David Cooper on the Czech Manuscripts Hoax
From The History of Literature Podcast with Jacke Wilson
For tens of thousands of years, human beings have been using fictional devices to shape their worlds and communicate with one another. Four thousand years ago they began writing down these stories, and a great flourishing of human achievement began. We know it today as literature, a term broad enough to encompass everything from ancient epic poetry to contemporary novels. How did literature develop? What forms has it taken? And what can we learn from engaging with these works today?
Hosted by Jacke Wilson, an amateur scholar with a lifelong passion for literature, The History of Literature takes a fresh look at some of the most compelling examples of creative genius the world has ever known.
In 1817 and 1818, the discovery of two sets of Czech manuscripts helped fuel the Czech National Revival, as promoters of Czech nationalism trumpeted these centuries-old works as foundational texts of a national mythology. There was only one problem: they were completely forged. In this episode, Jacke talks to David Cooper about his new book, The Czech Manuscripts: Forgery, Translation, and National Myth, which looks at why people were so eager to fall for this hoax – and what happened when the truth was learned. PLUS Jesse Kavadlo, President of the Don DeLillo Society and editor of Don DeLillo in Context, discusses his choice for the last book he will ever read.