Narrating Post/Communism: Colonial Discourse and Europe's Borderline Civilization

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2008-07-10
  • Publisher: Routledge

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The transition of communist Eastern Europe to capitalist democracy post-1989 and in the aftermath of the Yugoslav wars has focused much scholarly attention - in history, political science and literature - on the fostering of new identities across Eastern European countries in the absence of the old communist social and ideological frameworks. This book examines an important, but hitherto largely neglected, part of this story: the ways in which the West has defined its own identity and ideals via the demonization of communist regimes and Eastern European cultures as a totalitarian, barbarian and Orientalist "other". It describes how old Orientalist prejudices resurfaced during the Cold War period, and argues that the establishment of this discourse helped to justify transitions of Eastern European societies to market capitalism and liberal democracy, suppressing Eastern Europe's communist histories and legacies, whilst perpetuating its dependence on the West as a source of its own sense ofidentity. It argues that this process of Orientalization was reinforced by the literary narratives of Eastern European and Russian anti-communist dissidents and exiles, including Vladimir Nabokov, Czeslaw Milosz and Milan Kundera, in their attempts to present themselves as native, Eastern European experts and also emancipate themselves ' and their homelands ' as civilized, enlightened and Westernized. It goes on to suggest that the greatest potential for recognizing and overcoming this self-Orientalization lies in post-communist literary and visual narratives, with their themes of disappointment in the social, economic, or political changes brought on by the transitions, challenge of the unequal discursive power in East-West dialogues where the East is positioned as a disciple or a mimic of the West, and the various guises of nostalgia for communism.

Author Biography

Natasa Kovacevic is assistant professor in Global Literature and Post-colonial Theory at Eastern Michigan University.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Bleaching Eastern Europe's cultural "blackness"p. 1
Dissident narrativesp. 4
"The Hinterland of the new European Reich": democracy's border or democracy's limit?p. 11
"Doubly obscure" dissident narrative: Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Firep. 21
Writing "Nabokov"p. 21
Testimony tolof colonial overidentificationp. 29
Charles Kinbote's monstrous (self-) re-presentationsp. 38
Shifting topographies of Eastern/Central/Europe in Joseph Brodsky's and Czeslaw Milosz's prose writingp. 44
Typographies and topographies: writing Brodsky and Miloszp. 44
(De-)centering Europep. 48
Joseph Brodsky, or the crescent meets the sickle and the hammerp. 52
New catastrophes in the air: Brodsky versus Brodskyp. 60
Czeslaw Milosz, or self-hating Slavsp. 64
Leaving the ghetto: journey to the Westp. 72
Deviant stepchild of European history: communist Eastern Europe in Milan Kundera and Gunter Grassp. 81
"The mass production of martyr virtue": Kundera's graphomania before 1989p. 82
History on speed: "imagology" and the politics of forgetting in Kundera's Slowness and Ignorancep. 88
Europe's "fanatical moderate": Gunter Grass and liberal discourse in crisisp. 101
The predicament of "Europe" in The Call of the Toadp. 109
Primitive accumulation and Neanderthal liberalism: Victor Pelevin, Gary Shteyngart, and criminal Eastern Europep. 116
Criminal lands behind the Schengen curtainp. 116
Homo Zapiens: the path to your (ethnic) self is a shopp. 122
Inside the language of the marketp. 129
Let us drown the Russian bourgeoisie in a flood of imagesp. 133
Che and the impossibility of revolutionp. 137
Beta immigrants and mafia thugs: capitalism's "others" in The Russian Debutante's Handbookp. 140
The crime of refusing to work: reclaiming the time of capitalp. 146
Conservative mimicry: capitulation into an alpha immigrantp. 152
Ethnicizing guilt: humanitarian imperialism and the case of (for) Yugoslaviap. 156
Critical interventionp. 158
Enjoy your bombing! Slavoj Zizek's ethnic hierarchiesp. 165
Croatian, Balkan, Eastern European, or "other"? Dubravka Ugresic and the condition of global dissidencep. 173
Against pater/patria: Aleksandar Hemon's Sarajevo bluesp. 181
Conclusionp. 188
Notesp. 197
Bibliographyp. 208
Indexp. 218
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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