The Ottoman Captivity Narrative as a Transnational Genre in Central European Literature
Among the earliest Western representations of the Muslim world were those written by Central European authors who had survived captivity in the Ottoman Empire; they form a largely unexplored genre of “Ottoman captivity narratives.” While strongly related in both theme and style to the better-known Barbary captivity genre, these memoirs offer a broader framework for captivity narratives that are beyond the customary focus on English-language or West European texts. This article examines Ottoman captivity narratives from Georgius of Hungary’s Tractatus (1481) and Bartolomej Georgijević’s De Turcarum moribus epitome (1553), both written in Latin, Václav Vratislav z Mitrovic’s Příhody (1599), published in 1777, and Štefan Pilárik’s Sors Pilarikiana (1666), written in Czech. There is also one Turkish perspective of Austrian captivity, by Osman Aga of Temesvar (1724), published in 1954. While these works reflect the cultural assumptions of their era, they also illustrate an underlying ambiguity toward the Turks, and sometimes a concealed admiration for Ottoman society; some offer the forthright condemnation expected of the era. Through the comparative approach of transnational history, the Ottoman captivity narrative can be seen as a genre that reflects common experiences of engagement with the Orient that are beyond the modern linguistic and politic divisions of the Central European region.
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