The Columbia Literary History of Eastern Europe Since 1945

The Columbia Literary History of Eastern Europe Since 1945

Harold B. Segel
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 424
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    The Columbia Literary History of Eastern Europe Since 1945
    Book Description:

    Covering Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, East Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine, Harold B. Segel, a longtime scholar of Slavic literatures and of comparative literature, writes a clear, concise, and balanced history of Eastern European literature. Segel not only examines the literary response to the quasi-colonial oppression that stretched across Eastern Europe between 1945 and 1991 but also details the impact of the downfall of communism and the way in which the challenges of the postcommunist period are being met.

    Segel's history follows a unique chronological-topical approach that begins with the treatment of World War II in Eastern European fiction and follows with such topics as the postwar imposition of Soviet-style literary controls, primarily in the form of socialist realism; literary responses to the brutal campaign of collectivization after 1945; the impact of the death of Stalin and expectations of change; exile and creativity; strategies of literary evasion and subterfuge; writing born from the experience of prison and labor camps; and the rise of solidarity in Poland. He also handles varieties of postmodernism throughout the region; poetry by women and the continued struggle for freedom of expression; the resonance of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s on imaginative literature; Eastern European writers and their relationship to America; and the major postcommunist trends of new urbanism, nostalgia, emigration, and minority concerns.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50804-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. 1 World War II in the Literatures of Eastern Europe
    (pp. 1-38)

    World War II started when German forces attacked Poland on the first of September, 1939. Until then, many believed that after the Anschluss with Austria in 1938 and then the occupation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, Hitler’s appetite for territorial expansion would be appeased and European fears of war would abate. But the assault on Poland put that pipe dream to rest.

    For the Poles, the war was devastating. Not only did they become the first victims in the savage German onslaught that spared neither property nor humankind, but Polish culture too was brought under siege. Libraries, centers of learning,...

  6. 2 Postwar Colonialism, Communist Style
    (pp. 39-65)

    The cessation of hostilities in 1945 found much of Eastern Europe in ruins. The calamitous toll in human lives was paralleled by the wholesale destruction of property and the loss of countless cultural artifacts. Adding to the misery that was the legacy of the war were the population shifts of the immediate postwar era necessitated by the new geopolitical realities—the incorporation of a large part of eastern Poland as well as the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia into the Soviet Union, the division of Germany, and the transfer to Poland of parts of Germany—sanctioned by the...

  7. 3 In the Aftermath of the Great Dictator’s Death
    (pp. 66-91)

    The death in 1953 of the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin had a profound impact on Eastern Europe. It gave many millions of people the hope that the nightmare of Stalinism had at last come to an end and the belief that life was bound to improve. But it also filled them with anxiety and fear: anxiety rooted in uncertainty as to what lay ahead, and fear that things could get even worse, that conceivably new upheavals could again tear their countries apart. If fear was soon replaced by uncertainty about the future, hope about the inevitability of radical change was...

  8. 4 Fleeing the System: Literature and Emigration
    (pp. 92-112)

    When the loss of creative and personal freedoms became too painful for many writers to bear, in some instances in more than just the psychic sense, emigration seemed the only viable option. But emigration was not available as an option for many. The inability to part with one’s native culture, with the sustenance of the native tongue, or with family and friends kept many from leaving even had this path been open to them. So they stayed, survived as best they could, but kept their dignity by means of an inner migration. Some simply retreated from further active participation in...

  9. 5 Internal Exile and the Literature of Escape
    (pp. 113-142)

    As a way around their inability to deal honestly with issues of contemporary relevance, and in the face at times of severe cultural repression, Eastern European writers often pursued a variety of stratagems. Those with the inclination, and talent, cultivated the absurd and grotesque, as we have seen, hoping in this way to establish a dialogue with readers under the noses of the censors. Many other writers simply stopped participating in public literary life and wrote instead “for the drawer,” thereby waiting for a better tomorrow when these private works might see the light of day and they themselves could...

  10. 6 Writers Behind Bars: Eastern European Prison Literature, 1945–1990
    (pp. 143-190)

    Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the world has come to better understand the enormity of the network of prison camps, known as the gulag, that existed throughout that vast state. The opening of a window onto the wretchedness and brutality of the camps came initially with the publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novel Odin deń v zhizni Ivana Denisovicha (A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, 1962). Later Solzhenitsyn determined to go beyond his novel by compiling a more comprehensive record of the entire Soviet gulag, drawing on not only what he himself had endured but also...

  11. 7 The Reform Imperative in Eastern Europe: From Solidarity to Postmodernism
    (pp. 191-232)

    The formation of the Solidarity movement in Poland was the most resonant event in the history of post–World War II Eastern Europe prior to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. The attempt to crush it, and everything it represented, by means of martial law imposed by order of General Wojciech Jaruzelski on 13 December 1981 (lifted only in July 1983) gave rise to an impressive and socially relevant body of nonfictional and fictional texts by writers closely related to or affiliated with Solidarity: Janusz Anderman, Stanisław Barańczak, Kazimierz Brandys, Tomasz Jastrun, Sławomir Mrożek, Marek Nowakowski, Andrzej Szczypiorski, and Adam...

  12. 8 Eastern European Women Poets of the 1980s and 1990s
    (pp. 233-263)

    Women writers in general, and among them, of course, women poets, have been a part of the literary culture of Eastern Europe for more than two centuries. To be sure, they never constituted more than a tiny minority until the late nineteenth century and the arrival of the emancipation movement. During the period between the first and second world wars, Eastern Europe could boast of a number of talented women poets, among them the Pole Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska (1891–1945), whose poetry volumes Pocalunki (Kisses, 1926) and Surowy jedwab (Raw Silk, 1932) were considered scandalous because of their frank eroticism and...

  13. 9 The House of Cards Collapses: The Literary Fallout of the Yugoslav Crises of the 1990s
    (pp. 264-289)

    The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe was heralded by the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989. When that ignominious barrier between East and West began to be torn down, it was as if the signal had been given to dismantle the entire communist apparatus throughout Eastern Europe. The process needed little encouragement. The weaknesses of the communist system had already begun manifesting themselves as early as the workers’ strikes in East Berlin in 1953. By the late 1980s, after the upheavals in Poland and Hungary in 1956, the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, the death of Tito...

  14. 10 Glimpses of the Other World: America Through Eastern European Eyes
    (pp. 290-317)

    Once the drumbeat of vilification of the West, and the United States in particular, began with the Cold War in the early 1950s, trips to the West became exceptionally difficult for Eastern Europeans. Because of their status in society, artists and intellectuals, who were expected to fall in step with the official party line, faced even higher hurdles. As the dust settled from such tumultuous events as the passing of Stalin in 1953, the revolution in Hungary in 1956, and the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, domestic policies ameliorated in Eastern Europe. Travel to the West became easier,...

  15. 11 The Postcolonial Literary Scene in Eastern Europe Since 1991
    (pp. 318-370)

    Although the end of communist domination of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the period 1989 to 1991 initially brought exhilaration, this was soon followed by a more sober realization that the transition from communism to a postcommunist era was not going to be an easy one.

    The legacy of political stagnation, economic mismanagement, and bureaucratic inefficiency was not easily overcome. Before serious progress toward implementation of a free market economy could be made, many manifestations of the old system had to be cleared away, and the task appeared daunting. The closing of anachronistic and wasteful factories, the withdrawal...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 371-378)
  17. Further Reading
    (pp. 379-382)
  18. Index
    (pp. 383-406)