Publication details

Gothic Elements in the Novel Valérie a týden divů by the Czech Writer Vítězslav Nezval

Authors

ČOUPKOVÁ Eva

Type Chapter of a book
MU Faculty or unit

Language Centre

Citation
Description The paper discusses the Gothic motifs in the Surrealist novel of the Czech poet, writer and translator Vítězslav Nezval, who was one of the most prolific avant-garde artists of the 1920s and 1930s. Valerie a týden divů was written in 1935 but remained unpublished until 1945, becoming Nezval’s least known but most Surrealistic fiction. As critics have shown, Nezval drew on many sources– M.G. Lewis’s The Monk, K.H. Mácha’s poem May, F.W. Murnau’s film Nosferatu, or Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. There are several Gothic motifs in Valerie: the grandmother’s house which resembles a Gothic castle – an intriguing labyrinth of rooms and secret passages, including the chamber of the dead. As Valerie travels through its dark corridors, she discovers the hidden secrets of her past with Gothic elements such as incest, siblings separated at birth, or her mother conceiving in a convent. But Valerie, whose name means strong and healthy in Latin, is not a passive Gothic heroine - she rather resembles Radcliffe’s maidens who embark on journeys to seek their happiness and free expression of their sexuality. Several Gothic themes are borrowed from The Monk: anti-Catholic sentiment is embodied in the figure of the priest Gratian, who is a great orator able to control crowds through the force of his prayer, but also a rapist who attempts to seduce Valerie; disguises - when Orlík, Valerie’s brother/lover, poses in Valerie’s flower-patterned clothes; and an almost baroque theatricality in scenes like the wedding procession and reception. Nezval’s Valerie a týden divů inspired the director Jaromil Jireš who created the film of the same name in 1970.