Written by Zuzana Simicova
Karolina Svetla, originally Johanna Nepomucena Rott, was born on February 24th, 1830 into a wealthy family. Karolina received a good education when she was young, and so, in addition to German, she also mastered Czech and French.
Petr Muzak, who was employed as a teacher in the family, became a role model for her. He taught Karolina piano as well as languages. His views influenced her greatly, as he had both patriotic and literary enthusiasms. Their relationship blossomed into love and in 1852 she married him. The village of Svetla pod Jestedem, the village where her husband was born, served as the inspiration for her pseudonym. After losing her newborn daughter, being in her husband’s hometown helped her recover. It was local folksiness and relationships between people that inspired her. This is reflected in her literary work.
Her husband was responsible for introducing Karolina to Czech patriots such as Bozena Nemcova, who became a great role model and friend to her. Jan Neruda also became her friend. Thanks to them, but also due to problems in her marriage and bad health, she devoted most of her time to writing. Her first published work was a contribution alongside her friends to the almanac of May.
Karolina Svetla was involved in supporting the women’s movement. Together with her friend Eliska Kutnohorska, she launched the title Women’s Leaves, more specifically in 1870. She has also created the Women’s Manufacturing Society, where she sought to promote an increase in the social standard of women employed. The purpose was to help poor girls, provide them with education and find jobs.
In terms of her works, village and natural motifs appear most frequently, as well as the flaws of bourgeois society. However, the main subject tends to focus on the position of women in society. Svetla wrote many novels and collections, the most famous are The Village Novel (1867) and The Cross by the Creek (1868). In both of these works, marriage is held up as a sacred cause.