Criticism of National Life as a Political Issue in Koloman Banšell's Literary Work

Kritika národného života ako politikum v literárnom diele Kolomana Banšella

Koloman Banšell‘s (1850 – 1887) literary beginnings are traditionally associated with the "revolt of sons against fathers", and with the rise of the new poetic generation. However, reflections on Banšell‘s work always mention his ideological and political affiliation with the opposition, liberal wing in the Slovak political life, with the so-called New Slovak School (Nová škola slovenská). Banšell‘s split with the traditional ideological and political wing, with the pro-Vienna oriented Old Slovak School (Stará škola slovenská), was viewed as his betrayal of national ideals or even as his predilection of the Magyar nation.

Banšell, however, adhered to the democratization of the national life. He perceived the problem of the nation and national life realistically, without much pathos and without illusions. He was not an ardent nationalist keen on myths and sacralisations of his own national community. He was critical to the nation. He openly and clearly talked about vices and weaknesses of the national life. However, his slogan remained "the activity for the nation". From the traditional triad God – church – nation, he only kept "Slovak ethnic group" (rod slovenský). This was, on one hand, in accordance with the traditional pathetic declaration of one's adherence to the Slovak nation and especially of being faithful to it, as the conventional patriotic rhetoric required. On the other hand, Banšell was very critical to the nation. His critical attitude can be perceived as a sign of a new approach among the new generation. This generation denied the values respected in poetry in previous periods and openly criticized the concepts previously considered sacred and untouchable. In broader contexts, this attitude is related to changes of literary models and their functions. In 1886, Banšell published his collection of verse, Túhy mladosti (Longings of Youth), which was supposed to demonstrate his national feelings but his gesture was perceived as outdated and aesthetically inadequate.