The earliest documents written in the Slovak language date from the 15th cent. Following the Czech Hussite movement, many Czech cultural leaders emigrated to Slovakia (16th cent.); Czech was used in Protestant liturgical and secular writings, while Latin and later (17th cent.) Slovak was used by Slovak Catholics. The Slovak language was first codified by Anton Bernolák (1762–1813), but its final standardization was brought about by L'udovít Štúr and his collaborators, who introduced the speech of central Slovakia as the basis for modern literary Slovak. A Slovak classicist, Ján Hollý (1785–1849), wrote epic ballads that glorified Slovak history, while pan-Slavism found major expression in Ján Kollár's Daughter of Slava
(1924) and in the scholarly works of Pavel Josef Šafařík. Slovak romantic poetry of the early 19th cent. is represented by the satirical writings of Samo Chalupka (1812–83), the epic ballads of Ján Botto (1829–81), the melancholy verses of Janko Král (1822–76), and the philosophical lyric poetry of Andrej Sládkovič (1820–72), who also exerted a strong influence on the development of the Slovak national theater, established in 1841. The novels of Ján Kalincak (1822–71) contain perceptive descriptions of Slovak life. In the late 19th cent. Slovak literary life centered around the publication Slovak Views.
A major writer of this period was Svetozár Hurban Vajanský (1847–1916), whose lyric poetry expressed his desire for freedom and whose social novels helped initiate Slovak realism. Pavol Országh-Hviezdoslav (1849–1921) wrote lyric and epic poetry that remains the finest of Slovak verse. Realism in Slovak prose is represented by the works of Martin Kukučín (1860–1928), by the village novels of Elena Marothy-Soltesova (1855–1939), Timrava (pseud. of Božena Slančíková, 1867–1951), and Josef Gregor Tajovský (1874–1940) and by the dramas of Ferko Urbanek (1859–1934). Notable 20th cent. Slovak poetry includes Ján Smrek's sensuous and Emil Boleslav Lukáč's religious lyrics, along with the humanitarian, patriotic verse of Andrej Zarnov (pseud. of František Subik), who inspired a whole generation of Slovak writers. The poet and novelist Janko Jesenký escaped the conventions of Slovak romanticism. Valentín Beniak and Ivan Krasko wrote original lyric verse, and Rudolf Dilong and Rudolf Fabry created surrealist poetry. The most prominent Slovak novelists of the 20th cent. are Jozef Ciger-Hronský and Milo Urban. Writers of the Communist period in Slovakia include Laco Novomeský, Peter Karvaš, Ladislav Mňačko, Alfonz Bednár, and Dominik Tatarka.
See anthologies ed. by M. Otruba and Z. Pesat (tr. 1962) and by P. Selver (tr. 1929, repr. 1969); J. Noge, An Outline of Slovakian Literature (tr. 1968).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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