architect Bohumil HĂŒbschmann (HypĆĄman after 1945,). VĂĄclav HĂŒbschmann also worked as a theatre designer, and therefore his short biography is recorded in a volume on the Czech theatre. Some of his works are held in galleries and museums (e.g. the Moravian Gallery in Brno), but I could not find much about this artist who died at the age of 31.
Here are some of his illustrations from KopĆivy, which I hope our readers will like and enjoy as much as I did.
Poor prospects. âDaddy, will we be fasting for the whole year, so that we see the golden piggy-bank that the caretaker didnât allow in last year?â
State care for emigrants: âWhy should I not go to America, where Iâm not going to be a soldier? â It hurts, lad, as you want to avoid a war taxâ.
Talk to the deaf person. Taxpayer: âSo, what would you say? Who stole the money? Iâm calling the policeâŠâ â Dr GroĆĄ: Nothing happenedâ (Karel GroĆĄ (1865-1938) â a Czech politician and statesman, mayor of Prague (1906-1918).
Intercession of the Tsar-peacemaker. âBrothers, stop shedding Slavic bloodâŠ Donât create dirty competitionâ
âIâm really sorry for you, Mrs BrĂĄzdovĂĄ, that your husband is a socialist. And yet, you are a good Catholic.â â âYou know, Father, he wanted to teach me socialism as well, but I told him: you cannot teach an old dog new tricksâ.
Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator East European Collections
Libby Murphy, The Art of Survival: France and the Great War picaresque (New Haven, CT, 2016) YC.2017.a.12777
OldrÌich Toman, PolitickaÌ karikatura MikolaÌsÌe AlsÌe v brneÌnskeÌ RasÌpli roku 1890 (Brno, 1983) X.809/64015.
JiĆĂ Valenta (ed.), MalovanĂ© opony divadel ÄeskĂœch zemĂ. (Prague, 2010) YF.2011.b.1490