Communism: Colonial Discourse and Europe's Borderline Civilization

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Communism: Colonial Discourse and Europe's Borderline Civilization

Narrating Post/Communism The transition of communist Eastern Europe to capitalist democracy post1989 and in the afterma

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Narrating Post/Communism

The transition of communist Eastern Europe to capitalist democracy post1989 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 of identity. It argues that this process of Orientalization was reinforced by the textual 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. Natasˇa Kovacˇevic´ is assistant professor in Global Literature and Postcolonial Theory at Eastern Michigan University. She has published research on linguistic imperialism, Eastern European dissident authors, colonial discourses on the Balkans, and English modernism. Her work engages with transforming postcolonial studies in the post-communist era.

BASEES/Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies Series Editor: Richard Sakwa Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent Editorial Committee: Julian Cooper, Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham Terry Cox, Department of Central and East European Studies, University of Glasgow Rosalind Marsh, Department of European Studies and Modern Languages, University of Bath David Moon, Department of History, University of Durham Hilary Pilkington, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick Stephen White, Department of Politics, University of Glasgow Founding Editorial Committee Member: George Blazyca, Centre for Contemporary European Studies, University of Paisley. This series is published on behalf of BASEES (the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies). The series comprises original, high-quality, research-level work by both new and established scholars on all aspects of Russian, Soviet, post-Soviet and East European Studies in humanities and social science subjects. 1 Ukraine’s Foreign and Security Policy, 1991–2000 Roman Wolczuk

7 Performing Russia – Folk Revival and Russian Identity Laura J. Olson

2 Political Parties in the Russian Regions Derek S. Hutcheson

8 Russian Transformations Edited by Leo McCann

3 Local Communities and Post-Communist Transformation Edited by Simon Smith 4 Repression and Resistance in Communist Europe J.C. Sharman 5 Political Elites and the New Russia Anton Steen 6 Dostoevsky and the Idea of Russianness Sarah Hudspith

9 Soviet Music and Society under Lenin and Stalin The Baton and Sickle Edited by Neil Edmunds 10 State Building in Ukraine The Ukranian parliament, 1990–2003 Sarah Whitmore 11 Defending Human Rights in Russia Sergei Kovalyov, dissident and human rights commissioner, 1969–2003 Emma Gilligan

12 Small-Town Russia Postcommunist livelihoods and identities a portrait of the Intelligentsia in Achit, Bednodemyanovsk and Zubtsov, 1999–2000 Anne White 13 Russian Society and the Orthodox Church Religion in Russia after communism Zoe Knox 14 Russian Literary Culture in the Camera Age The word as image Stephen Hutchings 15 Between Stalin and Hitler Class War and Race War on the Dvina, 1940–46 Geoffrey Swain 16 Literature in Post-Communist Russia and Eastern Europe The Russian, Czech and Slovak fiction of the changes 1988–98 Rajendra A. Chitnis 17 Soviet Dissent and Russia’s Transition to Democracy Dissident legacies Robert Horvath 18 Russian and Soviet Film Adaptations of Literature, 1900–2001 Screening the word Edited by Stephen Hutchings and Anat Vernitski 19 Russia as a Great Power Dimensions of security under Putin Edited by Jakob Hedenskog, Vilhelm Konnander, Bertil Nygren, Ingmar Oldberg and Christer Pursiainen

20 Katyn and the Soviet Massacre of 1940 Truth, justice and memory George Sanford 21 Conscience, Dissent and Reform in Soviet Russia Philip Boobbyer 22 The Limits of Russian Democratisation Emergency powers and states of emergency Alexander N. Domrin 23 The Dilemmas of Destalinisation A social and cultural history of reform in the Khrushchev Era Edited by Polly Jones 24 News Media and Power in Russia Olessia Koltsova 25 Post-Soviet Civil Society Democratization in Russia and the Baltic States Anders Uhlin 26 The Collapse of Communist Power in Poland Jacqueline Hayden 27 Television, Democracy and Elections in Russia Sarah Oates 28 Russian Constitutionalism Historical and contemporary development Andrey N. Medushevsky 29 Late Stalinist Russia Society between reconstruction and reinvention Edited by Juliane Fu¨rst

30 The Transformation of Urban Space in Post-Soviet Russia Konstantin Axenov, Isolde Brade and Evgenij Bondarchuk 31 Western Intellectuals and the Soviet Union, 1920–40 From Red Square to the Left Bank Ludmila Stern

39 Russian Legal Culture Before and After Communism Criminal justice, politics and the public sphere Frances Nethercott 40 Political and Social Thought in Post-Communist Russia Axel Kaehne

32 The Germans of the Soviet Union Irina Mukhina

41 The Demise of the Soviet Communist Party Atsushi Ogushi

33 Re-constructing the Post-Soviet Industrial Region The Donbas in transition Edited by Adam Swain

42 Russian Policy towards China and Japan The El’tsin and Putin periods Natasha Kuhrt

34 Chechnya – Russia’s ‘‘War on Terror’’ John Russell

43 Soviet Karelia Politics, planning and terror in Stalin’s Russia, 1920–39 Nick Baron

35 The New Right in the New Europe Czech transformation and right-wing politics, 1989–2006 Sea´n Hanley 36 Democracy and Myth in Russia and Eastern Europe Edited by Alexander Wo¨ll and Harald Wydra 37 Energy Dependency, Politics and Corruption in the Former Soviet Union Russia’s power, oligarchs’ profits and Ukraine’s missing energy Policy, 1995–2006 Margarita M. Balmaceda 38 Peopling the Russian Periphery Borderland colonization in Eurasian history Edited by Nicholas B. Breyfogle, Abby Schrader and Willard Sunderland

44 Reinventing Poland Economic and political transformation and evolving national identity Edited by Martin Myant and Terry Cox 45 The Russian Revolution in Retreat, 1920–24 Soviet workers and the new communist elite Simon Pirani 46 Democratization and Gender in Contemporary Russia Suvi Salmenniemi 47 Narrating Post/Communism Colonial discourse and Europe’s borderline civilization Natasˇa Kovacˇevic´

Narrating Post/Communism Colonial discourse and Europe’s borderline civilization

Natasˇa Kovacˇevic´

First published 2008 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2008. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.” # 2008 Natasˇa Kovacˇevic´ All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Narrating post/communism : colonial discourse and Europe’s borderline civilization / Natasa Kovacevic. p. cm. – (BASEES/Routledge series on Russian and East European Studies ; 47) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Slavic literature, Eastern–20th century–History and criticism. 2. Russian literature–20th century–History and criticism. 3. Yugoslav literature–20th century–History and criticism. 4. Communism in literature. 5. Postcolonialism in literature. 6. Identity (Psychology) in literature. 7. Postcolonialism–Europe, Eastern. 8. Europe, Eastern–Civilization–20th century. 9. Slavic countries–Civilization–20th century. I. Title. PG507.K68 2008 2007050240 891.809’35847–dc22

ISBN 0-203-89525-8 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN 978-0-415-46111-5 (hbk) ISBN 978-0-203-89525-2 (ebk)

To a Yugoslavia-to-come

Contents

Acknowledgments

xi

1

Introduction Bleaching Eastern Europe’s cultural ‘‘blackness’’ 1 Dissident narratives 4 ‘‘The Hinterland of the new European Reich’’: democracy’s border or democracy’s limit? 11

1

2

‘‘Doubly obscure’’ dissident narrative: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire Writing ‘‘Nabokov’’ 21 Testimony to/of colonial overidentification 29 Charles Kinbote’s monstrous (self-) re-presentations 38

3

4

Shifting topographies of Eastern/Central/Europe in Joseph Brodsky’s and Czesław Miłosz’s prose writing Typographies and topographies: writing Brodsky and Miłosz 44 (De-)centering Europe 48 Joseph Brodsky, or the crescent meets the sickle and the hammer 52 New catastrophes in the air: Brodsky versus Brodsky 60 Czesław Miłosz, or self-hating Slavs 64 Leaving the ghetto: journey to the West 72 Deviant stepchild of European history: communist Eastern Europe in Milan Kundera and Gu¨nter Grass ‘‘The mass production of martyr virtue’’: Kundera’s graphomania before 1989 82 History on speed: ‘‘imagology’’ and the politics of forgetting in Kundera’s Slowness and Ignorance 88 Europe’s ‘‘fanatical moderate’’: Gu¨nter Grass and liberal discourse in crisis 101 The predicament of ‘‘Europe’’ in The Call of the Toad 109

21

44

81

x

Contents

5

Primitive accumulation and Neanderthal liberalism: Victor Pelevin, Gary Shteyngart, and criminal Eastern Europe Criminal lands behind the Schengen curtain 116 Homo Zapiens: the path to your (ethnic) self is a shop 122 Inside the language of the market 129 Let us drown the Russian bourgeoisie in a flood of images 133 Che and the impossibility of revolution 137 Beta immigrants and mafia thugs: capitalism’s ‘‘others’’ in The Russian Debutante’s Handbook 140 The crime of refusing to work: reclaiming the time of capital 146 Conservative mimicry: capitulation into an alpha immigrant 152

116

6

Ethnicizing guilt: humanitarian imperialism and the case of (for) Yugoslavia 156 Critical intervention 158 ˇ izˇek’s ethnic hierarchies 165 Enjoy your bombing! Slavoj Z Croatian, Balkan, Eastern European, or ‘‘other’’? Dubravka Ugresˇic´ and the condition of global dissidence 173 Against pater/patria: Aleksandar Hemon’s Sarajevo blues 181

7

Conclusion

188

Notes Bibliography Index

197 208 218

Acknowledgments

I wish to thank my colleagues and friends at the University of Florida and Eastern Michigan University for their comments and encouragement. I am especially grateful to my University of Florida doctoral dissertation mentors, Julian Wolfreys, Malini Schueller, Phillip Wegner, and Galina Rylkova, for all their time and valuable insight. Also, this book would have been impossible to write without the generous institutional support I received from the University of Florida and Eastern Michigan University – the doctoral Alumni Fellowship and Provost’s New Faculty Research Grant, respectively. I would finally like to thank all my family and friends across former Yugoslavia, ‘‘Western’’ and ‘‘Eastern’’ Europe, the United States and Canada, whose inspiring conversations and general joie de vivre have made work on this project so enjoyable. Chapter 4 of this book reworks and expands on an earlier essay, ‘‘History on Speed: Media and the Politics of Forgetting in Milan Kundera’s Slowness,’’ published in Modern Fiction Studies 52:3 (2006). Material from this essay is reprinted by permission of the copyright owner, the Johns Hopkins University Press. With the gracious permission of Radio Svoboda, I have translated into English Aleksandr Genis’s article ‘‘Fenomen Pelevina (The Phenomenon of Pelevin),’’ copyright # 1999 by RFERL, Inc.

1

Introduction

Bleaching Eastern Europe’s cultural ‘‘blackness’’ The perfidious Chinese, half-naked Indians and passive Muslims are described as vultures for ‘‘our’’ largesse and are damned when ‘‘we lose them’’ to communism, or to their unregenerate Oriental instincts: the difference is scarcely significant. (Said 1979: 108) The collapse of the Wall, the Curtain and much more besides, deprived ‘‘Europe’’ of its partition along the militarized and policed frontier which had defined its identity as opposed to the presumed alternative culture of Leninism. It turned out that this alternative was not merely a failure, but had for a long time been no more than a pretence; mass action and mass sentiment rejected it, because for many years nobody had believed in it enough to make it work; and the liberal-democratic capitalism of the Community was faced with the task, not of transforming a counterculture, but of filling a vacuum and tidying up a gigantic mess . . . in late 1991 it seems apparent that ‘‘Europe’’ – both with and without the North whose addition turns it from ‘‘Europe’’ into ‘‘Western Civilization’’ – is once again an empire in the sense of a civilized and stabilized zone which must decide whether to extend or refuse its political power over violent and unstable cultures along its borders but not yet within its system: Serbs and Croats if one chances to be Austrian, Kurds and Iraqis if Turkey is admitted to be part of ‘‘Europe.’’ (Pocock 1997: 304)

The Said and Pocock quotations beautifully encapsulate the key concepts I intend to tackle in this work: first, the reification of Eastern Europe as a civilizing project (task) by the European Union (EU) and North America; and, second, the reification of its communist legacies as ‘‘unregenerate Oriental instincts’’ that must be abandoned in this process. Indeed, as many news reports which anticipated and followed the EU Enlargement on 1 May 2004 imply, Eastern Europe is finally on the road of becoming European by no longer being communist. This binary belies a disturbing political vision, which gives little cause for celebration of a ‘‘common’’ EU future – it indicates that Europe continues to be predicated on the idea of conditional inclusion/exclusion and that any true dialogue between its Western and

2

Introduction

Eastern members is impossible. Rather, Eastern Europe, in this latest attempt to ‘‘modernize’’ and catch up with the ever-elusive Western prosperity and civilization, cannot negotiate the rules of the game: it must satisfy the EU, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank criteria prescribed for achieving ‘‘democracy,’’ ‘‘privatization,’’ ‘‘capitalism,’’ ‘‘diversity,’’ ‘‘human rights protection,’’ and many others in order to become emancipated as ‘‘European.’’ It is appropriate here to recall that this impossibility of dialogue, unidirectional flow of directives and their acceptance as necessary for emancipation from economic or cultural ‘‘inferiority’’ typically defines a colonial, or a proto-colonial relationship. But when writing about Europe, Eastern Europe in particular, postcolonial critics and historians have been wary of using this terminology. Certain Eastern European states are only begrudgingly discussed as postcolonial even in terms of its Soviet, Austro-Hungarian or Ottoman imperial legacies (or the legacy of German rule in Poland). Only recently – and even then reluctantly – has Eastern Europe been discussed as a colonial terrain of the Western tradition, perhaps more famously in Larry Wolff’s Inventing Eastern Europe: the map of civilization on the mind of the enlightenment (1994), a valuable work on the discursive ‘‘invention’’ of Eastern Europe by the Western European imaginary over the last two centuries and in Dusˇan Bjelic´ and Obrad Savic´’s anthology Balkan as Metaphor: between globalization and fragmentation (2002), which blends the discussion of the Balkans and Eastern Europe as Western post/neocolonial ‘‘others.’’1 The more entrenched argument goes – paralleling Maria Todorova’s discussion of the Balkans in Imagining the Balkans (1997) – that no Eastern European country ever suffered the type of colonial disenfranchisement, exploitation, and racism typical in, for example, Asian or African colonies. While this is a valid distinction, I argue that this line of thinking ultimately obfuscates a long history of Western attempts to identify Western Europe as enlightened, developed, and civilized in distinction to Eastern Europe and, as a result, to intellectually master Eastern Europe through description and classification, fixing it into stereotypes of lamentable cultural, political, and economic backwardness (e.g. agrarian, old-fashioned, despotic, totalitarian, obedient, abnormally violent, bloodthirsty), or, alternately, praiseworthy conservation of its ‘‘noble savages’’ (here, pallid Western city-dwellers, enervated by industrial fumes or corporate discipline, are contrasted with big, healthy, lazy, and gregarious Eastern Europeans).2 The difficulty of recognizing this pernicious proto-colonial relationship is compounded by the contemporary euphemistic discourse about the European Union as an occasionally bumpy and antagonistic, but ultimately benevolent, equality-oriented, and multicultural enterprise, which, like the equally obfuscating term globalization, suppresses the mechanisms of capitalist expansion, withdrawal of social welfare policies, and creation of new peripheries and widespread impoverishment.3 Uncovering these mechanisms

Introduction

3

´ tienne Balibar dropped, by and large, from official political discourses, E (2002, 2004) has vehemently criticized the myth of a multicultural, egalitarian European Union in the face of its assimilationist policies, its disappearing labor unions, as well as its predication of citizenship rights on member states’ national origin. Finally, the very term Eastern European makes for a particularly confusing and schizophrenic position. On the one hand, Eastern Europeans have been defined and define themselves as ‘‘European,’’ especially in distinction to their more ‘‘Oriental’’ neighbors, an act that could be explained in terms of Milica Bakic´-Hayden’s (1995) ‘‘nesting Orientalisms,’’ which she applies to the formation of ethnic identity in the Balkans. But, on the other hand, Eastern Europeans, while not ‘‘other’’ as much as Asians or Africans, are also ‘‘not quite’’ European; rather, they are semi-European, semi-developed, with semi-functioning states and semicivilized manners (perhaps this also explains, as Wolff demonstrates throughout Inventing Eastern Europe, the oscillations between racial designations of Eastern Europeans as whites, blacks, gypsies, and even apes). The establishment of ‘‘real’’ colonial rule and subsequent imperialist projects that legitimated it (a worthy distinction made by Robert Young in Postcolonialism: an historical introduction (2001)) necessarily creates a context of study different from that of Eastern Europe, marked by the absence of ‘‘real’’ colonies or the various imperialist institutions, discourses, or people implicated in their rule. However, this work takes the viewpoint of Larry Wolff that, ‘‘as in the case of Orientalism, so also with Eastern Europe, intellectual discovery and mastery could not be entirely separated from the possibility of real conquest’’ (1994: 8). In other words, I argue that this ‘‘intellectual discovery and mastery’’ of Eastern Europe is always-already implicated in the political, economic, and cultural interactions between the West and East, and in this I challenge Aijaz Ahmad (1992) and other critics of Said who, in a dialectical fashion, accuse him of emphasizing textuality at the alleged expense of exposing material consequences of Orientalism. ´ Tuathail’s terms, this geo-graphing of Eastern Europe not In Gearo´id O only produces knowledge of an essentially arbitrary space (‘‘geography’’), but also creates certain geopolitical contexts for its imperial management (1996: 7). For instance, the geo-graphing of Eastern Europe is reflected in such material decisions as the ‘‘rescuing’’ of Greece, glorified as the cradle of European civilization, from communism and Stalinist rule after World War II, the NATO bombing of Serbs and Montenegrins because they could not get over alleged ancient ethnic hatreds, or the greater financial aid by the West to post-communist states that are Catholic or Protestant rather than Orthodox.4 Not less importantly, this is also reflected in the attempts of various Eastern European peoples to market themselves as civilized, developed, tolerant, or multicultural enough to be geo-graphed as European, as well as in their internalization of the stigma of inferiority, manifesting itself in a host of instances from self-stigmatization to glorification of stigma as a form of anti-Western identification.

4

Introduction

Dissident narratives I deplore the attitude of foolish or dishonest people who ridiculously equate Stalin with McCarthy, Auschwitz with the atom bomb and the ruthless imperialism of the USSR with the earnest and unselfish assistance extended by the USA to nations in distress. (Nabokov 1990: 50) [The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia] did not happen irresponsibly, as an act of aggression or out of disrespect for international law. It happened, on the contrary, out of respect for the law, for a law that ranks higher than the law which protects the sovereignty of states. The alliance has acted out of respect for human rights, as both conscience and international legal documents dictate. (Havel 1999: 6)

Among the recent historical, sociological, and cultural studies accounts which delve into Eastern European colonial in(ter)ventions, most focus on either the period before the twentieth century (for instance Larry Wolff (1994)) or, as is sometimes the case with Balkan studies, on the overlapping of discourses on early twentieth-century Balkan Wars, World War I and the recent Yugoslav civil wars.5 Additionally, while some of these studies analyze ways in which Eastern European narratives look to the West and engage with discourses that perform their civilizational ‘‘inferiority’’ (like, for instance, the many studies of Russian national identity in the nineteenth century and earlier and the conflicts between Slavophiles and Westernizers), the majority instead focus on the constitution of various Western European and/or North American identities through constructions of ‘‘otherness.’’ Among the studies that use Eastern European narratives as a point of entry, few look at specifically literary and film narratives, which can, as I will suggest, yield fruitful readings if analyzed as post- or anti-colonial texts, while simultaneously allowing us to revamp some of the ossified concepts in postcolonial theory in order to engage with the present moment. In the context of the above-discussed discourses on Eastern European cultural ‘‘blackness,’’ I therefore shift the focus of study from Western narratives that map this locale to Eastern European narratives which are haunted by these same discourses, as Nabokov’s and Havel’s quotations attest. This preoccupation of Eastern Europeans with their various reflections in the Western mirror and concomitant self-stigmatizations or selfcelebrations are perhaps the most elusive and least discussed avatars of what could be called, for lack of a better theoretical term, Eastern European Orientalism. Because of Eastern Europe’s direct geographic, political, and cultural proximity to Western Europe, and, indirectly, to North America, its acceptance of Western models has, overall, been far smoother, more voluntary, and more urgently executed than in other colonial locales. In fact, it is this voluntary – and largely unrecognized – self-colonizing tendency vis-a`vis the West which distinguishes Eastern Europe from other targets of

Introduction

5

Western colonialism and which will be one of the primary topics of this work.6 According to Rastko Mocˇnik, the same ‘‘Orientalist ideology that downgrades and holds down’’ the region as a whole ‘‘also holds up the ruling position of local political classes, which in turn act . . . as the local agents of the international system of domination’’ (2002: 85).7 This double domination, in turn, facilitates and is facilitated by a generally favorable attitude to the ideal of European civilization and an almost fatalistic consensus that the current model of Western social development is the way to go (post-communist transitions are necessarily difficult and may take centuries, but it is worth it because prosperity – and acceptance by the world community – awaits us). Because of the urgency of the present moment and because this has been neglected by academic study, I am particularly interested in tracing the contours of Eastern European Orientalism in literary and visual texts emerging throughout the communist and postcommunist periods. I focus on cultural texts, because they often articulate and analyze collective anxieties and identity crises resulting from selfOrientalization which are missing from the more visible, official political discourses. The term postcolonial traditionally signifies fragmentation, disjunction, the crossing of national, cultural, and linguistic borders, figuratively and/or literally. Many of the Eastern European authors that occupy the chapters to come indeed write from a position of linguistic and/or national bordercrossing, articulating identities in conflict with the Orientalist discourses that seek to contain them. In this respect, narratives by Eastern European exiles8 in Western Europe and North America during the communist period are of special interest, as they can help theorize the trajectories of selfcolonization, as well as strategies for its subversion. It is in those texts that the disjunctions of identity, the aporia of, on the one hand, denouncing communist ‘‘barbarians’’ to Western audiences and, on the other hand, being personally victimized as an Eastern ‘‘barbarian’’ in need of civilizational disciplining, become especially prominent. This denunciation of communist – frequently Russian – barbarians and the need to overcome the stigma of Orientalism, by proving one’s allegiance to Western civilizational achievements, is already discernible in the texts written by that famous Eastern European emigrant Joseph Conrad long before the October Revolution. Although an analysis of his texts exceeds the scope of the present study, it is important to mention that in essays such as ‘‘Autocracy and War,’’ ‘‘A Note on the Polish Problem’’ (in Conrad 1928) and the novel Under Western Eyes (1911), Conrad establishes Orientalist themes that we will see reverberating throughout the texts written during the communist and post-communist periods. For Conrad, Russia is a semiAsiatic country which has no place meddling in European affairs; even the worst European autocracies guilty of militant imperialism preserve a sense of ethical decency, responsibility, and rationality, but Russia is ‘‘an abyss of

6

Introduction

mental darkness’’ based upon irrationality, illogicality, mysticism, and ‘‘the apathy of hopeless fatalism’’ (1928: 98). In contrast to Western Enlightenment, democratic development, and general political normality – which, Conrad argues, also characterize Poland, so the West should embrace Poland as one of its own – Russia stands out as a moral aberration, embodying complete lawlessness, degeneration, and ideological emptiness. Not surprisingly, then, Conrad portrays communist or socialist attempts to violently change this system in Russia as politically immature, emerging from political evil as desperate gestures and producing their own evil in turn. In Under Western Eyes, the unfavorable portrayal of assorted Russian revolutionaries only enforces Conrad’s assertion that Russia’s madness is incomprehensible to a Westerner and that the pathology of tyranny only breeds the pathology of revolution, which is equated with terrorism and anarchism. In the schizophrenic narratives emerging in response to communist takeovers across Eastern Europe, Milan Kundera, echoing Conrad’s gesture, similarly wrests his Bohemia from unwieldy Russian paws and claims it for the liberal, democratic Europe (ontologically distinct, of course, from Russia). Czesław Miłosz mixes his fascination with Paris, to him a phantasmagoria of capitalist consumerism, with his consternation at the ‘‘No Poles allowed’’ sign at the French border, while Nabokov’s many Pnins haunt the North American academic landscape, patronized in their badly dressed, socially awkward, Russian ways. One could argue that Eastern European literature, for a large portion of the twentieth century, in fact reached Western audiences primarily in the context of the Cold War, which directly or indirectly contributed to the fetishizing of these exiled authors – so much so that some of them willingly embraced the role, ‘‘writing’’ themselves as stock dissident martyrs and/or satirizing this Western fetish.9 At the same time, this political climate implicated their narratives in the various other attempts by the West to understand, map, geo-graph the communist ‘‘other.’’ In this respect, I am interested in ways in which these narratives are brought to a moment of crisis through a recognition of selfstigmatization and/or recognition of the attempt at containment by the Western ‘‘other,’’ and the avenues of reading that this crisis opens up. I intend to trace, as Homi Bhabha writes, the ‘‘ex-centric sites of experience and empowerment’’ that the ‘‘poetics of exile’’ creates by bringing the present moment into disjunction with itself, in this case exploding the articulation of history through Cold War mythology (1994: 4). Chapter 2, therefore, opens with Vladimir Nabokov’s self-fashioning as a martyred Russian exile in the United States, arguing that his political and cultural ‘‘othering’’ of communist regimes aligns him with Western liberal discourses, while his Russianness makes him acceptably exotic and ‘‘different’’ to American audiences. Pale Fire (Nabokov 1989a) expresses this double bind, rather than liberatory potential, of anti-communist exile: Charles Kinbote seemingly exemplifies an emancipated, Westernized subject

Introduction

7

but exceeds the acceptable level of foreignness afforded him, thus ultimately exposing and escaping discursive containments by Cold War Orientalisms. Chapter 3 analyzes the relationship between a similar exilic self-fashioning and geo-graphing of Eastern/Western/Central/ Europe in Joseph Brodsky’s (1986a, 1995) and Czesław Miłosz’s (1968, 1982, 2001) autobiographical-philosophical essays, where a critical respect for the validity of their lived experience behind the Iron Curtain has made it difficult to contest the ‘‘truth’’ of their delineation of Easternness and Westernness. I show how geographic divisions of Europe are invested in ideological binaries which cast the East as immutably totalitarian – whether monarchic or communist – against the West as progressive, politically fluid and respectful of human rights. Chapter 4 analyzes Milan Kundera’s and Gu¨nter Grass’s articulations of a European (civilizational) ideal in political and cultural, rather than geographic terms: as a conglomerate of Western Enlightenment traditions of human rights, democracy, and freedom of expression and some form of humanized, soft capitalism. From this perspective, both communism and fascism are discursively demonized as deviations from the European ideal. I also identify potential for recognizing this ideal’s Orientalist trappings, especially in Kundera’s Slowness (1996) and Grass’s The Call of the Toad (1992), which criticize Western colonial attitudes toward post-communist Eastern Europe and the rise in nationalist/identity politics enabled precisely by Western liberal, multiculturalism discourses. The figurative, as well as literal, borders between Eastern Europe and the ‘‘free world’’ thus survive the Cold War to resurface, in familiar guises, in post-communist texts. In this period, Eastern European narratives again posit displaced identities, this time not communist exiles, but rather refugees from the post-communist civil wars and/or emigrants from the economically devastated locales of Eastern European transitions to capitalism. While Cold War Orientalisms continue to permeate the narrative landscapes, they are accompanied by the more fashionable discourses of globalization, critically evaluated in their many guises as narratives of world peace, human rights, multiculturalism, and consumerism. In addition to narratives which thematize disjunctions resulting from the movement from East to West, I also look at those that bespeak the ‘‘unhomeliness’’ created in Eastern locales through an introduction of Western neoliberal capitalist models and discourses into the shambles of socialist welfare systems. In recent novels by Dubravka Ugresˇic´ (1994), Victor Pelevin (2002), and Gary Shteyngart (2002), and films by Emir Kusturica (1995) and Wolfgang Becker (2003), the prospects of globalized existence and inclusion into the EU, NATO, or the ultimate mastersignifier ‘‘the free world’’ are narrated with excitement as much as with skepticism and disenchantment, as new subjectivities and opportunities, but also new inequalities and hierarchies surface within the global space. Another significant feature of these works, one that is starkly absent from the existing critical readings, is what I refer to as communist nostalgia, although I acknowledge that this term hardly exhausts the multiple, often

8

Introduction

contradictory, layers of meaning that emerge in the narratives of various communist legacies. My interest in Eastern European discourses of communist nostalgia, which I will discuss at more length later, lies in their attempt to open up another instance of a present that is out of joint with itself, to reclaim the specters of the communist past in order to posit an open future – one that is, again, not appropriated and fixed by the teleology of capitalist globalization. Hence, finally, the deliberate naming of this section ‘‘dissident narratives’’: the goal of this work is to explore how the designation Eastern European dissident, generally signifying an anti-communist dissenter, already contains potential for dissidence from or interruption of any hegemonic narrative. In the remainder of the work, therefore, I focus more on the mechanisms of recognition and critique of self-Orientalization which arise from the gesture of dissidence from hegemonic narratives. Chapter 5 discusses Victor Pelevin’s and Gary Shteyngart’s mock-nostalgic novels, Homo Zapiens (Pelevin 2002) and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (Shteyngart 2002) respectively, to explore utopian possibilities contained in remembering and critically re-evaluating the legacy of communism. This memory collapses the distinction between the criminal, transitioning post-communist East and the orderly, developed West which enables Western discursive and political management of Eastern European societies. Chapter 6 further explores the contemporary criminalization of Eastern Europe through a discourse on the unwieldy, murderous Balkans, its most irredeemable region. I problematize Slavoj Zˇizˇek’s seemingly leftist-liberal position on the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, showing how he presents himself as a native expert to Western audiences by nevertheless slipping into multiculturalist racism, ethnicization of guilt, and identity politics, which have garnered support for the ‘‘free world’s’’ intervention in the wars. I also look at Aleksandar Hemon’s (2000) and Dubravka Ugresˇic´’s (1994) novels as alternative narratives of the Yugoslav wars and Yugoslavia in general, placing it outside of (Western) discourses of multiculturalism and identity politics. Finally, I conclude the work by establishing connections between several films, Theo Angelopoulos’s Eternity and a Day (1999), Emir Kusturica’s Underground (1995), and Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye, Lenin! (2003), to examine utopian possibilities for redefining the concept of Europe (and the European Union) in terms of an anti-colonial and anti-nationalist politics. I have so far been using the term Orientalism in order to show my indebtedness to Said, although I am aware that this also exposes my argument to some of the same criticism to which Said’s seminal work was subjected. Lest I be accused of what Dennis Porter (1983), James Clifford (1988), and Robert Young (2001), among others, have called the continuity, ahistoricity, or homogeneity of Said’s methodology in outlining an Orientalist discourse, I want to stress that, although I look at a particular historical range and notice similar patterns of cultural stereotyping during this time (some of which certainly echo earlier historical patterns), I do not

Introduction

9

argue that there is a uniform or uninterrupted narrative of Eastern European Orientalism. This is also one of the reasons I consider the literary and visual texts I analyze as disparate rather than representative of any discursive ‘‘tradition,’’ and do not generally attempt to glean an ‘‘accurate’’ history of the discursive formations that highlight this Orientalism, an impossible task in itself. Each narrative is analyzed as a singular intervention within and into this discourse, entering into a constellation,10 but not continuity, chronological or otherwise, with other texts. My focus is on concepts, themes, etc. as they may emerge, rather than on formulating a structured narrative of Eastern European Orientalism. But, while the task of historicizing and looking for Foucauldian epistemological breaks, interruptions, and contradictions is a worthy one, it also leads to an excessive preoccupation with the internal consistencies/inconsistencies of a discourse, which was, I feel, perhaps the unwitting effect of much academic criticism of Said. As a result, the discourse folds back into itself instead of expanding into other fields of study, where it could have shown how it figures in the creation of particular subjectivities, how it participates in political exchanges. For the same reason, I am reluctant to define where exactly the Eastern Europe or the West mapped in my chapters begins or ends. Arguably, there are a number of historically concrete countries that have traditionally been considered Eastern European. As Larry Wolff (1994) shows, Russia has almost always been Eastern Europe if not outright ‘‘the Orient.’’ And, arguably, the borders of Eastern Europe (and Western Europe, or the West) have shifted a number of times in different historical periods, or sometimes in different accounts of the same historical period, frequently depending on the author’s location in this discursive geography. Thus, to Czesław Miłosz, Prague is often the threshold into Western Europe; to Milan Kundera, it is Central Europe (itself a term marking a desperate attempt to escape designation as Eastern European); to Shteyngart, it is Eastern Europe, morphing into the fictional city of Prava, an every-Eastern-European-city. In the communist and post-communist periods, Eastern Europe has been geographed as the lands behind the Iron Curtain, and because I am writing about this particular mapping of Eastern Europe many of the authors discussed are from post/communist Europe. However, defining the border so clearly problematizes a potential inclusion of Greek director Theo Angelopoulos into the discussion (Greece is both Balkan/Eastern European and the cradle of Western civilization), of East German director Wolfgang Becker (East Germany was both German and Eastern European after World War II), or of any Yugoslav authors/ directors (Yugoslavia was Eastern European but without Iron-Curtain communism). Instead, I keep the borders of Eastern Europe open and shifting, while analyzing ways in which the narratives themselves engage with this imaginary geography. I emphasize how Eastern Europe, Europe, and the West figure as concepts rather than monolithic geo-historical

10

Introduction

entities while at the same time inevitably affecting concrete peoples by engendering all sorts of real borders among them. So far, I have been including the Balkans in my discussion of Eastern Europe, since the Balkans, despite spawning a separate field of study recently, remain Orientalized as extreme Eastern Europe. That it is impossible to disassociate the Balkans from Eastern Europe is also confirmed by Wolff’s (1994) and Todorova’s (1997) projects, which, despite their stated focus, consistently and symptomatically implicate one within a discussion of the other. It is especially difficult to theorize the Balkans in isolation from political and social patterns in the rest of Eastern Europe during the communist and post-communist periods. As Tomislav Longinovic´ writes, the Balkans are frequently subsumed under Iron-Curtain Europe before 1989; after the fall of communism, the alleged absence of old divisions ‘‘polarized Eastern Europe into a North–South division between the advanced Central Europe and the bloodthirsty Balkans’’ (2002: 41).11 Of course, as is the case with Eastern Europe, the borders of Central Europe and the Balkans (or the non-Central Eastern Europe?) shift depending on the account. Renowned Eastern European scholar Timothy Garton Ash offers definitions that are particularly exemplary of the geographic arbitrariness of these categories: he divides this ‘‘other Europe’’ into a ‘‘second’’ (‘‘Central’’) and ‘‘third’’ (?) Europe, grouping the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, the Baltic States, and Slovenia in ‘‘Central’’ Europe, and Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Serbia in the ‘‘third’’ Europe (1997: 121). What is especially interesting here is less a definition of clear borders and more the political and cultural overdetermination of concepts such as Central Europe and the Balkans. In my work, therefore, I investigate how Eastern European narratives engage with the discourse of Central Europe as a redeemable Eastern Europe and with the Balkans as an irredeemable, extreme, and problematic Eastern Europe. By repeatedly flaunting terms such as Eastern Europe, Central Europe, and the Balkans I do not mean to negate or dismiss as unimportant the specificity of numerous ethnic, linguistic, or any other identities that comprise this space. Indeed, since Said, many theorists have been careful not to portray a particular geo-discursive area as monolithic for fear of suppressing differences, minorities, or, indeed, creating ‘‘margins and outsiders,’’ in Bart Moore-Gilbert’s words (1997: 72). Additionally, some theorists have devoted their efforts to distinguishing between the different Orientalisms emerging in different national imaginaries; notable here is Lisa Lowe’s (1991) effort to compare and contrast French and British Orientalisms, both challenging and supplementing Said’s project. Similarly, Maria Todorova (1997) and Dusˇan Bjelic´ and Obrad Savic´ methodologically depart from Said, who set ‘‘the stage for peaceful coexistence by dismantling difference,’’ and instead ‘‘affirm constitutive differences and paradoxes,’’ but nevertheless with the same political goal in mind as Said – ‘‘multicultural coexistence’’ (Bjelic´ and Savic´ 2002: 5).

Introduction

11

While my project necessarily addresses these ‘‘constitutive differences and paradoxes,’’ they will not be analyzed merely for their own sake (in terms of discussing the specificity of German Orientalizing of Poland, or American Orientalizing of Russia, for instance), but rather with the goal of tracing their participation in the general discourses and anxieties that accompany the concepts Europe and Eastern Europe. The political vision of this work is that theorizing what is assigned as a general or common attribute to always-already divergent national or any other identities is fruitful not only because it reveals the trajectories of globalization and opens up the possibility of a unified struggle to deconstruct such attributes, but also because focusing on specificity for the sake of its affirmation, i.e. ‘‘emancipation’’ into global visibility, potentially locks it into the logic of ‘‘multicultural coexistence.’’ I see this as an essentially conservative ideal which in its mainstream liberal form in fact perfectly coexists with the myths of Western civilization and Eastern Europe. In that spirit, the literary and visual narratives included likewise will not perform a multicultural (or gender, or any other) sampling of Eastern European authors for the sake of diversity; rather, these narratives are selected for their singular interventions into the general discourses I have outlined above. In support of this battle against assigning primacy to national or ethnic specificity, I cite the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsˇek’s warning to his electorate in 1995 as a case in point: the choice is not between this Slovenia or that Slovenia; the choice is no less than ‘‘between Europe and the Balkans’’ (Mocˇnik 2002: 94).

‘‘The Hinterland of the new European Reich’’: democracy’s border or democracy’s limit? What the proper historical stance . . . ‘relativizes’ is not the past (always distorted by our present point of view) but, paradoxically, the present itself – our present can be conceived only as the outcome (not of what actually happened in the past, but also) of the crushed potentials for the future that were contained in the past. (Zˇizˇek 2000: 90) The means to get beyond the crisis is the ontological displacement of the subject. The most important change therefore takes place inside humanity, since with the end of modernity also ends the hope of finding something that can identify the self outside the community, outside cooperation and outside the critical and contradictory relationships that each person finds in a non-place, that is, in the world and the multitude. This is where the idea of Empire reappears, not as a territory, not in the determinate dimensions of its time and space and not from the standpoint of a people and its history, but rather simply as the fabric of an ontological human dimension that tends to become universal. (Hardt and Negri 2000: 384)

12

Introduction

In his discussion of the Yugoslav civil wars, E´tienne Balibar calls Yugoslavia, as well as the post-communist East, an opportunity for Europe to reconsider its borders, as well as its ‘‘apartheid.’’ If Europe is to achieve what he calls an ‘‘open citizenship,’’ it must cease to ‘‘other’’ the Yugoslav situation as ‘‘atypical’’ and rather accept it as ‘‘a local projection of forms of confrontation and conflict characteristic of all Europe’’ (2004: 5). The metaphor of Yugoslavia, or by analogy Eastern Europe, as a mirror for Europe effectively promotes it from democracy’s borderland, or – in the racist terms of a colleague that Balibar quotes – ‘‘the Hinterland of the new European Reich,’’ to a crucial symbol of the crisis of identity in the so-called developed world (2004: 123). The Yugoslav wars demonstrate that Europe, as well as the United States (their union appropriately consummated via NATO), has a schizophrenic identity as well when it comes to Eastern Europeans: on the one hand, their violent conflicts and political and economic crises are alien, on the outside, as something that could never happen in the developed world; on the other, the geographic proximity, as well as the cultural, racial, etc. closeness, denotes the upheavals as something of Europe, as a terrain where European civilization must be protected and barbarism contained. This latter way of inclusion is, of course, not the one that Balibar explicitly has in mind, since this again leads not to a reconsideration of the concept of Europe, but to an affirmation of some transcendentally pure identity of Europe in the name of which the ugly spots must be cleansed. However, this particular pattern of simultaneous inclusion–exclusion is significant because it helps us theorize new types of racism that arise globally, after the struggles for colonial liberation and as old ethnic and racial exclusions allegedly take a back seat through a host of juridical measures. Many postcolonial theorists have expressed optimism that old Eurocentrictype racism is disappearing as the world can no longer be neatly divided into a European or American ‘‘center’’ and Asian and African ‘‘peripheries.’’ According to Ajrun Appadurai, we live in the era of complex transnational movements of people, finances, and ideas, which undermine the idea of stable boundaries in the center–periphery model and give rise to hybrid discourses and identities that challenge racism (1990: 299). Similarly, Zygmunt Bauman argues that, through ‘‘denationalization of the state,’’ the traditional efforts towards assimilation are becoming obsolete in the climate of cultural plurality and tolerance of differences (1990: 168). Among other prominent scholars who espouse similar views are, of course, Homi Bhabha (1994), with his celebration of cultural hybridity and subversive potential of mimicry, and Stuart Hall, with his emphasis on ‘‘diaspora, diversity, hybridity and difference’’ (1990: 237). But the alleged denationalization or deracialization of state policies does not do much towards deconstructing the seemingly supranational and supra-racial identities such as Eastern European, European, cosmopolitan, or global citizen. The term American is, of course, reluctantly used because

Introduction

13

of its explicit association with a country and because ‘‘Americanization’’ has received a generally bad rap in the rest of the world. This type of racism, like racism which Orientalizes Eastern Europeans, predicates a simultaneous inclusion and exclusion: that is, the barrier to one’s inclusion is no longer (on the surface, at least) one’s ethnicity or race, but rather one’s cultural, political, and economic behavior. In this sense, inclusion is always possible since it is always possible to ‘‘tweak’’ one’s culture or politics to merit international acceptance. On the other hand, exclusion (especially through fashionable policies such as economic sanctions or military interventions) remains a permanent feature of this still-conditional inclusion. The Eastern European narratives I analyze mark a passage towards the obsession with not so much race as behavior, presentation, and image, in order to appear civilized or worthy of Western accolade. Exemplary here is Dubravka Ugresˇic´’s description of Eastern Europe in Have a Nice Day as a ‘‘sister’’ she cannot escape, a disgracefully uncivilized double that wears ‘‘cheap make-up,’’ ‘‘talks too loudly,’’ ‘‘wipes its lips with its hand,’’ and whose desperate eyes reveal a ‘‘need to stop being a second-class citizen and become someone’’ (1994: 23). In Kundera’s Slowness we encounter a hapless Czech scientist, Cechoripsky, whom the narrator treats satirically for his obsession with denouncing communism during a presentation to a Western audience, a presentation itself weakened by the scientist’s extreme anxiety over his cultural insignificance, his hopelessly outdated paper, and, predictably, his ugly clothes. These narrative moments are significant in that they can help us recognize and theorize the ‘‘racism without race,’’ in Balibar’s (1991) terms, one that in fact keeps the ideology of multiculturalism in place and, with it, global capitalist networks. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri try to explain why the mechanisms of hierarchy and logic of inclusion/exclusion are today difficult to recognize and thus make the ideology of multiculturalism seem truly egalitarian: The hierarchy of the different races is determined only a posteriori, as an effect of their cultures – that is, on the basis of their performance . . . racial supremacy and subordination are not a theoretical question, but arise through free competition, a kind of market meritocracy of culture. (Hardt and Negri 2000: 193). The language of marketing and advertising is quite appropriate here in light of my earlier observations on image and presentation of one’s culture; also multiculturalism as an ideology frequently follows the rhythms of the market as ‘‘diversity’’ in university brochures, ethnic clothing, restaurants, etc. But I would like to revise Hardt and Negri’s notion to also include the ‘‘older’’ type of a priori, biological racism which intersects with the ‘‘racism without race.’’ I argue that both have essentially the same hierarchical structure, positing an ideal, or primary, white, European/American, capitalist,

14

Introduction

Christian identity, although this identity is an absent cause in the latter type of racism. Because of this, there is no true ‘‘free competition’’ of cultures, as is evident in the differential inclusion/exclusion of countries and nationalities with respect to the European Union. Thus, despite satisfying a number of criteria for accession more successfully than other candidate countries, Turkey’s entry is again delayed; the accession of the Czech Republic and Poland is favored but followed by lingering, unstated anxiety about the Slavic types it brings. Finally, the very criteria of multiculturalism legitimate isolation and racist policy towards those proclaimed to be non-multicultural and hence, paradoxically, ‘‘isolationist’’: hence the discomfort that NATO exhibited in bombing Yugoslavia, as a country of white people yet not quite European (or white) in that it also has authoritarian, ethnically intolerant, gender-discriminatory policies.12 Indeed, this type of multicultural racism and its crucial role in obviating the need for dialogue with the ‘‘enemy,’’ legitimating military or other interventions and stripping the targeted people of meaningful political agency, remains to be theorized. Eastern European narratives are interesting from this perspective, not merely as mimetic testimony to the existence of multicultural racism, but because they posit subjectivities that test the limits of multiculturalism, expose its aporias, and, in doing so, question the viability of any democratic politics similarly based on emancipation, on the ‘‘rescuing’’ from a state of abjection and striving to an a priori determined ideal proclaimed as universal (i.e. multicultural tolerance, human rights). The moment of crisis in many of Kundera’s novels, for instance, comes with a recognition that the self-victimization of communist dissidents legitimates their ‘‘rescue’’ into democracy, free speech, and other bounties of the West, but at the same time there is a feeling that this discursive field is borrowed, alien, and non-negotiable. More significantly, the self-victimization turns one, indeed, into a victim on behalf of whom the rescue is taking place but who is, in the last instance, not given a political voice – the type of non-subject that Slavoj Zˇizˇek (2002), following Giorgio Agamben, humoristically renames ‘‘homo sucker.’’ The silencing of characters in the face of this discursive appropriation almost obsessively haunts many Eastern European narratives, from Kundera and Nabokov to recent novels by Dubravka Ugresˇic´, Andrei Makine, and Gary Shteyngart. In Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1991b), it is poignantly reflected in the advertisement for Sabina’s exhibition of her Czech photographs in the West: as barbed wire is grafted onto her face to signal communist oppression, she is silenced both physically and figuratively – communism is essentialized as an unquestioned abjection, a Badiouian (2001) ‘‘universal evil’’ (like the Holocaust, which the barbed wire invokes) from which she must be rescued, even as she protests, ineffectively so, against the ad and the discursive categories it employs.

Introduction

15

This alleged guilt of the West about not rescuing Eastern Europe from the evil of communism indeed resonates today when European Union Enlargement, like the simultaneous acceptance by the United States, is advertised as a payback for past wrongs (Ditchev 2002: 242). This selfsanctioned right of a supranational body to intervene, to rescue, but also the accepted necessity of intervention by the victim, according to Hardt and Negri, marks a passage from old imperialism to Empire. Especially in narratives that deal with the wars in former Yugoslavia, Europe is invoked as an idealized agent of Empire that will save Yugoslavia from itself, i.e. ‘‘ancient ethnic hatreds,’’ but frequently this idealization is brought into crisis when the victim realizes that there is no ultimate rescue, no ultimate emancipation (and not only because Europe and the United States intervene either too early or too late and in less than ideal ways). As with Ugresˇic´’s narrator in Have a Nice Day, an Eastern European can indeed become a ‘‘global’’ citizen in the United States, but always continuing in the logic of identity politics – always fixed in the identity of a Balkan war refugee and all the accompanying exotic stereotypes. In Shteyngart’s The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, similarly, the protagonist Vladimir Girshkin, a Manhattanite, can never quite shake off the ‘‘expansive Russian soul’’ stereotypes because it is hip to be ‘‘multicultural.’’ The limits of multicultural tolerance are in fact beautifully announced through Shteyngart’s portrayal of Rybakov, a Russian refugee in New York who is officially flaunted as a mascot of New York’s openness to foreigners until he reveals himself as a flaming racist who refuses to be re-educated, all the while proclaiming his love for America, democracy, and capitalism (2002: 397). Multiculturalism becomes, in Balibar’s terms, ‘‘otherness-within-the-limitsof-citizenship,’’ within the limits of what is non-threatening, assimilable, conducive to cooperation instead of rioting (2002: 159). In this respect, the narratives at hand not only question multiculturalism, identity politics, and the politics of emancipation, but also allow for a radical re-envisioning of these ideas. The dissidence comes first through a criticism of communist and/or nationalist grand narratives of identity containment, but that discernment does not make for an easy acceptance of the grand narratives of democracy, multiculturalism, progress, or capitalism. Rather, the postcolonial condition of these narratives opens up the possibility of recognizing some of the same strategies of containment floating in the ‘‘free world.’’ Hence there is rarely a celebration of cultural hybridity or cultural nativism as a radical option, but, possibly, there is a movement to something (an undefined something) beyond. What is certain is that multicultural racism is haunted in these narratives by the unstated hierarchies of older racism, perhaps paralleling the way in which we can glean, behind a de-centered Imperial logic, the older, Wallersteinian (1979) core–periphery divisions. The core today is not only the United States and its explicit imperialist pretensions, as David Harvey (2003) warns us in his latest book, but also the Europe that subtly advertises itself as a non-imperial(ist) project.

16

Introduction

As a strategy of simultaneous identity emancipation and containment, multiculturalism is also suspect because, as Gayatri Spivak writes, it is ‘‘determined by the demands of contemporary transnational capitalisms. It is an important public relations move in the apparent winning of consent from developing countries in the dominant project of the financialization of the globe’’ (1999: 397). Thus a multicultural, liberal identity is also one that can be safely contained and streamlined into the corporate work/marketplace, the logic being that one will not question class polarizations if one can speak one’s language, practice one’s religion, etc. What multiculturalism and accompanying discourses of liberal democracy successfully ‘‘other’’ is any leftist politics, which they repeatedly associate with Stalinist-type totalitarianism, human rights violations, and lack of basic consumer goods, in comparison with which they indeed appear as more desirable. It is no secret that today’s cultural racism targets any communist politics, but what has not been sufficiently investigated is how this attack on communism reinforces and is in turn reinforced by other racist discourses, biological and/or cultural, about the peoples who venture into communist adventures. My project suggests that the ‘‘othering’’ of Eastern European communism was aided, among other things, precisely by the existing discourses on Eastern European racial inferiority, barbarism, and overall backwardness, and in fact the two Orientalist strands are difficult to distinguish in anti-communist narratives; hence the hope of, once again, becoming European or a member of the civilized world once communism is dead, invoking the myth of some organic pre-October-Revolution European unity that, as we know from the much longer tradition of Eastern European Orientalism, never existed. However, this myth is so strong that even E´tienne Balibar wonders if the end of communism did not signal the ‘‘lifting of the obstacle that was blocking the progress of European unity,’’ as if communism were some temporary aberration, a European lapse into madness; capitalism is never, meanwhile, described as an ‘‘obstacle’’ (2004: 90). Since I posit Eastern Europe as a postcolonial terrain, I also consider the significance of communism to its history and the formation of its identity in postcolonial terms. I here draw on Robert Young’s important conclusion that ‘‘the historical role of Marxism in the history of anti-colonial resistance remains paramount as the fundamental framework of postcolonial thinking’’ (2001: 6). In this sense, Eastern European communist legacies should not be analyzed only in terms of the degree of economic innovation upon or departure from Western capitalist practices. Indeed, if one does that, then one will conclude, like Immanuel Wallerstein (1991), that communism and capitalism are parts of the same ‘‘world system’’; or, like Slavoj Zˇizˇek, that ‘‘‘actually existing Socialism’ failed because it was ultimately a subspecies of capitalism,’’ used its ‘‘instrumental reason,’’ was not radical enough (2000: 19).13 These are of course valid assertions, but what this type of approach misses is the significance of communism as a line of flight for Eastern Europeans from not only the power grids of Western nations, but also the

Introduction

17

stigma of economic and cultural inferiority, escape from the logic of capital and the logic of being the ‘‘other.’’ Because this escape was executed largely with the gaze turned towards the Western mirror, the obsession was nevertheless with modernization, production, and, basically, catching up with those considered developed, in a similar way as today’s obsession is catching up with Western consumption. But the innovations of Eastern European communism were nevertheless great in the area of social welfare policies and the egalitarian ideology of social solidarity which today’s post-communist democracies are rapidly replacing with ideals of individualism, civil liberties, and ‘‘de-personalized relations of economic dependence,’’ resulting in ‘‘an atomized field of free and equal, equally abstract individuals, who entertain shifting packages of beliefs and who manifest no evident social anchorage’’ (Mocˇnik 2002: 87). In this respect, Eastern Europe’s communist legacies are also important because of their attempts to counter the fears of poverty, economic anxiety, and competition that capital thrives on, which, I will suggest, are closely related to countering fears of racial stigmatization and competition for emancipation from second-class civilizational status. This interrelatedness is especially conspicuous in contemporary post-communist narratives rife with references to Eastern Europe as a ‘‘second-class citizen,’’ a ‘‘poor relative’’ of Europe. Also, the renewed competition to, as Ditchev appropriately phrases it, ‘‘occupy the place of some big Other’s desire’’ combines the candidates’ proofs of success in economic and social remodeling with their claims to racial/cultural closeness to Europe; thus, Romanians invoke their Latin origin, the Polish their Catholicism, etc. (Ditchev 2002: 235). Because of ghastly human rights records and their ultimate inability to catch up with Western models of production and consumption, Eastern European communist regimes probably helped strengthen the stigma that they tried to escape. But their legacy is important primarily because of what they did partly achieve, as well as because, as Zˇizˇek writes, they ‘‘simultaneously opened up a certain space, the space of utopian expectations which, among other things, enabled us to measure the failure of actually existing Socialism itself’’ (2001: 131). Zˇizˇek even goes as far as to suggest that what anti-communist dissidents overlook is that the very position from which they denounced communist terror in the name of human solidarity was opened up, made possible, exactly by the communist regimes themselves ˇ izˇek and argue that this posi(2001: 131). While I would probably revise Z tion could have been made possible by the utopia of communist solidarity as much as by the utopia of liberal-democratic solidarity, his line of reasoning deserves serious consideration because it illuminates the utopian potential itself in dissident narratives. If Eastern European narratives measure the failure of real existing communism against its promise, they also measure similar failures of liberal democracy. Especially in post-communist narratives, there is a movement towards salvaging the memory of communist rule in order to work through

18

Introduction

its trauma, but also to discern and validate the types of social structures or subjectivities that are disappearing through Eastern European initiation into global capitalism. Hence we witness an astonishing shift in Milan Kundera’s writing in his recent novel Ignorance (2002), where instead of attacking the stock evils of communism – authoritarianism, herd mentality, and kitsch – the characters lament the loss of utopian ideals, also hinting that the occupation of the Czech Republic by global capital is, indeed, worse than the Soviet occupation. What is at stake, therefore, is an interruption of the present by the past, or, rather, the inability of the present to shake off the specters of the past which it continually proclaims to be dead. Relying on Walter Benjamin’s notion that this ‘‘dialectics at a standstill’’ – the past moment seen in conjunction with the present moment – opens up the possibility of radically changing the vision of the future, I propose to read the various guises of communist nostalgia as Benjaminian ‘‘memory’’ that ‘‘flashes up at a moment of danger,’’ the present process of transforming Eastern European countries into global capital’s dreamworld: dependent economies, highly stratified societies, and sources of cheap labor (1968: 255). Eastern European texts that narrate communist pasts can today constitute what Dipesh Chakrabarty, following Martin Heidegger, calls ‘‘affective histories,’’ to him ‘‘subaltern’’ histories not conceived of in ethnic, racial, or gender terms, but rather as ways of being-in-the-world that exist both inside and outside of the narrative of capital, supplementing it but also exposing its limits, its inability to ‘‘translate’’ into its own language all human experience (Chakrabarty 2000: 95). Shteyngart’s The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, for instance, thus reads the mafia circles in post-communist Eastern Europe from the schizophrenic perspective of global capitalism and multiculturalism – both as testimony to Eastern European ontological inability to mimic Western business practices and as a necessary evil of transitions sure to disappear once democracy is in full swing (hence a satirical portrayal of American expats bent on bringing ‘‘democracy’’ to the East). But the Mafiosi are also persistent reminders of the communist times whose fall disenfranchised and impoverished them. Moreover, their deliberate ridiculing of Western ‘‘good’’ business practices, their refusal to subject their time to the rhythm of the corporate workplace, and the ‘‘irrationality’’ and ‘‘absurdity’’ of their Situationist-type interventions resist appropriation by the narrative of capital. I am interested in ways in which this and other texts resist the urge to relegate Eastern Europe to a place in the global march of history, or, under present conditions, to neocolonial status. It is significant that in devising his notion of ‘‘affective histories’’ Chakrabarty also uses the term ‘‘minor histories,’’ following Gilles Deleuze and Fe´lix Guattari’s discussion of ‘‘minor literature’’ in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (1986). For Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, a Prague Jew, creates ‘‘minor literature’’ by radically deterritorializing German, ‘‘language of the

Introduction

19

masters’’; Kafka brings German to ‘‘the desert’’ by exposing its poverty and preventing its appropriation by nationalist cultural myths (Deleuze and Guattari 1986: 26). A ‘‘minor literature’’ is thus conceived of as literature of ‘‘immigrants,’’ of ‘‘nomads’’ for whom it is both impossible to write in a ‘‘major language’’ – also the language that establishes a national ‘‘great literature’’ – and impossible to write otherwise (Deleuze and Guattari 1986: 16). I read the Eastern European narratives at hand similarly as ‘‘minor literature’’ that expresses this twofold impossibility, although I want to complicate Deleuze and Guattari’s notions of ‘‘major language’’ and their conception of it as a national language. For Czesław Miłosz, writing in English while residing in the United States is tantamount to capitulating to the logic of capital, to a Western civilization which he criticizes as a vulgar ideology of consumerism. His opting for Polish instead is thus less a way to ‘‘reterritorialize’’ himself into a Polish identity, than to ‘‘deterritorialize’’ English as a ‘‘major language’’ of capital rather than a specific national tradition. For Joseph Brodsky, who writes in both Russian and English while in exile, the decision to write in English – a ‘‘major language’’ of his new country – similarly serves to ‘‘deterritorialize’’ Russian, which he understands as the ‘‘major language’’ not so much of a national identity but of widespread communist oppression. In other words, the trauma of nomadism and exile is not revealed only through writing in an alien language, for Deleuze and Guattari an oppressive language from which one is nationally and culturally alienated. Rather, ‘‘minor literature’’ is also one that signals exile from and within one’s own national and cultural language, in terms of the hegemonic political discourses through which this language makes possible its oppression. ‘‘Major languages’’ are these discursive fields that police, regardless of what national language or regional dialect is actually used, what can be said. In this respect, Eastern European narratives variously participate in, as well as ‘‘deterritorialize,’’ the discursive fields of official communisms, anti-communist discourses, Orientalist reifications of Eastern Europe, and the language of civilization, progress, human rights, liberal democracy, multiculturalism. As with multicultural racism, the notion of supranational ‘‘major languages’’ (although not without clear national interests, as in the case of ‘‘racism without a race’’) opens up another possibility for theorizing the oppressive mechanisms of globalization, especially those rhetorical categories that police behavior by advertising themselves as commonsense, universal human values. Victor Pelevin’s Homo Zapiens, from this perspective, becomes ‘‘minor literature’’ in its attempt to expose the absolute violence, as well as the absurd incongruity, of the incursion of the ‘‘major language’’ of capitalist marketing and advertising into Russian in the post-communist era. Pelevin, like Kafka, exposes the poverty of this language, as well as the language of Russian nationalism, when he portrays attempts to add an ‘‘ethnic’’ Russian flair to Western-type marketing campaigns in order to appeal to the natives. This unwieldy marriage at the same time signals the

20

Introduction

collusion of the two discourses of power, countering arguments that postmodern nationalisms are a challenge to the process of globalization. Eastern European ‘‘minor’’ narratives in this way reveal the various strategies of identity containment crucial to what Hardt and Negri have termed the ‘‘biopolitics’’ of Imperial ‘‘society of control,’’ but also allow for formulating new subjectivities, new kinds of collectivity that do not rely on the familiar strategies of identity politics crucial to the reproduction of multicultural complacence and global capitalism (2000: 23). When Slavenka Drakulic´ (1997), for instance, discusses her use of ‘‘we’’ to talk about Eastern Europeans, she explicitly criticizes the dominance of the ‘‘we’’ of communist-nationalist identification over the individual ‘‘I.’’ Yet she also endorses it as a path to a non-coercive, non-nationalist collective of Eastern European peoples with communist pasts who need to critically reconsider their shared myths about Europe, their inferiority complexes and their selfOrientalization (Drakulic´ 1997: 4). When at the end of Emir Kusturica’s film Underground the undead protagonists of Yugoslav communist and post-communist conflicts float away happily on an anonymous piece of land, what we have is perhaps a collective without a nationality, a state, or a master plan for the future. The memory of communism resuscitated throughout these narratives creates not so much conditions for a simple repetition of the past (itself already impossible), but a heterotemporality that challenges the cooptation of time by capital, or, in Bhabha’s words, ‘‘poses the future as an open question’’ through ‘‘history’s intermediacy’’ (1994: 231). This excessive, unruly remainder that resists translation into the narrative of global development and unity creates potential for the impossibility of translating Eastern Europeans into the Volksmuseum of global cultures based on those stereotypes that, indeed, make them Eastern European. Posing the future as an open question also poses European identity as an open question. As Jacques Derrida writes, the idea of a democracy that is not coopted by a master narrative of the future, the democracy which is always anticipated but never definitively arrives, is related to the idea of a European identity that is not coopted by a transcendental ideal. If Europe is to strive towards this idea of democracy, it must likewise keep ‘‘opening [itself] onto that which is not, never was and never will be Europe’’ or opening itself to an other it ‘‘can no longer even relate to itself as its other’’ (Derrida 1992: 77, 76). Of course, the challenge is to maintain open not only the European identity, but indeed the identity of any other unifying project whose membership promises to bring liberation and emancipation. But then, the notion of a radical opening may bring into question the very possibility of existence of such projects, based as they are on defining their identities against the identities of the excluded others.

2

‘‘Doubly obscure’’ dissident narrative Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire

Writing ‘‘Nabokov’’ Lolita is famous, not I. I am only an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name. (Nabokov 1990: 107) It is not improbable that had there been no revolution in Russia, I would have devoted myself entirely to lepidopterology and never written any novels at all. (Nabokov 1990: 100)

In this chapter, I examine a number of Vladimir Nabokov’s American texts, with a special focus on Pale Fire (1989a), asking how his literary production can be contextualized in and how it reflects on the intellectual climate of the Cold War in the United States and the treatment of Russian dissidents. Of particular interest is how Nabokov’s oeuvre participates in American political and cultural attempts to understand, ‘‘figure out,’’ praise, and/or reject the communist ‘‘other,’’ Soviet Russia. Nabokov arrives in the United States at the beginning of World War II and leaves it for Switzerland before that tumultuous decade the 1960s begins. His presence and influence in the American intellectual landscape, nevertheless, is prominent both while he is in the United States and when he is away: he speaks to America when he publishes his autobiographical writings in the New Yorker in the late 1940s and desecrates many proprieties with Lolita (1955) in the 1950s as much as when he gives numerous interviews and ‘‘strong opinions’’ in Montreaux, Switzerland, in the 1960s (many addressing the political and cultural upheavals in America, Cold War topics, and Soviet politics). He speaks to America, I say, because Nabokov’s self-fashioning – his literary self-production – as a dissident, Russian-American author, as an expert on all things Russian, is in a way inseparable from his insistence on apprising the American public of the evils of ‘‘Leninization’’1 and of Russia’s short-lived, but crucial potential for (Western) liberal development, embodied by enlightened e´migre´s like Nabokov himself. Nabokov has frequently claimed that he is neither a Bolshevist Red nor a monarchist White Russian, rejecting the allegedly vulgar political binarism

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with which the American public categorized Russian e´migre´s: instead, he has described himself as a child of democratic liberalism.2 Aside from this self-categorization, Nabokov has mostly rejected other attempts to locate him along the left–right political continuum, opting, instead, for the language of universalist, human-rights values that determined his support for or opposition to a particular politics. In their condemnation of totalitarianism regardless of a state that enforces it, his novels Bend Sinister (1947) and Invitation to a Beheading (1959) already foreshadow the statement in Strong Opinions that he cannot tell Democrats from Republicans, that a social or economic structure of a state is irrelevant: his only condition is ‘‘no torture, no executions’’ and no ‘‘regimentation of thought, governmental censorship, racial or religious persecution’’ (Nabokov 1990: 34, 48).3 As we will see, many critics have taken Nabokov’s lead by shying away from blatantly political readings of his novels that would rely on the pre-established jargon of left, center, or right politics – and, indeed, Nabokov’s novels would frustrate such attempts with their narrative complexity, their playfulness and fluidity. So one can talk about Nabokov’s allegiance to human rights or his fight against oppression in general; another ‘‘safe’’ way to approach Nabokov has been through the discussion of the implications of exile (literal and/or figurative), of the cultural and linguistic dis/placements in his writing. But how can one politicize Nabokov the playful and daring human-rights supporter, the Russian exilic writer with enviable English skills? In this chapter, rather than applying a specific political jargon to a reading of Nabokov’s texts, I want to tease out the ways in which Nabokov’s own position on non-oppression, especially when targeted at Soviets, serves a political function in the Cold War struggles in America. Also, I want to show how his exilic narratives – including the narrative of his own exile – are made possible precisely by the discursive tropes of and about the Cold War, which persistently attempt to determine the terms of Nabokov’s (self-) representations. If representation in the sense of Darstellung, as ‘‘re-presentation’’ or ‘‘portrayal,’’ is, according to Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, an impossible attempt at ‘‘unveiling’’ the ‘‘truth,’’ because of an impossible position of rhetorical articulation as if ‘‘from the outside’’ of the ‘‘truth’’ – which would somehow allow for its unveiling or unfolding – then it is necessary to read Nabokov’s narratives about himself or Russia’s history as an endless play of rhetorical tropes and images, of contexts and representations without recourse to any originary ‘‘truth’’ (Lacoue-Labarthe 1993: 2). In other words, I am interested not in Nabokov as an exiled or dissident author, but rather in the textual articulation of this figure, the discursive conditions of his self-fashioning. Similarly, instead of looking at ways in which Nabokov ‘‘unveils’’ the ‘‘true’’ (hi)story of Russia, I focus on Russia’s history-as-narrative, as a historicist re-presentation of the past. On the one hand, Nabokov’s invocation of recognizable Cold War tropes and older narratives that posit Western democratic heritage as the political

Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 23 goal for Russia helps Nabokov and his views on Russia and Soviet communism become visible in the American intellectual landscape. However, this situation also renders his influence precarious and even marginalized. This is not only because of the fluctuation of interest in Soviet Russia in different times and among different audiences, but also because Nabokov in a sense becomes politically conformist and thus ‘‘invisible’’ when he submerges his writing in existing Orientalist re-presentations on wild Russian communists/tsarists and tries to prove to his American audiences that Russia is capable of a civilized democratic development. First of all, a certain number of Nabokov’s engagements were directly brought on by the Cold War and in this sense can be qualified as directly political. For instance, his novel The Gift (1938) was the first title to be picked up by Radio Liberty’s CIA-sponsored publication project, dedicated to procuring e´migre´ literature into the Soviet Union. Such material was largely uncensored, distributed gratis, and appeared under a contrived publishing house name. Also, it could be argued that Nabokov’s engagement at Cornell, at the height of McCarthyism, was facilitated by his impeccable anti-communist credentials: as Andrew Field has pointed out, ‘‘Cornell was in the main a very conservative campus’’ (headed by President Malott, priding himself as a ‘‘rock-ribbed, reactionary Republican’’) and even warranted ‘‘its own secret FBI bureau in Ithaca,’’ with which Nabokov, as a professor of Russian, had a regular and quite friendly relationship (Field 1986: 303). Among such political decisions we can certainly contextualize Nabokov’s many anti-Soviet lectures and debates – from his early denunciations of Bolshevism during his studies at Cambridge to his 1958 lecture at Cornell titled ‘‘Readers, Writers and Censors in Russia,’’ where he famously ridiculed Soviet socialist realist literature (Boyd 1991: 360–61; Field 1986: 305). In this respect, it is significant that Nabokov’s rhetoric on Soviets, which according to Nabokov originated from a liberalism of a Western type and from a hatred of extreme right and left politics alike,4 coincides with not only liberal-progressive, but also right-conservative Cold War rhetoric. Indeed, Nabokov’s views on the phenomenon of McCarthyism echo Lawrence Durrell’s sentiment that ‘‘the USA witch-hunting and all is taking a far more sensible line than anyone else,’’ and the triumphant statement, ‘‘What a madhouse Communism is. And how grateful we are to the USA for taking it seriously’’ (Todorova 1997: 135). Although Nabokov was not always thrilled by McCarthyist methods, he was nevertheless grateful that the United States was taking the communist threat seriously. George F. Kennan’s famous ‘‘Long Telegram’’ established Soviets as unrelenting fanatics, prepared to take over the entire planet and, of course, destroy the ‘‘American way of life.’’ Surrounding this image of Soviets is the discourse on international communism in general as an uncontrollable disease, which must be stopped, or, for the time being, quarantined.5 Suzanne Clark (2000) shows that the language of disease and of communism as a dangerous

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parasite was compounded by the descriptions of Soviet political discourses as shifty, unreliable, merely rhetorical and ideological, in contrast to which the American political culture appeared as transparent, objective, and truthful (hence an insistence on objectivity and transparency in questionings and trials organized by the CIA and FBI). Perhaps this can be related to the situation in which an Eastern European e´migre´ like Nabokov, having arrived in the safety of a Western democracy, is assumed to be finally unveiling the ‘‘truth’’ about Russia, leaving shifty ideological discourses behind. Larry Wolff argues that Churchill’s Fulton speech, which established Bolshevism as a challenge to the Christian civilization, also helps to justify the political placing of Eastern Europe in quarantine behind the Iron Curtain (1994: 2). For Churchill, who was, nevertheless, anxious to ‘‘rescue’’ Greece (the cradle of European civilization) from the clutches of Soviet fanatics and establish British influence in Greece, even the leftist anti-Nazi Greek guerrillas were bandits, gangsters, and brigands and he fought ruthlessly to suppress them (Todorova 1997: 135). This portrayal of communism as a disease and a related criminalization of communist rule, denying it international legitimacy, also characterizes Nabokov’s comments on the socalled ‘‘Lenin’s gang’’ (1966: 241). He frequently describes Lenin as a ‘‘madman’’ leading a band of ‘‘thugs’’ and Bolsheviks as social ‘‘parasites,’’ advocating an attack on the ‘‘Russian Bear’s territory,’’ which employs an established racist stereotype used to portray Russians (Boyd 1990: 168; Boyd 1991: 143–44). Of course, one could argue that Nabokov had justified concerns about the legitimacy of Soviet revolutionary expropriation, or of the radical qualities of a revolution that, in his words, mutated into mere ‘‘Philistinism’’ and ‘‘petit-bourgeois’’ materialism of the Western type (1990: 149). But what is at stake here is the overlap of the discourse on communism as a disease and of a classist dismissal and fear of communist revolution as an expression of mob mentality, with Orientalist discourses on Eastern European peoples prior to and post communism, which warn of the dangers they pose to the civilized, European, and, by extension, American world. Prior to communism, the peoples of Eastern Europe are frequently portrayed as the wild, warring nations (a dangerous mixture of races) whose national conflicts, especially as the old European empires that ‘‘held them in check’’ fall apart, threaten to spill over the Western borders, like a disease or an infection (Burgess 1997: 51). While their social elites are sometimes praised for having assimilated a modicum of Western civilized manners, the majority – the poor, the mob – are to be feared (Burgess 1997: 51). Perhaps this attitude is responsible for the hatred of communists, as forces that allegedly do away with the civilized elites that the West could count on. In the post-communist period, the metaphors of infection and criminal behavior resurface in a number of public discourses: from the threat of ‘‘Balkanization’’ of the West, to the fear of the hungry masses (illegally) flowing across the borders

Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 25 into the European Union, to the discourses on literal diseases introduced by Eastern European prostitutes.6 This is not to claim a perfect continuity between Nabokov’s writing on – of – Russia and the Orientalist tradition on Eastern European communists or peoples in general; rather, I aim to illuminate their shared rhetoric, which can help us politicize Nabokov. Such a relationship is particularly interesting in light of Nabokov’s legitimization of Western liberal democracy as the ideal political system, embodied in the ‘‘spacious freedom of thought we enjoy in America and Western Europe,’’ and his recommendation that Russia should have developed a democracy of a Western type (1990: 113, 176). Also significant is the lack of any systemic critique when it comes to US politics, which leads Nabokov to an embarrassing endorsement of the Vietnam War and collaboration with the CIA and FBI. I would also argue that his classist dismissal of the mob mentality of the Lenin regime is relevant in light of his dismissal of the anti-Vietnam War protests as expressions of conformist, crowd, Philistine mentality: for Nabokov, the protesters are ‘‘goofy hoodlums – with a sprinkling of clever rogues’’ (1990: 139). These rather problematic pronouncements, however, are tempered by Nabokov’s self-portrayal as not some backward White Russian but a progressive, modern, democratic liberal. Thus he is beyond reproach: being neither the vilified (or, to say the least, controversial) communist nor the outdated conservative monarchist, he occupies the place of America’s imaginary desire for Russian (Eastern European) elites that are rational, in step with the ‘‘progress’’ in the world, and reliable as Western allies. He speaks from a position of authority, therefore, when he warns pro-Soviet enthusiasts of the evils of ‘‘Lenin’s beastly regime’’ and regrets his Russian novels had not been translated earlier for the benefit of Western audiences (Nabokov 1990: 207). In this paradigm, he also stages himself – and others like him – as a ‘‘true’’ Russian exile, because he is not of the decadent Russian gentry who bemoan the loss of their property to the Reds and are thus morally despicable, but rather of the Russian political and cultural vanguard. The Reds are placed beyond redemption, blamed as they are not only for the exodus of the most progressive Russians, but also for robbing people like Nabokov not of material goods (supposedly), but of their memories, of their childhoods (Nabokov 1966: 73). Nabokov romanticizes his exile, seemingly placing himself outside of politics: the beastly communists corrupt nothing short of the purity of childhood. Because Nabokov is bent on portraying himself as the Russian cultural vanguard, much of his battle takes place in the field of literature, where Nabokov sees the danger of having ‘‘true’’ exile literature (a continuation of the ‘‘great tradition’’ of Russian novels) contested by official Soviet socialistrealist literature. Perhaps the ferocity of this battle is aptly illustrated by the struggle between Nabokov’s Lolita and Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago (1957) for the first spot on the bestseller list in the United States (Boyd 1991: 370). While pro-Soviet enthusiasts welcomed the controversial Doctor Zhivago as

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a sign that Soviet Russia, after all, is not so strict on matters of censorship, for Nabokov the novel was still Leninist but in subtle way (1990: 205–07). Nabokov’s hatred of Soviet literature (with several exceptions) has led him to refuse to teach it during his university appointments and to characterize it as simplistic, uncouth, and uncivilized, a ‘‘provincial courtyard’’ – in short, portraying Soviets and by extension communists not only as thugs, but as uncultured thugs (Boyd 1991: 25). At the same time, to escape total Orientalization, he has had to ‘‘rescue’’ his own achievement as a writer and the ‘‘great tradition’’ in Russian literary history from such a categorization. Again, the only way for Nabokov to do this is to show what is so Western European about Russian literature: his university lectures on Pushkin, Gogol, and Lermontov as West European writers belie a desire to undo the shameful unworking of civilized traditions by Soviet communists and an attempt to escape from the inferior to the privileged position within such an Orientalist discourse (Boyd 1991: 36).7 On the one hand, then, Nabokov writes himself as a ‘‘true’’ inheritor of the liberal tradition in Russia (of the same kind as one in the ‘‘free world’’), implying that this option is still haunting Russia’s descent into totalitarianism and barbarism. To establish this connection, he points out a number of similarities between what he describes as Russia’s brief spell of democracy during the last period of the tsarist era and the liberal-democratic development in Europe. Although Russia under the tsarist regime is narrated as, on the whole, a ‘‘rather appalling country,’’ Nabokov is at pains to show that it could have become a modern, democratic country if only the communists hadn’t taken over: Since the reforms of the eighteen-sixties, the country had possessed (though not always adhered to) a legislation of which any Western democracy might have been proud, a vigorous public opinion that held despots at bay, widely read periodicals of all shades of liberal political thought and what was especially striking, fearless and independent judges. (Nabokov 1966: 116, 264) Nabokov performs a work of mourning for the potential in Russia that is always-already idealized by the very fact that it is deemed lost, at the same time as he attempts to lift Russia’s image in the eyes of Americans who consider Russia absolutely backward (and absolutist), as well as those on the political right and left who, albeit from different perspectives, see the communist takeover as the only option for Russia.8 In this process, Nabokov’s gesture is that of ‘‘mimicry,’’ of a partial representation, or repetition, of the metropolitan claim to liberal democracy, what Homi Bhabha describes as the paradoxical ‘‘desire to emerge as ‘authentic’ through mimicry,’’ to be taken seriously only if one repeats, however unsuccessfully, the metropolitan image of oneself (1994: 88). On the other hand, ‘‘to be Anglicized is emphatically not to be English,’’ and,

Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 27 by extension, I might add, for Nabokov to claim that Russia is (or can be) Westernized implies that it emphatically is not Western, that there is always an excess of otherness which is both a fetish and a menace to the metropolitan colonial discourse (Bhabha 1994: 87). Thus Nabokov must also show what is so unique about Russia, must in a sense play an exotic Russian performing a cultural difference – what Gayatri Spivak calls the ‘‘staging’’ of ‘‘culture’’ – to his American audiences on both the left and right (and the shades in between), if he is to interest them in the story of his exile (1999: 405).9 Yet even in re-presenting this ‘‘difference,’’ as we will see, there is a sense of discursive pressure on Nabokov to fall into what Spivak calls ‘‘the lines laid down by the official institutional structures of representation,’’ speaking of the difficulty the ‘‘subaltern’’ faces when making an attempt at self-representation (1988: 306). In other words, if the subaltern makes an attempt at self-portrayal that resists reading by his/her audience and cannot be stabilized into any known identity, then this attempt may not be truly heard or recognized. Here we arrive at another problem of Darstellung, of representation of one’s subalernity or ‘‘difference’’: if it is necessarily an act of citation, of invoking predetermined images and tropes of what qualifies as difference, then the resulting ‘‘uniqueness’’ is not all that alien to official vehicles of discursive representation – much like the desire to appear authentic through a mimicry of the metropolitan image. For Nabokov, the path to articulating a safe cultural uniqueness – safely different in so far as it is close to the same, as it articulates ‘‘universal’’ human concerns across cultural boundaries – lies, again, seemingly outside of politics. Symptomatic here is Nabokov’s use of sentimental and emotional language, whether he talks about the loss of his childhood, homeland, or his ‘‘infinitely rich and docile Russian tongue,’’ about nostalgia as ‘‘one of a thousand tender emotions,’’ or about the larger social irrelevance and complete singularity of Pushkin’s rich, invented Russian world in the commentary to his translation of Eugene Onegin (Nabokov 1990: 115, 149). In this respect, Nabokov becomes extremely popular in critical and intellectual circles when he publishes his Russian memories, which will later be collected and are today best known as Conclusive Evidence, or, later, Speak, Memory (1966), in the New Yorker in the late 1940s and early 1950s.10 Obviously, he shoots into much greater prominence with the publication of Lolita a bit later, but the fame that he achieves both as a Russian e´migre´ writer publishing in the New Yorker and as a lecturer, particularly at Wellesley and Cornell, before this time cannot be discounted. At the conservative Cornell at the high point of McCarthyism, Nabokov’s lectures and talks fit in well with the higher powers’ Cold War political correctness; at Wellesley during and shortly after World War II, Nabokov’s anti-Soviet stance, in the face of Wellesley’s greater liberalism, as well as (politically correct) sympathy for and interest in the Soviets in light of the war alliance, is deemed ‘‘bold’’ and ‘‘rebellious,’’ all the more exotic coming from a ‘‘charming’’ and ‘‘romantically poor’’ professor (Boyd 1991: 37).11

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So here we have Nabokov, who, much like his hapless professor Pnin, insists on educating his students and readers on the uniqueness of Russian history and culture and on imparting his Russian memories (Nabokov 1989b). But of course the very possibility and conditions of such a narration are immediately politicized because of what Nabokov can or cannot say, to the American left or right: on the right hand, Cornell or the FBI solicits his anti-Soviet narratives; on the left hand, the New Yorker editors ask him to tone down his anti-Soviet remarks and Wellesley department chairs and enthusiastic students bring him to a compromise of interspersing his syllabus with some Soviet literature.12 What is at stake here – and what will be crucial to my discussion of Pale Fire in the second part of this chapter – is the moment at which Nabokov, in order to represent his ‘‘unique’’ life story and opinions or a ‘‘unique’’ Russia, must, paradoxically, repeat the American colonial desire for a Russia, that is, depending on one’s political perspective, a Cold War ‘‘other’’ to be feared and quarantined or reformed, an ‘‘other’’ that is a model for an American communist revolution, or an ‘‘other’’ that highlights the failures of America’s liberal democracy. Russia as a mirror. Given Nabokov’s social milieu at the universities where he taught and in the magazines where he published, he was probably somewhat of a conservative oddity among the leftist, or left-liberal, editors and professors.13 Hence Nabokov’s feeling of alienation in these locales and a self-image of a revolutionary, rebellious, or bold author who is truly rocking the boat of the public consensus on Soviets. Nevertheless, this is a somewhat romanticized position as the left-liberal intellectual and social milieu was itself somewhat of an oddity in relation to the American mainstream, anti-communist sentiment, particularly in the postwar period. This mainstream, in fact, is the wave on which Nabokov’s career rides. But what is significant for both the mainstream and marginal positions (however precarious and protean these qualifications may be) is that in neither case does Nabokov radically escape the interpellation of a Russian e´migre´ subject who will tell America the ‘‘truth’’ about Soviets. We can literally see the violence of this interpellation, the breakdown of its supposed transparency or independent articulation, in the persistent attempts from both camps to police the terms on which the ‘‘truth’’ about Soviets can be told. I propose that we read this situation in the context of what Homi Bhabha calls the ‘‘colonizer’s demand for narrative,’’ which ‘‘articulates the narcissistic, colonialist demand that the Other should authorize the self, recognize its priority, fulfill its outlines,’’ or, as I want to suggest, affirm its authority (sometimes an authority of intervention) through providing it with testimony (Bhabha 1994: 98). For Jacques Derrida, as Bhabha points out, this demand for a narrative is simultaneously a call of the police – ‘‘Tell us exactly what happened’’ – and here we can ask how the institutional structures through which the FBI can demand testimony of suspected communists relate to those through which Nabokov can give his own testimony to

Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 29 the American public, parting the Iron Curtain and exposing the obscenity of the forbidden lands (Bhabha 1994: 98). In the pages that follow, I want to explore how this interpellation, although it invests Nabokov with anxiety over obscurity and marginalization (‘‘Lolita is famous, not I. I am only an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name’’), also becomes exposed and satirized in some of his texts, most strikingly in Pale Fire (Nabokov 1990: 107).

Testimony to/of colonial overidentification Pale Fire plays on the Cold War fascination with and precariously privileged status of, communist dissidents in the Western – here concretely American – imaginary, embodied in Charles Kinbote and his fantastic story of royal escape. Without dismissing the ‘‘actual’’ event of exile in Pale Fire, I will look at the ways in which Kinbote also actively creates, or indeed invents, his exile for consumption by American audiences, through an almost fairy-tale narrative of a distant, exotic Zembla, which I posit as a metaphor for Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain. Before Pale Fire, Nabokov used the motif of an imaginary land or language several times, perhaps most famously in Invitation to a Beheading and Bend Sinister. Although, as in Pale Fire, there is no direct reference to actual countries in these novels, there is an attempt at thematizing certain features of the totalitarian regimes of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The narrative of Bend Sinister thus satirizes Nazi efficiency and includes parts of Lenin’s speeches and the Soviet constitution. The possibility of Kinbote-style, dreamlike escape, or escape from the world of totalitarian dictatorship which itself appears surreal or illusory, also informs the aforementioned novels through the acts of their persecuted protagonists Cincinnatus and Adam Krug, respectively. However, in Pale Fire, Kinbote escapes not only his Zemblan persecutors but also the attempt at discursive containment by the American social milieu – something that Pnin fails to do, in spite of all his Westernized anti-communism which echoes Kinbote’s and in spite of the attempts to affiliate himself with American metropolitans, to become ‘‘American.’’ Of particular interest is the way in which Nabokov’s narrative in Pale Fire, paradoxically, both recognizes and ridicules the Orientalist mechanisms of domestication and containment at work in Kinbote’s self-presentation and resorts to a straightforward use of such mechanisms to promote an anti-communist critique. As the very condition of possibility of Kinbote’s Zemblan narrative, the Cold War climate allows for the exile’s seeming empowerment and selfpromotion, but also tries to domesticate the discursive terms on which the narrative of Zembla, or the ‘‘other’’ Europe, can be told. Kinbote’s position can thus be considered alongside that of Pnin, who markets his communist martyrdom and expertise on Russia at the same time that he is patronized and paralyzed within Orientalist stereotypes and that of Nabokov’s own

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ideological commodification which has been discussed thus far. Kinbote’s story is, to use Nabokov’s self-description, ‘‘doubly obscure’’ because it can only articulate itself through an accepted metropolitan institutional discourse, in this case the critical discourse of American academia, and even when it ‘‘inappropriately’’ keeps inserting itself in the ‘‘serious’’ explication of Shade’s poem, it can only do so through an exaggerated use of Orientalist stereotypes to pitch Zembla to American desire. However, this is not to imply that ‘‘authentic’’ Kinbote is thus victimized or silenced: quite the contrary. In a Derridean sense, Kinbote’s narrative must sacrifice itself to these discursive limitations in order to actually succeed in exposing their violence, in exposing the types of narratives that they suppress or neglect: it mocks them precisely through an ironic overidentification. Just as colonial mimicry, for Bhabha, contains the dangerous ˇ izˇek, overidentification potential for ironizing the colonial model, so for Z with the hegemonic discourse is potentially more dangerous than its contestation (Zˇizˇek 2001: 90). On a related note, Kinbote cannot produce an ‘‘authentic’’ Zembla any more than Nabokov can produce a ‘‘unique’’ Russia, divorced from the preconceptions and discursive conditions that already guide its understanding. What is required of Kinbote, instead, is a double mimicry, in which the foreigner is required to be mostly ‘‘like us’’ (here Kinbote mimics the venerated discourse of academia) and then maybe a little different, unique, exotic but in a familiar way (here Kinbote mimics the familiar Orientalist imagery). As Julian Wolfreys observes, this overidentification with – or surrender to – ‘‘self-acknowledged figures of other discourses, other contexts we think we know’’ precisely points to the irreducibility or undecidability of any one ‘‘identity’’ (1997: 15–16). This is because the very idea of the copy, of mimicry, ‘‘implies a failed fidelity and the constantly frustrated desire for . . . verisimilitude’’; it is this frustration of verisimilitude, the inherent ‘‘failure’’ to mimic an established discourse perfectly that becomes an ‘‘affirmation of difference’’ (Wolfreys 1997: 16). This precarious balance of sameness and difference is both desired and feared by the would-be Kinbote’s – and Nabokov’s – audiences, since their tendency to read for a stable, recognizable identity is thus at once seemingly possible and endlessly threatened, frustrated. It is desired because it introduces a bit of (expected, familiar) quirkiness and eccentricity into the otherwise bland, repetitive discourse, in a similar way to that in which Nabokov’s ‘‘unique’’ Russian experience introduces ‘‘difference’’ to his Western upbringing and his affinities with liberal democracy. We can see this at work in the various critical reactions to Nabokov’s monumental translation and commentary on Eugene Onegin, which bears the aura of transgressive, controversial literary criticism as it includes many non-traditional elements: Nabokov’s word coinages in an attempt to maintain fidelity to the ‘‘literal’’ translation of Pushkin; footnotes for all the minute literary, social, economic, and ecological details surrounding Eugene Onegin’s text; and tirades against a number of critics or authors, mostly unrelated to Pushkin’s text

Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 31 itself. Many critics find Nabokov too transgressive and thus he is accused of promoting his own ego, of a ‘‘transposition into Nabokovese, rather than translation into English,’’ of being a ‘‘foreigner who has not quite learned the language with the extreme perfection required’’ (Conquest 1997: 174). Edmund Wilson chides Nabokov for not respecting tradition, for ‘‘inflicting’’ on the reader ‘‘a system of prosody . . . invented by himself,’’ and, overall, for not observing the boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate critical discourse: Nabokov’s long-winded, tedious commentary would not be ‘‘detrimental to the fantastic fiction he writes . . . of which it is . . . an essential element, but which in an erudite work of this kind is a serious disadvantage’’ (Wilson 1997: 177).14 But others have been more merciful to Nabokov’s unusual project. Ronald Hingley describes it as a ‘‘fantastic project’’ despite its ‘‘bizarre features’’ and concludes: ‘‘Its very eccentricity means that it fulfills the first necessity of a Russian work in the eyes of us stolid Anglo-Saxons’’ (1997: 172). Christopher Ricks qualifies the translation as ‘‘Massively crochety, superbly opinionated, humiliatingly erudite. . . . Brilliant though and hugely readable’’ (1997: 167). The dose of Russian eccentricity, however, must be just enough so as not to disturb the ‘‘stolid Anglo-Saxon’’ audience – and, by analogy, if one insists on telling the ‘‘truth’’ about Russia, one can do so but within reasonable limits, in terms of both appropriate discourse and an appropriate number of references. But if one talks too much about Russia, like Nabokov’s professor Pnin when he shares his sentimental Russian memories a bit too much during his university lectures, one becomes exposed to pity and even ridicule. Kinbote’s narrative similarly tips this balance, but in a more radical and threatening way, escaping, ultimately, the characterization of a poor, romantic, or even ridiculous Russian e´migre´ through which Pnin is dismissed and marginalized – and through which his ‘‘identity’’ is figured out, stabilized as something that ‘‘we’’ in the West can identify with, or contain as safely different. On the one hand, Kinbote’s narrative mocks the hegemonic discourses through an ironic overidentification with them and, on the other hand, it finally disregards the rules of the academic game by persistently, pathetically, narcissistically soliciting attention to himself and thus ‘‘failing’’ to produce an acceptable ‘‘erudite work,’’ to borrow Wilson’s (1997) phrase. While one could suggest that Kinbote therefore becomes as pathetic and pitiable as Pnin, I would argue that this becomes a line of flight from the terms of domestication, especially as Kinbote on the surface solicits the sympathy of American audiences for his tragic fate (thus playing the part of a poor dissident), but increasingly undermines the audience’s potential for identifying with his fate, for showing sympathy, or even pity. Kinbote’s selfOrientalization grows stranger as the story unfolds; the foreigner becomes more unfamiliar and outright bizarre, foreclosing the possibility of understanding or acceptance. In this respect, Kinbote’s narrative can be described as Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘‘minor literature,’’ a ‘‘becoming-animality,’’ an

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appropriation of a dominant language – or in this case discourse – for ‘‘strange and minor uses,’’ driving it ‘‘to a desert,’’ exposing its poverty, as well as its inability to dominate, to domesticate unruly dissidents (1986: 26–27). My proposed reading of Kinbote and Pale Fire in general will no doubt outrage many Nabokov scholars, perhaps especially those who approach the novel in terms of character analysis, frequently from a humanist and/or moral perspective, occasionally pathologizing Kinbote as a mad, arrogant, or narcissistic character.15 As Jill LeRoy-Frazier notes, ‘‘many critics persist reading Pale Fire as if the novel itself posits an illusionary ‘everyday reality,’ from which Kinbote in his madness represents a deviation’’ (2003: 312). In contrast to such readings, I suggest looking at the context that Nabokov created for such a character in Pale Fire and focusing less on Kinbote as an ‘‘individual’’ or a ‘‘subject’’ and more on Kinbote’s narrative in terms of what it does (to others and to Kinbote ‘‘himself’’), how it functions politically within the novel, as a ‘‘minor literature,’’ or as what Fredric Jameson (1981) calls an ‘‘ideological’’ or a ‘‘symbolic act’’ of a narrative. I believe such an approach is necessary in the context of predominantly apolitical readings of Pale Fire, which nevertheless include much outstanding scholarship and only testify to the number of critical possibilities in Nabokov’s text. Among such readings are those concerned with questions of authorship (‘‘Shadeans,’’ ‘‘Kinboteans,’’ even ‘‘Botkinians’’),16 those that approach the text as a literary puzzle, a postmodern game, or an artistic discovery,17 as well as those which deal with Kinbote’s exile as a general, metaphysical category, or with locating Zembla using references to real national geographies and/or languages in the text.18 In a sense, Zembla is no more real than Kinbote is a real character (here I mean the ‘‘reality’’ as established by the novel) and thus I would like to read it as a metaphorical articulation of a political situation or regime rather than as a mimetic reincarnation, however imaginary, of a specific (Eastern European or other) country. Of course, that it is reasonable to trace an analogy between Zembla and the communist countries of Eastern Europe is implied by the famous lines in Pale Fire in which Kinbote places Zemblan side by side with many languages of the countries behind the Iron Curtain:19 English and Zemblan, English and Russian, English and Lettish, English and Estonian, English and Lithuanian, English and Russian, English and Ukrainian, English and Polish, English and Czech, English and Russian, English and Hungarian, English and Romanian, English and Albanian, English and Bulgarian, English and Serbo-Croatian, English and Russian, American and European. (Nabokov 1989a: 235) This association invests Zembla with an aura of political marginalization and isolation similar to that of the Iron-Curtain countries, implying that Kinbote’s situation is similar to, or speaks for, that of other anti-communist

Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 33 dissidents exiled to America and can be understood only in that context. Indeed, the very lines of Shade’s poem to which this is Kinbote’s commentary describe an ‘‘exile . . . dying in a motel’’ and thinking of the past: the exile ‘‘conjures in two tongues/the nebulae dilating in his lungs’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 55–56, lines 609–16; emphasis mine). That English is always one of the ‘‘two tongues’’ and that all the Eastern European/Zemblan tongues have to square with it, always in a secondary position, becoming almost interchangeable, infuses English, or the motel America where the exile dies, with a dose of superiority, of primacy.20 This relationship is not to be ignored as throughout his commentary Kinbote assigns primacy to English by obsessively ‘‘proving’’ how well versed he is in the nuances of this language, and the same attitude extends to his expertise in Anglo-American literature and related traditions of critical scholarship. In a sense, Kinbote must overcompensate, must show that he is capable of doing ‘‘serious’’ scholarly work on Shade’s poem because of the intersection of a number of transgressive lines that frame his reading of the text: apparently he absconds with the poem under shady circumstances, he is deemed unqualified for the job as he is from a department other than English, and he is widely considered to be deranged. While he is accused of desiring, in a somewhat obscene manner, complete control over the poem which does not rightfully belong to him, his act reveals, of course, the desire for complete control over the text by the English department: the desire for not disturbing the established protocol of critical scholarship, which strengthens its own authority by suppressing many ‘‘unqualified,’’ unconventional – deranged – readings. Kinbote’s recommendation for reading his annotations to the lines in Shade’s poem is that the reader is advised to consult them first and then study the poem with their help, rereading them of course as he goes through the text and perhaps, after having done with the poem, consulting them a third time so as to complete the picture. (Nabokov 1989a: 28) This recommendation, in its exaggerated claim to the reader’s attention, is not so much about Kinbote’s personal tendency toward control as it is about identification with, and therefore a jab at, the discursive control presumed by an authoritative reading of a literary text. Kinbote’s commentary exposes the conditions of possibility in the authoritative critical discourse of American academia which would domesticate his ‘‘rebellion.’’ The commentary simultaneously ironizes academic conventions as it repeatedly resorts to them, pretending that it wants to uphold them; this means that the narrative is fully aware of the conventions, but nevertheless breaks them, going off in a different direction, deterritorializing them, exposing their poverty. In order to establish his credibility as

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a literary critic, Kinbote ostentatiously claims, ‘‘I have no desire to twist and batter an unambiguous apparatus criticus into the monstrous semblance of a novel’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 86). Although this promise is, as we shall see later, betrayed throughout the commentary, it highlights the monstrous nature of a critical reading that does not remain within the boundaries of Wilson’s unambiguous ‘‘erudite discourse’’ and instead strays over into ‘‘fantastic fiction,’’ like Nabokov’s commentary to Eugene Onegin. Kinbote similarly declares his commitment to a number of different conventions, including composing a paean to the ‘‘great poet’’ Shade in the very introduction. There is an inkling that Shade is a recovering alcoholic and that others ‘‘[take] Shade for granted’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 27). His appearance is decidedly unattractive: Kinbote says Shade has a ‘‘misshapen body,’’ ‘‘gray mop of abundant hair,’’ ‘‘yellow nails,’’ ‘‘pudgy fingers’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 26). In this light, Kinbote’s attempt to romanticize Shade’s literary greatness sounds all the more ridiculous and exaggerated: he ‘‘[drenches] every nerve . . . in the romance of [Shade’s] presence,’’ as he watches Shade ‘‘perceiving and transforming the world . . . so as to produce at some unspecified date an organic miracle, a fusion of image and music, a line of verse’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 27). This praise is inseparable from Kinbote’s insistence on praising other authors from the Anglo-American canon, aimed at establishing himself as a qualified critic, but, more importantly, as a qualified foreign critic: that he is a Zemblan versed in the metropolitan canon is meant to endow him with the aura of intellectual elitism, in a similar way to that in which Nabokov the Russian portrays himself as a member of the enlightened, educated elite that Westerners can count on. Kinbote assigns primacy to the knowledge of Anglo-American literature when he insists on mentioning how he translated Shade’s poetry into Zemblan, how his uncle Conmal translated many of the canonical English writers into English, including Shakespeare, Milton, and Kipling, and how Kinbote himself, despite being a Zemblan monarch, became so knowledgeable about literature that he taught, albeit in heavy disguise, ‘‘Finnigan’s Wake’’ and ‘‘Southey’s Lingo-Grande’’ at a Zemblan university (Nabokov 1989a: 285, 76). The translation – as well as the teaching – is unidirectional as no Zemblan works seem to be worthy enough to infiltrate American academia: the power differential is highlighted, among other things, by the very fact that none of Kinbote’s references to Zembla make their way into Shade’s poem and even if they did, it would signal that the only possibility for the ‘‘other’’ to be recuperated is through the text of the ‘‘self.’’ Kinbote’s exaggerated insistence on name-dropping from the English canon exposes Zembla’s internalized position of political and cultural inferiority, from which it can seemingly be emancipated only if it proves that it is civilized, that it benefits from the cultural traditions of the metropolis. The overwhelming power of the colonial inscription of metropolitan culture is illustrated – and satirized – by Kinbote’s enumeration of street names around Zembla’s royal

Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 35 palace. Even they are ‘‘colonized’’ by a fascination with Shakespeare: Kinbote’s underground passage leads ‘‘under the three transverse streets, Academy Boulevard, Coriolanus Lane and Timon Alley’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 126). Kinbote further mimics acceptable academic discourse and flaunts his erudition by highlighting and attempting to decipher literary references to other canonical authors in Shade’s poem: Hardy, Goethe, Pope, Browning, Tennyson, etc. He even attempts to insert himself into the canon by recasting his strolls and conversations with John Shade as an incarnation of the famous exchanges between James Boswell and Dr. Samuel Johnson, imitating the aphoristic, dialogic form of Life of Dr. Johnson: ‘‘Talking of the vulgarity of a certain burly acquaintance of ours: ‘The man is as corny as a cook-out chef apron.’ Kinbote (laughing): ‘Wonderful!’’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 155). Of course, this also self-reflexively looks forward to future critics of Nabokov, who will, observing academic conventions, attempt similarly to trace and decipher references to Boswell, Johnson, and others in Nabokov’s own text. Although Kinbote’s commentary ultimately ‘‘fails’’ in its mission to discuss all the literary references – ostensibly because all he has on himself at the time of writing a commentary is a Zemblan translation of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens – its stated commitment points to the validity of the claim by a number of Pale Fire critics that Zembla, indeed, can be read as a ‘‘semblance’’ of America. Zembla, like Nabokov’s idealized Russia, will only be emancipated into civilization as a semblance of the metropolis, in a similar way to that in which Kinbote’s commentary must, by and large, resemble the ‘‘great critical tradition.’’ A semblance, but not quite the sameness: in this sense, Kinbote’s narrative is in a double bind as it attempts to, on the one hand, reproduce the discourse of academia and, on the other, reproduce its own ‘‘otherness’’ that supplements the semblance. To expose this ‘‘other’’ discourse that would domesticate Kinbote, Nabokov articulates the distant Zembla as a veritable Orientalist paradise, designed to both titillate and scandalize Kinbote’s American audiences as they are imagined in the novel, but, above all, to overplay the exoticization of Kinbote the anti-Extremist – anti-communist – exile in the American imaginary. Kinbote’s commentary is thus interspersed with a fragmented account of his childhood and youth in Zembla, until the moment of his royal escape, representing a curious mix of an adventure tale, a fairy-tale, and an erotic romance spiced up with Orientalist imagery. Satirizing the primary racial stereotype of Zemblans, Kinbote, still hiding his royal origin, states: ‘‘All brown-bearded, apple-cheeked, blue-eyed Zemblans look alike and I who have not shaved now for a year, resemble my disguised king’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 76). Kinbote’s overidentification with the stereotype in a sense ridicules it, as one knows it is impossible for all Zemblans to look alike: his appropriation of this stereotype as truth in fact calls for its rejection from the outside, perhaps by the same people likely to argue that all Zemblans are brown-bearded, etc. This strategy is especially

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significant in light of Kinbote’s nickname around Wordsmith College, the ‘‘Great Beaver,’’ which itself echoes racial stereotypes of Russians, described as ‘‘Great Bears’’ or as ‘‘bearded children’’ with an ‘‘excess’’ of feeling (Wolff 1994: 87). That Zemblans too act like ‘‘bearded children’’ is reinforced by Kinbote’s account of pre-Extremist times, rife with playful, carefree, and sometimes ‘‘excessive’’ erotic encounters, confusions of gender, and blurring of boundaries between homosexuality and heterosexuality. King Charles (i.e. Kinbote) ‘‘never could decide what he enjoyed more – the study of poetry – especially English poetry – or attending parades, or dancing in masquerades with boy-girls and girl-boys’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 104). In this context, future Queen Disa first appears before the king in drag, ‘‘as a Tirolese boy, a little knock-kneed but brave and lovely,’’ and Oleg, the ‘‘bedfellow’’ of his adolescent years, looks like both a girl and a boy: ‘‘When stripped and shiny in the mist of the bath house, his bold virilia contrasted harshly with his girlish grace’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 173, 123). This fantasy of carefree sensuality laid bare, in which both men and women are ‘‘excessively’’ eroticized, is of course characteristic of Orientalist descriptions that typically entail an Asian locale. As if to play this up deliberately, Kinbote’s narrative positions the description of Oleg against an appropriately Orientalized background: ‘‘On that particular afternoon a copious shower lacquered the spring foliage of the palace garden and oh, how the Persian lilacs in riotous bloom tumbled behind the green-streaming amethyst-blotched windowpanes!’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 123–24). The overwhelming use of Orientalist topoi especially permeates the episode where King Charles/Kinbote seduces and later abandons 17-year-old Fleur, whose graceful walk is described as that of Arab girls (Nabokov 1989a: 108). In the course of two paragraphs, Kinbote describes ‘‘the Persian rug-covered floor’’ in his royal chamber, where on a huge down pillow slept the scantily-clad Fleur, ‘‘under a coverlet of genuine giant panda fur that had just been rushed from Tibet by a group of Asiatic well-wishers’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 110). Meantime the king himself is dressed in Turkish garb (Nabokov 1989a: 110). All these exotic (and erotic) attributes of King Charles’s court fit perfectly in the stereotypical image of a distant, decadent monarchy, whose forbidden pleasures are at once odious and intriguing and as far removed from the American experience as the notion of monarchy itself. Here Kinbote not only provides an insight – or, indeed, a testimony gone wild – into the obscene pleasures of Zemblan nobility, but also tries to enhance the image of his reign, to portray its interruption as a tragedy. His martyrdom is aptly established first by his virtual imprisonment in the castle and later by his long and involved escape from Zembla through various secret passages. This portion of the story is likewise told in sensational – and sensual – terms, resembling an adventure novel graced with incredible occurrences and chance encounters. As the king makes his way through

Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 37 Zemblan farms, he runs into a shepherdess Garh, who, predictably, looks like a boy; the king’s image as a sexy, desirable man is enhanced by Garh’s immediate impulse to strip naked and try to force herself on him (‘‘Zemblan mountain girls are as a rule mere mechanisms of haphazard lust and Garh was no exception’’) (Nabokov 1989a: 142). This pastoral sexual fantasy is followed by the king’s sojourn through an apparently magic forest, where he is seized with ‘‘alfear (uncontrollable fear caused by elves),’’ and, finally, by a Hollywood movie-type escape from the Extremist police, who are confused by encountering hundreds of impostors dressed and looking exactly like the king (Nabokov 1989a: 143–44). Pale Fire here plays to the exotic, exaggerated tropes employed by the American film industry, which, perhaps more than any other rhetorical gesture in Kinbote’s narrative, serves to highlight its fictional quality. But for King Charles this serves to establish him as a loved king, a desired king, a smart trickster who escapes the police of the revolutionary regime. As Kinbote’s narrative establishes him as a popular, colorful, enlightened – even university-teaching – monarch, his subsequent exile to America and feeling of displacement on the prosaic Wordsmith campus only enhance his image as a martyr who deserves understanding and sympathy. Indeed, the fact that only the select few, like John Shade for instance, seem to appreciate Kinbote further strengthens his position of romantic(ized) alienation. Some of this affinity has to do with Kinbote’s and Shade’s shared political beliefs, in which they represent the minority at the ‘‘pink’’ Wordsmith campus. In Kinbote’s report, Shade’s views closely resemble his own and this intellectual endorsement by a renowned American poet invests Kinbote’s own politics with some credibility. Kinbote’s hatred of leftist academics, especially those who believe in ‘‘Progressive Education, the Integrity of anyone spying for Russia, Fall-outs occasioned solely by USmade bombs, the existence in the near past of a McCarthy Era, Soviet achievements including Dr. Zhivago,’’ fits in nicely with Shade’s critique of Marxism, to which even Freudianism is preferable: Marxism needs a dictator and a dictator needs a secret police and that is the end of the world; but the Freudian, no matter how stupid, can still cast his vote at the poll, even if he is pleased to call it [smiling] political pollination. (Nabokov 1989a: 266, 156) It would be difficult to ignore the striking resemblance between these Kinbotian–Shadean statements and Nabokov’s political views. Douglas Fowler points out, ‘‘Kinbote’s Pink list is . . . not really the list of a royalist . . . it is drawn up from the point of view of an American conservative and anticommunist’’ (1982: 115). In other words, Nabokov’s American concerns manage to overshadow Kinbote’s Zemblan concerns. In light of this overlap, the commentary is fraught with a discursive tension between: on the

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one hand, the narrative’s critical awareness of the Orientalist conventions that allow for, as well as contain the testimony of, an anti-communist exile and, on the other, the narrative’s uncritical internalization of these conventions (which renders them invisible, so to speak) and assumption of communist victimization as a position of enunciation. For example, when Kinbote tries to prove to his American audiences that pre-Extremist, monarchist Zembla was a great country, his views markedly echo Nabokovian paeans to pre-Revolutionary Russia, even in the discussion of communism as a virus that infects healthy bodies. Before Extremism ‘‘penetrates’’ it, Zembla achieves a perfect balance between royal power and Parliament, nurtures arts and sciences, increasingly promotes social welfare and narrows the gap between upper and lower classes (Nabokov 1989a: 75). But then Kinbote’s praise becomes a bit too enthusiastic and exaggerated and Zembla – Russia – becomes almost too ideal and harmonious: in this liberal monarchy, even the ‘‘climate seemed to be improving. Taxation had become a thing of beauty. . . . Parachuting had become a popular sport. Everybody, in a word, was content’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 75). Nabokov may very well be poking fun at Kinbote the ‘‘White Zemblan,’’ whom one would expect to glorify the monarchy while remaining oblivious to its flaws. However, I suggest that Nabokov’s narrative here also metatextually satirizes Nabokov’s own frequent laments over the forever lost, idealized liberal-democratic-monarchist Russia, which were meant to illustrate to his audiences both the extent of his personal tragedy and the tragedy of the communist takeover. After all, Kinbote’s narrative may commodify him as decadent, self-indulgent Eastern royalty, but many of his political views are too ‘‘progressive,’’ i.e. Nabokovian, for a stereotypically authoritarian image of a king. Like Nabokov, member of the Russian intellectual elite, Kinbote presents himself as an educated, enlightened, and liberal king, whose court is appalled by the violent takeover of ‘‘a Russia that hated tyrants and Philistines, injustice and cruelty, the Russia of ladies and gentlemen and liberal aspirations’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 245). Kinbote therefore seems to solicit sympathy and understanding primarily from American liberal democrats and tries to disabuse Soviet (Extremist) admirers in America of their illusions. Predictably, then, his narrative discusses Zemblan Extremists in the context of the Russian Revolution, continually pointing out their similarities, points of cooperation, common goals.

Charles Kinbote’s monstrous (self-) re-presentations In the previous section of this chapter, I have argued that Kinbote’s extreme self-exoticization satirizes the terms of the Orientalist discourse to which he is subjected. In this section, I am interested in the serious, i.e. non-satirical, narrative employment of vitriolic – and, by all means, Nabokovian – Orientalisms to give an account of Extremists and, by extension, to force an anti-communist critique. Kinbote presents the Extremists metonymically,

Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 39 through frequent disparaging portrayals of Gradus, a Zemblan revolutionary obsessed with locating King Charles’s hideaway and executing him. Kinbote recounts Gradus’s progress through Western European countries and onwards to America, where he comically bungles almost every attempt at gaining information about the king’s whereabouts. Speaking of this murderer who crosses the Atlantic to fulfill his mission, Michael Wood makes an intriguing observation that Gradus is ‘‘in large part a portrait of a Stalinist and it is no accident . . . that the assassination of Trotsky hovers over the plot-line of Pale Fire’’ (1997: 202). But the fact that Gradus does not even manage to kill his ‘‘Trotsky’’ in the end, bungling the very goal of his mission, adds to his overall portrait as a pathetic, provincial and dimwitted character. In short, this is what an Extremist looks like – to Kinbote and Nabokov – whether this code word implies a communist of a Leninist, Stalinist, or Trotskyite orientation. There is a suggestion that Gradus’s very penetration of the border between Zembla and the ‘‘free world’’ is somehow obscene and his travel through the ‘‘civilized’’ countries doomed to continual betrayals. Kinbote notes that one in thing that Zemblan Extremists and Soviet Russians have in common is gloom, defined as ‘‘the outward sign of congested nationalism and a provincial’s sense of inferiority’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 243). Gradus’s progress through Europe in search of the king is haunted by this alleged ‘‘provincial’s sense of inferiority,’’ and he cannot carry out any of his plans successfully simply because he is too uncouth, too uncultured, and doesn’t understand the fine customs of civilized countries. Gradus is, for instance, ridiculed when he tries to pass for an agent of an art dealer in Switzerland, as he is culturally conservative and knows nothing about art. As we are informed later, Gradus is a voracious reader of ‘‘newspaper, pamphlets, chance leaflets,’’ but this sums up his intellectual curiosity (Nabokov 1989a: 232). He does not even know how to savor the cultural or entertainment choices offered to him in Europe; he is not interested in ‘‘sightseeing or seasiding,’’ drinking, going to concerts, gambling, or even sex: ‘‘Sexual impulses had greatly bothered him at one time but that was over’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 253). Here is the stereotypical conservative, puritanical, anti-intellectual communist that haunts other texts by Nabokov’s discussed earlier in this chapter. As for Kinbote, this disparaging portrait of Extremists helps him present the overthrown regime as one that is educated in the ways of the world, open to cultural influences and whose people are at least capable of enjoying themselves – sexually or otherwise. Kinbote’s sensuousness stands in stark contrast to Gradus’s Spartan abstinence, his perfect knowledge of English (marking a member of the Westernized elite) in contrast to Extremist conspirators’ broken English (Nabokov 1989a: 215). The description of Gradus’s moral, emotional, and intellectual condition is inseparable, however, from the condescendingly classist contempt toward the lower-class people, as they are called in the novel. There is much emphasis on Gradus’s physical appearance, which is predictably Neanderthal,

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almost simian: Gradus has ‘‘thick eyebrows and a wart on the chin,’’ ‘‘melancholy nose with a crooked ridge,’’ a ‘‘chimpanzee slouch,’’ and ‘‘repulsive black hairs coat the back of his honest rude hands, the scrupulously clean hands of an ultra-unionized artisan’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 277–78). The description is accompanied by another communist, as well as lower-class, stereotype, that Gradus has no fashion sense: he wears a ‘‘creased suit,’’ with an ‘‘imitation silk’’ tie, in the ‘‘Zemblan fashion of the nineteen thirties’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 278). This sets the stage for the description of Gradus and Extremists as automatons, as spiritually nonexistent and moral dummies pursuing other dummies. In fact, the Extremists are nothing else but imitators of Soviets, who turn ideas into ‘‘machine-cut blocks coming in solid colors; the nuance is outlawed, the interval walled up’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 243). In this respect, there is a sense that Gradus’s progress through the liberal Europe and the United States can only infest them with something criminal, fanatical, and intellectually simplistic: Extremism, like communism, is a dangerous disease. Kinbote’s commentary in fact abounds in the common Orientalist criminalization of communism: Gradus, that halfman who plans to kill another human being without remorse is a ‘‘thug,’’ a ‘‘hoodlum,’’ and so are the Soviet agents, who, in cooperation with Zemblan authorities, obsess over locating the disappeared crown jewels (Nabokov 1989a: 279, 149). By portraying the uneducated, brutal Extremists as half-men and himself – and the disempowered elite – as exotic and foreign, yet intellectually, politically, and morally normal by comparison, Kinbote apparently tries to win America to his side. But while he ostensibly plays the part of the good foreigner who can remain within the limits of digestible ‘‘otherness,’’ his commentary to Shade’s poem keeps crossing these limits. It disturbs the balance of erudite scholarship to include much more fantastic fiction than acceptable, it pushes Kinbote’s self-Orientalization beyond the exotic or even scandalous to the bizarre, and it makes it difficult for his Americans hosts to identify with him, with his ‘‘excessive’’ homosexual escapades on Wordsmith campus, his scathing criticisms, belligerence, aggressiveness, etc. Nabokov’s Pnin is ridiculed for his quirky personal habits, his thick Russian accent, and his lack of a sense of humor, and although in the end he manages to leave his old campus, he is disempowered and marginalized by his academic supernumeraries throughout the novel. Kinbote, in contrast, actively appropriates the critical discourse of American academia only to wreak havoc upon it and only after he has also appropriated Shade’s manuscript. His commentary turns not so much against himself as it does against the terms and the violence of the hegemonic discourses which he, the immigrant, is supposed to accept. The personal habits and characteristics so repulsive to the Americans who surround him should also be read in this context, as mechanisms of anti-identification, anti-sympathy which expose the limits of the tolerance for ‘‘the other,’’ even as the commentary, on the surface, coaxes one into exhibiting tolerance. In this act emerges

Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 41 what Wolfreys (1997) terms the ‘‘rhetoric of affirmative resistance,’’ implying the irreducibility of difference to its Darstellung, or the presentation of ‘‘otherness’’ which neglects real ‘‘others’’ entering the multicultural landscape, outside of the ‘‘lines laid down by the official institutional structures of representation’’ (Spivak 1988: 306). Kinbote no sooner declares that he is against turning his ‘‘apparatus criticus’’ into a ‘‘monstrous semblance of a novel,’’ than he betrays it by reflecting on himself as an omniscient narrator of a novel rather than as a literary critic (Nabokov 1989a: 86). Trying to get a glimpse of Shade’s daily activities from his house, Kinbote says, ‘‘Windows, as well known, have been the solace of first-person literature throughout the ages. But this observer never could emulate in sheer luck the eavesdropping Hero of Our Time or the omnipresent one of Time Lost’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 87). A parallel gesture takes place when he critiques one of Shade’s obituaries and then immediately checks himself – ‘‘A Commentary where placid scholarship should reign is not the place for blasting the preposterous defects of that little obituary’’ – only to, of course, proceed to blast the wretched piece and its author (Nabokov 1989a: 100). A continual betrayal of what apparatus criticus should represent in fact comprises most of Kinbote’s commentary, where virtually every line from Shade’s poem is considered in (and overshadowed by) the context of Kinbote’s account of Zembla. This act has a twofold effect on the narrative. First, it self-reflexively breaks the illusion of Darstellung, that one’s self-representation is the unveiling of ‘‘truth’’ about one’s ‘‘identity,’’ as I have argued earlier Nabokov ‘‘himself’’ sets out to do by unveiling his ‘‘life’’ before his American audiences. Indeed, it highlights the fictional quality of one’s personal history, showing that it always-already reaches us as a story, as a narrative where one acts as an omniscient narrator of one’s life. Second, by purporting to blend fiction and criticism, it collapses the binary between literary criticism as an objective and truthful discourse and literature as fiction on which this criticism can comment as if from the outside. This is especially significant in light of Suzanne Clark’s (2000) observation that American literary critics shared with Cold-War policy-makers the discourse of ‘‘national realism,’’ underpinned by truthfulness and transparency. Clark notes that ‘‘critics who wrote about literature favored the antiheroic,’’ ostensibly to oppose the heroic quality of popular mass culture revolving around hyper-masculine Cold-War, all-American heroes; in this way, they ‘‘denied . . . the need of a culture for fables. That is, they opposed any writing/reading of literature as rhetoric or as moral or ideological allegory’’ (Clark 2000: 9). However, Clark continues, this disassociation from the hyper-masculine heroics occluded the gendering of literary criticism itself – as well as the ‘‘realist’’ political policy – as masculine, albeit in a hypermasculine antiheroic version (Clark 2000: 9). In fact, the allegedly truthful, rational, and reasonable discourse of literary criticism was gendered as masculine, interpreting and imposing shape

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on the ‘‘feminine’’ overflow of emotion and creative sensibilities in fictional narratives. ‘‘The literary body was womanly,’’ Clark argues, and ‘‘emotional flow was contained by the formal properties of the aesthetic whole,’’ which gendered not only literary criticism but literary authorship in general as male – ‘‘a female author would loosen the boundaries of the object’’ (2000: 32). Kinbote’s collapsing of this firm binary between criticism and literature, truthfulness and fictionality, masculine containment and feminine overflow, delivers a blow to the claim to transparency by American metropolitan critics and Cold-War politicians alike. His ‘‘effeminate’’ overflow of personal or irrelevant references in the criticism of Shade’s poetry and the ‘‘failure’’ to control it and impose a definite shape also exposes the permanent threat of slippage, of return of the repressed, in the established paradigm of literary criticism. Because of such a gendered paradigm it is significant that Kinbote’s fantastic fiction not only overtakes the ‘‘truthful’’ and controlled critical reading of Shade’s poem, but also that Kinbote’s sexual orientation and thus masculinity is not properly heterosexual – or even clearly homosexual. His image of Zembla is pleasantly romantic and exotic, yet controversially sensuous and eroticized. Even this image intermittently transcends the register of Orientalist fantasies and becomes, simply, too strange, too far removed from any familiar foreign fetish. For instance, one wonders whether the king’s mistress Fleur is not, really, an animal rather than a woman: Kinbote describes her as an Orientalist object of desire, but his characterization assumes an increasingly unfamiliar air, becoming almost absurd. For instance, Fleur has ‘‘four bare limbs and three mousepits (Zemblan anatomy),’’ whatever these ‘‘mousepits’’ may be (Nabokov 1989a: 110). When she walks, Fleur is said to swing on ‘‘slim haunches,’’ and for the predominantly homosexual Kinbote she is ‘‘pretty yet not repellent (as some cats are less repugnant than others to the good-natured dog told to endure the bitter effluvium of an alien genus)’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 112). Her animal (decidedly not animalistic, which could be eroticized) appearance is further established when Kinbote describes having to reject her sexual advances: ‘‘he had to push away her burrowing dark curly head with one hand while writing with the other or detach one by one her little pink claws from his sleeve or sash’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 111). Kinbote’s narrative thus undermines the anticipation of a familiar foreign referent for his American readers, as it is not quite clear what exotic stereotype – or even taboo – this description is supposed to imply. Along similar lines lie some of Kinbote’s decidedly unpleasant characteristics and habits, which make it difficult even for anti-Soviet Americans, whose sympathy Kinbote’s narrative seemingly solicits, to sympathize with his tragedy, or to welcome him as an exile. Kinbote will not be kind to his American hosts, even when they, like judge Goldsworth, literally provide him with a house to live in: indeed, Kinbote bluntly attacks Goldsworth’s narcissism, cruelty, and self-righteousness when he finds the ‘‘morocco-bound album in

Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 43 which the judge had lovingly pasted all the life histories and pictures of people he had sent to prison or condemned to death’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 83). Just as Kinbote won’t play by the rules of academic discourse, he won’t comply with Goldsworth’s obsessive ‘‘recommendations, explanations, injunctions and supplementary lists’’ telling him how to properly take care of the house (Nabokov 1989a: 84). Kinbote the foreigner ‘‘unhomes’’ Goldsworth’s house, in which he replaces family portraits with his own Picasso reproductions and neglects the family cat, as much as he ‘‘unhomes’’ the Wordsmith campus, where his controversial homosexuality raises many eyebrows and earns a rebuke from the university officials (Nabokov 1989a: 24–25). Kinbote’s Orientalist-homosexual fantasies may not be threatening as long as they concern his experience of Zembla, but become alarming when they are brought ‘‘home,’’ and when his appropriation of the academic critical discourse threatens – and exposes – its implicit masculine gendering. At the same time, therefore, that Kinbote’s sensuality distances him from puritanical Extremists, it also distances him from mainstream Americans. In this respect, there is something unacceptably threatening about Kinbote’s attempt to Orientalize his young American gardener: ‘‘How I longed to have him . . . wear a great big turban and shalwars and an ankle bracelet. I would certainly have him attired according to the old romanticist notion of a Moorish prince’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 292). Americans, especially American men, will not be feminized, turned into objects of Orientalist desire. That Kinbote’s narrative in fact does this is significant in light of, as Suzanne Clark (2000) has shown, an implicit promotion of an ethics of unflinching hypermasculinity in American men as a tool for confronting the threat of communism. Rather than being a model anti-communist/antiExtremist exile, Kinbote thus comes across as a manipulative, deranged, aggressive, sexually deviant ‘‘woman hater with a German accent’’ (Nabokov 1989a: 25). In Pale Fire Nabokov employs the trope of Cold-War testimony from anti-communist dissident emigrants in the United States about the various Eastern European communist ‘‘others,’’ in order to radically question the conditions under which this testimony can take place and function politically. While Nabokov’s own employment of Orientalist discourses against communist regimes still, symptomatically, surfaces throughout Pale Fire, his deconstruction of this very gesture, immersed as it is in the classist divisions between the intellectual elites and lower-class thugs, and inferiority-complex divisions between the ‘‘enlightened Westernizers and provincial Russian nationalists, deserves serious critical attention. Simultaneously, Nabokov’s Kinbote provides the testimony that undermines itself as it both excessively mimics the colonial discourse, to the point of rendering it absurd and meaningless, and offers ‘‘deranged’’ insights that the colonial discourse simply can’t absorb. In this way, Nabokov’s mock dissident narrative in Pale Fire escapes the conditions of interpellation, fails to respond to the call of the metropolitan police.

3

Shifting topographies of Eastern/Central/Europe in Joseph Brodsky’s and Czesław Miłosz’s prose writing

Typographies and topographies: writing Brodsky and Miłosz In this chapter I will discuss the trajectories of Eastern European Orientalisms in selected essays by Joseph Brodsky (from Less than One (1986a) and On Grief and Reason (1995)) and Czesław Miłosz (from Native Realm: a search for self-definition (1968), Visions from San Francisco Bay (1982), and To Begin Where I Am (2001)). Specifically, I highlight the problematic of treating the essayistic writing by Miłosz and Brodsky, which has largely helped them achieve and maintain public visibility in exile, as mimetic, objective representations of the lands behind the Iron Curtain. Critical scholarship has largely focused on these authors’ poetic output – where the ‘‘real,’’ unrestrained artistic innovation worthy of literary critical attention allegedly surfaces – somewhat neglecting, in turn, the vast and diverse body of their essays, lectures, and open letters, which have nevertheless served as an important context for interpreting (and prompting interest in) their poetry.1 I would like to suggest that such neglect is caused by a traditional categorization of this type of writing as itself critical and philosophical – rather than poetic or fictional – and that the fictional quality of Miłosz’s and Brodsky’s prose is further obfuscated by its autobiographic dimension that claims it, however precariously, for ‘‘truth.’’ As in Chapter 2, we again have to grapple with the problematic binary between literature, on the one hand, and philosophy or autobiography, on the other, between the discourse of fiction and the discourse of truth. I set out to challenge such entrenched binary distinctions by critically dissecting the textuality of Brodsky’s and Miłosz’s ‘‘lived experience.’’ As shown in Chapter 2, Charles Kinbote’s self-representation through internalizing the mechanisms and discourses used to represent the ‘‘other’’ only highlights the analogical discursive limits and prison walls in Nabokov’s ‘‘own’’ autobiographical representation, wherein Nabokov ‘‘himself’’ is effectively textualized in the broad sense of the word, the tragedy of his exile understood and invoking sympathy only through the unproblematic, Orientalist discourses employed throughout the Cold-War period. Brodsky’s and Miłosz’s dissidence is similarly narratively constructed – their lived

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experience always-already reaches us in narrative form. Their autobiographical writing, therefore, will be treated as the ‘‘writing’’ of Brodsky and Miłosz, without assigning primacy, chronological or otherwise, to life under communism which is to be observed from a distance and represented objectively (mimetically, or even metaphorically). The unmasking of this autobiographical ruse, which, as I have explained in Chapter 2, relates to the ideologically inflected demand for testimony from anti-communist exile authors about life under communism, is central to this work and it will leave its traces across the remaining chapters, especially in my discussion of Milan Kundera in Chapter 4. This is not to argue that ‘‘lived experience’’ did not take place, or that it does not matter where or how Miłosz or Brodsky grew up, but that, as in the case of Nabokov, its narrative articulation is ideologically loaded and hardly occurs in a political and cultural vacuum. This ideological dimension, the narrative non-transparency, arises at the intersection between the intended audience, since much of this prose was intended primarily for Western consumption (or consumption by anti-communist, democratic-minded reformists at home),2 the implicit authority accorded the philosophical insights by the power of ‘‘direct’’ engagement with communist politics and the authority of victimization. In this respect, it becomes almost obscene to treat the autobiographical/philosophical essays by Brodsky or Miłosz as anything other than articulations of exilic ‘‘truth,’’ the unmasking of the evils of Soviet/communist politics, or, following the authors’ own pleas to be treated apolitically, theorizations of exile as a metaphysical, ubiquitous creative category.3 Exemplary in this case is David Bethea’s (1994) study of Joseph Brodsky, which argues that Barthes’s, Foucault’s, and other theories about the ‘‘death of the author’’ do not apply in the case of Eastern European writers victimized by communism. Bethea proceeds to resurrect the ‘‘real’’ author and his/her biography behind the writing and insists on reading Brodsky’s essays as exilic/dissident renderings of a particular biographical context. Despite such a nuanced definition, this approach nevertheless falls into the trap of assigning primacy to ‘‘biography,’’ which, because it is so primarily tragic, inspires a critical blindness in Bethea to the ideological discourses in which Brodsky’s autobiographical narrativization participates. Thus, East and West are treated as unproblematic categories (since Brodsky is a victim of Eastern authoritarianism and a subscriber to a cosmopolitan, i.e. Western, identity), Brodsky’s praise of Western literary traditions is seen as a tool of resistance to Eastern cultural ‘‘Stone Age,’’ and much attention is devoted to Brodsky’s identification of ‘‘essential’’ differences between the ‘‘anglophone and russophone traditions’’ (Bethea 1994: 211, 40, 227). Bethea’s critical approach highlights the crucial problem this chapter will tackle: a reluctance to analyze the ideological coordinates of Brodsky’s and Miłosz’s Orientalisms, manifested in their essays as imagined European topographies and classifications, due to the respect given their implicit

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authority of direct engagement with communism. The authors’ narration of the ‘‘self’’ is often inseparable from the narration of European (and global) geography and from the delineation of Easternness and Westernness, which colors their discussions of relevant histories. Bethea’s reading leads to what ´ Tuathail describes as a depoliticization of the geographic disGearo´id O course, where geography is seen as a ‘‘permanent, self-evident realm of necessity . . . independent of our beliefs and attitudes about it,’’ in other words, as part of ‘‘Nature’’ (1996: 51). Brodsky’s and Miłosz’s obsessive mapping and geo-graphing of Eastern/Central/Europe does not occur in a cultural and political vacuum, as a mimetic rendering of natural distinctions, but rather participates in Orientalist traditions which construct Byzantium or the Ottoman Empire as more Eastern than Russia, Russia as more Eastern than Poland, or Poland as more Eastern than France. These shifting, unstable boundaries themselves highlight the constructed, perspectival nature of such delineations, dependent on the imagined geographic position (and national affiliation) of the author who bestows meaning: Brodsky in Russia and Miłosz in Poland/Lithuania. In this respect, Bakic´Hayden’s intriguing insights about the ‘‘the gradation of ‘Orients,’’’ the ‘‘nesting Orientalisms’’ and shifting hierarchies of Easternness and Westernness in the constructions of Balkan identities, can be extended to the construction of European hierarchies in Brodsky and Miłosz (Bakic´-Hayden 1995: 918). The narration of ‘‘self’’ and classification of European geography are connected in these essays in another way: Miłosz’s and Brodsky’s employment of Orientalist stereotypes belies their anxiety to distance themselves from communist politics and to simultaneously emancipate their remembered homelands from stereotypes of cultural backwardness. The authors’ authoritative autobiographic positions can be said to follow in the logic of ‘‘onto-typo-logy,’’ a concept coined by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe in Typography: mimesis, philosophy, politics (1989). Broadly speaking, ‘‘onto-typo-logy’’ expresses a tendency to think the problem of (human) being as an idea, by invoking transcendental ‘‘figures’’ of being; this tendency is the ‘‘proper site for the unfolding of the most modern metaphysics’’ whose beginnings are already visible in Plato (Lacoue-Labarthe 1989: 54). Although Brodsky’s and Miłosz’s plight is ‘‘different’’ from anything experienced in the Western world – to which this ‘‘difference’’ must offer its testimony – their writing and frequently their critical reception nevertheless aspire toward presenting them as what Lacoue-Labarthe calls a type, a transcendental ‘‘form, figure, imprint, type of a humanity,’’ which can presumably speak for that seemingly universal humanity by establishing itself as its transcendental subject (Lacoue-Labarthe 1989: 52). This sublation into universal humanity allows Brodsky and Miłosz to rise above marginalized, provincial Eastern European significance – and the stigma of being Eastern European – by presenting themselves and their insights as universal, typically meaning Western.4

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As such transcendental figures, they impart insights that both Easterners and Westerners can presumably identify with, affirming their common human lot: Easterners can potentially recognize the tropes employed to describe (re-present) communist countries, whereas Westerners receive a warning about what communism might do to their own lives and societies (while observing and judging from a safe distance the supposedly common human experiences). This establishment of the author – the humanist subject – as a transcendental figure to whom ‘‘belongs the role of giving meaning,’’ of the ‘‘bestowal of meaning,’’ to the world in fact allows for the world to be mapped, geo-graphed, and divided into understandable parts through a perspectival, Cartesian vision (Lacoue-Labarthe 1989: 55).5 In addition to appropriating a traditionally Western prerogative of cognitively mapping the world, Miłosz and Brodsky also evade charges of Eastern European backwardness by fashioning themselves as authors who are more or less autonomous, original, logical, centered – above all, as individuals emancipating themselves by being able to recognize their plight and narrate it to a sympathetic audience. In this process they gain credence as Western subjects, leaving their misguided (and silent) Eastern brethren behind, and effectively perpetuate the conditions for discrimination, conditions that make the Orientalist discourses under discussion possible. In Brodsky, the Soviet regime is repeatedly feminized, seen as a logical continuation of tsarist tyranny and as a parallel to the Ottoman Empire (itself a harmful, ‘‘Asiatic’’ influence on the more Western Russia, which, among other things, ‘‘Orientalized’’ the Russian brand of Christianity). On the other hand, Brodsky, no apologist for the tsarist regime, responds to the Western Orientalizations of Russia by reaching into its past: ‘‘real’’ Russia used to be, after all, a civilized, Christian country with some tradition of democracy, despite its temporary lapse into godless communism. Miłosz similarly Orientalizes Russia in order to recuperate the markedly more Western Poland as a civilized country. A feminized Russia – which needs a ‘‘Polish husband’’ to be strong – is locked into familiar stereotypes of historical immutability or a historical and cultural void, of an ontological distinction from a more democratic, more enlightened Poland. Russians’ pretensions toward spreading communism in the West (for Miłosz beginning in Prague) are portrayed as unnatural and obscene, since Russians cannot understand the Western civilization. At the same time, there are moments in Miłosz and, less so, in Brodsky where they move towards the possibility of deconstructing this discourse of Orientalism, especially when this critical space is, paradoxically, opened up by the very communist ideology that they denounce. Brodsky, for instance, credits the communists with exposing Russia’s internalized Orientalism and obsession with mimicking Western patterns; he also takes them to task for betraying their own utopian promise to create a society that will completely break with Western capitalist practices. For Miłosz, embracing communist politics is a way to highlight and criticize what he sees as Western political

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conservatism, classism, and consumerism, as well as to expose racist attitudes towards the Polish as a result of an imperialist ideology that calls into being exploited international labor. This potential for recognizing the Orientalist discourse through the very language of Marxist theory and/or the communist legacy and for deconstructing the imagined topography of Europe is of particular interest in this chapter, and the section on Miłosz will turn to it in more detail.

(De-)centering Europe In the meantime, a few words on the discursive traditions of mapping Eastern/Central/Western Europe in order to ‘‘center’’ Miłosz’s and Brodsky’s own positions on the subject. The terms Eastern and Western are typical accoutrements of Orientalist narratives, while Central may deserve some more explication, suspended as it is between the two. While the name Central Europe historically evokes Mitteleuropa, in the mid-nineteenth century denoting a German ideal of a broad economic union in Europe with Germany in the center and at the outset of the twentieth century implying the German expansionist project of moving its sphere of influence eastward to include many of the lands of the Habsburg Empire,6 for our purposes the concept of Central Europe as used during the Iron-Curtain communism and Schengencurtain post-communism is of primary interest. In the 1960s, 1970s, and especially in the 1980s, the term Central Europe is used by writers and intellectuals across the Eastern bloc countries (sometimes in Yugoslavia too) to denote an oppositional culture and to create a political and cultural distance from Eastern Europe, almost invariably meaning the Soviet Union. After the Eastern bloc crumbles, this term becomes somewhat obsolete, but is in turn rearticulated as a proof of democratic, free-market maturity in the meritocratic system of European integration: the mature Central Europeans define themselves in opposition to the still-Eastern Soviet Union and with the civil wars in Yugoslavia, in opposition to the Oriental Balkans. Although the boundaries of Central Europe shift throughout centuries and across texts, the question of where these borders truly are becomes an impossible question. Along the same lines, although Central Europe almost always includes Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, and Hungary, the project of researching and defining their shared cultural characteristics – which could explain why they represent the ‘‘kernel’’ of Central Europe – becomes ultimately irrelevant. As Csaba Dupcsik says, the essence of this question is not in the ‘‘underlying structural factors,’’ or in the ‘‘participating of the most important European cultural tendencies (the Renaissance, Reformation, or the Enlightenment)’’ etc. The essence is the border-drawing activities: how these borders had been made, drawn, defined, had been accepted or questioned. (Dupcsik 2001: 31)

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Nevertheless, a meticulous enumeration of these ‘‘underlying structural factors,’’ meant to invest the term Central Europe with the respectable aura of reality, to mask the discursive nature of cultural reification and hierarchization, was precisely the path adopted by many ‘‘Central European’’ intellectuals. As we will see in more detail in Chapter 4, Milan Kundera was one of the celebrity subscribers to this idea and is in fact credited with the oppositional articulation of Central Europe in the Cold-War period. In ‘‘The tragedy of Central Europe’’ (1984) and other texts, Milan Kundera establishes Central Europe as a zone of small nations historically victimized by their powerful neighbors (Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary) and insists on their cultural proximity to (Western) Europe and their distinct contributions to the Enlightenment, the development of the concepts of democracy, human rights, and respect for the individual. In the years leading up to the fall of the communist regimes, this selfdifferentiation gains currency, as Susan Sontag notes, primarily as an advertising concept ‘‘for the West, for consumption by Western intellectuals’’ (‘‘The Lisbon Conference on Literature’’ 1990: 119). Central Europe battles its assumed invisibility on the European map – and its assumed ontologization as a Soviet realm, without political or cultural specificity – by contrasting its tradition of democracy to Soviet totalitarianism, its political modesty and insignificance to Soviet (and German) imperialist pretensions, its cultural and novelistic spirit of irony, absurdity, and experimentation to communist socialist-realist art. In fact, this active campaign to join the European family – and the word family is quite appropriate here as narratives of Central Europeanness abound in metaphors of long-lost relatives7 – confirms Csaba Dupcsik’s observation that the colonial framework in what he terms ‘‘Broader Eastern Europe’’ differs from the ones in Africa or Asia in the former’s greater contribution to self-colonization, as it was ‘‘more often traumatized by the powers’ uninterestedness, rather than by their colonization’’ (2001: 37). To merit this attention, numerous publications devoted to teasing out the Central European idea emerge in Western academic circles and Eastern samizdat publishing houses.8 Many conferences delve into the concept, more famously the Lisbon Conference on Literature (1990) and the Budapest Roundtable (1991), bringing together Central European and Russian writers, including Miłosz and Brodsky. The very conceptual framework of the conferences makes a distinction between Central Europeans – among whom it predictably counts Hungarian, Polish, and Czech, but also Albanian and Yugoslav authors – and Russians. Among the participants in the conference, Miłosz himself is more inclusive in his conception of Central Europe, welcoming Ukrainians, Estonians, Lithuanians, and Serbo-Croats into the family, although this is still a line of defense against Soviet Russia. It is to this attitude that Joseph Brodsky and Tatiana Tolstaya, who also took part in the Lisbon Conference, react by questioning the reality of Central Europe in favor of specific national cultures.

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While their own positions are reviled by other participants as Russian/ Soviet imperialist arrogance – notwithstanding the fact that Brodsky is Jewish and in exile from the Soviet regime and that Tolstaya has never been kind to the regime – a more nuanced reading of the discourse of Central Europeanness reveals that Brodsky and Tolstaya react precisely to this ontologization of Central Europe’s cultural specificity and its hierarchical (martyr) position with respect to Russia. They question the discourse which falsely celebrates cultural singularity and freedom from totalitarianism, while understanding Brodsky and Tolstaya only as Russians (who are totalitarian, arrogant, imperialist). In this respect, Danilo Kisˇ’s statement that Central Europe is not only an anti-Soviet but also an anti-Russian concept presents the project of a ‘‘democratic’’ fight against Soviet imperialism and for a right to self-determination as one that depends on a racist distancing from Russia and on the existence of an enemy for its articulation (‘‘The Lisbon Conference’’ 1990: 122). Perhaps, then, it is not surprising that the enemy shifts (somewhat) from the Soviet Union to the Balkans in the post-communist period and that the cultural, oppositional articulation of Central Europe becomes closely linked to its political and economic relationship vis-a`-vis Western Europe and the United States. The naming of Central Europe, like its geography, remains unstable, although the enemy is still recognizable. Thus, for instance, Bogdan Czaykowski (1993) opts for a more inclusive Eastern Europe, which is recuperable from the evils of a centralized economy and culturally distinct from its shared oppressor, the Soviet Union. He notes that Eastern Europeans have been more exposed to Western ideas than Soviets and, since the 1970s, ‘‘permeated by the spirit of consumerism and generally convinced of the superiority of the capitalist system’’ (Czaykowski 1993: 15). He concludes, ‘‘the transition to the market economy is less of a shock to the mentalities of Eastern Europeans than’’ to Soviets (Czaykowski 1993: 15). In many other texts, however, the ‘‘kernel’’ countries of Central Europe are singled out for praise and contrasted to the other, more backward areas of Eastern Europe. Gyorgy Konrad discusses the developments in Central Europe and states that ‘‘in Poland, in Hungary, in Slovenia and perhaps in Croatia too’’ we can ‘‘experience something close to the normal Western-style democratic political campaign’’ (‘‘The Budapest Roundtable’’ 1991: 15–16). This inclusion of Slovenia and perhaps Croatia too in Central Europe in fact underlay the cultural self-definitions throughout the civil wars of the 1990s in Yugoslavia, drawing civilizational – indeed, schizophrenic – fault-lines in the country between Central or Western Europe on the one hand and the Balkans on the other. As late as 1999, the discourse repeats itself, albeit with a difference: in the introduction to the first issue of Central Europe Review, editors Sean Hanley et al. state that ‘‘people still speak of ‘Central Europe’’’ because they sense that countries such as Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia and Slovenia are not properly like the West but are not properly

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in the post-Communist Wild East either. They are caught between the problems of the post-modern West they are joining and the postCommunist East they seem to be leaving. (Hanley et al. 1999) One noticeable difference is that Estonia is now fortunate enough to merit inclusion in the family, but the most important difference is that the discourse is no longer only employed by the self-avowed Central Europeans, but has also been adopted by so-called Westerners, leading to what Tony Judt appropriately calls the ‘‘rediscovery of Central Europe’’ (1991). Even academic writing is not free of this rediscovery, which occasionally reifies the divisions between Central/Eastern/Europe/the Balkans through a retroactive imposition of these attributes, as if they were historically given geo-political entities. For instance, in her overview of recent publications on the post-World War II cinema of East-Central Europe, Roumiana Deltcheva (1999) notices ‘‘an implicit comparative scale based on the distinction Central (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary) and East (Bulgaria, Romania, Albania) Europe . . . as a result of which there emerges a positive–negative polarity’’ according to which Central is positively valorized while East is negatively valorized, its movies being but examples of the official socialistrealist paradigm. In spite of my claim that Central Europe – along with other similar namings of European regions – is primarily a project that relies on hierarchical cultural valorization, cultural essentialism, and racism, I would like to propose an alternative reading which looks at the more radically oppositional, non-hierarchical, and culturally fluid characteristics of this concept and which may be related to a similarly radical political move in Miłosz’s discussion of Central Europe and Brodsky’s discussion of Russia. At the Lisbon Conference and at the Budapest Roundtable, the conceptualization of Central Europe was primarily anti-Soviet/Russian and advertised its cultural and political superiority. It looked to the West with a goal of overcoming its uninterestedness. As a result, it proved either that it was as good as the West or that it was better than the West, engaging in the discourse of exceptionalism in order to compensate for its assumed insignificance. Miłosz, for instance, argues that ‘‘decades of pain and humiliation’’ importantly differentiate Central from Western European countries and this experience differentiates the Central from Western European novel (‘‘The Budapest Roundtable’’ 1991: 19). Claudio Magris warns that, although Central Europe is trying to look more like the West, it also needs to teach them what has ‘‘become rarer in the West,’’ a ‘‘human dimension, which was developed through Central Europe’s tragedies and in resistance to them’’ (‘‘The Budapest Roundtable’’ 1991: 30). Of course, this discourse casts Central Europeans as noble savages, imagined to have somehow preserved authentic, originary human dimensions and as such only reinforces its existing marginalization and supplementary position in relation to the West.

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On the other hand, these forums and a number of related texts propose a vision that explodes the traditional rhetorical and geo-political boundaries of Central Europe, rendering them fluid and inclusive, less concerned with claiming cultural superiority along the West–East axis and more with offering an alternative to the national and cultural divisions of Europe, including the Cold War and the Schengen visa regime. This is the Europe whose identity, at best, relies on similar historical experiences – and similar histories of discursive marginalization – without resorting to cultural essentialism and negative differentiation. It feels alienated from superpower ambitions of countries such as Germany or Russia, it is opposed to both institutionalized communism and vulgar capitalism, and it celebrates intellectualism, irony, and absurdity, but also multiethnicity, the absence of clear national affiliation, and the experience of a supranational community – including the memory of the nomadic Jewish culture, which has virtually disappeared from Central Europe. In my discussion of Brodsky’s and Miłosz’s essays, I will also look at instances of analogous open-endedness with respect to the definition of European, Russian, and Polish identities and geo-graphies, especially the spaces carved – or that could have been carved – by the spirit of Marxism.

Joseph Brodsky, or the crescent meets the sickle and the hammer In Brodsky’s essays, the history of Russia, essentialized as the tradition of despotic rule over the (wild, ignorant, impulsive) masses, becomes expressed in geographical terms: as the fault of its proximity to Byzantium and, later, ´ Tuathail to Ottoman Turkey (and, implicitly, Asia). If geography, as O (1996) argues, is naturalized – it simply ‘‘is’’ – then the history of Russia in Brodsky becomes the narrative of inevitable causality, of endless repetition of the same – in short, of immutability. Of course, historical immutability as a quality of the East – in contrast to which only the West progresses, from royal despotism into democracy and human rights – is one of the pillars of Orientalist narratives that constructed Asia as ahistorical. Brodsky seems to place blame primarily on this ‘‘Asiatic’’ corruption of Russia, which, by virtue of being somewhat close to Europe, has had potential for becoming enlightened (Westernized). However, because of its Eastern neighbors, it could never fully realize its potential because it would always be dragged ‘‘backwards.’’ Here we see Brodsky’s simultaneous love and hatred for Russia: in the rhetoric of Bakic´-Hayden’s (1995) ‘‘nesting Orientalisms,’’ Russia is portrayed an innocent victim of geographical tragedy, struggling to fulfill her Western character and break away from Byzantine/Turkish influences. On the other hand, this geography, especially Russia’s far-reaching internalization of Asiatic influences, always-already dooms her to failure and for this she is despised. Perhaps the most striking exposition of this argument – whose reverberations haunt Brodsky’s other essays – emerges in ‘‘Flight from Byzantium.’’

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Brodsky’s visit to the East, meaning Istanbul, prompts his examination of history9 (on the Orientalist assumption that the East, unlike the West, is a portal to historical meditation): ‘‘There are places where history is inescapable, like a highway accident – places where geography provokes history. Such is Istanbul, alias Constantinople, alias Byzantium’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 406–07). The enumeration of the different names of the same city, invoking its changing yet identical masters and regimes, suggests a continuity in the Byzantine and Ottoman regimes, essentialized as Oriental and autocratic, with no history of the separation of church and state, of humanism or democracy. This is in fact a common reduction of the history of the Byzantine Empire to caesaropapist, unlimited absolutism, whose ‘‘negative’’ legacy has, among other things, been used to explain the ‘‘backwardness’’ in southeastern Europe, especially the Balkans.10 In Brodsky’s imaginary, the Byzantine emperor Constantine accepted Christianity and aspired toward building a ‘‘Second Rome’’ in the East, but this would ultimately sever any political or cultural ties with Western development: here Christianity was ‘‘fated to become Orientalized’’ and for the Second Rome ‘‘Persia . . . was far more real than Hellas, if only in a military sense’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 413–14). Again there are images of geographic contamination and inevitability, as Byzantium fails to benefit from either Roman legal traditions or Greek traditions of democracy: while in Athens a Socrates would have been tried in open court, in Isfahan or Baghdad ‘‘such a Socrates would simply have been impaled on the spot, or flayed. . . . There would have been no Platonic dialogues. . . . There would have been only the monologue of the Koran’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 413). Byzantium comes to resemble this Baghdad, although Constantine does not ultimately realize that ‘‘he is dealing with the East’’ – and, indeed, Brodsky’s fear of the Oriental, Muslim ‘‘menace’’ here overtakes his knowledge of historical particulars: it seems irrelevant that Constantine lived three centuries before the Koran gained any global prominence (Brodsky 1986a: 413). Conveniently, Byzantium’s alleged tradition of the non-separation of church and state is merely continued by the Ottomans, who, because they are not even Christian, are predictably more brutal in degree: ‘‘the antiindividualism of Islam would find the soil of Byzantium so welcoming that by the ninth century Christianity would be more than ready to flee to the north’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 416). When Ottomans take over and create Istanbul, they continue the Eastern traditions of ‘‘obedience, of hierarchy, of profit, of trade, of adaptability: a tradition, that is, drastically alien to the principles of moral absolute’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 417). The resulting Muslim Byzantium, like Christian Byzantium, equates ‘‘spiritual and administrative authority,’’ but it is ‘‘staunchly ideological,’’ ‘‘heavily militarized and somewhat more despotic’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 427). Brodsky, by virtue of being from this part of the world or at least from its neighborhood, speaks as one – Lacoue-Labarthe’s type – who knows its tradition of obedience and despotism intimately and who is accorded authority

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and authenticity, through ‘‘lived experience.’’ Yet his position is that of an emancipated Western subject who can recognize the lack of democracy and human rights, which are endowed with an implicit positive valorization. From his imagined position in Russia Brodsky can still survey the Orient as a European, but one who has the advantage of knowing the Oriental neighbors: ‘‘born by the Baltic, in the place regarded as a window on Europe, I always felt something like a vested interest in this window on Asia with which we shared a meridian. . . . we regarded ourselves as Europeans’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 440). In a sense, his distancing from the East corresponds to his desire to distance himself from Soviet Russia as well, which, as we will see, inevitably continues the Eastern traditions handed down to her by Byzantium and later, Ottoman Turkey. Thus, the Soviet regime is not a product of a particular historical moment, let alone something that people actively helped to create, but rather a historical inevitability: the communist star is combined with the crescent of Islam as Brodsky wonders, ‘‘And that hammer, isn’t it a modified cross?’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 429). To establish the continuity between Russian and Oriental despotism, Brodsky points out the existence of many Turkish words in Russian (e.g. katorga, which means forced labor, contaminating the language with its implied violence), as well as the shared origins of Constantinople and St. Petersburg – both were created as articulations of an inferiority complex and as windows onto the West (though they would never become the West because they were Eastern), the former as Second and the latter as Third Rome (Brodsky 1986a: 443). Another instance of the repetition of the same is Brodsky’s mention that the cities share almost the same meridian: little wonder then that ‘‘Rus,’’ perceived to be directly to the north of Byzantium, was its ‘‘natural geographical prey’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 437). In these portrayals of Russia’s metaphoric rape and victimization by an Orientalized Christianity and an anti-individualist tradition, Russia is feminized and passively innocent, but once it develops its own imperialist pretensions – especially with the onset of Soviets – it is given aggressive, conquering, masculine attributes. Brodsky effectively combines Christian Europe’s racist fears of Asian hordes and Muslim fanatics and its fears of communist barbarians: Isn’t my native realm an Ottoman Empire now – in extent, in military might, in its threat to the Western world? Aren’t we now by the walls of Vienna? And is not its threat the greater in that it proceeds from the Easternized . . . Christianity? (Brodsky 1986a: 438) Declaring that Western Christianity has doomed the East to nonexistence by divorcing Byzantium (since the East always depends on the West for its meaning), Brodsky implies that it also committed the crucial mistake of future disinterest, of not knowing the (Eastern) enemy – and here come Brodsky’s autobiographical-philosophical essays to correct this mistake. By

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fixing his semi-European, semi-imperial gaze on this part of the world, Brodsky seeks to again arouse interest in the East among Westerners, to make it visible and knowable, so to speak. However, Brodsky’s explication of Soviet aggressiveness and disrespect for human life, both in Russia and abroad, shrouds it in ‘‘irrational’’ mystique rather than making it comprehensible and accessible to a Western reader. Since the East always has always shunned ‘‘moral absolutes’’ through its tradition of hierarchy and adaptability, the Soviet regime predictably provides the West with yet another example of Brodsky’s metaphysically conceived ‘‘human evil.’’ The argument is that this evil simply cannot be explained in Western terms – it transcends Western ideas of law, medicine, or ‘‘norms of human behavior’’ used to deal with criminal offense (Brodsky 1986a: 423). Whether we are talking about ‘‘the Iranian Imam’s butchering tens of thousands of his subjects’’ or about Stalin’s ‘‘maxim, uttered in the course of the Great Terror, that ‘with us, no one is irreplaceable’’’ the human negative potential of the East escapes ‘‘rational’’ explanation: it is inscrutable (Brodsky 1986a: 422). Echoing Nabokov, Brodsky similarly casts communists as ‘‘creatures who by all human accounts should be considered degenerates,’’ ruling in the ‘‘most unjust country in the world’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 32). The October revolution is nothing else but a criminal, unjustifiable coup d’e´tat and the storming of the Winter Palace merely a chance for the ruthless Red Guards to ‘‘rape half the female unit guarding the palace’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 87–88). The communist regime, in Brodsky, becomes a continuation of the imperialist tsarist regime whose motto was ‘‘Russia must rule shamelessly’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 438). He frequently equates Russia’s ‘‘authoritarian past and totalitarian present,’’ and in one breath mentions all the textbook tyrants, such as Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Qadafi, Khomeini, and Amin (Brodsky 1986a: 270, 114). This continuity of tyranny, the impossibility of progress and thus of history, to which Brodsky dooms Russia, characterizes Russia’s past, present, as well as future – the communists ‘‘colonize’’ the unpredictability of the future with their propaganda. Still, the Soviet regime outplays even the tsarist tyranny at the game of cruelty and hypocrisy, and Brodsky notes that the upheaval in twentieth-century Russia ‘‘has no parallel in the history of Christendom. Similarly, its reductive effect on the human psyche was unique enough to enable the rulers to talk about a ‘new society’ and a ‘new type of man’’’ (1986a: 270). Tsars were amateurs compared to Lenin and successors and especially striking here is Brodsky predilection for Peter the Great, whom he contrasts with Lenin in ‘‘A Guide to a Renamed City.’’ Although Peter the Great’s project of building a city on the Neva was ill conceived and met with considerable opposition, Brodsky still sees him as one of the rare rulers who managed to overcome Russia’s traditional inferiority complex by bravely approaching Europe through St. Petersburg, a window onto Europe (1986a: 71). By contrast, other rulers – especially Lenin – resort to the Russian interior out of fear of Europe; communists return the capital to Moscow

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and the country again retreats ‘‘to its womblike, claustrophobic and xenophobic condition’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 82). While Lenin’s regime is indeed associated with imperialist, masculine, and aggressive characteristics, Brodsky also portrays it as insecure, introverted, effeminate – in short, castrated – divesting it even of the power to intimidate. In this way, the regime appears more ridiculous than terrifying, incapable of even facing the world that it supposedly aims to conquer. But although Russia’s history is immutable, which associates it with the alleged emptiness of Eastern history in general, its proximity to the West is imagined as a potential for some, albeit insufficient, infiltration of democratic ideas. Brodsky, like many other Russian authors – and, as we have seen in Chapter 2, Nabokov – reaches into Russia’s pre-October Revolution ‘‘Silver Age’’ as a proof of its tragic longing for world civilization, as a momentary flirtation with democracy and opposition to tsarist tyranny. Again, St. Petersburg’s streets map the possibility of a multiplicity of political options, the flourishing of cultural innovation and the seductiveness of worldly architecture and fashions. All this is implicitly contrasted with the uniformity, unanimity, indeed the drab asceticism of communist rule. Brodsky waxes nostalgic about the time that Nevsky Prospect was lined with ‘‘churches of all creeds’’ and bustling with ‘‘cabriolets, newly introduced automobiles, idle, well-dressed crowds, first-class boutiques, confectioneries’’ (1986a: 131). He invokes the atmosphere of magnificent city squares graced with monumental columns taller than Nelson’s, and the exuberance of ‘‘publishing houses, magazines, newspapers, political parties (more than in contemporary America), theaters, restaurants, gypsies’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 131). St. Petersburg here comes to resemble Walter Benjamin’s (1999) Paris, as a phantasmagoria of consumerism, of idle flaˆneuring, which communists do not understand and which they dismiss too easily. St. Petersburg is just like any other Western town, with its Nelson-type pillars, with its American-type political culture. Brodsky obsessively returns to this theme, arguing in ‘‘Catastrophes in the Air’’ that the turn of the century in Russia was an unusual period indeed because ‘‘technological and scientific breakthroughs . . . caus [ed] a qualitative leap in the masses’ self-awareness’’ (1986a: 285). Again, Brodsky notes, there were ‘‘more political parties than in today’s America or Great Britain,’’ but Russia was also unique in that there was a ‘‘great upsurge in philosophical writing and in science fiction with strong utopian or social-engineering overtones’’ (1986a: 285). Russia, in other words, was becoming emancipated, had recognized the evil of the tsarist regime, and its utopianism was not necessarily a dangerous thing. However, to Brodsky, the final articulation of that utopianism in the October Revolution was a betrayal of the popular aspirations: communists, in other words, were false messiahs. In this respect too Brodsky ‘‘writes’’ himself as a Westernized subject who embraces the ideals of democracy – freedom of speech and individualism –

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as a Deleuzian line of flight from the dystopian, collectivist (i.e. anti-individualist) communist ideology. Speaking of growing up in Leninized Petersburg, as Nabokov might call it, where he was drawn to Western movies, music, fashions, and literature that were haphazardly distributed or prohibited, Brodsky remarks that his predilection for individualism was strengthened because of his aversion to collectivism or any type of affiliation, making him more American than Americans (1986a: 14). This anticipates Brodsky’s validation of his subsequent exile to England and then to America as going home, since a writer thus ‘‘gets closer to the seat of the ideals which inspired him all along’’ (1995: 24). In other words, ‘‘from a tyranny one can be exiled only to a democracy,’’ and Brodsky refuses to martyr himself for what his critics would habitually name displacement – he sees it as a primarily progressive movement from a ‘‘political and economic backwater to an industrially advanced country with the latest word on individual liberty on its lips’’ (Brodsky 1995: 24). By highlighting class and economic differences between himself – an exiled writer – and ‘‘Gastarbeiters and refugees of any stripe’’ and ‘‘menial workers,’’ Brodsky demonstrates awareness that his is what Caren Kaplan calls elite exile, often portrayed as the solitary, metaphysical, and aesthetic displacement of a foreign author and separate from the historically inflected, mass movements of immigrants and refugees (Brodsky 1995: 23; Kaplan 1996: 4). While Brodsky never denies the specific historic circumstances of his flight from Russia (which also isn’t solitary, but followed by Russian authors en masse), his elitism is nevertheless ‘‘written’’ through his frequent discussions on exile as a primarily metaphysical condition, as the state of an individual’s psyche. Brodsky emphasizes the importance of this dimension of exile along with the ‘‘liberty’’ encountered in the West perhaps precisely because of the class comforts that distinguish him from menial workers. Thus, the oppression of living in Soviet Russia for Brodsky has to do much less with the shortage of food or home appliances and much more with the shortage of free speech and Western literature, the more lofty concerns that can appeal to Brodsky’s non-Soviet, free audiences. The youngster portrayed in ‘‘Spoils of War,’’ Brodsky is indeed fascinated by all commodities Western, from jazz reaching him through the Voice of America, to Camel cigarettes, Tarzan movies, and Levi jeans: St. Petersburg, now Leningrad, is once again a window to the elusive West, as Brodsky thinks he can see Europe through his radio (1995: 7). But his primary concern is the elusiveness of Western ideas, proscribed by the Soviet regime. In turn, he tries to prove to his Western audiences that St. Petersburg nevertheless continues its subversive, anti-Soviet (and anti-Eastern) streak by harboring the circulation of practically inaccessible and unaffordable Western literature. Brodsky’s fascination with serendipitously encountering or ‘‘rescuing’’ a book of poetry by Yeats, Auden, or T. S. Eliot in effect ‘‘triumphantly inaugurates a literature of empire,’’ in Bhabha’s words, affirming its authority to the extent that it is disseminated (despite the authorities’ discouragement),

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translated (despite the threat of incarceration), exchanged and read, even in such political backwaters as Soviet Russia (Bhabha 1994: 102). Bhabha is speaking primarily of cultural writings of British colonialism in which the ‘‘fortuitous discovery of the English book’’ in the ‘‘wild and wordless wastes of colonial India, Africa, the Caribbean’’ becomes ‘‘an insignia of colonial authority and a signifier of colonial desire and discipline’’ (1994: 102). Although Russia, as we shall see, is not quite so wordless in Brodsky, there is a similar gesture of praising the power of a metropolitan English text set against the background of a culturally uninteresting landscape, against a mundane existence punctured by material deprivations. The English book positively elevates, as Brodsky notes of the English and American poetry anthologies he obtains: ‘‘You could pull them out of your pocket in a streetcar or in a public garden and even though the text would be only a half or a third comprehensible, they’d instantly obliterate the local reality’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 366). Brodsky is not a metropolitan colonial; yet he speaks from the place of colonial desire, both in terms of satisfying the narcissistic desires of his projected audiences by affirming the importance of their cultural heritage and in terms of expressing his own desire for recognition of a (non-Soviet) Russia that is conversant with Anglo-American literature. We have seen a similar gesture in Nabokov’s Pale Fire, where this desire to appear Western and civilized by knowing the metropolitan canon is satirized throughout Kinbote’s narrative. In fact, Nabokov’s satirization of Kinbote’s admiring attitude toward Shade, the metropolitan poet, allows us to critically consider Brodsky’s poetic enchantment with Auden, on whom he frequently writes and lectures. In an uncanny repetition of cultural haunting, Kinbote’s Shade becomes Brodsky’s shadow. In his essay ‘‘To Please a Shadow,’’ Brodsky explains that he learned how to write in English in order to ‘‘find [himself] in closer proximity to the man whom [he] considered the greatest mind of the twentieth century: Wystan Hugh Auden’’ (1986a: 357). Brodsky not only perfects his writing in English with the shadow of Auden reading over his shoulder, but also pictures himself explaining to that great metropolitan poet that Russia, too, has great literature. ‘‘The Child of Civilization,’’ Brodsky’s paean to Osip Mandelstam, seems to have been written to counter Auden’s remark that Mandelstam is not a particularly impressive poet (Brodsky 1986a: 142). Brodsky assumes the role of a minor, non-metropolitan poet when he undertakes the defense of Russian literature already assumed to be guilty: Auden declares he doesn’t respect Dostoevsky, but likes Chekhov because he is the only Russian with common sense (1986a: 377). Brodsky finds himself trying to explain even such mundane occurrences in Russia as stealing windshield wipers from cars as rational because there are no spare parts, but his efforts bear no fruit: Auden ‘‘obviously had in mind a more inscrutable reason’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 377; emphasis mine). In order to counter such an Orientalist valorization, Brodsky praises Russian literary achievements, especially those that emerged on the cultural

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scene of St. Petersburg, the city whose geographic location and cosmopolitan spirit allegedly allowed Russian authors to look at themselves as if from outside, from a Western perspective: geography again makes history, as the building of St. Petersburg is likened to the discovery of the New World (Brodsky 1986a: 79). In other words, Brodsky sees Russia in the way that he imagines Auden and other ‘‘great’’ poets would want him to see it. Just as Shakespearean references ‘‘colonize’’ the topography of Kinbote’s Zemblan palace, so classical European allusions intersperse Brodsky’s writing about St. Petersburg, wresting it from Asia and claiming it for Europe, or for what Brodsky, in a gesture of inaugurating the primacy of European cultural heritage, calls world civilization. In the version in which this part of Russia participates in the European cultural development, narrated through the enabling myth of unified Greek and Roman origins, St. Petersburg is no longer Constantinople/Istanbul, but rather Alexandria, an ‘‘other’’ center of civilization, coexistent with Athens. Brodsky notes of the vibrant, SilverAge Petersburg: ‘‘If the West was Athens, Petersburg in the teens of this century was Alexandria’’ (1986a: 131).11 The city brings Russian literature into being through its schizophrenic ‘‘clash of civilizations’’:12 on the one hand, its ‘‘impeccable utopian background of classical porticoes, haunt[s] the imagination of writers’’ and, on the other, it is flooded by the reality of Russian economic and political impoverishment and populated by ‘‘robbed civil servants, hungry journalists, humiliated clerks, tubercular students’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 80). The tragedy of the latter is enhanced by the fact that St. Petersburg is also the capital of Imperial Russia, which infuses the city with an blend of Orthodoxy, Byzantine political structure, and an alphabet that ‘‘had been devised by two Greek monks’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 130). Progressive yet backwards, enlightened yet Oriental, St. Petersburg inspires in poets such as Osip Mandelstam the ‘‘nostalgia for a world culture’’ which the architecture of the city itself embodies (Brodsky 1986a: 130). The Petersburg poets whom Brodsky greatly admires, Mandelstam and Anna Akhmatova, cannot escape this enchantment of the city, however, and thus both are promoted from merely Russian to world, or civilized poets. Immersed in ‘‘Russian Hellenicism,’’ Brodsky’s phrase that describes Russian poets’ longing for what is out there in the civilized world, Mandelstam’s poetry is invested with global significance: it ‘‘repeats the development of our civilization: it flows north,’’ as ‘‘Roman themes gradually overtake Greek references’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 128). Akhmatova, too ‘‘goes global’’ as Brodsky translates her poetic style into metropolitan terms, arguing that her simple syntax echoes English and crowning her the Jane Austen of her contemporaries (1986a: 36). In this sense, Akhmatova emerges from the Petersburg tradition in Russian poetry, whose founders had been influenced by European classicism and its Roman and Greek origins (Brodsky 1986a: 39). This cultural validation is crucial in Brodsky because the existence of such literature effectively proves

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that Russia has not been bypassed by the allegedly unified development of world civilization and has even contributed to it: its literature is ‘‘a part of Christian civilization’s culture and neither the best nor most exotic part at that’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 292). In this way, Russia (or at least St. Petersburg) too joins the global march of history and is rescued from the eternal repetition of the same, from its Oriental ahistoricity. Predictably, then, Brodsky largely excludes Soviet avant-garde, as well as socialist-realist, literature from history – it simply does not count among civilizational achievements and it mostly retards development. After Tolstoy, Russian prose ‘‘went down the winding, well-trodden path of mimetic writing and . . . has reached the pits of socialist realism’’; even avant-garde writers like Pilnyak, Zamyatin, and Babel are reduced to ‘‘outright cynicism and their works to tantalizing hors d’oeuvres on the empty table of a lean nation’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 277). Because of the assumption that Soviet barbarians could not possibly produce anything interesting, Brodsky portrays modern Russian literature as a wordless ‘‘vacuum,’’ prophesying, ‘‘Russia may exit the twentieth century without leaving great prose behind’’ (1986a: 269).

New catastrophes in the air: Brodsky versus Brodsky In the previous section, I have attempted to outline the major strands of Brodsky’s Orientalization of Russia with their accompanying ‘‘nesting Orientalisms’’ through which European and Asian geographies are conceived. At this stage I turn to the sections and ideas in Brodsky which problematize, though without ultimately overtaking or outweighing, his philosophical investment in the cultural framework of progress and backwardness which surfaces both when he speaks of the Oriental, Soviet, despotic Russia and of the Russia that is cosmopolitan, worldly, that has cities like St. Petersburg. In his famous response to Va´clav Havel’s lecture published in the New York Review of Books, ‘‘Letter to a President,’’ there is a momentary recognition of the racist rhetoric of cultural and political progressiveness or backwardness. Speaking of the ‘‘nature of evil,’’ Brodsky chastises Havel for enshrining communism and, recently, post-communism, as the ‘‘chief nightmares of the democratic world’’ (Brodsky 1995: 216). Brodsky argues, in contrast, that these are convenient terms for the democratic world to externalize evil as an ‘‘error, as a horrendous political aberration,’’ especially if it refers to a ‘‘proper geographical or foreign-sounding name, whose spelling obscures its utterly human nature’’ (1995: 218). Brodsky further identifies as problematic Havel’s enthusiastic participation in the metropolitan discourse that ascribes historical events to loathed ‘‘-isms,’’ and that distinguishes between ‘‘progressive’’ ‘‘cowboys of the Western industrial democracies’’ and ‘‘backwards Indians’’ (Brodsky 1995: 219). But this opening into a different discourse goes only so far in Brodsky. Indeed, he warns Havel against emulating cowboys – presumably in a

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political or economic sense – but he folds back into the Orientalist discourse when he recommends civilizing the Czech natives through great literature (unproblematically Eurocentric and largely canonical): ‘‘By giving your people Proust, Kafka, Faulkner, Platonov, Camus, or Joyce, you may turn at least one nation in the heart of Europe into a civilized people’’ (Brodsky 1995: 222). The mention of Platonov is interesting here because, although Brodsky includes Platonov in the narrative of European civilizational achievements, he has elsewhere praised Platonov primarily as an example of the heterogeneity of Soviet prose achievements, in order to counter stereotypical (Western) assumptions that all Soviet literature is dogmatic, uninteresting, or rustic, thereby effectively contradicting his own indictment of it as a literary vacuum (Brodsky 1986a: 292). Brodsky admires Platonov in spite of, or perhaps precisely because of, his investment in the communist ideology, whose problematic rhetoric, paradoxically, breaks down and is driven to its limits in his novels. He notes of Platonov’s oeuvre, ‘‘The uniformity of the social order doesn’t guarantee that of mental operation; an individual’s aesthetic never completely surrenders to either personal or national tragedy’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 292). At stake for Brodsky is the treatment of Russian literature as identical to the regime in power, as a poor relation of the civilized world – the type of racism that, among other things, encourages poor translations of extraordinary writers such as Platonov and Mandelstam (Brodsky 1986a: 293). In a sense, Brodsky resembles Platonov in that he sometimes works within the philosophical openings created by the communist revolution, exposing the limits of the communist regime and its ideology, calling them to task over promises they did not deliver. Of course, Brodsky would think any association with communists scandalous, and thus he is a much more reluctant Platonov. Yet, I propose that we read this reluctant investment in communism through Slavoj Zˇizˇek’s suggestion that the position from which anti-communist dissidents denounce communist terror in the name of human solidarity and emancipation was opened up, made possible, exactly ˇ izˇek writes that such regimes by the communist regimes (2001: 131). Z ‘‘simultaneously opened up a certain space, the space of utopian expectations which, among other things, enabled us to measure the failure of actually existing Socialism itself’’ (2001: 131). In Brodsky, communists also open up the utopian space from which to recognize and critically consider the various strands of Russian Orientalization. Brodsky thus credits communists with critically identifying the tradition of self-Orientalization and seeking to discontinue the Russian obsession with the Western mirror, especially when they declare war on bourgeois values and the accoutrements of capitalist modernity that Brodsky sees Russia dangerously immersed in throughout the nineteenth century. In an expression of aesthetic disgust with St. Petersburg’s nineteenth-century ‘‘mercantile reality,’’ Brodsky rejects the Americanized St. Petersburg of ‘‘banks and joint-stock companies,’’ of the ‘‘nouveau riche bourgeoisie,’’ of a

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‘‘Russian execution of the Prussian military ideal of society’’ (1986a: 81). In this respect, even the hated ‘‘Comrade Lenin deserves his monuments here for sparing St. Petersburg . . . ignoble membership in the global village’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 85). While Brodsky recounts in detail the pain of his material deprivations in post-war St. Petersburg, this still appears as a mildly romanticized time of his life when he and his friends were ‘‘poorly dressed but somehow still elegant,’’ when they ‘‘preferred ideas of things to things themselves’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 29, 27). Living in the midst of consumer scarcity, young Brodsky comes to realize that ‘‘what capitalism is all about’’ is ‘‘winning through excess, through overkill’’ (1995: 13). This alienation from the things in their excess – and from the aforementioned bourgeois, mercantilist mentality – can be related to his disappointment with communism not solely for its mass terror, but for its far less spectacular descent into a ‘‘shabby materialist dogma and pathetic consumerist gropings’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 26). The communist nomenklatura has become ossified in a bureaucratic ‘‘game of promotion . . . and a search for reliable pals,’’ a situation that Brodsky contrasts to their utopian pursuits of ‘‘burning issues, false beards, Marxist studies’’ (1986a: 117). In its persecution of the most utopian, interesting, and radical Russian writers, even the ones inspired by the communist revolution itself (like Platonov), the communist regime has become as conservative as the petit-bourgeois, dominant cultural frameworks of Europe and America which it set out to challenge. In other words, traumatized by the stigmatizing legacy of backwardness, communists ended up imitating the cowboys a little too much. What happens in Brodsky at those moments, what haunts his ‘‘actual’’ anti-communism, can be described as what Jacques Derrida calls the ‘‘ghost’’ of an emancipatory promise, the ‘‘spirit of Marxism,’’ which both permeates and exceeds ‘‘Marxism as ontology, philosophical or metaphysical system, as ‘dialectical materialism,’ from Marxism as historical materialism or method and from Marxism incorporated in the apparatuses of the party, State, or workers’ International’’ (1994: 68). The ‘‘apparatuses of the party’’ and ‘‘State’’ attempt to ontologize this spirit through appropriation and in the process Soviet future appears to Brodsky as plenitude, as propaganda. But this act of appropriation can never be fully successful and Brodsky articulates and celebrates what remains in the margins, what represents a more radical possibility of emancipation: cultural and political undecidability, lack of clear limitations and the diversity of contending choices through which we can glimpse a new vision of Russia and a gesture of dissidence from metropolitan discourses and Russian communist/nationalist ideologies alike. In his essays on Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Platonov and Constantin Cavafy, Brodsky continually underscores the ability of language, especially literary language, to exceed ‘‘historical materialism,’’ or the jargon of any political regime, exposing the poverty of hegemonic discourses even as it inevitably participates in them: thus, even the most apolitical literature will

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be suspect on the grounds of the sheer complexity of its language. Echoing Deleuze and Guattari’s discussion of Kafka’s use of ‘‘poor’’ German to write a ‘‘minor literature,’’ Brodsky dwells on Cavafy’s poetry, in particular, because of its use of poor adjectives and sentimental cliche´s as a subversive poetic mask, as a way to unbutton the meta-language of modern politics (1986a: 59, 65). Brodsky’s fascination stems also from Cavafy’s refusal to mythologize despite his use of Greek and Roman allusions: Cavafy deconstructs historical and religious narratives, refusing to enshrine any one of them as primary (Brodsky 1986a: 60). Like the frequent figure in Cavafy’s poems, the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate – famed for evading dogma by forcing Christians into an open debate of religious issues with pagans – Brodsky seeks to evade a clear choice of language, political system, or national identity. As a Jew who is nevertheless not quite Jewish, he is suspect of Russian nationalist pretensions, even in their communist trappings.13 An exile in his country – in any country – he resembles St. Petersburg, a city-exile in Russia, which, as we have seen, is at once mercantilist, capitalist, and communist, yet to Brodsky irreducible to any of these, as it revels in multiplicity and continually creates openings out of any attempt to fix its identity. At those moments, a different, infinitely more complex, non-Russian Russia emerges in Brodsky’s essays, one outside of the framework of Eastern, ahistorical, or Western, progressive. Brodsky favors Russian for poetry, but without, in Deleuze and Guattari’s (1986) phrase, ‘‘reterritorializing’’ himself in a Russian national identity, and English for prose as a way to ‘‘deterritorialize’’ official Soviet discourses. His linguistic and cultural situation can be likened to that which Derrida believes is characteristic of the Jewish population in French Algeria – whether they use French, Hebrew, or Arabic, they ‘‘speak a language of which [they are] deprived,’’ which isn’t really theirs (1998: 60). Brodsky is similarly ‘‘thrown into absolute translation, a translation without a pole of reference, without an originary language and without a source language’’ (Derrida 1998: 60; emphasis mine). But this condition of being thrown into a language is not tragic in Brodsky; he does not – and cannot – have a language in any originary sense, but he can nevertheless have a language in him, without the impulse of (national, cultural) appropriation. As he writes of Derek Walcott’s line ‘‘I have English in me,’’ Brodsky notes that ‘‘language is greater than its masters or servants’’ because it enables the writing of poetry as a way to ‘‘gain an identity superior to the confines of class, race, or ego’’ (1986a: 171). And yet, there is, as I pointed out at the beginning of this section, a conservative folding in Brodsky’s rhetoric. In spite of these instances of deconstructing dominant narratives of language, culture, or politics, there is an ideological blindness throughout much of his prose to the violence of colonialism, to the invisible political machinery behind such seemingly innocent categories as world civilization, which Brodsky assumes to be

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metaphysical, natural. In the Walcott essay, Brodsky folds back into the framework of the metropolitan discourse – and the colonial, Orientalist discourses – when he argues that the colonial heritage remains a ‘‘mesmerizing presence’’ in the West Indies, and conflates Walcott’s assumed Eurocentric education with world civilization. Homer, Ovid, Dante, Neruda, Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Baudelaire – all of these become ‘‘cells of his bloodstream,’’ just like Shakespeare and Edward Thomas are (Brodsky 1986a: 169). This echoes Brodsky’s earlier recommendations to Havel for civilizing Czechs and undermines Brodsky even at his most utopian. As mentioned earlier, he criticizes communists for promoting a ‘‘shabby materialist dogma,’’ and while at times he points to the necessity of transforming this materialist dogma and the ideal of civilized, developed, consumer-paradise Europe, he nevertheless preserves this ideal with the narrative of a unified culture, of civilizational superiority. He thus remains within the Orientalist philosophical framework – seeking to invert it and place Russia at the top of its hierarchical structure – when he inveighs against communists for not making Russia a leading spirit of this unified (Eurocentric) civilization. Russia did not have to become a ‘‘drab hell’’; instead, ‘‘with its magnificently inflected language capable of expressing the subtlest nuances of the human psyche, with an incredible ethical sensitivity,’’ it had ‘‘all the makings of a cultural, spiritual paradise, a real vessel of civilization’’ (Brodsky 1986a: 26).

Czesław Miłosz, or self-hating Slavs Miłosz’s autobiographical-philosophical writing is characterized by a discourse of cultural liminality similar to the one in Brodsky. Miłosz’s imagined topography – and the position from which he surveys the East and the West – shifts westward, to the post-World War I Wilno (contemporary Vilnius), a city that is mourned over as a hapless victim of geography as much as Brodsky’s Petersburg. But although Wilno figures on the European map as a city somewhat more to the west than St. Petersburg and thus closer to Europe, its location does not geo-graph it as unambiguously Western. For Miłosz, Wilno is both a civilizational bastion against and a whipping boy of the absolute Russian ‘‘other’’ lodged firmly in the unpredictable East. Its cultural liminality emerges in the idea that, while (despite all odds) it managed to nurture a tradition of parliamentary democracy worthy of a Western government, it was always-already stunted in its development by Russian imperialist desire, to which it fell victim throughout most of its history except for the brief period between the world wars. Significantly, during most of this period Wilno was occupied by Poland and the rest of Lithuania, like Poland, was independent. However, Polish nationalism and imperialist desire, while vehemently criticized throughout Miłosz’s writing, still compare favorably in relation to Russian territorial pretensions.14 Miłosz therefore focuses on the Wilno of the interwar period

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as a paradigm of nationalist antagonisms, yet as simultaneously a space of utopian possibilities for Europe – not unlike Brodsky’s culturally thriving Petersburg of the pre-October Revolution era – preceding the descent into Nazism or Stalinism. Miłosz’s position is rather complex: his writing is, on the one hand, a testimony to his Western audiences about the historically Western leanings of Polish culture, allowing Miłosz himself to speak as an emancipated Easterner who can deftly navigate Western discourses, translating and making sense of the Polish experience for the world at large. On the other hand, he also offers testimony of the Polish inability to escape the affinities – ethnic, linguistic, or political – with the hated Russian neighbor. This double testimony, as in the case of Nabokov and/or his Kinbote, ‘‘interpellates’’ the Poles, to invoke Althusser once again, as simultaneously the marginalized ‘‘others’’ and potentially empowered metropolitans. It would be useful at this point to compare this binary that denotes both a distinction and a cohabitation to Rey Chow’s reflections on the cultural politics of ethnicity, where the ethnic is distinctly not the ‘‘neutral’’ Westerner and yet must protest his/her ethnicity as a ‘‘captivity narrative,’’ as ‘‘captivity-in-existence’’ in order to affirm – and supposedly win – the biopolitical rights imagined to be safeguarded by the West (Chow 2002: 42). Interestingly, Chow’s (2002) concept of confession to being-ethnic parallels my concept of testimony, and she similarly argues that this confession is interpellated, in an Althusserian sense, in the dominant political narratives. But I would like to push Chow’s concept further, as in this case the testimony is less about one being-ethnic than about pointing accusatory fingers at those responsible for making one ethnic when one had all the conditions necessary to become a neutral Westerner. In this particular case of ‘‘nesting Orientalisms,’’ to invoke Bakic´-Hayden’s (1995) term again, Brodsky points his finger at Eastern Ottomans and Miłosz at Eastern Russians. Miłosz suggests that Poland is held in ethnic captivity, so to speak, because of its geographic affiliation with Russia, implicitly presented in terms of inevitable contagion, or of unfavorable cross-breeding. For instance, when he speaks of the Russian influence on the Polish-Lithuanian Wilno, Miłosz expresses it in almost purely disadvantageous terms: ‘‘the long Russian dominion’’ had left only ‘‘bad paving, the incredible difficulty citizens had conforming to hygienic regulations,’’ and a population of Byelorussians, hated by Lithuanians and Poles alike for their ‘‘passivity, shiftlessness and defeatism in the face of destiny’’ (Miłosz 1968: 56–57). Russia, however, seems to positively embrace and revel in the unhealthy political and cultural practices that are imagined to spread through Poland, as all are far more extreme ‘‘over there’’ than in Poland. While Miłosz ‘‘confesses’’ to Polish ‘‘disorder, an inability to control matters . . . recklessness, drunkenness,’’ he blasts Russia when he says that ‘‘in Russia the inability to order one’s immediate surroundings . . . reached unheard-of proportions,’’ and consequently ‘‘Poles in Russia, whether voluntary or involuntary e´migre´s, acted as a civilizing force’’ (1968: 133).

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The Poles are credited with a cultural fascination with the West and a yearning to overthrow tsarist despotism in favor of establishing democracy, but unfortunately ‘‘Poland’s social structure brought her closer to Russia: in both countries capitalism appeared late and cut no durable traces in the psyche’’ (Miłosz 1968: 133). Although Russians and Poles should have been brothers in the common struggle against tsarist oppression, their incompatibility of temper – which effectively naturalizes the racist hierarchies that Miłosz establishes – prevented such a healthy ethnic-political association. Thus, the enlightened Poles saw ‘‘revolution as a means of conferring on all citizens the old parliamentary privileges of the Polish gentry’’; in contrast, the Eastern Russians ‘‘wished to destroy, to change the land into a tabula rasa and then to begin to build anew,’’ an impulse that is clearly negatively valorized by Miłosz (1968: 134–35). For Miłosz, Poles are at once Slavic (ethnic) like Russians and Western (cosmopolitan, neutral) unlike Russians, which results in a curious love– hate relationship with not only Russia, but with one’s own ethnic and linguistic identity. Because Polish and Russian are linguistic brothers, Poles ‘‘are able to get an intuition of ‘Russianness’ mainly through the language, which attracts them because it liberates their Slavic half; in the language is all there is to know about Russia’’ (Miłosz 1968: 138). But, ‘‘The very thing that attracts them is at the same time menacing’’ (Miłosz 1968: 138). BeingSlavic, for Poles, although inevitable (because they ‘‘are’’ Slavic, because they are ‘‘infected’’ with Russian Slavdom) and carrying some potential for positive identification, is nevertheless cast as an impossible object of love, which must continually be denied through a critical awareness, self-hatred, or, as we shall see, disidentification. Miłosz compares identical phrases in Russian and Polish and predictably concludes that the first ‘‘connotes gloom, darkness and power,’’ and the second ‘‘lightness, clarity and weakness’’ (1968: 138). Lest unsuspecting Poles be seduced from light into darkness by the deceptive similarities between Polish and Russian, Miłosz offers this simple practice as an ‘‘exercise in self-ridicule and a warning’’ (1968: 138). Because of this shameful affiliation, Miłosz must also narrate his Wilno into visibility for Western audiences, rescuing it as a city worthy of gracing the topography of Europe, recuperating its (semi-)Western past from its assumed present invisibility under Russian-communist occupation. Of course, the imbalance of power between Wilno and a Western metropolis is suggested in the absence of the former’s associative power, of a particular discourse of the city that is widely disseminated. Miłosz notes: ‘‘a Parisian does not have to bring his city out of nothingness every time he wants to describe it. A wealth of allusions lies at his disposal, for his city exists in works of words, brush and chisel’’ (1968: 55). In the case of Wilno, however, Miłosz must invent, so to speak, the associative tropes for the architecture and geography of the city, along with its inhabitants, in order to overcome this historically unjustified silence, for while natives lacked perspective to write on the city, Westerners could not be counted on to properly map it

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either: ‘‘The foreigners who ventured into these marshlands of the West were rare’’ (Miłosz 1968: 54). To write Wilno, then, Miłosz invokes tropes that belie his native intimacy with Wilno while giving it Western legitimacy. Wilno is presented as a city where Miłosz grew up in the same cultural circuit as his contemporaries across France, Holland, and America (Miłosz 1968: 59). Miłosz enumerates popular movies, books, and theater performances that kept Wilno in pace with the rest of the world – and Poland even had a more vibrant theater life than many Western countries (1968: 60). Throughout Miłosz’s essays emerges the image of Wilno as a lively confluence of contending university cultures, student debates, political options, religions, ethnicities, and languages, its ‘‘cosmopolitan fragments . . . probably more closer to Paris than to Warsaw’’ (Miłosz 1968: 46). Wilno in a sense becomes the urban embodiment of Miłosz’s Central Europe discussed earlier in this chapter, implying a conglomerate of supranational communities, defying pure identity politics, as well as interior or exterior colonization by single nationalist interests. The very impossibility of purity forces its way through Miłosz’s meticulous enumeration of the city’s diverse dwellers, living at close quarters: Wilenska Street, now even narrower, turned into a street of Christian harness makers, cobblers, tailors; there was even a Turkish bakery. From it, or perhaps from another, came my gymnasium colleague Czebi-Ogly, who was a Muslim. Next, the facades of the buildings became subdivided into a multitude of little Jewish shops and after a momentary rise in dignity across from the little square near the Church of St. Catherine. . . . Wilenska was dominated by impoverished trade all the way to the intersection of Trocka, Dominican and German Streets. (Miłosz 2001: 51) Miłosz himself proudly exemplifies this me´lange, consisting of Polish, Lithuanian, and German blood, which was so common in that part of Europe that ‘‘admirers of racial purity could find little to boast of’’ (1968: 24). Within this utopian space where Polish, Yiddish and, less frequently, Lithuanian, Byelorussian, and Russian languages intersperse, Miłosz politically affiliates himself primarily with the Jewish, anti-nationalist intellectual movements in Wilno throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Their opposition to (especially Polish) anti-Semitism, their Leftist internationalist convictions pitched against Polish (and Lithuanian) right-wing parties, inspires in Miłosz an ‘‘allergy to everything that smacks of the ‘national’ and an almost physical disgust for people who transmit such signals’’ (Miłosz 1968: 95). Instead of a Polish or a Lithuanian Wilno, whose nationalist mythologies gain ground in the 1920s and 1930s, Miłosz feels closer to the Wilno of the historical Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania, with its tradition of religious and ethnic tolerance and parliamentary politics. In his essays ‘‘Place of Birth’’ and ‘‘Ancestry,’’ this idealized political union is clearly not a

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nation-state and Miłosz sees the rise in national consciousness, along with political anti-Semitism, as a particular concoction of nineteenth-century bourgeois upheavals and, later, the post-World War I rise in nationalism. At the same time, this appears like a retroactive utopia if one gives more weight to Miłosz’s admission that the Wilno of his childhood is a tolerant and multiethnic city, yet critically segregated. He recounts that the Catholic and Jewish communities lived along the same streets, yet went to separate schools: ‘‘Only at the university did we all gather at the same lecture halls and even there student organizations were divided into Polish, Jewish, Lithuanian and Byelorussian’’ (Miłosz 1968: 92). Yet, as I shall argue a bit later on, the significance of his narrative of the ‘‘unofficial’’ Wilno which opposes nationalist categorizations of identity – and which eventually loses out – lies less in the level of its truthfulness than in Miłosz’s designation of this moment as full of potential for a European transformation, in terms of subverting the increasingly popular narratives of racial purity, as well as European colonial traditions and hierarchizations of nations and cultures. But already in the 1930s, despite this vibrant movement toward subversion, there is also a sense of impending doom, which will eventually be brought on by the Nazi extermination of Jews and the various Slavic ‘‘subhumans,’’ and later by Soviet occupation and communist dictatorship. The tragedy of the fall of this idealized Wilno is accentuated by Miłosz’s excursions into its disappointing future, which haunt the descriptions of his interwar birthplace: one might detect in this some sort of short-lived opening up in the whole country, between the chaos of the economic crisis and the gathering darkness of the end of the thirties, a soaring, along with, to be sure, a presentiment of the approaching terror. (Miłosz 2001: 38) According to Miłosz, had it not been for these foreign interventions characterized by extreme, fanatic ideological allegiances, locally grown nationalisms would not have amounted to much. While the Polish are excitable and anarchic, they can still observe moral restraints, and lack the discipline that would ‘‘justify cruelties committed in cold blood’’ (Miłosz 1968: 104). More significantly, their tradition of complex, multidirectional, contradictory political culture combines together to forestall ideological extremes. Perhaps this comes, Miłosz contemplates, ‘‘from habits formed during the age of the Respublica, when adversaries were crushed by speeches laced with Latin quotations and when lawsuits and intrigues were preferred to other, more drastic political methods’’ (1968: 105). Of course, this distinction conveniently serves to elevate locally grown nationalist violence above Nazi ruthlessness and, what is especially important for our purposes, above Soviet fanaticism (and, implicitly, its unidirectional, simplistic, and unambiguous political culture). Miłosz frequently

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grieves over the Soviet/communist occupation and oppression of the once vibrant, modern (in a Western sense), European cities and in doing so effectively promotes narratives of authentic innocence, of ‘‘noble savagery’’ prior to the fall. While Wilno’s tragedy is great, it is still predictable as the city is only semi-Western and under considerable Russian influence historically. In the case of Prague, however, which Miłosz considers to be a Western European capital, there is a hint of an unnatural and bungled, almost artificial penetration of the West by the East (Miłosz 2001: 59). Just as for Brodsky civilization moves from South to North, so for Miłosz ‘‘the flow of ideas, like the colonization of primeval forest lands and steppes, [is] a movement from West to East’’ (Miłosz 1968: 130). Seen from this perspective, any reversal seems abnormal. As a result, the prewar Prague of Miłosz’s 1931 travels, described as a carnivalesque, pansexual paradise, with ‘‘couples kissing . . . hot, jostling, embracing humanity’’ and an ‘‘effervescent air of laughter and music, its taverns in the narrow streets near Hradcany Castle,’’ is contrasted with the desexualized and barren Prague of 1950, where Miłosz sees only the ‘‘huge fellow with the face of a hoodlum, wearing the uniform of the Czech Security Police’’ and a ‘‘handful of people in dark, ill-fitting suits . . . whispering among themselves’’ (2001: 59–60). The reader is then transported to yet another Eastern bloc city, Warsaw, which similarly features ‘‘Colorless streets in the twilight. Pedestrians walk[ing] quickly, with downcast eyes’’ (Miłosz 2001: 60). In these narratives, Russia at first appears to loom as an aggressive, masculine bully, positively raping the incomparably weaker opponents, such as Poland, the Czech Republic, or Hungary. Miłosz would thus seem to arouse sympathy for the East-Central European damsels in distress, yet his rapid realignment of gendered attributes along the traditional lines of the effeminate East and the masculine West betrays his investment in the Orientalist rhetoric and the validity of the Western subject who alone can survey, map, narrate – in short, successfully penetrate and conquer – the world. Unlike the healthily, not aggressively, masculine West, Russia is given to extremes, to a pathological need to flaunt its power and colonize, yet without the necessary tool, so to speak. Russia is frequently castrated in Miłosz and therefore its imperialist interventions appear prosthetic, pitiful, and superficial. Miłosz overhears Soviet commissars speaking of Baltic and Polish territories acquired and compares them to Alices in Wonderland who think of these countries not with friendliness, but with ‘‘envy and anger’’ (2001: 59). On another occasion, Miłosz hints at the frustration of Soviet attempts to conquer Europe despite its military power; simply, they lack the finesse and can only exclaim ‘‘Europe is ours’’ with a ‘‘threatening tone, the revenge . . . Russian self-inebriation’’ (Miłosz 2001: 74). In contrast, Miłosz, the emancipated Easterner (or the half-Westerner), possesses this secret knowledge of conquest, or, as he says, ‘‘I understood more of the entangled, never straight paths of civilization’’ (2001: 74). While a Russian can only treat France, for

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instance, with ‘‘contempt, because . . . discreet and hidden, [it] was inaccessible to him,’’ Miłosz ‘‘penetrated her gradually, beginning with that summer in 1931’’ (2001: 74; emphasis mine). Perhaps it is not surprising then that Miłosz somewhat provocatively casts Russia as a woman who needs a Polish husband, employing a traditionally colonialist trope of a country which cannot govern herself but must be governed – and this is also significant in light of his earlier statement about the need for Polish civilizers in Russia (Miłosz 1968: 147).15 I am trying to tease out these significant gendered paradigms and their relationship to the discursive positions of unequal power because the ‘‘official’’ narrative, of course, is still the one of Poland and other countries of the Soviet bloc as damsels in distress, threatened by the uncouth Russian bear. My intention is not to downplay in the least the gravity of Soviet occupation and oppression in the Eastern bloc countries, but rather to point to the ideological blindness to racist discourses which underlie the expressions of outrage at this historical injustice and which, in some cases, even make it possible. This blindness structurally echoes the aforementioned anti-Russian Orientalisms among the Lisbon Conference participants, which were lost, nevertheless, amid their protests against Russian imperialist interventions in Central Europe. In this respect, it is necessary to consider critically the investment in the terms of such a problematic discourse of all Western sympathies toward the dissident Miłosz, especially those that bewail Poland’s victimized position vis-a`-vis Russia and that embrace ‘‘their’’ Eastern tragedy, as if it were ‘‘ours,’’ i.e. universal. According to Clare Cavanagh, whose critical assessment of Miłosz itself participates in the discourse of Polishness as oppression – a captivitynarrative, in Chow’s (2002) words – many Anglophone poets have come to identify with the Eastern European plight, grouping ‘‘Warsaw, Krakow, Prague and Petersburg’’ into the metaphorical ‘‘republic of conscience,’’ in Seamus Heaney’s phrase (Cavanagh 2004: 339). Heaney and other such poets are the same as Miłosz, Ireland the same as Poland, when placed under the banner of universal humanity, to invoke the rhetoric that characterizes what Lacoue-Labarthe (1989) calls onto-typo-logy. Yet such ‘‘sympathy is inseparable from the acute awareness’’ that Miłosz is ethnic, and thus ‘‘helps ennoble ‘our’ cause (of trying to rescue them)’’ (Chow 2002: 23). Miłosz is thus both seen as a transcendental type – a figure seemingly above ethnic, cultural, or racial identification who expresses universal concerns of humanity – and implicitly categorized as a Polish (Eastern European) type, carrying a quite different meaning of ethnic stereotype, of the quality of being ethnic. In the process, there is little or no questioning of this position of victimization, taken to be unambiguous: Miłosz’s Orientalization of Russia and disidentification from Slavdom is accepted as unproblematic, glossed over, or virtually ignored. A similar invocation of Western ‘‘rescuing’’ of the oppressed Poland in Miłosz, which also remains unexamined in critical scholarship, arrives

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through his need to introduce Western – especially Anglophone – literature to Poland in order to counter the communist cultural contamination and censorship.16 Simultaneously, he feels that he must make Polish literature visible, or significant, in metropolitan locales and proceeds to translate it (this time literally) for Western audiences in hopes that it will become part of the world cultural heritage – and help the Poles forgotten behind the Iron Curtain win the sympathies of the democratic world. Cavanagh appropriately employs Cold War rhetoric when speaking of both actions: ‘‘an unexpected Eastern European invasion of Anglo-American poetry,’’ of which Miłosz is but one example, is a revenge for ‘‘their betrayal at Yalta’’ (Cavanagh 2004: 350). Alternately, Miłosz’s ‘‘rehabilitation’’ of the Polish poetic discourse through the introduction of Anglo-American poetry is a ‘‘literary version of the Marshall Plan’’ (Cavanagh 2004: 350). What is at stake here, I would argue, is a specifically political dimension of Miłosz’s seemingly apolitical literary interventions, which is deeply embedded in the discourses of Eastern European inferiority complex and of the Western betrayal of Poland through the withdrawal of Marshall Plan aid and of military support in opposing the communists and the ‘‘barbaric’’ Soviet Union. Miłosz frequently complains about the alleged abandonment of Poland and other Eastern European countries by Western governments after World Wars I and II, observing that they ‘‘let their generosity show only when it is a question of reducing some danger to themselves at the cost of shedding the blood of natives somewhere or other’’ (1968: 61). This attitude also leads to Miłosz’s engagement in his Nobel acceptance speech on behalf of the ‘‘Other Europe’’ which was ‘‘destined to descend into ‘the heart of darkness’ of the twentieth century’’ (1981: 7). He counteracts this abandonment by bringing Polish literature to English-speaking audiences through a critical study, The History of Polish Literature, and the anthology Postwar Polish Poetry. This also allows Miłosz to include an introduction of his own poetry in the former, writing himself into the Polish canon and assuming a position of literary authority before his audiences.17 But, as in the Nabokov’s scenario, I would argue, this act results in a ‘‘double obscuration’’ at the same time that it makes Miłosz tentatively visible on the metropolitan literary stage: first, he must translate himself into English to become known and, second, he must exoticize himself as a poet of an oppressed nation, where, unlike in the West, his ‘‘true home is history’’ and where he speaks ‘‘in his poems of subjects of interest to all citizens’’ (Miłosz 1983: 111; 1953: 175). In a sense, Miłosz’s self-categorization echoes Fredric Jameson’s (1986) much criticized evaluation of Third World literature as necessarily political and addressing the entire community. Miłosz’s thesis on a particular politicization of literature in Poland, whether through officially endorsed cultural models or through party censorship, is valid in so far as it suggests a complex interplay between literary production and (un)official politics during the communist period. However, what is objectionable is a somewhat facile and monolithic differentiation of this

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literature from what is assumed to be mainstream Western literature. Such a differentiation results in what Malini Schueller calls the ghettoization of multicultural, or ethnic, literatures, precisely through their ‘‘sacralization’’ as ‘‘repositories of redeeming values’’ imagined to be lost in the bland and politically ineffectual Western literature (1994: 10). In other words, Miłosz’s cultural politics sets up the liberal multicultural politics, where his texts can be gathered up in a ghetto of ethnic literatures, meant to season, yet remain separate from and not ultimately affect, the mainstreamness of mainstream Anglo-American texts.

Leaving the ghetto: journey to the West In this section I will highlight and explore the potential lines of flight in Miłosz from the ghetto of ethnicity-as-captivity-narrative, the discourse of victimization and the Orientalist hierarchies that permeate much of his writing about Europe. The discursive lines of flight open up through his periodical journeys to the West, beginning with his youthful 1931 trip from Wilno through Switzerland, Germany, and France, through his post-World War II ‘‘defection’’ to France while acting as a cultural attache´ of the People’s Republic of Poland, to his more or less permanent exile in the United States. At the outset of the first of these journeys, Miłosz seemingly positions himself as a reverse colonialist, or as a protagonist in a romanticized story of exploration. However, the realization of his own marginalization in the West through discourses about Eastern ‘‘subhumans’’ swiftly closes off this option. Increasingly, Miłosz’s essays, while mapping the topography of cities from Paris to San Francisco and discussing the customs of the natives living under democratic or fascist capitalism, engender a universalist, global perspective which nevertheless does not merely seek to survey and explain in order to epistemologically capture and conquer. Rather, the peripatetic recognition of himself – and East Europeans – as one of the targets of Western racism allows Miłosz to connect the situation of this disenfranchised group to various other marginalized groups across Europe and America and, critically, to relate the similar mechanisms of exclusion to the logic of capital and colonialism. In other words, through his exile, Miłosz is able to articulate an internationalist perspective in terms of defining common problems and political disadvantages, distancing himself from the isolated discourse of Polish victimization. Also, he subverts the discourses of Eurocentrism, according to which accusatory fingers must be pointed at a non-European Russia in order to merit attention by the ‘‘true’’ Europe. Instead, he recognizes and tackles the problematic divisions of Europe which make such antagonistic (dis)identifications possible and Europe is called to task for ‘‘refus[ing] to acknowledge itself as a whole’’ and ‘‘classif[ying] its population into two categories: members of the family (quarrelsome but respectable) and poor relations’’ (Miłosz 1968: 2). In ‘‘Journey to the West,’’ mostly an account of

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his 1931 travels, Miłosz articulates this disenchantment with a divided Europe, whose colonialist fantasies he first seeks to appropriate as an active subject, until he realizes that, as a Pole, he is always-already objectified by these very fantasies. The goal of the journey is significant in itself: Miłosz and his friends are ‘‘lured by the Colonial Exposition in Paris,’’ and their ‘‘love of maps’’ incites them to devise a complex exploration route (he likens himself to an imperfect Vasco de Gama), where they gradually ‘‘penetrate into an enchanted land’’ of the Rhine forests, imagining ‘‘Delaware warriors from the novels of Fenimore Cooper’’ to be crouching in the tree branches (Miłosz 2001: 58, 63). At every step, however, his attempt at casting himself as a Western subject is frustrated: in Zurich, the ‘‘belief in this tidy country’’ is undermined by the unavailability of free movement (Miłosz 2001: 65). Private villas which line the Swiss lakes make Miłosz think that ‘‘ownership is pitiless, that it works against those that it excludes’’ (2001: 65) In this respect, Miłosz and his group are excluded not only because they are foreign vagabonds who do not own property, but because they also do not ‘‘own’’ the correct national identity. This becomes even more painfully obvious in the increasingly Nazi Germany, where they encounter the Deutsche Jugend bent on changing the country into ‘‘a myth of blood and soil,’’ and acting ‘‘overly polite, overly quiet,’’ yet ‘‘contemptuous and hostile to foreigners’’ (Miłosz 2001: 67). The culmination of racism toward the ‘‘subhumans’’ from the East occurs not in Nazi Germany but in democratic France: arriving at the border of Germany and France, Poland’s ‘‘spiritual sister,’’ Miłosz encounters a sign which prohibits ‘‘Gypsies, Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians’’ from entering the country (2001: 67). As a result of the recognition that Poland is but a poor relation of its spiritual sister, Miłosz’s subsequent account of his enchantment with France and the colonial exposition in particular, is tainted by the contemplation of this European – indeed global – dynamic of racism, shaped as it is by material inequalities. France in 1931 is for Miłosz, as it was for Walter Benjamin, a site of phantasmagoric modernity: ‘‘France had embodied itself in capitalism or capitalism had embodied itself in France until the two became one’’ (Miłosz 2001: 69). On the one hand, this modernity is expressed in terms of its mythical power, in terms of its dreamlike quality: Miłosz and his friends approach it as a ‘‘birthplace of freedom and revolution,’’ whose ‘‘beauty evokes the greatest tenderness’’ (2001: 69). An Eastern flaˆneur to whom Paris is accessible only at the threat of deportation, Miłosz writes: We inhaled Paris with our nostrils. . . . Where the wide sidewalks changed into a marketplace, we took pleasure in submerging ourselves in the human stream, its color, movement, gestures and glances. We lost count of the streets, we forgot about our own existence . . . the promise was infinite; it was the promise of life. (Miłosz 2001: 69–70)

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The promise of life is likewise the mythical content of the Colonial Exposition, which panoramically projects the promise of order and wellbeing within the French Empire, recreating (mapping, categorizing) the colonized peoples, animals, and plants in a ‘‘natural,’’ i.e. ghettoized, environment for the admiring European visitors of the Exposition. At this juncture the discursive ghettoization which I discussed in relation to Miłosz can be brought into connection with the material ghettoization of ethnics at the Colonial Exposition, which symbolically expresses the authority of the French to categorize ‘‘others’’ and present them to its own audience as a spectacle. Significantly, at this point Miłosz’s attention switches to the conditions of possibility of such narcissistic imperial spectacles, in which even the poorest Frenchmen are complicit through profiting ‘‘from all this power and wealth’’: abroad, the ‘‘mow[ing] down of the colored peoples, acquir[ing] of countries and ports,’’ and at home, the fact of the ‘‘unemployed Polish vagrants in the dives near Saint-Paul, the smell of poverty in the ‘Palais du People,’ the incredible ugliness of family gravestones in Pere Lachaise cemetery, fit for the heroes of Flaubert’’ (Miłosz 2001: 72). In lieu of the splendors of the Western empire, Miłosz focuses on the ‘‘suffering humanity’’ and relates the racism toward the then Polish mass of workers in search of jobs to the later racisms toward the North African ‘‘labor force used for the heaviest jobs and getting the least pay’’ (2001: 68). The French press stages a spectacle of the thieving and murderous Poles in order to enforce their alienation from the ‘‘good’’ French citizens: they ‘‘were not necessarily considered members of the white race, but rather were perceived as the sort of foreigners whom people frighten children with, like Algerians later on’’ (Miłosz 2001: 94). Throughout his essays, Miłosz frequently and symptomatically relates the situation of Polish emigrants in the West and of working-class and peasant Poles and Lithuanians in his caste-based homeland to the disenfranchisement of the assorted foreigners in Western Europe and of the ‘‘black slaves’’ and ‘‘redskins’’ in North America. In fact, the United States takes the place of France as a site of evolving modernity in the post-World War II period and of what Miłosz sees as an intensification of capitalist brutality, de-individualization, conformism, and materialism, imposed also as a solution on a grieving Europe, struggling to cleanse its memory of the horrors of World War II. There is a troubling disconnect, for Miłosz, between the ‘‘European spirit’s’’ hatred of itself, the ‘‘pandemonium of all the disgust, bitterness and hangovers . . . justified with the help of fashionable discourses on la nause´e, the absurd, alienation,’’ and the European body’s ‘‘eating, drinking and buying [of] automobiles and refrigerators (by the grace of America)’’ (Miłosz 1982: 118–19). However, this schizophrenic dualism and an escape into materialism are not a sign of an inevitable ‘‘decline of the Occident’’ – Miłosz is careful to highlight and challenge the popular narratives predicting doomsday of the West. Rather, instead of precipitating Europe into a new revolution or into an oblivious

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consumerism, ‘‘what seemed a poison became an agent of affluent stabilization’’ (Miłosz 1982: 120). Nevertheless, this affluent stabilization in itself seems to dull the intellect, to ossify, to empty of meaningful content, and the United States becomes its most extreme embodiment. Throughout Visions from San Francisco Bay, Miłosz records his disenchantment with the endless repetitiveness of American landscapes and its cities, which, unlike a European city like Wilno or Paris, prevent one from developing intimate attachments to one’s surroundings: ‘‘The abstract city and the abstract theater of nature, something one drives past, are the American metaphor,’’ as highways are replacing the ‘‘little streets where ordinary daily life once ran its course’’ (Miłosz 1982: 38–39). This increasingly repetitive, abstract space, the ubiquitous nowhere, is for Fredric Jameson an effect of the ‘‘increasingly abstract . . . networks of American reality . . . whose extreme form is the power network of so-called multinational capitalism itself’’ (1991: 127). Jameson describes the frustration, visible in Miłosz’s Visions from San Francisco Bay, with the difficulty of cognitively mapping and representing this space. Miłosz’s preference for Wilno or Paris, the cities in which he can presumably find his ‘‘place’’ through intimate attachment, points to an anxiety about the effect that Jameson argues the abstract space of multinational capitalism has on ‘‘an older kind of existential positioning of ourselves in Being – the human body in the natural landscape, the individual in the older village or organic community, even the citizen in a nation-state’’ (Jameson 1991: 127). The alienated uniformity of the abstract space is also characteristic of what Miłosz identifies as a particular American notion of virtue which makes affluent stabilization possible in the first place and ‘‘compels one to join the ‘rat race,’ to accept the given, to achieve, act, strive, to conform to the morals of one’s neighbor’’ (1982: 154). America signals a move toward a total appropriation and regimentation of life as one is continually reminded that ‘‘uniqueness is an illusion,’’ and that one is ‘‘reduced to a number’’: the biopolitics is perfected, as Miłosz notes: ‘‘From all sides, I am besieged by television, magazines, films, billboards with incitements to health and happiness; how I should wash, eat and dress is an object of someone’s concern’’ (1982: 70–71). ‘‘America, Europe’s illegitimate child,’’ has perhaps accomplished its calling of making the individual feel absolutely powerless in the face of a social order seemingly predetermined and ‘‘as regular as the seasons’’ (Miłosz 1982: 69). And yet, for Miłosz, this feeling of defeat is naı¨ve and illusory in itself: his essays carry a revolutionary impulse through an exploration of the particular possibilities of change, which entails the development of a critical discourse that would challenge the narrative of capital, of work and obedience and the cultural hierarchies and material inequalities that it establishes. Against the ‘‘sign of the Moloch’’ that manifests itself across America as social uniformity and a seeming ossification of choices, Miłosz offers his reflections on Allen Ginsberg’s poetry, on Herbert Marcuse’s utopianism

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and on the student and hippie protests that ‘‘oppose industry with idleness’’ and ‘‘obedience with political rebellion, stiff dignity with poetry, music and dance’’ (Miłosz 1982: 155). In a related gesture, Miłosz considers Marxist thought and Eastern European communist revolutions and regimes inspired (at least nominally) by Marxism as spaces from which to challenge Western liberal identity politics compounded by the rat race in work and consumption patterns and underwritten by racism toward and exploitation of the Eastern (African, Arabic) ‘‘others.’’ Miłosz has described his essayistic technique as ‘‘telescopic,’’ that is, as one that encompasses not only ‘‘different points of the globe but also different moments of time’’ (1968: 3). However, he does not insist on a chronological, unified historical narrative that would impose a certain order on a jumble of events as the authoritative account, but rather considers historical events in what Walter Benjamin (1968) calls ‘‘constellations,’’ in terms of insights which, put together, such events help to illuminate. These momentary images of different times are seen ‘‘in parallel, colliding with one another, overlapping,’’ and, indeed, Miłosz frequently considers the overlapping significance of several seemingly disparate events in Lithuanian/ Polish history: the historic Commonwealth, its various partitionings by Germany and Russia, its colonization by Western capital pre-World War II, its invasion by Nazis, its invasion by Soviet troops and the controversial legacy of communism (Miłosz 1968: 3). In this respect, the fascist ‘‘utter contempt for the ‘subhumans’ to the east’’ does not structurally differ from the ‘‘no Poles allowed’’ sign at the French border (Miłosz 2001: 89). Miłosz critically considers not only the democratic West’s racism toward Eastern Europeans, but also the absence of global awareness of German antiSemitism toward and the Holocaust of ‘‘millions of Poles, Russians, Ukrainians and prisoners of other nationalities,’’ whose extermination is overshadowed by accounts of Jewish suffering (Miłosz 1981: 16). In this light, Marxism becomes a political path that could have potentially challenged such an East–West dynamic. In the pre-World War II period, it is presented as a necessarily ethical option – especially for the Jewish intelligentsia in Poland and Lithuania – in the climate of German fascism and Polish/Lithuanian right-wing politics. Communists, although their ideology is problematic for Miłosz, nevertheless awake him to ‘‘Silesia’s slum districts; the Zyrardow textile factories, whose owner was a French capitalist . . .; Poland’s split, as an undeveloped territory, into a handful of rich . . . and millions of poor’’ (Miłosz 1968: 121). In the post-war period, Marxism, although now inevitably associated with Soviet occupation, still carries potential in Miłosz as a ‘‘chaos of new forms’’ and ideas, as a shield against Western capitalism, against ‘‘those who spend all their time earning, spending and amusing themselves’’ – and this influences his decision to stick, at least for a time, to the People’s Republic of Poland in Paris (Miłosz 2001: 157). Miłosz credits communists with ‘‘exterminating the acquisitive instinct,’’ with which he sympathizes out of an ‘‘inborn aversion to counting,

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measuring and weighing,’’ and out of hatred for the exploitation of Polish/ Lithuanian peasantry and laborers, which leads him to not condemn the ‘‘destruction of private shops and farms’’ (1968: 33). This is not to downplay the importance of Miłosz’s virulent condemnation of communism as a regime and as a philosophy, which is necessarily linked to his view of Russia as an Asiatic backwater and which frequently relies on the Cold War jargon and reductive equivocation of Marxist philosophy, Stalinist regimes, and any other form of communist/leftist politics. Indeed, he has achieved fame primarily as a dissident critic of communism and earned the title of traitor from Eastern and Western communist parties alike. In ‘‘Marxism,’’ he describes the popularity of Marxist thought and communist politics as a result of a world that has become too difficult ‘‘to grasp either scientifically or humanistically’’: they draw primitive minds with a ‘‘need for faith’’ and a ‘‘simplified outlook on life’’ (Miłosz 1968: 114). He equates communism with Stalinism, portraying it as a bundle of simplistic, yet messianic cliche´s, as a ‘‘catechism or a brochure’’ for those who need to believe in progress, to overcome ‘‘the feeling of powerlessness in the face of chaos’’ (Miłosz 1968: 117, 114). The messianism of communism, the perception of communism-as-religion, is explicitly associated with Russia and its aggressive, unnatural mixture of ‘‘revolutionary theory and the dream Russians had of themselves as a chosen nation’’ (Miłosz 1968: 123). As such, Marxism can only appeal to the young and psychologically immature, who are searching for comradeship and the meaning of life. In Chapter 4, we will see how Kundera and Grass downplay the legacy of Marxism by employing a similar discourse of pathologization, with its pseudo-psychoanalytical discussions of herd mentality, individual insecurity, and/or frustration with personal life. Indeed, in this essay Miłosz talks about his (and his friends’) youthful engagement with Marxism, which already implicitly exonerates him – he could not have known any better then – and yet he is also at pains to show that he never fully absorbed Marxist ideology. He feels increasingly alienated from Marxists friends; he prefers St. Augustine to Lenin and wonders, ‘‘What could I talk about when the uninhibited exchange of thoughts and impressions had been replaced by the certainties of Progress and Revolution?’’ (Miłosz 1968: 119). While I argue that this particular critique of Marxism/communism is politically problematic and lacks critical nuance, I also want to highlight other strands of Miłosz’s critique which come from within the space opened by Marxism/communism, so to speak, not with an aim to intellectually dismiss and pathologize, but to perform Marxism in the sense that Derrida describes it, as ‘‘a radical critique, . . . a procedure ready to undertake its self-critique . . . explicitly open to its own transformation, re-evaluation, self-interpretation’’ (1994: 88). In ‘‘The Dance of Death and Human Inequality,’’ for instance, Miłosz considers the specifically ‘‘new, more fully developed concept of equality’’ that enters the world stage with Marx’s thought and socialist movements (Miłosz 1982: 164). He discusses the

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problems of bureaucracy and ‘‘anti-democratic, hierarchic structure’’ within Eastern European socialist societies which originally had this new concept of equality in mind and wonders if these had to do with the issues of revolutionary leadership, the split between intellectuals and workers, or the logistic difficulties of politically mobilizing as active democratic subjects large segments of the working population (Miłosz 1982: 165). In this light it also becomes possible to read Miłosz’s difficulty with adopting Marxism as an inquiry into the proper name of Marxism, of what it means to be a Marxist. Any unquestioning self-categorization would lead, for Miłosz, to dangerous, dogmatic identity politics and to societies grouped around the idea of the ‘‘proletarian’’ or the ‘‘Aryan’’ (Miłosz 2001: 201). A number of his essays that deal with Polish intellectuals who associated themselves with the communist regime, such as ‘‘Tiger,’’ ‘‘Alpha,’’ ‘‘Beta,’’ ‘‘Gamma,’’ or ‘‘Delta,’’18 similarly focus less on the doctrine of Marxism/ communism or on the intellectuals as Marxists, and more on these intellectuals’ attempts to negotiate it, re-evaluate it, transform it, identify its blind spots – especially in relation to a regime that frequently discourages such blasphemous exercises. Thus, Miłosz recognizes that there is a remainder to Marxism that the regime does not take into account, echoing what Derrida (1994) calls a ‘‘spirit of Marxism,’’ which exceeds and haunts Marxism as ontology. He says: even in a vulgarized Marxism there is ‘‘something’’ that eludes the grasp of both those who profess it and those who disparage it. It is as if a considerably greater phenomenon were imprisoned in imperfect symbols, which distort its contents, or as if an elephant had been reduced to the shape of its trunk. I suppose one cannot call oneself a Marxist or an anti-Marxist with impunity because that ‘‘something’’ perceived by Marx will take revenge by turning each of these positions into its opposite. (Miłosz 1968: 15) It would seem that this ‘‘something’’ that turns Marxism into its opposite is precisely this attempt to capture it in slogans, to establish it as a regime that must not be questioned, to radically destroy its utopian potential for selfcritique, for fluidity and irreducibility. In this respect, Miłosz again opposes ‘‘the spirit of Marxism’’ to Western liberal democracy and capitalism: it makes Eastern European ‘‘social reality . . . flexible, not rigid, not established as it is in the West,’’ and this indeterminacy, he believes, helps one to grow intellectually. He sticks by the People’s Republic of Poland because of its ‘‘chaos of new forms,’’ a utopian free-play of ideas and social options (Miłosz 1968: 157). Obviously, this can also lead to a dangerous cultural essentialism, which, as we have seen, is closely connected with the casting of Eastern Europeans as ethnic, albeit through a discourse of exceptionalism. It would be possible

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to consider in parallel Miłosz’s praise of Polish literature, seen as necessarily imbued with political, collective values and importantly different from Western, largely de-politicized literature and his praise of a typical Eastern European (like himself) who differs positively from a person living in modern civilization which ‘‘creates uniform boredom and destroys individuality’’ (Miłosz 1968: 68). The Eastern European ethnic type has ‘‘intellectual avidity, fervor in discussion, a sense of irony, a freshness of feeling’’ which seem to be closely related to the lack of form and certainties in his/ her society: ‘‘Where I grew up, there was no uniform gesture, no social code, no clear rules for behavior at table’’ (Miłosz 1968: 67–68). The glorification of the lack of order that is typically associated with Eastern Europe and through which it is possible to cast its people as types in the first place, seems to perform a reverse Eurocentric gesture through a sacralization of ethnics. And yet my interest in Miłosz’s writing lies in the possibility of theorizing the difference opened up through the legacy of ‘‘imperfect’’ modernization, economic ‘‘inferiority,’’ frequent political subjugation and partitioning – and, eventually, the communist critique of such interactions between East and West – as a strategic move outside of Orientalist discourses such as Eurocentrism, out of reverse Eurocentrism and out of multicultural discourses that emancipate difference from abjection. Unlike Brodsky, Miłosz does not easily fold back into a discourse of Eurocentrism, or even of a reverse Eurocentrism. He is on to something and this something similarly appears in the interstices of and haunts the seemingly facile categorizations of Eastern Europeans, Westerners, the Polish, or Russians, which are the strategies of identity politics. In other words, he resuscitates and explores this difference not solely – and always – to glorify or declaim a particular culture, East or West, but rather to signal social and political alternatives deemed possible in this different place. In this respect, he writes Central Europe and Wilno as places which carry this utopian possibility through a mixture of antagonistic yet cohabiting and permeating cultures and languages, through an opposition to nationalist and/or imperialist politics with anti-nationalist movements (e.g. Jewish intellectual tradition, communist movements) and through an attempt to challenge the established class divisions, notions of private property, or the pursuit of happiness through ‘‘earning, spending and amusing’’ oneself. This is indeed akin to Miłosz’s attitude toward his native language, which, unlike Brodsky, he uses for most of his literary production (although he also wrote a number of pieces in English and helped translate much of his work). Although he believes, in a Bakhtinian fashion, that any notion of a ‘‘same tongue’’ is an ‘‘illusion where uncountable individual languages fill space with a jamming noise,’’ writing in Polish still helps him to preserve a symbolic link with Wilno and the exigencies of Polish, Czech, and Russian political situations and, finally, erects a ‘‘protective barrier between him and a civilization in the throes of puerility’’ (Miłosz 2001: 18, 53, 11–12). Writing in Polish has little to do with Miłosz attempting to ‘‘reterritorialize’’

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himself into a patriotic Polish identity, which he abhors; rather, it serves as a link to this different place, conceived in political instead of cultural or ethnic terms, and simultaneously distances him from the language of capital, aggressive consumerism, and the ‘‘virtues’’ of work and obedience. Similarly, his Westernness and his universality serve ‘‘as a faithful ally in [his] revolt against Polishness’’ (Miłosz 2001: 11). This position of being ‘‘always and everywhere ill at ease,’’ encompassing the discourses of liberal capitalism, party communism, or Polishness, also provides an opportunity to challenge the topography of Miłosz’s writing as discussed at the beginning of this chapter (2001: 11). Miłosz here does not see East or West as monolithic, unchangeable entities that can be evaluated, as a whole, positively or negatively. Rather, he borrows and combines ideas and practices, again signaling not only a utopian Central European, but global possibility. From Central/Eastern Europe, Miłosz lauds Jewish intellectual movements in combination with communist movements, which destroy the notion of private property, as well as the property of nationality. These in turn are combined with Miłosz’s insights into American society in Visions from San Francisco Bay, which, unlike European societies, is seen to be far more radical in its concept of multiethnicity and multiculturalism – as well as in its anti-aristocratic stance and its democratic educational opportunities for large segments of the population. And yet Miłosz is critical of the American multicultural segregation, its racist discrimination and its official articulation as a touchy-feely, get-along ideology. Rather, he opts for a less whitewashed version of multiculturalism that, for him, is embodied by Wilno: this version appears more antagonistic and therefore more sincere, yet it has historically also been shaped by the impossibility of segregation because of the various peoples living in such close proximity and has been imbued with the utopian impulse of challenging basic material inequalities between ethnic and religious groups. In Chapter 4, I will discuss Gu¨nter Grass’s critique of the disappearance of this particular possibility with the waning of the (at least nominally) antinationalist communist paradigm and with the exportation of liberal multicultural politics to Poland in the post-Wall era. In Grass, this version of multiculturalism is underwritten by racist identity politics, a strengthening of old East–West hierarchies, and a combined economic and social neocolonial situation across post-communist countries.

4

Deviant stepchild of European history Communist Eastern Europe in Milan Kundera and Gu¨nter Grass

In this chapter, I turn to Milan Kundera and Gu¨nter Grass in order to explore how their promotion of the myth of civilized, democratic, and enlightened European traditions allows them to critique Eastern European communist regimes as distortions and deviations from those traditions. While an Orientalist articulation of Eastern Europe in Joseph Brodsky and Czesław Miłosz surfaces through seemingly naturalized geographic discourses that delineate civilizational hierarchies between Eastern, Central, and Western Europe, Kundera and Grass employ historicist narratives of Europe’s progress toward an enlightened modernity and resulting fulfillment of liberal-democratic ideals, which allows them to Orientalize communism as a non-European aberration and a non-modern obstacle to the linear trajectory of European development. This gesture, Ella Shohat and Robert Stam have argued, in fact characterizes Eurocentric discourses, which ‘‘project a linear historical trajectory leading from classical Greece to imperial Rome and then to the metropolitan capitals of Europe and the US . . . attribut[ing] to the West an inherent progress’’ from which Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin are mere ‘‘aberrations’’ (1994: 2). Kundera and Grass criticize Western European democracies for betraying the ideals of the Enlightenment as well: Kundera is offended by ‘‘vulgar’’ consumerism and abdication to mass media and entertainment, and Grass denounces the Nazi past, bureaucratization, capitalist inequalities. Nevertheless, the enlightened ideals themselves bear a definite Western European stamp, becoming master-signifiers in comparison to which any political alternative is inevitably inferior, or even not properly historical. What is especially interesting is how in their texts written after 1989 the very myth of a European civilization and its unified historical development is brought into a crisis through a portrayal of Western Europe’s less than noble comportment in the proclaimed rescuing of Eastern Europeans: the emphasis shifts to renewed colonization, capitalist exploitation, and patronizing, racist attitudes towards Eastern Europeans. For this purpose, then, I intend to analyze Kundera’s brief novels Slowness (1996) and Ignorance (2002) and Grass’s The Call of the Toad (1992), written after the fall of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, in constellation with their earlier writings on communism and formulations of a European ideal.

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In The Call of the Toad, which discusses the post-communist rapprochement of Germany and Poland, I explore how Grass exposes behind the seemingly enlightened and conciliatory discourse of multicultural European coexistence the potential for hostile, racist identity politics and the collusion of this discourse with a renewed economic subjugation of Poland by German capital. In Slowness, I am interested in Kundera’s tracing of the symbolic silencing of Eastern Europeans within a discourse of a unified Europe, especially his critique of the efforts by Western media to police Eastern European communist history into teleologies of democracy, capitalism, and universal human rights. Kundera not only problematizes the idealization of Europe, or the European Union as a bearer of the most progressive traditions of European history, but uncharacteristically affirms Czechoslovakia’s communist past, trying to reconsider its utopian promise, as well as its legacy, in a somewhat conciliatory way. This motif especially haunts Ignorance, where a recurring invocation of communist ideals and experiences creates conditions for a critique of the new ‘‘foreignness’’ of Prague brought on by capitalist privatization.

‘‘The mass production of martyr virtue’’: Kundera’s graphomania before 1989 Czech dissident Milan Jungmann famously accused Kundera of trivializing the Czech communist experience to market it to the supposedly shallow Western audiences, thus engaging in a ‘‘mass production of martyr virtue’’ (Jungmann 1999: 120). While Jungmann discredits his own assessment of Kundera by assuming a patronizing attitude toward Western audiences, reducing Kundera’s texts to pornography and showing some bitterness over Kundera’s ‘‘fake’’ dissidence due to his emigration to France, his description of Kundera’s own efforts at composing a martyr image for himself and for Czechoslovakia in the West is nevertheless right on. Alert to the Cold War climate which would inspire Westerners (on both the Left and the Right) to categorize Kundera as a martyred anti-regime dissident and analyze his texts in this light,1 Kundera himself has, also famously, opposed the purely political or historical readings of his novels. Echoing Czesław Miłosz’s and Joseph Brodsky’s approaches discussed in Chapter 3, he has insisted that he examines the various ‘‘existential situations’’ of his characters, regardless of the political regime or country (Kundera 1988: 36). Kundera’s preface to The Joke (1983) declares this novel a love story in an attempt to complicate political readings. He has argued that reading works of so-called Eastern European authors via the ‘‘wretched political code’’ of their countries is equal to the work of ‘‘Stalinist dogmatists’’ (Kundera 1977: 6). It is easy to support this self-assessment with numerous examples from Kundera’s texts: in The Art of the Novel (1988), for instance, he compares Eastern communist authoritarianism with Western media authoritarianism. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1991b), kitsch and conformism are

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discussed as universal human conditions, in both their Eastern communist and Western democratic manifestations. In this way, Kundera has managed to seduce many critics into taking seriously his rejection of the title of dissident writer and his claim to being apolitical and universally applicable. From those who argue that Kundera is an existential rather than a political writer,2 to those who insist that he should be more political and/or are disappointed with his seeming leveling of democracy and communism,3 many critics have missed the political – or, more precisely, civilizational – hierarchies that his texts establish. In the pages that follow, I argue that, contrary to what Kundera may say, he has embraced rather than rejected the role and authority of a Czech dissident in France, his adopted country, primarily through insisting on the destruction of European Czechoslovakia at the hands of non-European Soviets. Much of his production, mostly before 1989, delineates clear civilizational divisions, hierarchies, and myths of historical origin associated with his ideal of Europe, both enhancing the image of Czechoslovakia in the West and invoking their responsibility for abandoning Czechoslovakia to communist ‘‘barbarians.’’ Simultaneously, Kundera re-presents, ‘‘writes,’’ himself as both a dissident from a specific communist country and as a panEuropean citizen, at once an (temporary) outsider who can show to the inexperienced sympathizers of communism/leftist liberalism in France the dangers of communism and an insider who warns that Czechoslovakian destiny may prefigure the destiny of all Europe. Although Kundera insists on a distinction between Europe and non-Europe, his parameters are nevertheless a variation on the familiar culturally and politically charged discourses that position Western Europe as civilizationally superior to Eastern Europe. As in Czesław Miłosz, this type of intra-European Orientalism in Kundera is somewhat obfuscated – and modified – by his praise of Central Europe as an ‘‘uncertain zone of small nations’’ between the two poles. Additionally, he frequently disparages Western European consumerism and postmodernity in general and employs a seemingly neutral term Europe, defined as a ‘‘culture’’ rather than ‘‘territory’’ (Kundera 1984: 221).4 Kundera defines as Europe a unified cultural development associated with ‘‘ancient Greece and Judeo-Christian thought’’ (1984: 218). This, as we will see, enshrines a historicist account of European development, which, according to Dipesh Chakrabarty, epistemologically underlies European thought of history as historicity and depends on a certain treatment of time: on the idea of development from non-modern to modern, on the notion of progress from past to present (2000: 23). For Chakrabarty, historicity, which he also calls ‘‘analytic history’’ because of its fundamental connection to the Enlightenment ideal of reason, always-already contains a colonizing gesture in that it insists on a ‘‘the validity of a unified, rational, historical narrative’’ which will tend to exclude ‘‘other’’ (typically non-European) experiences as not properly historical – either because they are not ‘‘translatable’’ into the language of progress and development or because it ‘‘translates’’ them as

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non- or pre-modern (Chakrabarty 2000: 18). Kundera does not focus on the religious component of European cultural development; rather, he means the development of an intellectual tradition that nurtures original thought, individual right, skepticism, doubt, play, and satire. The development of the Christian society of ‘‘feeling’’ and ‘‘sentimentality’’ was – in the West, predictably – complemented by this intellectual spirit of doubt and play explicitly from the Renaissance onwards: ‘‘It was then that the West truly came into its own’’ (Kundera 1986a: 470). Not surprisingly, Kundera designates the European Enlightenment as the apogee in the development of this tradition because of its allegedly libertine spirit, its satirical irreverence, and its use of reason for an exploration of being rather than for ‘‘the police, the law, the world of money and crime, the army, the State’’ (1988: 8). He traces the manifestations of this spirit in the European novel, also imagined as a narrative of unified development and originating with Diderot, Cervantes, Rabelais, and Sterne, who ‘‘reach heights of playfulness, or lightness, never scaled before or since’’ (Kundera 1988: 15). Hence, reason that is used instrumentally, first for purposes of capitalist production and regimentation toward the end of the eighteenth century and later for similar purposes in communist societies, is seen by Kundera as a deviation from and a corruption of the ‘‘gentle, tender reason’’ of the Enlightenment – it constitutes humanity’s fall from grace (Kundera 1996: 31). When reason is used to achieve total rationality, ‘‘pure irrationality . . . seizes the world stage’’ (Kundera 1988: 10). It is this irrationality that, to Kundera, characterizes modern societies in both Eastern and Western Europe. Throughout his novels, irrationality is associated with bureaucracy, social conformism, and the mass production of everything, destroying original thought – and the novel – and approximating what Theodor Adorno (1991) calls ‘‘the culture industry.’’ In Western Europe, ‘‘the cultural elite’’ has yielded to ‘‘the elite of the mass media apparatus’’; in Eastern Europe, to ‘‘the elite of the police apparatus’’ (Kundera 1988: 127). Ideologies have consistently become watered down to a few simplistic slogans and cliche´s, in the contemporary era replaced by isolated and fragmented television images designed to brainwash the masses and announcing what Kundera (1991a) calls the reign of ‘‘imagology.’’ Here we arrive at another evil of the post-Enlightenment Europe that Kundera consistently denounces: the crowd mentality associated with any utopia, group belief, political protest, and, of course, any revolutionary endeavor. Charles Molesworth calls Kundera a ‘‘model e´migre´’’ because he denounces Russian totalitarianism yet without the ‘‘anti-communist bile’’ that would alienate him from liberal audiences (1986–87: 65). Indeed, his critique of Soviet communism endeared him both to French right-wing and left-wing audiences in the 1960s and 1970s: to the former, for obvious reasons; and to the latter, because it was complemented by Kundera’s seemingly equal denouncement of Western capitalism and consumerism, his own (much repressed since) communist affiliation in Czechoslovakia and his

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image as an opponent of Stalinism, supporter of the Dubcˇek regime, the Prague Spring, and ‘‘socialism with a human face.’’ However, his repeated attacks on any leftist politics as a manifestation of crowd mentality and thus a deviation from European reason portray Kundera’s politics as rather conservative, if not simplistic. In light of the earlier discussion of Kundera’s predilection for analytic, unifying historicist narratives, this attitude is also subtly Eurocentric in the sense that it ascribes to a leftist ‘‘other’’ a collectivist (Asian, African, etc.) rather than individualist (European) spirit, irrationality rather than rationality. Not only does this downplay the singularity of each group politics and its endeavors, but it effectively depoliticizes and patronizes those who participate in such endeavors, seeking the roots of their political engagement in a warped psyche or a nostalgia for greatness. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kundera derides Western leftist-liberals who, in a desire to conform and support all the right causes, participate in the ‘‘Grand March of the European Left.’’ In Immortality he argues that what makes people fight in revolutions or protest is not reason – let alone urgency – but a ‘‘hypertrophied soul’’ and a yearning to ‘‘step onto the stage of history’’ (Kundera 1991a: 212). This ‘‘lyrical, neurotic expectation of some great deed’’ is also responsible for the French penchant for ‘‘radical ideologic postures,’’ compensating for France’s diminishing political and cultural power (Roth 1984: 231). To sum up, Kundera’s notion of Europe is one of a unified masternarrative of development with European Enlightenment as its culmination, imagined to be corrupted West and East through the development of capitalism, technology, bureaucracy, communism, mass media, and mass production. The history of this cultural demise is also the history of European revolutions. But while the Western leftist may receive a mild slap on the fingers from Kundera, the dissident expert on communism, for their rush to participate in Europe’s ‘‘Grand March’’ Eastern leftists (especially Soviets and their foreign lackeys) are accused of bungling the tradition altogether, their revolutions ‘‘a parody condensation of the European revolutionary tradition . . . the continuation and grotesque fulfillment of the era of European revolutions’’ (Kundera 1988: 40). This statement epitomizes Kundera’s treatment of Eastern Europeans, which most frequently equals Russians and/or Soviets, but may also encompass other Eastern communists. In Kundera, both Russians and communists are either entirely alien to Europe, promoting the dangerous politics and culture against which Kundera defines his European ideal and its (historical) borders, or else they are somewhat Europeanized by virtue of geographic proximity – as in Brodsky and Miłosz – but even then only as grotesque, deformed mimics of European achievements who effectively ruin even the idea of revolution, itself not the most glorious European tradition. Thus Europe comes to signify Western Europe, as Kundera associates most qualities he praises throughout his texts as universally good and desirable – reason, satire and cynicism, individualism – with France, England, Germany,

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or Spain (broadly, the tradition of the European Enlightenment). Eastern Europe, usually Russia, is associated with the non-European, essentially Orientalist opposites (feeling, blind belief, crowd mentality), never contributing anything by itself; rather, it is judged based on how well it can adapt to the Enlightenment traditions. In the paradigm in which Russia is absolutely alien to Europe and simply cannot help it, it is a ‘‘separate civilization’’ because its history ‘‘differs from the history of the West precisely in its lack of a Renaissance and of the spirit that resulted’’ – presumably the spirit of the Enlightenment, which Russia also ‘‘lacks’’ (Kundera 1986a: 474). Predictably, here Kundera points out the continuity between tsarist absolutism and communist authoritarianism: ‘‘totalitarian Russian civilization’’ is a ‘‘radical negation of the modern West’’; it is a ‘‘singular civilization, an other civilization’’ (Kundera 1984: 222, 218). The brilliance of Kundera’s Orientalism, however, is embodied by a seemingly paradoxical statement, that communism is both a negation and a fulfillment of Russia’s history. It negates Russia’s religiosity, which portrays it as something unnatural, violent, as a rupture in continuity, but it also presents a perfect continuity with its religious spirit and tsarism, symbolizing Russia’s immutable ‘‘irrationality’’ and representing a ‘‘fulfillment of its centralizing tendencies and its imperial dreams’’ (Kundera 1984: 218). In this respect, Russia is excluded from the narrative of European progress and effectively ‘‘othered,’’ as a pre-modern monstrosity, incapable of experiencing development. In the paradigm in which Russia still has the potential to become European, Europe is more explicitly portrayed as a ‘‘culture’’ with some mobility despite geographic barriers. Kundera praises Russia’s attempts to draw closer to Europe in the nineteenth century and at this point includes Russian novelists in the master-narrative of the development of the European novel: ‘‘no one has escaped the impact of the great Russian novels, which remain an integral part of the common European cultural legacy’’ (1984: 218). In The Art of the Novel and elsewhere, he particularly praises Tolstoy, Gogol, and Chekhov as contributors to this legacy, while his attitude toward Dostoevsky is divided. Dostoevsky receives some praise: for instance, The Possessed to Kundera exemplifies a successful polyphonic novel and Dostoevsky can be a non-dogmatic, ‘‘great thinker’’ in his novels (Kundera 1988: 78–79). But Kundera is probably better known for his vitriolic assessment of Dostoevsky in ‘‘An Introduction to a Variation,’’ where Dostoevsky comes to exemplify all that is evil about Russia: his ‘‘universe of overblown gestures, murky depths and aggressive sentimentality’’ symbolizes Russia’s communist ideology and occupation of Czechoslovakia (Kundera 1986a: 469). Somehow, this image of Russian literature dominates over the ‘‘enlightened’’ Chekhovs and the Tolstoys. Although the history of the European novel begins in the West, it predictably ends in the East: ‘‘About half a century ago the history of the novel came to a halt in the empire of Russian Communism’’ (Kundera 1988: 14). The novels written

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under communists by and large do not count; because they promote totalitarian propaganda, they discover nothing new about ‘‘being.’’ They come ‘‘after the history of the novel,’’ placing themselves ‘‘outside that history,’’ symbolizing the way in which Kundera banishes Russia from the narrative of European history (Kundera 1988: 14). While the novel – and, with it, European culture – dies in the communist East, its death is prefigured in what Kundera calls Central European novels, in the era of ‘‘terminal paradoxes of the Modern Era’’ following World War I. Faced with the ‘‘impersonal, uncontrollable, incalculable’’ monster of ‘‘History,’’ Kafka, Musil, Broch, Gombrowicz, and others examine how the very existential categories, such as ‘‘freedom,’’ ‘‘future,’’ or ‘‘crime’’ change their meaning (Kundera 1988: 12). As in Miłosz, Central Europe becomes an exceptional cultural terrain in Europe, both the apogee of its Enlightenment and inheritor of the ‘‘irreverent spirit’’ of Sterne and others and a symbol of the approaching death of Europe. That Kundera, despite his stated cosmopolitan Europeanism, resorts to such a regional-cultural construct – one which also affirms its unspoken complements, Western and Eastern Europe – reveals several crucial concepts in his vision of Europe.5 In grouping in Central European culture the literatures of Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary (and sometimes even Hungarian-Yugoslavs, as is the case with Danilo Kisˇ),6 Kundera attempts to break, but not do away with, the civilizational boundaries between East and West, arguing that Czechoslovakia is more similar to Austria, for instance, than to Russia. This concept is illustrated by his rejection of the (self-)identification of Czechoslovakia with Russia based on the ‘‘the ideology of the Slavic world’’ (note the parallel with Miłosz’s rejection of Poland’s self-identification with ‘‘Slavdom’’) and an alternative identification with other ‘‘small’’ and ‘‘weak’’ Central European nations that used to comprise the Habsburg empire (Kundera 1984: 219). This results in some colonial nostalgia in Kundera when he argues that Central European countries ‘‘blew apart [the Austro-Hungarian] empire in 1918, without realizing that in spite of its inadequacies it was irreplaceable’’ (1984: 219). Additionally, Kundera invests the Czechoslovak experience with European relevance – making it an indisputable part of Europe – when he elevates Central European history to the mirror of future European history. At this point it is appropriate to cite Brodsky’s evaluation of Kundera’s philosophical standpoint: ‘‘Having lived for so long in Eastern Europe (Western Asia to some), it is only natural that Mr. Kundera should want to be more European than the Europeans themselves’’ (Brodsky 1986b: 482). The position of an exile ‘‘also places him at a good vantage point from which to chide the West for betraying its own values (what used to be called European civilization) and for surrendering certain countries that have tried to persevere in that civilization against terrifying odds’’ (Brodsky 1986b: 482). Indeed, Kundera embellishes the image of Bohemia, to use his sentimental nickname for Czechoslovakia, by showing that it is not only indisputably

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European, but also more European than (Western) Europe: the Enlightenment spirit is preserved intact here in the absence of Western-type media and consumerism (so it seems that communists did something right!). But lest we be seduced into thinking that Central Europe is Kundera’s attempt to distance Czechoslovakia from the decadent West, we should pay attention to the second part of Brodsky’s statement. By portraying himself and his country as more European than Europe, Kundera can successfully invoke the guilt of Western Europe for not ‘‘rescuing’’ the enlightened Central Europeans from communism and Russia. Through this invocation of Western guilt, Kundera repeatedly implies that an association with Western culture and politics is something to be desired, despite the West’s alleged abdication to mass media and vulgar consumerism. Predictably, then, Kundera is at pains to prove to his French (or other Western hosts) that Central Europe is ‘‘the eastern border of the West,’’ one of Europe’s ‘‘centers of gravity’’ which is perishing because the West allowed ‘‘Byzantine’’ Russia to establish there the ‘‘uncivilized’’ communist regime (Kundera 1984: 217; Roth 1984: 231). The martyrdom of Czechoslovakia – and Kundera himself – is frequently emphasized by Kundera’s use of sentimental, moral, and seemingly politically neutral language: ‘‘Faced with the eternity of the Russian night, I had experienced in Prague the violent end of Western culture. . . . In a small Western country I experienced the end of the West. That was the grand farewell’’ (Kundera 1986a: 216).

History on speed: ‘‘imagology’’ and the politics of forgetting in Kundera’s Slowness and Ignorance This discourse of victimization, the sentimental, seemingly universal language of morality and common sense, is significant because it places Kundera in alliance with Western discourses about Eastern European communism that rely on an ethical universalism. Chantal Mouffe argues that such discourses have, especially in recent decades, contributed to a moralization of politics through a ‘‘human rights discourse’’: the promotion of liberal democracy (the right to non-oppression), modernization (the right to rise above poverty), and capitalism (the right to be entrepreneurial) as universally correct moral choices (2002: 92). What is problematic about ethical universalism, of course, is that it marginalizes other political and cultural options through a discourse that claims to be apolitical and to rise above any ideology. In Kundera’s novels written after the fall of communist regimes, there is a surprising recognition of the mechanisms of such a ‘‘regime of truth’’7 and the imbalance of power it creates. In Slowness, Kundera’s critique of the ‘‘human rights’’ discourse, paradoxically, also highlights his former complicity with the rhetoric of ethical universalism which has helped occlude his aforementioned pathologizing of communist politics and histories and of Eastern Europe (especially Russia). Slowness discusses ways in which the media aid the commodification and reification of the world’s histories

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through a speedy turnover of images emptied of problematic political content, serving the interests of the Western ‘‘regime of truth’’ as much as those of capital. Focusing on the media reduction of communist histories to images of torture, labor camps, dictatorships, and, worst of all, lack of consumer goods, Kundera points to their consequent erasure within the teleology of globalization and capitalist development. In this sense, it could be said that the fall of communist regimes triggers another age of ‘‘terminal paradoxes’’ that affect Kundera’s own writing: faced with the ‘‘impersonal and uncontrollable’’ Western media and their reductive historicism, his texts move toward a reconsideration of such political categories as communism, democracy, Western Europe, and even Europe (Kundera 1988: 12). As the formerly communist countries, much like Kundera’s dissident status, become increasingly irrelevant to Western political and economic self-promotion, they are removed from the historical spotlight and doomed to invisibility in the media. But this invisibility also covers the ugly spots of economic turmoil and political marginalization euphemized as post-communist transitions to democracy and free trade, as a historic emancipation of Eastern Europe into ‘‘Western Europe (or the European Union, an enterprise that attempts to neutralize Europe’s divisions). In earlier novels, especially The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1980) Kundera has been preoccupied with the preservation of individual memory as a challenge to communist authoritarianism and its politics of forgetting. Slowness parallels this ethical stance by challenging the authority of Western media, which hinges on the logic of speed and watered-down but widely marketable versions of history, the type of a seemingly de-ideologized politics that in Immortality Kundera calls ‘‘imagology.’’ But, unlike Immortality, Slowness also counters this latest form of convenient political forgetting by reclaiming the histories and memories that have been dropped from the prevailing ‘‘regime of truth.’’ Kundera somewhat nostalgically returns to the hovering memories of the communist past. In this sense, by promoting through a widely marketable medium of communication isolated historical images of communist Czechoslovakia, Kundera would seem to replicate the logic of the media, exemplifying the dreaded ‘‘abdication of culture’’ to the ‘‘marketplace’’ and the ‘‘dancing’’ to political and historical cliche´s critiqued in Slowness and elsewhere (1988: 128). I will argue, however, that Kundera’s employment of historical images does not subscribe to the media policy of reductive historicism. Instead, Kundera highlights the essentially discursive, precarious, and protean nature of any historical memory (official or unofficial) in order to undermine its veracity and, consequently, its reification as ‘‘true history.’’ This not only pushes the limits of historical discourse, but challenges the very Eurocentric notion of history as historicity which Chakrabarty finds fault with – and which Kundera himself earlier embraced. Kundera, at this point, challenges the narrative of unified European – now global – development as a ‘‘homogeneous, continuous, self-evident’’ entity, where past, present, and

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future are clearly delineated in terms of capitalist progress, achievement of modernity, increased democracy and social justice (Chakrabarty 2000: 75). Slowness’s treatment of historical memory echoes Walter Benjamin’s argument that memory cannot ‘‘illuminate’’ the definitive truths of the past, nor the totality of any historical moment. Rather, it can help us to reject a causal or teleological understanding of history by establishing ‘‘constellations’’ between the ‘‘what-has-been’’ and ‘‘the time of the now’’ (Benjamin 1999: 462; 1968: 263). Kundera establishes a constellation between the communist past and the present process of capitalist globalization to slow down the turnover of images – and capital – and ‘‘arrest’’ the past as that which, Benjamin says, ‘‘flashes up at a moment of danger,’’ that which illuminates our present discontents (1968: 255). This is an approach to history which eliminates hierarchies between the modern and non-modern, as it sees the past, present, and future as fragmented and mutually permeating categories: the traces of communism coexist with and haunt the narrative of capitalist progress which would relegate communism to its superseded past. Slowness illustrates the dangers of ‘‘dancing’’ to historicist cliche´s as it takes the reader to an international entomology conference in France, where the various ‘‘dancers’’ seek to monopolize public attention. This desire for public approval is blamed for the promotion of imagology because the ‘‘dancers’’ adjust all their statements and actions to reflect the popular cliche´s, the endlessly reproducible simulacra without original substance. Kundera considers the different guises of ‘‘dancing’’ through the Czech scientist Cechoripsky, who makes a fashionably maudlin speech to the conference audience to glorify his (fake) communist martyrdom, the French politician Berck, who ruthlessly rushes from one politically correct action to another to increase his television ratings, and Vincent, who publicly brags about his sexual prowess but ultimately only simulates the act of love-making. Kundera has already employed the metaphor of ‘‘dancing’’ in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting to portray conformism, conviction and angelic innocence as ‘‘dancing in the gigantic ring’’ of like-minded people (1980: 65). The angelic, which Kundera associates with the poetic, sentimental, and irrational, critically depends on a simplistic version of history and on isolated political cliche´s (announcing the reign of imagology). In early novels, the ‘‘dancers,’’ while in love with their public image, also subscribe to a transcendental political ideal: the poet Jaromil of Life Is Elsewhere (Kundera 1986b) is a communist-modernist, an apologist of the ‘‘new,’’ while Franz of The Unbearable Lightness of Being believes in supporting all the liberal causes, in joining ‘‘Europe’s Grand March’’ (Kundera 1991b: 100). It is this belief in neatly packaged utopias that Kundera denounces as naı¨ve and dangerous because it banishes the individual, skeptical, and cynical – ‘‘the Devil’s laughter’’ – from its imagined harmony (1980: 61). By contrast, in Slowness there no longer seems to be even a transcendental ideal that the ‘‘dancers’’ naı¨vely support. Instead, all their effort goes into a regurgitation of the fashionable ethical universals to enhance their transcendentally

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important public standing and to ingratiate themselves with an anonymous audience. Just as the media cannot dwell on any image or event too long, so Berck cannot truly engage with historical singularities. Instead, he superficially glides from one political event to another: in a matter of days, he meets AIDS patients, feeds Somalian children, and supports an insurrection in a (significantly anonymous) Asian country (Kundera 1996: 15–17). Here Kundera again associates ‘‘dancing’’ with the ‘‘angelic’’: ‘‘with his constant exposure to the public, the dancer condemns himself to being irreproachable; he hasn’t made a pact with the Devil like Faust, he’s made one with the Angel’’ (1996: 20). However, this has to do with the angelic appearance of the ‘‘dancer’’ rather than with his/her political idealism. Berck’s indifference to politics is cynical rather than angelic, but it is difficult to unmask this cynicism behind his image of ‘‘decency’’ and ‘‘irreproachability’’ (Kundera 1996: 20). This ‘‘moral judo’’ that Western politicians enter with one another is what, to Kundera, makes any productive criticism of Western liberal democratic politics – and imagology – exceedingly difficult (1996: 18). In another instance of the moralization of politics, powerful leaders capitalize on the supposedly universally desirable moral qualities like courage, sincerity, self-sacrifice, and, as we have seen recently, family ˇ izˇek observes, achieving this image renders liberal values. As Slavoj Z democracy a political master-signifier, discrediting other political options (and politicians) as fanatic or intolerant and, more importantly, making morally acceptable even a ‘‘Fascist with a human face’’ (2002: 82). Berck does not at first appear as a ‘‘Fascist with a human face’’ because Kundera declares him to be uninterested in imposing ‘‘this or that social scheme on the world (he couldn’t care less about that).’’ Rather, Berck’s interests are purely narcissistic: he wants to ‘‘take over the stage so as to beam forth his self’’ (Kundera 1996: 18). This resonates with an assertion in Immortality that ‘‘the wheels of imagology turn without having any effect upon history’’ (Kundera 1991a: 115). Commenting on this statement, Stephen Ross concludes that the ‘‘ideological role of imagology has been utterly superseded by imagology’s self-referentiality’’ and history has become a matter of television ratings (2000: 336). But this does not seem to bear out: in Immortality Kundera hints at ways in which Berck’s empty universals may indeed affect the treatment of world events. ‘‘Because people in the West are not threatened by concentration camps’’ their promotion of ‘‘human rights’’ loses concrete content and prevents them from seeking political and historical depth behind the media images: ‘‘human rights’’ become a ‘‘universal stance of everyone toward everything’’ (Kundera 1996: 136). Also, in Slowness, Berck comes to resemble a Fascist leader when we learn that he has no qualms about sacrificing others to the causes he superficially promotes: he remains safe behind his media image while the anonymous people whom he has inspired to political action sign petitions, demonstrate in the streets and are in consequence ‘‘treated ruthlessly’’ (Kundera 1996: 19).

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The problem with imagology, therefore, is not only that it is superficial and indifferent to complexity as it flaunts seemingly facile, universalist moral ideals said to transcend any ideology. Its aspiration towards universal currency, Kundera shows in Slowness, in fact perpetrates an ideological violence over marginalized histories and political options by declaring the Western, liberal-democratic, capitalist ‘‘regime of truth’’ to be a universal ‘‘regime of truth.’’ To convey his argument, Kundera focuses on the marginalization of communist histories through their reduction to interchangeable allegories of oppression within the discourse of ethical universalism, which poses again as a political master-signifier. We can see this mechanism at work in Kundera’s portrayal of the hapless Czech scientist Cechoripsky, who internalizes the commodified, fetishized images of oppression in communist Czechoslovakia and continually reproduces them for his French hosts at the entomology conference. Basking in the spotlight afforded by his dissident status he masters the seemingly apolitical and neutral jargon of imagology: he moves the audience emotionally as he describes how he lost his job in 1968 and was ‘‘deprived of the very meaning of his life’’ (Kundera 1996: 55). That these pre-approved images may not do justice to his actual experience is emphasized by the revelation that his very communist victimization is a simulation, an adjustment of history to unambiguously reflect this image: Cechoripsky was relegated to construction labor not because he heroically opposed communist oppression, but because he was too scared to turn down dissident friends who had involved him in a dangerous scheme. The oppressiveness of the fetishized image of communist martyrdom becomes clear, however, when Cechoripsky realizes that this is all his audiences are prepared to digest. As such, it obscures the singularity of Czechoslovakia’s history, like the singularity of his own experience. If he wants his voice to be heard at all outside of his country, he must keep invoking his fake memories as his international colleagues lose interest in what happens in Bohemia after the fall of communism. Although ‘‘he represents a new period of history, after Communism has gone off into the mists of time,’’ his attempts to discuss the Czech Republic outside of the context of Eastern Europe and as an emancipated democratic, Western country fall on deaf ears (Kundera 1996: 46). Cechoripsky, whose very name stems from Czech national folklore,8 continually tries to uphold the Czech singularity by beginning conversations with ‘‘In our country on the other hand,’’ yet he is persistently silenced in these attempts, either because he is literally interrupted by his French colleagues or because his ‘‘tragedy’’ becomes interchangeable with that of the other unwitting communist brethren (for instance, Berck repeatedly mistakes him for a Pole or a Hungarian) (Kundera 1996: 46). Kundera suggests that the status of historical exceptionality promoted by the culture industry is precarious and fleeting. Cechoripsky’s elevation to ‘‘the great stage of history’’ during the Prague Spring of 1968 – the ‘‘Planetary Historic News Event par excellence’’ – becomes unexceptional when this moment is relativized as just another world crisis, similar to all others

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and swiftly replaced by a new moment of crisis (Kundera 1996: 53). As Cechoripsky represses the complexities of historical memory and adopts the language of imagology, he enters the global pageant of misery parading before Western audiences: In a sudden flash, his whole past appears to him not as a sublime adventure, rich in dramatic and unique events, but as a minuscule segment in a jumble of events that crossed the planet at a speed that made it impossible to see their features, so much so that maybe Berck was right to take him for a Hungarian or a Pole, because maybe he really is Hungarian, Polish, or maybe Turkish, Russian, or even a dying child in Somalia. When things happen too fast, nobody can be certain about anything, about anything at all, not even about himself. (Kundera 1996: 114) What thus emerges behind the seemingly neutral discourse of ethical universalism that endorses some and condemns other political events is the unstated power hierarchy between ‘‘France’’ and ‘‘not-France,’’ to use as a metaphor the simplistic division said to represent Berck’s understanding of the world (Kundera 1996: 17). In Cechoripsky’s case, this hierarchy can also be formulated as one between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, as he has no power to change the terms on which Czech history is understood in Western public forums. Rather, he must accept both these divisions and discourses that validate them if he wants to be heard. Indeed, Kundera’s description of Cechoripsky’s predicament sounds selfreflexive: it recalls his own complicity with the discourses of ethical universalism and the political hierarchies that they occlude. When Cechoripsky tries to prove to his French audiences that Czechs are civilized (Western), it almost sounds like a parody of Kundera’s own intellectual position. Despite Cechoripsky’s marketing of Czech historical cultural achievements through ‘‘Jan Hus, Luther’s precursor’’ and ‘‘Charles University . . . the first university to be established in the Holy Roman Empire,’’ Berck does not allow for the grouping of the Czech Republic with Western Europe: ‘‘My dear colleague, don’t be ashamed of coming from the East’’ (Kundera 1996: 64–65). There is a recognition at this moment that Cechoripsky, like Kundera, cannot set the terms of this discourse – also the discourse of Western media – but rather only operate within it by trying to move from the marginalized position (Eastern Europe) to the privileged position (Western Europe). However, as Berck’s statement attests, the success of this move does not depend on Czechs alone, but also on the willingness of the French to recognize it. By comparison, whether the ‘‘not-France’’ will escape its misery and be emancipated into universal human rights depends on the willingness of ‘‘France’’ to acknowledge this emancipation. This is aptly illustrated by an anecdote from Kundera’s own life as an exile in the West: Philip Roth edited a series of books by Eastern Europeans under the title ‘‘Writers from the Other

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Europe,’’ and the title remained despite Kundera’s protests and claims that Czechoslovakia has always been part of ‘‘The Occident’’ (Misurella 1987: 51– 52). By highlighting this hierarchical structure, as well as the discursive nature of such historical reifications as Eastern and Western Europe, Slowness points to the need to question the seeming neutrality of other contemporary imagological fetishes, such as democracy or human rights, for instance. In order to challenge the discourse of imagology, Kundera argues, one must arrest its images before they are pushed into the media oblivion and retrieve the complex historical and political meanings dropped from the official ‘‘regime of truth.’’ When Cechoripsky realizes the dangers of having become a voluntary icon of communist oppression exploited by the West, he asserts control over the narration of history and articulates a memory that disturbs the reified images of communism. To Berck’s praise of him for valiantly resisting oppression in ‘‘all those cities of the East that have just emerged from an enormous concentration camp,’’ Cechoripsky replies: ‘‘‘Don’t say ‘concentration camp.’ We often lost our jobs, but we weren’t in camps’’ (Kundera 1996: 64). Shortly after revising the portrayal of Czech communism as carceral martyrdom, Cechoripsky thinks back to another moment that presents a contrast to his discomfort among the Western intellectuals. Remembering his days in forced construction labor he thinks, ‘‘To tell the truth, he was a hundred times happier than he is today in this chaˆteau. The workmen used to call him Einstein and they were fond of him’’ (Kundera 1996: 80). Predictably, Berck does not acknowledge this revision, in a similar way to that in which the media, despite attempts to feature ‘‘other’’ perspectives, cannot truly hear the marginalized, subaltern narratives of history and thus preclude a radical intervention into a discourse they promote. But this is not to be desired, Kundera suggests, as any complicity with the discourse of imagology leads to the editing and reification of history on the terms set by Western media, simultaneously turning it into a fleeting, easily replaceable image. As someone who understands Cechoripsky’s plight and may have been a victim of a similar imagological marginalization, Slowness’s narratorauthor ‘‘Milanek,’’ presumably referencing Kundera ‘‘himself,’’ thus addresses the disillusioned scientist: My dear countryman, companion . . . Stop torturing yourself! . . . Be happy you are forgotten. Snuggle into the soft shawl of universal amnesia. Stop thinking about the laughter that wounded you – it no longer exists . . . just as your years on the scaffoldings and your glory as a victim of persecution no longer exist. (Kundera 1996: 115) Cechoripsky’s moment of glory in the media has necessarily become outdated. His effort to keep the spotlight of public attention on the official image of communist persecution is not only futile, but also tantamount to fighting for a simulacrum, to ‘‘dancing’’ to the tune of historicist reductivism.

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What is productive in a more radical way is retrieving memories behind the arrested image that resist translation into the official narrative of communist persecution or the human rights discourse. Cechoripsky’s alternative memories thus approximate what Dipesh Chakrabarty (2000) terms ‘‘affective history,’’ one which exists parallel to the linear narratives of capital and development (i.e. ‘‘analytic history’’) but both complements and exceeds them.9 Significantly, therefore, Cechoripsky’s memories remain either unsaid or ‘‘unheard.’’ This attitude toward history seems to bear out Kundera’s ideal that the novel is essentially ambiguous and incompatible with any ‘‘Totalitarian truth,’’ which in this case can be interpreted as a totalitarian, masternarrative of history (1988: 14). Unlike a history book which purports to tell ‘‘about the events that have taken place,’’ a novel invokes historical events, but uses them to create ‘‘a map of existence by discovering this or that human possibility . . . Both the character and his world must be understood as possibilities’’ (Kundera 1988: 42). But Cechoripsky’s alternate memories of the communist past do not contain any more truth than the official historical narrative. They continually shift and contradict each other as they are affected by his feeling of displacement among Western colleagues. Kundera thus suggests that the reconstruction and interpretation of the past are inevitably flawed, but also that this reconstruction hinges on the perspective of the present. For Benjamin, this re-visioning of the past in a ‘‘constellation’’ with the present is positive because it prevents either from becoming ossified knowledge or a linear narrative (Benjamin 1968: 263). On the one hand, then, Cechoripsky’s memories carry potential as Kundera’s ‘‘possibilities’’: they challenge the media’s claim to truth by contradicting the simplified images and by underscoring their own unstable and fragmentary nature. In addition, Cechoripsky’s surprisingly nostalgic remembrance of his days of forced labor supplements, as well as exceeds, the official narrative of communist oppression, but, more importantly, exposes his dismissal and depoliticization in the post-communist era. Cechoripsky’s memories haunt his global invisibility and insignificance not to illuminate the past but to haunt the present with its critical perspective. While Slowness exposes the discourse of ethical universalism that appropriates Eastern Europe and communist histories through teleologies of capitalist globalization and insists on ‘‘affective histories’’ and a dynamic treatment of historical narratives, Kundera’s novel Ignorance exposes the related economic appropriation of Eastern Europe by (primarily) Western capital and rethinks the legacy of communism in light of the new situation. In this novel, too, Kundera’s deliberations on the status of an emigrant communist dissident in the post-communist era sound like a self-reflexive defense against claims, East and West, that he is not a real dissident because he ‘‘cowardly’’ escaped to the West or else that he is not a real patriot because he did not ‘‘bravely’’ return to his post-1989 liberated homeland. Through the characters of Czech e´migre´s Irena and Josef, Kundera exposes

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the social condemnation of their decisions to remain in France and Denmark, respectively, even after 1989 and debunks the myths of a martyred, nostalgic dissident, of the homeland and of the yearning for stolen freedom – the myths that Kundera himself exploited. Back in the Czech Republic for a brief visit, Irena critiques the solipsism of her Prague circle and realizes that she would have to ‘‘amputate’’ her life abroad, ‘‘lay it on the altar of the homeland and set fire to it’’ (Kundera 2002: 45). She rejects the myth of the ‘‘Great Return’’ of the dissident, arguing that it is false to assume that a homeland is necessarily yearned for, or favored over exile (Kundera 2002: 45). Josef’s emigration is reinterpreted as an act of bravery rather than, as is assumed by his Czech friends and family, cowardice: Josef ‘‘desertion’’ stems from his urge to actively resist the Soviet occupation in 1968 and from his disappointment that this urge is not shared by his compatriots. Here Kundera further complicates the reified understanding of the political plight of an anti-communist exile: Josef’s emigration is caused by political reasons, but, more importantly, by personal reasons. He has no fond memories of his childhood and youth and thus he crosses the border ‘‘with a brisk step and with no regrets’’ (Kundera 2002: 76). The myth of the ‘‘Great Return’’ acquires a somewhat insidious meaning in France, where Irena is similarly expected to rush back to the Czech Republic after the Soviet Union unexpectedly crumbles and her lament to her friends that ‘‘Dictators are perishable, Russia is eternal’’ suddenly loses its tragic edge (Kundera’s satiric deflation of his earlier Orientalist statements?) (2002: 12). Irena is expected to play the part of the anti-regime emigrant to the end. Like Cechoripsky, she feels imprisoned by the prefabricated images of Eastern European communism which downplay the singularity of her experience: ‘‘[The French] were already thoroughly informed that Stalinism was an evil and emigration is a tragedy. They weren’t interested in what we thought, they were interested in us as a living proof of what they thought’’ (Kundera 2002: 169). When she refuses to ‘‘confirm [her] suffering by [her] joyous return to the homeland,’’ the French sour toward her because she has betrayed their expectations (Kundera 2002: 169). Like Kundera, who cannot escape criticism for not being a dissident who remains or a patriot who returns, Irena is similarly haunted by the pressures to return to Prague now that communism is over, if she couldn’t remain there while communists were in power. In both cases, Czech emigrants are desirable, Ignorance implies, so long as they serve as a confirmation of Western generosity to those less lucky to be born into enlightened, democratic regimes. However, they are never allowed to fully forget their homeland, i.e. to become French, European, or cosmopolitan, the identification that Kundera has long sought. It is this mechanism of identity containment that unearths the discrimination behind the myth of cosmopolitan Europe in Ignorance. While Irena’s husband Gustaf, a Swedish emigrant to France, is considered a ‘‘nice, very cosmopolitan Scandinavian who’s already forgotten all about the place he comes from,’’ she is seen as ‘‘a young woman in pain, banished

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from her country’’ (Kundera 2002: 24). Kundera implies that not all emigrants are allowed to be equally cosmopolitan, or are equally desirable. When the return of the banished does take place, there is no homeland to speak of, not only in terms of Josef’s and Irena’s personal feelings of alienation, but also in terms of the economic and political landscape that they encounter. The disenchantment with Western Europe’s ‘‘rescue’’ of Eastern Europe, with the transitions toward the free market and democracy, is never as overt as in Ignorance, where the transformation of Prague exemplifies the betrayal of Kundera’s belief in civilized European traditions. The notion of Europe is deromanticized and the emphasis shifts from an adulation of European democratic freedoms and enlightened traditions of intellectual play and subversiveness to a critique of the far more mundane economic dependency and renewed classism which Europe promotes in its newly liberated lands. To Irena, this new, flashy Prague of abundant consumer choices is the stark, demystified, and desexualized entertainment park, paralleling the desexualization of her relationship with Gustaf, who knows and is interested in only this aspect of Prague. Gustaf feels generous when he opens an office in Prague despite its ‘‘limited commercial appeal’’; he is portrayed as a traveler, as a child ‘‘wandering dazzled through an amusement park,’’ oblivious to the desperation of its inhabitants who eagerly ‘‘await applause on the world’s proscenium’’ (Kundera 2002: 23, 94–95). This portrayal of Prague implies its utter dependence on and servility – ‘‘dancing’’ – to the Western capital arriving in the guise of Gustaf, who loves Prague restaurants but ignores the fact that they are so expensive that Irena’s ‘‘friends can’t set foot in them,’’ and who enjoys the spectacle of the ‘‘belly-dancing Prague’’ but can’t see it ‘‘writhing in the spotlight’’ of Western attention (Kundera 2002: 136). It is only appropriate that Kundera names this Prague ‘‘Gustaftown. Gustafville. Gustafstadt,’’ signaling a type of colonization and appropriation (2002: 136). The anxiety that Prague is reduced to an exotic background against which the rich fulfill their fantasies of adventurous generosity also permeates the statement that Prague is all ‘‘dressed up’’ in ‘‘English signs and labels,’’ that everyone involved in the new businesses interacts in English and that Czech is ‘‘no more than an impersonal murmur, a background of sound against which only Anglo-American phonemes [stand] forth as human words’’ (Kundera 2002: 95). This appropriation is traced throughout the city, as Josef observes the multicultural propaganda on commercial billboards: the white hand clasping the black hand proclaims the adoption of the ‘‘slogans of the new age: brotherhood of all races; mingling of all cultures; unity of everything, of everybody’’ (Kundera 2002: 73). Here again the imagological discourse of ethical universalism creeps in, with its ‘‘universal stance of everyone toward everything’’ (Kundera 1991a: 136). It is culturally meaningless, as in the Czech Republic ‘‘people hardly knew that blacks even existed,’’ as well as cynical, as it skims over the deep

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divisions and the lack of ‘‘brotherhood’’ in Prague itself (Kundera 2002: 73). Josef compares the multicultural slogans to the communist slogans portraying the Czech and Russian workers holding hands, another ideal that made light of the antagonisms of Soviet occupation. In this sense, the ‘‘liberation’’ from communism does not present a qualitative alternative to the Soviets; indeed, it is only worse in intensity. ‘‘The Soviet empire collapsed because it could no longer hold down the nations that wanted their independence,’’ Josef comments, ‘‘But those nations – they’re less independent than ever now. They can’t choose their own economy or their own foreign policy or even their own advertising slogans’’ (Kundera 2002: 155). As in Slowness, a turn toward the past becomes a line of flight, a critique haunting and haunted by the present more than a yearning to write a ‘‘true’’ master-narrative of Czech history. To escape the Prague that is a tourist hotspot with a set of commodified cultural symbols for Western consumption, Kundera finds potential in several historical periods: predictably, in the pre1968 Prague, but also the Prague that comes into being before the communists and at the turn of the twentieth century, culminating in the Masaryk era before World War II. To Irena it is this Prague that is safe from Gustaf as it has no commercial appeal: the modest, idyllic Prague of the little houses of the ‘‘Czech lower middle class’’ (Kundera 2002: 133). This Prague is imagined to harbor the intimacy and the kindness that Paris lacks, despite its ideals of ‘‘fraternity’’ and ‘‘equality’’: Irena shudders at the ‘‘chilly geometry of [Paris] avenues; pridefulness of the Champs-Elysees’’ (Kundera 2002: 133). This lack of intimacy is now also spreading in the exotic, tourist Prague, with the arrogance of the nouveau riche, and this situation colors Irena’s idealization of the erstwhile, poetic Prague of writers and intellectuals, of Macha and Jan Neruda, of Hrabal and Skvorecky (Kundera 2002: 135–36). It is not accidental that in Ignorance these two past eras are idealized as the ones whose crushed potentials Kundera attempts to revive. Culturally, Kundera the modernist frequently idealizes the ‘‘age of terminal paradoxes’’ and its intellectual fruits preceding the bloodshed of World War II and sees a rebirth of this spirit in the Prague Spring (1988: 12). His praise of the imagined modesty and intimacy of the old lower middle classes and, later, of the Prague Spring belief in a socialist democracy points to a desire for social egalitarianism and solidarity felt to be missing from the world that the returning Czech expats encounter in contemporary Prague. Perhaps most importantly, this desire is linked with the need for Czech independence, as Kundera believes that both past moments are unsullied by Nazi, Soviet, or global capital occupation. In this respect, there is a reconsideration of communist ideals in constellation with the new situation, recalling the one in Slowness, even as the characters are careful to renounce the label communist or to portray the former communist regime as an uncontested evil, facilitator of Soviet occupation. Ignorance points to a possibility of repeating and revising these ideals, extricating them from the history of

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Soviet occupation and using them to critique the new economic dependency on Western capital. At the same time, they provide a way to oppose the reestablishment of classism and privatization and to renew the relevance of those left behind in the chaos of the transitions. As we have seen earlier, Kundera has frequently pathologized communism as just another radical ideology, embraced by egomaniacs East and West and signaling a grotesque decline of Europe. In Ignorance Josef symptomatically states that communism had ‘‘nothing to do with Marx or his theories; it was simply a way to fulfill the most diverse psychological needs’’ (Kundera 2002: 154). But Josef also uncharacteristically wonders whether communism has had some social value after all: some people hated communists not because they were dictatorial and negated the right to free expression (the stock evil denounced in Kundera’s earlier novels), but because they ‘‘disputed the sacred right to property’’ (Kundera 2002: 142). That ‘‘the sacred right to property’’ should have been challenged particularly becomes apparent when Josef witnesses the ‘‘very swift, harsh reestablishment of capitalism,’’ ‘‘the rebirth of a class society with a bourgeoisie that was rich, entrepreneurial and positioned to set the national economy going’’ despite their fraudulent recuperation of former properties (Kundera 2002: 153, 58). In a similar gesture of rejecting the title communist yet employing communist rhetoric, Irena’s friend Milada wonders if the demise of the communist regime, as flawed as it was, also signals the demise of the possibility of any politics of social egalitarianism. Milada switched from a communist supporter to the party critic and member of the dissident movement, but she is bitter that ‘‘after forty years of Communism, the bourgeoisie landed on its feet again in just a few days’’ (Kundera 2002: 164). The communist regime betrayed many of the ideals it proclaimed; however, it still created the potential for thinking beyond the politics of private property and class divisions. For Milada, the real disenchantment comes with its fall, when, ‘‘as if waking from a dream, she turns back into what she was when she started: an aging girl from a poor family’’ (Kundera 2002: 165). Ignorance presents the reader with the following problem: how can a person with no knowledge of the future understand the meaning of the present? If we do not know what future the present is leading us toward, how can we say whether this present is good or bad, whether it deserves our concurrence, or our suspicion, or our hatred? (Kundera 2002: 144) This quandary illustrates the understanding of time in both Slowness and Ignorance: every historic moment remains dynamic and is considered from the perspective of what follows it, in constellation with a future moment. In this way, the present–future process of the EUropeanization of so-called Eastern Europe ‘‘is not a transition’’ but slows down, coming to a ‘‘stop,’’

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arrested in Kundera’s gesture of contemplation. This is what Benjamin terms the ‘‘Messianic’’ time, which redeems the past and ‘‘blasts open the continuum of history,’’ severing the linear progression between the past and the future and making both unstable and open-ended (Benjamin 1968: 262). In Slowness, by establishing ‘‘constellations’’ between the present era and a ‘‘definite earlier one’’ of the communist Czechoslovakia, Kundera subverts the notion of historical causality, linearity, or teleology, the tools used, as Benjamin notes, to fill the ‘‘homogeneous, empty time’’ of history – the historicist narratives promoted by the media and containing, as Chakrabarty has argued, a decidedly Eurocentric colonial impulse to ‘‘translate’’ global experiences into its own terminology (Benjamin 1968: 263). Cechoripsky’s fond memories of communist ‘‘martyrdom’’ help redeem this past moment under erasure in the teleological narratives of globalization and discourses of ethical universalism. Ignorance goes a step further: it does not merely extricate the memory of a communist regime from the discourse that would pathologize it as a deviation from modern, democratic, enlightened European traditions; it also calls for a critical reflection on the value of a communist impulse in relation to the occupation first by Soviets and then by Western capital in the process of Europeanization. In reconsidering the past, however, Kundera undermines any facile idealization of a past moment or a nostalgic yearning for its imagined plenitudes. To use Svetlana Boym’s distinction between ‘‘reflective’’ and ‘‘restorative’’ nostalgia, Kundera engages in a ‘‘reflective’’ nostalgia which is ‘‘ironic and humorous,’’ appreciates the ‘‘shattered fragments’’ of the past and accommodates ‘‘compassion, judgment, or critical reflection’’ (Boym 2001: 50). ‘‘Restorative’’ nostalgia, by contrast, is devoid of humor – ‘‘it takes itself dead seriously’’ – and insists on piecing together the ‘‘shattered fragments’’ of history in order to ‘‘conquer and spatialize’’ time (Boym 2001: 49). In Slowness, Kundera’s nostalgia retrieves a past potential that he believes humanity has lost through a playful, devilish rather than angelic, reflection on the possibility of reclaiming ‘‘being’’ from the uncontrollable forces of history, from the media control over history. Cechoripsky’s shifty, fragmented memories fruitfully undermine the notion that it is possible to access genuine social content or recreate historical plenitudes. In Ignorance, the legacy of communism is portrayed as complex and contradictory and the emphasis is on examining this legacy and asking questions about it from the perspective of the present, rather than on accepting easy answers (on one end of the spectrum, systematically rejecting it to become global, and, on the other end, seeking to restore the past ‘‘as it really was’’). Thus avoiding the restorative impulse, Kundera also avoids the totalitarian gesture of ‘‘conquering and spatializing’’ the future through either the myth of shattered communist glory or the myth of European prosperity and security.

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Europe’s ‘‘fanatical moderate’’: Gu¨nter Grass and liberal discourse in crisis In his incisive study of Gu¨nter Grass’s works and ideas, Michael Hollington describes Grass as a ‘‘fanatical moderate’’ when it comes to politics (1980: 131). Although Grass frequently identifies himself with the values of the Enlightenment – tolerance, respect for the other, rational consideration of all sides of an argument – he often, Hollington asserts, ‘‘reveals himself as surprisingly intolerant’’ (1980: 131). Indeed, Grass has habitually equated communism with Nazism in terms of ideological extremism, and capitalist with communist regimes in terms of imperialist pretensions and lack of social democracy and tolerance. Claiming to steer clear of all of these ‘‘extreme’’ choices yet remaining politically somewhere in between, Grass places himself in the category of socialist democrats, allegedly opting for tolerance and solidarity in lieu of exploitation and/or dictatorship. This exemplifies his ideal of a politically engaged author: while he has meticulously developed the image of himself as a mouthpiece for public conscience in post-World War II Germany, he has also underscored the responsibility of writers to openly critique any extremist politics. He equally blames Weimar writers for ‘‘failing to stand up’’ to National Socialism and German Democratic Republic (GDR) writers for failing to stand up to the communist regime (Grass 1974: 136–37). It is this unabashed adoption of the role of social commentator that inspires Elisabeth Finne and Wes Blomster (1981) to consider whether Grass is a representative German author.10 While Hollington believes that Grass’s adherence to the ‘‘outdated’’ liberal humanist tradition makes him somewhat old-fashioned from the 1970s onward, Finne and Blomster see precisely this political allegiance as relevant – and representative – for modern-day Germany, torn by conflicts between the Left and Right and largely lacking a moderate, liberal perspective from which to consider the Nazi past (1981: 299). This assessment seems to coincide with the self-image that Grass has promoted for almost five decades since World War II: a common denominator of German contradictions, content to appear as a leftist to the Right and as an establishment liberal to the Left, but guilty of no extremist crime (except for a much lamented spell in the Hitler Youth). Unlike Kundera, who represses his extremist past altogether, Grass has solicited sympathy through untiring self-reflection. Grass’s tortured confession in the recent autobiography Peeling the Onion (2007) that he was, in fact, a voluntary member of the Waffen SS combat unit at the end of the war is thus widely seen as a betrayal of his democratic image, a disclosure which also brings into question the validity of his earlier self-reflection. However, Peeling the Onion is not quite a qualitative shift from Grass’s earlier tendencies to work through the difficult questions surrounding the event of Nazism. I would argue that the memoir does not even perform a shift in Grass’s earlier treatment of Nazism, the importance and horror of

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which Grass has in a way downplayed by problematically equating it, as I have implied, with Eastern European communism. Nazism, therefore, is not a singularity, but rather a manifestation of a seemingly apolitical, metaphysical concept of ‘‘extremism’’ that can happen to anyone, including Grass. Because of this, I will not focus on Grass’s ‘‘surprising’’ extremist crime. The less apparent – but more significant – crime that Grass is guilty of, I will attempt to show in this section, is the fanatical moderation, in Hollington’s words, which importantly establishes the ‘‘tolerant’’ cohabitation of democracy and capitalism as a European ideal and political master-signifier. Like Kundera, Grass enshrines a unified narrative of European historical development and, similarly engaging in a nostalgia for the European Enlightenment, traces the excesses of both capitalism and communism as distortions of this ideal. Yet, his texts subtly imply that Western European capitalist democracies contain potential for renewing this historical-cultural ideal more than Eastern European communist states. Grass’s fascination with the intellectual fruits of the Enlightenment is comparable to Kundera’s and throughout his oeuvre he develops a veritable myth of origins, establishing the Enlightenment as a source of all the positive cultural and historical values in Europe. A fellow admirer of Voltaire, Montaigne, and Diderot, Grass laments the corruption of what he sees as the original spirit of the Enlightenment: ‘‘human capacity for comedy and therefore, victory’’ in spite of the ‘‘horrifying social conditions’’ (Grass and Bourdieu 2000: 26). The noble ideals of the Enlightenment – reason, tolerance, individual rights – have been lost with the development of both communism and capitalism, ‘‘the two charmingly spoiled children of the Enlightenment’’ (Grass and Bourdieu 2000: 26). Thus, although the Enlightenment introduced light into scholastic dogmatism, ‘‘When the light finally did brighten things up, it turned out to be the light of cold reason, limited to the technically doable, to economic and social progress’’ (Grass 2000: 10). The aforementioned children that embody this cold reason, to Grass, are little more than siblings, which becomes particularly evident in the Cold War era, when the Western and Eastern blocs share an imperialist agenda (US interventions in Nicaragua and Vietnam are often compared to Soviet interventions in Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan), an essentially capitalist economy (private versus state capitalism), and similar abuses of human rights (Grass frequently writes about the persecution of Jews and Kashubians as the obscene underside of both capitalist and communist states, both Western Germany and Eastern Poland). The insistence on tolerance of otherness and full democracy leads Grass to conclude that both sides in the Cold War have betrayed democracy, justifying this by boosting security measures against each other. While the communist regimes never fail to earn Grass’s criticism for destroying democracy, the democratic regimes are occasionally also taken to task on similar grounds. Notable here is Grass’s denunciation of the American establishment of a military dictatorship in Greece, all the more outrageous

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to Grass since ‘‘Greece is Europe,’’ a ‘‘birthplace’’ of democracy to which he turns as a grateful student (Grass 1985: 119). This seeming leveling of capitalist and communist regimes in the Cold War era resulted in a notorious comment at the 1986 PEN Congress panel on the disappearance of utopia: ‘‘Is capitalism better than Gulag communism? I don’t think so’’ (Fuchs 1992: 57). The remark followed a rejoinder to Saul Bellow’s praise of the freedoms of American democracy, that millions of Americans have no access to democratic freedoms, primarily impoverished African-American labor and the unemployed (Fuchs 1992: 51). Indeed, Grass’s concern with labor rights and unions both East and West has earned him the title of a dangerously antagonistic leftist, while he himself has never advocated anything beyond liberal reformism within the already existing structures.11 He has criticized the increasing bureaucratization and regimentation of labor, the world of the ‘‘conveyor belt,’’ and the utopia of ‘‘absolute busyness’’ in modern industrialized societies, calling for melancholy and skepticism in the face of state-orchestrated propaganda of worker/consumer happiness in both the Soviet Union and the United States (Grass 1973: 300). For the Western part, he observes how the conveyor belt mentality leads to a ‘‘lack of human contact,’’ and concludes: ‘‘We have communication problems, suffer from egocentrism and narcissism, are frustrated by information glut and loss of environment; we stagnate despite the rising G.N.P.’’ (Grass 1973: 297). Furthermore, Western industrialized countries are charged with irresponsibility towards the environment and towards impoverishment and overpopulation in the Third World (exemplary here is Show Your Tongue (1988), Grass’s account of travels through Calcutta). In collusion with power circles in Third World countries, West German, American, and Japanese corporations engage in bribery and destroy the environment, ‘‘thinking of quicker profits’’ (Grass 1985: 58). But even though Grass advocates the reform of capitalism, its ‘‘humanization’’ so to speak, he never advocates its abolition, or tries to think beyond the trappings of a capitalist economy. In this sense, communist experiments are in a no-win situation in his writings. On the one hand, when capitalism is portrayed in a negative light and in need of reform, communist systems turn out to be but a bad, inferior, imitation of capitalism, state capitalism versus private capitalism. In this paradigm, communist regimes are accused of being an insufficiently radical departure from capitalism, primarily in terms of the production process and distribution of property. As a result, ‘‘Neither the American dream nor the ideology of the Eastern Bloc offers any perspective for the future. In the Soviet Union no one believes it any longer. Both are just systems of authority’’ (Osterle and Mosse 1984: 132). Grass reduces the singularity of both capitalist and communist regimes as he upholds an abstract common denominator. He employs a discriminatory discourse in which the manifestations of communism are the same as capitalism, the main point of comparison, but yet

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not quite like capitalism in that they lack consumer choices, the level of productivity, and – most importantly – democracy. On the other hand, rather than being an insufficient departure from the rational, utilitarian logic of capitalism, communist regimes become manifestations of an irrational, radical, vulgar politics, alien to both the capitalism and liberal reformism that Grass favors. Thus they are even further removed from the legacies of the European Enlightenment: excluded from the narrative of a unified European development, they are ‘‘othered’’ as non-European (with implicit Orientalist attributes) and decidedly nonmodern. In this paradigm Grass considers mostly the political and ideological characteristics of extant communist regimes, but at the same time denounces any communist strategy or theory, which he equates with violence, idealism, and revolution. Here capitalism is seen as negative, but necessary – anyone who dreams about a world without capitalism is simply unrealistic and promotes dangerous utopias. Although Grass believes in increased worker participation in all spheres of life as an alternative to the flaws of state capitalism and private capitalism,12 capitalism and socialism must exist side by side as they ‘‘influence and condition each other’’ (1974: 78). Predictably, then, Grass dismisses any initiative to think outside the logic of capitalism as impossible and any attempt to think beyond the logic of liberal democracy as simply sinful. The communist regimes, particularly the existence of Stalinist gulags and several key events in East Germany (the suppression of the workers’ uprising in 1953 and the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961), have provided Grass with abundant material for dismissing the validity of such regimes for their isolationism, encroachment upon citizens’ rights, and intolerance of dissent. He equally despises any communist politics in its Western manifestations, implying that it bears the same violent, dictatorial impulse which gave birth to the regimes in the East. While Grass, to an extent, participated in student protests in 1968 and supported the students’ demands for reform and opposition to the war in Vietnam, he was repulsed by those protesters who believed that ‘‘revolution may break up tomorrow’’, as well as by the subsequent radical strategies of the Baader-Meinhoff group (Osterle and Mosse 1984: 128; Finne and Blomster 1981: 562). Grass describes such strategies as irresponsible, immature, and, at best, romantic: symptomatic here is his criticism of the fetishized images of Che Guevara during the protests of 1968 (Grass 1969: 137). The cult of guerrilla warfare, to Grass, only distracts people from dealing with ‘‘reality,’’ that is, the promotion of liberal democracy in the German Federal Republic (Mews 1985–86: 7). The New Left, from which Grass distances himself, is seen as similarly immature in its persistence in communist politics – the Prague Spring demands for reform and democracy ‘‘had taught these people nothing’’; in contrast, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), for which Grass campaigned arduously, understands the necessity of combining socialism with democracy (Grass 1985: 44–45).

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In effect, Grass reduces communist politics to a romantic and immature dabbling in revolution, characteristic of histrionic would-be bohemians. He thus furthers hierarchies between European rationality, maturity, realism, on the one hand, and non-European irrationality, childlike immaturity, and romanticism, on the other. Like Kundera, he ascribes such politics to a personal pathology: in his writings, communists are inevitably the youthful offspring of the bored bourgeoisie, ‘‘sons of too-good family who go into ecstasies about the proletariat; soured pedagogues who stretch their idealistic soup with a shot of Marxism; daughters of the upper classes on the lookout for an exclusive left-wing tennis club’’ (Grass 1973: 43). They ‘‘prestidigitate subjective wrong into objective right’’ and the fight for freedom, for them, is a romantic escape from the drudgery of everyday family and work life (Grass 1973: 78; 1969: 27). Significantly, Grass rarely historicizes, rarely specifies; he never explicitly applies his theories to Russia, Cuba, or China, for instance, to show how and why the communist takeover happened in those locales, or tests out his ‘‘radical chic’’ hypothesis. But he assumes a patronizing attitude towards supporters of leftist politics not only in presenting them simplistically as demented revolutionaries and immature politicians, but also in arguing that the fruits of any revolution will become reified through state institutions and any attempt at communism will lead back to capitalism. After all, revolution degenerates into bureaucracy and even the Prague Spring was crushed by Soviet tanks which affirmed the ‘‘dictatorship of the party bureaucracy’’ (Grass 1985: 44). In this sense, it is useless to dream beyond what is ‘‘possible’’: in From a Diary of a Snail, for instance, Grass promotes slow, snail-like progress, careful reformism, and prides himself on the ‘‘greyness’’ of his politics. Appropriately, then, he presents himself as a sober shopkeeper, taking account of what progress has been achieved (Grass 1974: 39). The other way in which Grass portrays communist politics as dangerously irrational and as a departure from the legacies of the Enlightenment, is by aligning it with the idealistic tradition in German philosophy, especially Hegel. While Hegel has undoubtedly been crucial to the Marxist tradition and much can be made of the ways in which the communist regimes have looked to Hegel for notions of historical necessity or teleology, Grass employs Hegel to show that transcendentalism is immanent to every communist politics and, more significantly, to imply that communism is ‘‘the same as’’ Nazism, another German offspring of idealistic philosophy. Thus, Grass implies, both Nazi and communist ideology are set on a remote ideal, on the paradise to come, used to justify the immanent violations of human rights. In this way, communism, as we have seen, appears worse than capitalism because it is economically inferior to it and fares even worse than Nazism: in his favorite gesture of creating analogies, Grass suggests that more liberty exists in fascist Spain or Portugal than in the communist states of Eastern Europe. The communists’ crime is that ‘‘they had additionally

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been guilty of betraying the hopes of humanity, hopes which had never been placed in the author of Mein Kampf’’ (‘‘Herr Grass upsets the Marxists’’ 1974: 80). While West Germany saw a resurgence of idealistic, Nazi-type politics in the Chancellor Adenauer years, it has the potential to reform, especially when Grass’s hero, the SPD Chancellor Willy Brandt, takes over in 1969. In contrast, East Germany experiences only a continuation of idealistic politics when communism replaces Nazism: The situation in the other German state is far more troublesome, because it is far more rigid. The GDR had to undergo a rapid, almost seamless transition from National Socialism to Stalinism without the slightest opportunity for establishing a democratic image of itself. (Grass 1990: 58) Predictably, Grass’s fiction and political writings contain numerous examples of this seamless conversion from the National Socialist to the Communist Party. Finally, if analogies with National Socialism are not enough to scare one away from communist politics, Grass resorts to parallels with religious dogmatism and again his writing is rife with metaphors of seamless conversion: someone who has had a ‘‘strict Catholic upbringing’’ turns communist and, ‘‘As a parallel, someone converted from Communism to Catholicism: nothing simpler’’ (1973: 177). Faithful to his claim to moderation, Grass dislikes both staunch Catholics and orthodox atheists, the first extreme implicitly marking the Bavarian, Christian Democratic vote that Grass associates with Nazism, and the second, the GDR communist regime. Marxism satisfies the psychological need to believe, much like blind religious faith. Grass’s descriptions of the ‘‘naı¨ve’’ utopianism and unwavering faith in communist theories in fact echo Kundera’s discussions of the ‘‘angelic,’’ and the ‘‘irrational.’’ Communists could not possibly resemble believers of some modernized, enlightened religion; rather, they are aligned with Catholicism, puritanical asceticism, or medieval, scholastic dogmatism.13 In Grass’s narrative of European history, in which the Enlightenment effects such a radical break from earlier intellectual traditions, all the aforementioned analogies help demonize communism as a markedly pre-modern and superseded tradition. In this respect, communist Eastern Europe becomes refracted through an Orientalized lens as Europe’s frozen past. Grass himself thus espouses a teleological view of history-as-progress, a discursive tool that plays in the favor of modern, democratized Europe and dismisses other political options as mere recapitulations of earlier stages of development. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, this paradigm somewhat expectedly leads to Grass’s employment of a discourse of moral responsibility of West Germany toward East Germany, of the ‘‘rescuing’’ of the East from the burdens

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of Stalinist oppression and economic impoverishment. Because of his socialist leanings and his sensitivity to the political and economic turmoil in East Germany post-1989 (as well as his investment in the historically tense relationship between Germany and Poland), Grass, from the West German side, advocates a politics of solidarity, charity, and ‘‘payback’’ for past wrongs instead of the politics of offering conditional aid, or of treating the formerly communist countries like a capital investment opportunity. Along the same lines, Grass has been a vociferous critic of German unification (what he preferred was a ‘‘cultural union’’ rather than a national, economic, or military one) because of the looming threat of a renewed German nationalism which would scare Poland and create an imbalance of power within the unifying Europe. But for all the self-flagellation and assumption of West German guilt this discourse is more subtly patronizing in its attitude toward East Germany. It starts with the assumption that West Germany has been overall more privileged and mature than East Germany in the post-war era and that, accordingly, the West should extend its political and economic benefits to the victimized East, with, of course, the Social Democratic Party as an ‘‘architect’’ and ‘‘pacesetter’’ of this reconciliation-oriented policy (Grass 1990: 13). Grass recommends: Let us learn . . . from our fellow countrymen in the GDR, who, unlike the citizens of the Federal Republic, did not have freedom handed to them, but rather had to wrest it from an all-encompassing system – an accomplishment that makes us, rolling in wealth, look poor by comparison. (Grass 1990: 10) The GDR does not have much to contribute to this reconciliation process in Grass’s writing, however, except for an example of what happens when one does not have freedom handed to one. To do Grass justice, he offers valid arguments when he claims that socialism in GDR didn’t have a chance (but could have had under different conditions) because the GDR had to rebuild under a centralized bureaucracy, with the ‘‘burden of Stalinism and without the Marshall Plan and with far more reparations to pay’’ (Grass 1990: 23). But Grass effectively erases the complexity, or any tangible benefits that the communist legacy in GDR might have produced, when he implies that the GDR should adapt to West German economic and political structures and that this exchange is unidirectional. ‘‘You can adapt capitalism to the GDR in a way that won’t result in total deformation and rejection of its culture and that won’t give rise to new social unrest,’’ he observes (Grass 1990: 20). East Germany, in turn, can only provide the West with much needed spiritual and emotional nourishment: Grass praises the GDR’s ‘‘new, nonviolent, revolutionary idealism’’ (note: not the old, communist, violent idealism), which can provide West Germans with a ‘‘higher purpose,’’ and also wishes to preserve its ‘‘slower pace of life and therefore more time to talk

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with people’’ (1990: 21, 20). In this light, East Germany appears as an exotic, relaxed, idealistic land serving as a mirror for West German flaws and as a charitable cause for it to champion, but without an identity of its own. This, of course, recalls the old Orientalist-type fantasies which establish Eastern Europe, Africa, or Asia as charitable causes, or civilizing projects. In turn, the civilizing Westerners, while bringing progress – and identity – can find in the others’ ‘‘noble savage’’ ways the spirituality and community that the modern world has lost. This discourse of benevolent administration and intervention is not a byproduct of post-Berlin Wall upheavals. I consider it significant because it symptomatically surfaces in Grass’s discussion of other topics – and countries – especially of the problems in the so-called Third World. Grass is a critic of the destructive forces of globalization, especially of capitalist exploitation, lack of social security worldwide, overpopulation, and neglect of the environment. In an attempt to examine West German participation in these processes, he is frequently self-reflective and undermines his own authority as a European subject. However, he reinforces the Eurocentric discourse when he implies that the rest of the world only serves to reiterate – and globalize – the trends in Europe. In an essay, ‘‘Kafka and His Executors,’’ he predicts that the European mastering of bureaucracy will infect other continents: ‘‘What else can the rest of the world – whether East or West-oriented – do but learn and emulate’’ as they will ‘‘feel the need to catch up with the more advanced countries by developing a total bureaucracy’’ (Grass 1985: 47). In ‘‘Racing with the Utopias’’ (Grass 1985), he predicts a bleak totalitarian future for Asia and Africa, where, despite learning about the noble values of the Enlightenment, the local dictators choose to emulate Soviet and Nazi dictatorships.14 This philosophical outlook, I would argue, is analogous to Grass’s need to streamline East Germany – as well as the rest of so-called Eastern Europe – into the single narrative of development that bears the positive markers of the Enlightenment. That this narrative has its unstated boundaries is belied by his use of the term Europe to mark the potential for cultural and political belonging to this seemingly benevolent and accepting enterprise. When he protests against the division into Western and Eastern Europe, for instance, he is more generous than Kundera in that he includes not only Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary in Europe, but also the Soviet Union: ‘‘That’s Europe too and belongs’’ (Grass 1990: 50). But this term nevertheless presumes his own authority, as a European subject, to decide what does or does not belong in Europe, which extends to the authority of intervention, of imparting one’s expertise in political and economic matters to the bearers of an unstated stigma: communism, Eastern Europe, etc. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that Grass, the socialist democrat, the opponent of globalization, supported the NATO bombing of Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, on the authority of humanitarian intervention.

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The predicament of ‘‘Europe’’ in The Call of the Toad Grass’s optimistic assessment in 1989 that ‘‘now that communist dogma has gone bankrupt . . . democratic socialism has a future all over the world’’ (1990: 13) proved a bit too optimistic in light of the neoliberal spirit of reforms implemented in the formerly communist countries. Dieter Stolz has characterized Grass’s persistent belief in the possibility of ‘‘socialism with a human face’’ as ‘‘dreamy’’ and ‘‘utopian’’ when compared to everyone else’s disillusionment with the fruits of German unification and German treatment of post-communist Europe in general (1991: 214). It seems that the possibility of ‘‘democratic socialism’’ or ‘‘socialism with a human face’’ might have existed if Western capitalist democracies had been open to compromise and change, to dialogic rapprochement with the former communist regimes in terms of promoting and/or preserving policies aimed at social equality and security.15 Of course, nothing of the sort happened: while in the West itself capitalist neoliberalism spelled an end to many social (ist) welfare policies, it was still more merciful there than in the East (as well as the rest of the world), where it could present its conditions without the possibility of challenge. In this respect, Grass’s fears of an economic subjugation of the former communist countries by Western capital proved more realistic than his ideal of global democratic socialism: ‘‘No sooner does one ideology loosen its grip than another swoops down and seizes the prey. The new instrument of torture will be the market economy. If you don’t toe the line, you won’t get anything. Not even bananas’’ (Grass 1990: 3). In the final section of the chapter, I will examine how this economic and political conditioning of the formerly communist countries is facilitated and enabled by the aforementioned discourses that establish a single ‘‘progressive’’ option for European (and, by extension, global) development: one that idealizes private ownership, free economic competition, multicultural tolerance, and parliamentary democracy. Grass accuses primarily conservative German politicians of promoting the ‘‘western ideology of capitalism, which aims to wipe out every other kind of ideological ism’’ and announces itself ‘‘as if holding a gun to the East Germans’ head: A market economy or else’’ (1990: 7). But while this is the most overt and unapologetic type of conditioning from which Grass distances himself (despite his flirtation with ‘‘humanized’’ capitalism), I will argue that his ‘‘softer,’’ democratic-humanist version of denouncing Stalinist regimes for their infraction upon human rights similarly sets the stage for the conditioning and a unidirectional flow of demands from the democratically ‘‘mature’’ to the ‘‘immature’’ regimes, perpetuating the Orientalist hierarchies established in Grass’s narrative of a unified European history. To explore this point I turn to Grass’s complex and in many ways contradictory novel The Call of the Toad. In this novel he satirizes the postBerlin Wall rapprochement of Germany and Poland in the guise of a fictional enterprise of the cemetery of reconciliation for Germans exiled from Poland,

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to be built in their former homeland. The enterprise proves to foster more fear than reconciliation between Germans and the Polish, as it becomes a metaphor for the land-grabbing and profit-making in post-communist Poland, benefiting the wealthy and entrepreneurial classes in both countries. Unlike Kundera, Grass does not turn to a reconsideration of the communist legacy in the face of new developments. In other contemporary writings, the events in the wake of 1989 do prompt Grass to, for the first time, wonder whether the existence of communist regimes presented some kind of alternative to the capitalist regimes, thus allowing for a revision of the earlier discourse which claims unfailing homology between the two. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Grass still resorts to old metaphors, claiming that capitalism is ‘‘megalomaniacally replaying the errors’’ of its ‘‘brother’’ by turning ‘‘the free market into dogma,’’ but also argues that now that communism/socialism is proclaimed to be dead, capitalism can ‘‘rage unimpeded’’ (2000: 16). In a 2000 interview with Pierre Bourdieu, Grass explains that Marxism-inspired policies (East and West) managed to keep capitalism in check and force it to give some concessions, but since ‘‘Communist hierarchies fell apart, capitalism has come to believe that it can do anything, that it has escaped all control’’ (Grass and Bourdieu 2000: 26). The Call of the Toad does not explore what happens to Marxist thought following the fall of ‘‘communist hierarchies,’’ except for offering the usual liberal-democratic perspective. However, it does offer a critique of the implications of ‘‘rescuing’’ the formerly communist countries into democracy, undermining the image of enlightened Europe and the very political principles that Grass espouses. As we saw earlier, Kundera subverts the colonizing impulse contained in Eurocentric narratives of proper history which trace the progress from Ancient Greek democracy to Western European Enlightenment by playing with the very notion of time as development, as a linear movement from past to future. Grass, on the other hand, subverts this narrative by the very reconception of the content of proper European development as liberal democracy, from which Nazism and communism are jointly excluded as the ‘‘other’’ of democratic moderation, as its mere deviations. In The Call of the Toad, Western democratic ‘‘rescuing’’ of Eastern Europe is not wholly distinguishable from the strengthening of Nazi-type racism and identity politics; the liberal-democratic multiculturalism which this ‘‘rescuing’’ aims to instill is not necessarily opposed to the ruthless capitalist restructuring which Grass so abhors. The project that brings the ‘‘Polish–German Cemetery Association’’ into existence in The Call of the Toad begins with an amorous affair between a West German art history professor, Alexander Reschke, and a Polish restorer of statues, Alexandra Piatkowska, appropriately consummated in Danzig, Grass’s no-man’s land. Their union itself points to the possibility of German–Polish reconciliation if the necessary conditions are met: if people on both sides are open-minded, ready to recognize each other’s ‘‘human rights,’’ and a shared history of suffering despite the antagonism. As both

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are exiles – he from Danzig that became Polish, she from Wilno that became Lithuanian – they advocate the idea of repatriation to symbolically put an end to, in Reschke’s words, the ‘‘Century of Expulsions’’ (Grass 1992: 27). The idea for a Polish cemetery in Wilno is also in the works, but is eventually thwarted by Lithuanian nationalists after they gain independence from the Soviet Union. Throughout the novel, only German corpses are repatriated to Poland in an attempt to override the politics of racism and hatred, marking the territory where, in Piatkowska’s words ‘‘politics must stop and human rights must begin’’ (Grass 1992: 28). The attempt to foster multicultural, democratic coexistence between the Polish and Germans, announcing a new Europe, is enhanced by the arrival of Chatterjee, a Bengali immigrant who develops a successful rickshaw business and whose presence allegedly spells the future irrelevance of the traditionally Eurocentric Europe. The Call of the Toad offers a political perspective that is announced by many of Grass’s earlier works, as it imagines the Reschke–Piatkowska ‘‘reconciliation’’ through confronting ethnic stereotypes each has of the other and through criticizing their respective regimes: And if she calls it disgraceful that she stayed in the Communist party as long as she did, yet holds Communism responsible for all subsequent disasters – she even blames Communist iconoclasm for the persistence of Catholic dogma – he believes capitalism is responsible for all failings, including his own. (Grass 1992: 75) The leveling of capitalism and communism is accompanied by the harsh satire of capital’s alleged triumph in the post-communist era, or what Grass sees as its unrestrained greed and a patronizing attitude toward the Polish. While Piatkowska’s anxiety about the rising prices, the economic instability, and the impoverishment in the wake of the fall of communism persistently puncture the plot, haunting the narrative that ostensibly proclaims the possibility of reconciliation and solidarity, the profiteering surrounding the very project of a German cemetery in Poland symbolizes the bankruptcy of the multicultural ideal in the face of economic domination. The language of conditioning and re-education that Grass has criticized on the eve of German unification permeates the sections of the novel where Reschke’s venture-capitalist friends, in a demonstration of capital’s tendency to find ever original ways to multiply, bring up ideas of time-share and retirement facilities in Poland for Germans waiting to be repatriated in the former ‘‘homeland.’’ The Polish are criticized for lacking a sober, decisive, masculine, business sense: ‘‘on the one hand they say they want capitalism and on the other hand they behave like innocent maidens’’ and do not understand that such enterprises are crucial to boosting a ‘‘healthy middle class’’ (Grass 1992: 46, 146). But if they refuse to ‘‘toe the line,’’ the venture

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capitalists will go ‘‘to the Czechs and Hungarians. They’re more open’’ (Grass 1992: 46). Reschke’s attitude toward such enterprises is overtly negative, as he proclaims himself to be a leftist liberal and is continually portrayed as someone whose idealistic project has been corrupted through the greed of others. When the whole business gets out of hand, with ‘‘what was lost in the war . . . being taken by economic power’’ and ‘‘adorning everything with the wordplay of reconciliation, as though golf courses were nothing more than enhanced cemeteries,’’ both Piatkowska and Reschke resign from their own Board of Directors in disgust (Grass 1992: 204). In fact, Reschke’s own politics reflect Grass’s in that he too is critical of capitalism but in a ‘‘moderately radical,’’ ‘‘left-liberal’’ way sprinkled with ‘‘ecological convictions’’ (Grass 1992: 84). He embodies Grass’s ideal of a snail-like, skeptical politician as he is a ‘‘procrastinator,’’ ‘‘melancholy,’’ ‘‘profoundly split and without perspective’’ and weighs all the pros and cons of every situation: thus, German unification scares him, but he is also sympathetic toward the millions of Germans who were driven from their Polish homeland (Grass 1992: 85–86). In this respect, the moderate Reschke would seem to represent the ‘‘correct’’ political path in the novel, when contrasted with the radical capitalist Germans, but also with ‘‘the poor,’’ i.e. the Polish, who ‘‘are only good for resistance and lack democratic maturity’’ (Grass 1992: 141). Reschke and Piatkowska’s affair appears somewhat imbalanced, though, as they replay Grass’s implications that the East needs to be helped out in the matter of implementing democracy. In another typical instance of political leveling, Reschke attempts to assuage Piatkowska’s guilt over her communist past by his own admission that he was in the Hitler Youth (of course, this problematically exonerates Reschke, as it did Grass himself): ‘‘You see how it is, my dear? Our generation ran with the hounds’’ (Grass 1992: 237).16 But he has been able to overcome this youthful aberration when he developed a modern, democratic, tolerant outlook, which distinguishes him from the racist Germans who not only do not seek any kind of reconciliation with the Polish, but also betray Polish hopes of becoming accepted in Western Europe as they greet Polish border-crossers with xenophobia (Grass 1992: 90). In contrast, Piatkowska does not become fully ‘‘emancipated’’ after her disillusionment with communism – and her political perspective seems to be shared by most Polish characters depicted in the novel. Reschke is pleased with her gesture toward the Germans, but disturbed by her lack of tolerance towards Russians. Her attitude toward Chatterjee, whom she calls a ‘‘Turk,’’ demeans her in terms of both xenophobia and ignorance (according to the paradigm that all Asians are ‘‘Turks’’ to Slavs). Her attitude, that Germans are bringing their ‘‘Turks’’ in order to turn the Polish into political ‘‘coolies,’’ is analogous to the Polish national pride which, at first, prevents them from taking rickshaw-driver jobs from Chatterjee (Grass 1992: 99). Piatkowska also seems to fit the Polish Catholic

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stereotype as Reschke complains that she is willing to visit many churches on their trip to Italy, ‘‘where she would light asparagus-thin candles wherever possible’’ (Grass 1992: 246). Reschke would therefore seem to have a benevolent influence on Piatkowska, their union also representing a convenient opportunity for him to educate her in matters of democratic tolerance and multiculturalism. This idea becomes explicit when Reschke comments on her racist outbursts: ‘‘our idea does not permit blanket statements. For my sake at least she should dispense with them’’ (Grass 1992: 98). But although it may seem that liberal Westerners are bearers of positive trends, or that Reschke is the enlightened specimen whom Grass favors, what he promotes becomes highly suspect and keeps undermining itself throughout the novel. It is not so much that Reschke’s ‘‘good’’ ideas which promote a pan-European culture and peaceful coexistence in the wake of communism become corrupted by conservatives and/or capitalists. Rather, his own democratic ideals, primarily those of liberal identity politics, expose the potential for a resurgence of fascism and segregation. What Reschke promotes is not a mixed cemetery for the Polish and Germans, but an ethnic-based cemetery which affirms the right of each to difference under the banner of human rights to a shared homeland. This parallels the promotion of minority rights in the formerly communist countries, where on the one hand this policy is aimed at respecting rights to cultural difference that may have been suppressed under the communist regimes, but on the other it fosters the affirmation of a separate ´ tienne Balibar describes as ‘‘internal exclusion, that is hosidentity, what E tility and discrimination among populations which are not really separated, but belong to the same society and are culturally mixed with one another’’ (2002: 154). The microcosm of this politics is the politically correct, multicultural Board of Directors that Reschke and Piatkowska appoint, appropriately containing a balance of Poles and Germans, and Erna Brakup of the remaining ethnic German minority in Danzig, which until recently ‘‘had been reduced to speechlessness; minorities had not been allowed’’ (Grass 1992: 105). But when minorities are allowed, Grass questions whether their discourse is necessarily revolutionary, or progressive, or anti-hegemonic. Reschke is fond of Brakup as a representative of a dwindling minority – and cultural tradition – even though this attachment is somewhat problematic when Brakup turns out to be a flaming racist, with her hatred of ‘‘Polacks’’ and her adage ‘‘Speak well of what’s foreign, but don’t go where you are foreign’’ (Grass 1992: 121). While Reschke’s and Piatkowska’s hope is that the German cemetery will bring about the mutual recognition and respect of rights between Poles and Germans, in Brakup’s understanding this turns into its seeming opposite, which is nevertheless facilitated by the initial idea: that ‘‘Germans got to lie with Germans and Polacks with Polacks’’ (Grass 1992: 190). Her resignation from the project because she, too, becomes disgusted with the money-making schemes does not take care of this racism,

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which prompts some anxiety in The Call of the Toad about the validity of the project in a different sense. In this respect, the fact that the general public protests against the fence eventually built around the cemetery, comparing it to barbed wire in concentration camps, seems at first like an exaggeration of their fear of the ‘‘other,’’ but significantly points to the unstated borders of the identity politics that underlies such a project. Whether this liberal notion of multicultural coexistence actually does anything to challenge the capitalism to which Reschke is so averse is the other problem. Although the Board of Directors includes all the right nationalities, arranged in a delicate balance, most nevertheless agree that measures of extreme economic liberalism are to be employed if the enterprise is to take off. This critique also extends to the much praised Asian future of Europe in the guise of Chatterjee, who hopes that the ‘‘international amalgamation process [will] ultimately lead to an exchange of cultures’’ (Grass 1992: 37). There is optimism about nobody being spared this internationalization, as Even the Poles, who just want to be Poles, always Poles and never anything else, will learn that next to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa there is room for another black divinity, because of course we will bring our beloved and feared Mother Kali with us – she has already taken up residence in London. (Grass 1992: 37) There is no discussion of the questions of unequal power or social antagonism resulting from ‘‘extreme economic liberalism,’’ however. Rather, the cemetery, like an internationalized Poland, becomes a celebration of cultural differences assumed as horizontal, interchangeable qualities – much like the horizontal racial harmony promoted in Benetton or Disney advertising imagery which Henry Giroux (1994) argues occludes the racial, social, and economic privilege of being able to afford their products. It is not quite clear, therefore, what is this ‘‘different’’ culture that Chatterjee brings to Europe: he believes in the rickshaw business as an ecological solution to the car-clogged European cities, but he is primarily a self-interested businessman. Grass describes Chatterjee in the language of finance, investment, and calculation. He rejoices when the price of oil goes up in the poor countries like Poland so that people are forced to take rickshaws, helping his business to grow (Grass 1992: 133). He prides himself on not being European – he identifies most not with his Bengali, but with his Marwari background, primarily its business ethics – but he assimilates quite nicely to the new privatization laws in Poland (Grass 1992: 137). Chatterjee is already a commonsense capitalist – his participation in the global market does not threaten capitalist structures but is rather facilitated by what David Rieff calls a corporate cooptation of the multicultural ideology through stock phrases such as ‘‘‘product diversification,’ ‘the

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global marketplace,’ and ‘the boundary-less company’’’ (1993: 63). His purchase of the former Lenin Shipyards, site of the famous democraticsocialist opposition movement Solidarnosc, in order to develop a rickshaw assembly line, is thus highly symbolic of the defeat of the socialist option, even as it could be hailed as a sign of progress and multiculturalism (perhaps it is not accidental that Grass has Chatterjee recite Kipling) (Grass 1992: 38).17 In teasing out these contradictions in The Call of the Toad, I want to suggest a complication of Grass’s earlier optimism about the potential of democratic politics, especially the politics of human rights that underlies contemporary insistence on multiculturalism, to enlighten the formerly communist countries, or to represent a progressive option for the future of Europe for that matter. In many of his earlier works he promotes the vision of a racially and culturally mixed West Germany where everyone lives in the same community but respects the other’s difference. For instance, in The Citizen and His Voice Grass climbs a hill from which he observes a multicultural Berlin with quarters and neighborhoods for each nationality, a minaret for the Turks and a campanile for the Italians (1974: 210–12). In The Call of the Toad this vision is still present, but viewed with some anxiety as it reveals potential for internal exclusions and a renewed xenophobia precisely because of the prescribed respect for differences rather than an attempt to deconstruct the meaning of difference and make alliances across identity politics, rather than an exploration of political models outside of liberal democracies of the Western type. In this respect, I also suggest a complication of the critical readings that position this novel alongside Grass’s usual musings on multicultural, democratic, ecologically healthy utopias in Europe (and elsewhere). Such readings problematically replicate the mainstream ideology of multiculturalism by expressing a desire for compatibility in spite of the uncomfortable questions of unequal power and racism which prevent us from ‘‘getting along,’’ and which frequently come out of the very multiculturalism understood as a politics of fixed identity. Representative of these is Mark Cory’s qualification of the ‘‘trendy necropolis’’ of Poland into which Reschke’s and Piatkowska’s project degrades as a corruption of an originally ‘‘good and simple idea’’ (1998: 183). Along the same lines is his statement that the German–Polish love affair, as well as the unrelenting presence of Chatterjee, is symbolic of a utopia of pluralistic Europe for which traditional ‘‘Europe at the close of the twentieth century is still not ready’’ (Cory 1998: 185). What is at stake, instead, I suggest, is the implication of the love affair between the process of democratization and the process of economic conditioning of the poor countries, of the ‘‘tolerant’’ cohabitation between multicultural politics of human rights and Nazi-type xenophobia.

5

Primitive accumulation and Neanderthal liberalism Victor Pelevin, Gary Shteyngart, and criminal Eastern Europe

Criminal lands behind the Schengen curtain Arguably, post-1989 transitions in post-communist Eastern Europe have been articulated through discourses of Western management and conditioning, usually reflecting collaboration with local ‘‘democratic’’ political and business elites, or, conversely, opposition to recalcitrant, ‘‘Soviet-mentality’’ governments. As we have seen, the trajectories of this conditioning – necessary in order to preserve the ‘‘standards’’ of such premier clubs as the EU, NATO, or the World Bank – have been presented as a mixture of economic exploitation and problematic multiculturalist identity politics in Grass’s and Kundera’s novels. At this point, I turn to other aspects of this discourse of conditioning, which simultaneously – and paradoxically – benignly offers the promise of inclusion into the club of the powerful (and thus encourages their imitation) and implicitly enforces exclusion, justified through the vulnerability inherent in the club’s own proclivity to tolerance and democracy. Intriguingly, this echoes American laments in the wake of 9/11 over its tradition of freedom and openness to foreigners who infiltrate the country only to turn out to be terrorists who hate freedom and openness (a circular argument par excellence). In turn, the European Union countries have a long tradition of fanning racist fears toward typically non-European nationalities, employing images of dangerous Moroccan drug-dealers, Indian shopkeepers, or Turkish Gastarbeiters. In the past decade, these older fears have been compounded by the new fears of semi-European Easterners infiltrating Western Europe with their problems, poverty, or crime. In this sense, the popular Cold War narratives which have castigated Eastern European regimes for imprisoning their citizens within national borders appear hypocritical in light of an even stricter policing of Western borders against the problematic Easterners post-1989. The images of criminal Eastern Europe that will infect and destroy the healthy Western body from within abound in political discourse and popular and academic press. Under contemporary conditions, the intellectual, educated, if effete and blooddrinking Count Dracula has been transformed into the dirty, ignorant, poor,

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and violent pimp, drug-dealer, or beggar. For all the ‘‘humanitarianism’’ of the Western intervention in Kosovo, EU countries have been anxious to ship back its lot of the displaced Kosovo Albanians, and Italy especially has been notorious for turning back ships full of fleeing Albanians. Recently, Western presses have tackled the problem of Eastern European prostitutes who not only compete with and bring down the prices of local ‘‘businesses,’’ but also introduce various diseases among the ‘‘customers.’’ Crucial to the recent French ‘‘Non’’ to the proposed EU constitution was a right-wing campaign against the mythical ‘‘Polish plumber,’’ symbol of cheap Eastern labor sure to destabilize the French economy if the constitution’s free-market provisions are ratified. This is indeed a double curse: the EU is afraid of cheap Eastern labor and therefore withdraws avenues for legal work, only to then declare that Easterners are ‘‘mafia,’’ incapable of legal work. To quote the famous Austrian right-winger Jo¨rg Haider addressing a meeting of local police forces: ‘‘Poles are the car thieves, Yugoslavs the burglars and the Russians specialize in blackmail and mugging’’ (Burgess 1997: 59). Such a discourse, premised on the fear of congenitally criminal Eastern Europeans, can justifiably be ascribed to right-wing sympathizers – and, indeed, post-communist societies themselves are not ‘‘clean’’ of this discourse of criminalizing ‘‘otherness,’’ as they too contribute to the general rise in right-wing politics. Thus, they analogously fear Romanian prostitutes, gypsy beggars, Jewish ‘‘power circles,’’ or Chinese flea-market merchants. Arguably, conservative right-wing parties across Europe generally treat Eastern European crime as an implicit racial/cultural characteristic, or as a contagion to be feared and excluded at all costs. This also explains their allegiance to the non-enlargement policy for the EU. Liberal/leftist parties generally support EU enlargement, arguing that Eastern European crime is a temporary phenomenon, caused by – and perpetuating – the chaos of transitions and sure to be overcome at an unspecified future date through a necessary economic reform (seen as market-capitalist or socialist, depending on one’s political affiliation). To complicate this binary, I argue that even the so-called liberal discourse of tolerance and faith in Eastern Europe is accompanied by unstated fears of the unruly Eastern ‘‘others.’’ Hence the prevailing Schengen Treaty visa regime, attempts to control and manage Eastern European crime within ‘‘their’’ borders so that it will not spill over ‘‘ours,’’ and patronizing statements about the white West’s burden of civilizing post-communist Easterners, immersed in superseded nationalist-chauvinist passions and/or a Soviet mentality of passivity and reliance on the state to provide for its citizens (how dare they count on the state to exist for the sake of citizens). Thus, we end up with examples of two seemingly opposite, but related, liberal viewpoints, here both coming from respectable academics. Commending Central Europe (the noble part of Eastern Europe, as we have seen in Chapters 3 and 4) on maintaining its ‘‘entrepreneurial spirit’’ and ‘‘remaining faithful to European traditions of religion and culture’’ while

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‘‘even [sic] being able to enrich them,’’ Adam Zwass expresses confidence that this communistically severed part of Europe will be able to ‘‘return where [it] belong[s]’’ (2002: 108). G. M. Tama´s is less optimistic about Eastern European transitions, fearing the restoration of ‘‘rural, static, deferential and backward Eastern Europe’’ (1993: 64). He is disappointed that these countries ‘‘regard capitalism and liberal democracy only as . . . the best method for improving standards and fostering social peace. Genuine believers in the superiority of a free society are far and few between’’ (Tama´s 1993: 65). In other words, the improvement is seemingly always possible, yet always followed by the danger of slipping into the pernicious habits of the past, especially if Easterners are left to their own devices: statecontrolled economy, crime, violence, or ethnic passions. While the fall of the Berlin Wall firmly lodges fearful images of an unexpected invasion by marauding, half-starved Easterners in the Western imaginary, it also provides an opportunity for Western excursions into the newly accessible – indeed, rediscovered – Eastern European locales. Such interactions have given rise to a number of cultural narratives that attempt to come to grips with the fetishized yet feared opening of the Eastern bloc countries. For instance, Michael Hanneke’s film Code Inconnu (2000) and Theo Angelopoulos’s film Eternity and a Day (1999) comment on Western fears of the disturbing presence of illegal post-communist ‘‘others’’ in the increasingly ‘‘unhomed’’ Western countries. In parallel, a number of travelogues, novels, and short stories explore the imaginative opportunities afforded by the untapped post-communist locales as well as the implications of the new Western management of, and above all (legal) presence in, the rediscovered Eastern Europe. Indeed, many of these texts blatantly reinforce the image of Eastern European, especially Balkan, locales as disorganized, violent, mendacious, or lawless, using the little-disguised racialist narratives of inferiority – and thus approximating the aforementioned right-wing discourses that advocate a sealing off of the free world’s borders against these ‘‘degenerates.’’1 Although by no means insignificant, these are nevertheless easy critical targets. Instead, I will dwell in more detail, again, on the ostensibly liberalminded narratives, whose sympathetic viewpoint on Eastern Europe makes their participation in the discourses of imperial governance and hierarchical categorization more difficult to discern. Indeed, many of these texts have as protagonists (typically) American expats who arrive in Eastern Europe only to become the authors’ ethical limit cases for American engagement with political and economic trends post-1989. At times, as in Tom Bissell’s ‘‘The Ambassador’s Son’’ (Fishman 2003), Arthur Phillips’s Prague (2002), or Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections (2001), such protagonists are dishonorably disengaged from the turmoil of their surroundings and hedonistically self-absorbed in a spate of adolescent, drunken debauchery and cheaply bought sexual encounters, reveling in the Wild East lawlessness. Other texts, such as Wendell Steavenson’s ‘‘Gika’’

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and Thomas de Waal’s ‘‘The English House: A Story of Chechnya’’ (Fishman 2003), feature American protagonists whose presence is unquestioned if it is ethical, if it tries to engage with and alleviate the suffering of impoverished, abandoned Georgian children (Steavenson) or tell audiences at home the ‘‘real’’ story of Chechnya – meaning its oppression by Russians – implicitly addressing US government policy too (de Waal). Still other texts, like John Beckman’s The Winter Zoo (2002), criticize Western venture capitalists for ruining the already impoverished countries through suspicious business deals with former communist elites and/or mafia upstarts. Arguably, many of these texts expose the problematic spots in the Western narratives of management and conditioning, implying that the civilizing of post-communist Europe is itself unpleasantly violent and uncivilized. And yet many do not question the very condition of possibility of such narratives, both in terms of the real possibility of travel to postcommunist locales (frequently no visa and lots of hard currency) and in terms of the narrative privilege of imaginatively presenting their exotic peoples and sufferings to American – or Western European – audiences. Just as the improvement of Eastern Europe is possible in liberal imaginings, so is an ethical Western engagement with the post-communist economic and political chaos possible and even encouraged in such texts. Of course, the problem is the extent to which this ethical engagement belies the authors’ ideological investment in ‘‘good’’ capitalism, the benevolence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or the benefits of developing a civil society.2 In turn, the expats’ oblivious, arrogantly self-absorbed, or consciously criminal behavior seems to bear witness to much colonizers’ guilt over betraying ‘‘over there’’ the ideals of economic fair play and democracy supposedly cherished at home. Perhaps appropriately, then, Boris Fishman’s introduction to a collection of such short stories and travel accounts, outrageously titled Wild East: stories from the last frontier, casts these texts as literary responses to and even a type of conscience of, US foreign policy: ‘‘the liberation experience of [Eastern Europe] offers invaluable lessons, not only for Afghanistan and Iraq, but also for the United States, as it casts its net over an increasingly recalcitrant world’’ (Fishman 2003: xii; emphasis mine). The fiction collected in the book ‘‘has created a felicitous opportunity for the men and women who conduct this nation’s affairs and they would do well to take stock of the contents here’’ (Fishman 2003: xii). Combined with his opinion that this is the ‘‘literature of obligation’’ which is both an ‘‘essentially Eastern tradition’’ and inescapable for Westerners writing about the East and with his statement that Eastern Europe offers historical insights to Westerners sheltered from conflicts at home, Fishman’s position echoes Fredric Jameson’s (1986) controversial thesis about the necessary politicization of Third World literature (Fishman 2003: xiv, xvi). The portrayal of Eastern Europe as a locale that can instruct naı¨ve Westerners unseasoned in human misery, or as a backdrop of temptations

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against which a Westerner plays out a ‘‘Pilgrim’s Progress’’ from vice to virtue or vice versa, enforces the discrimination between a political, crimeridden, and exotically dangerous East and an apolitical, ordered, or boring West that I have discussed in respect to Miłosz and Brodsky (Chapter 3). The East thus becomes interesting not for its own sake but for an examination of American conscience and political attitude, which leads to demands for a ‘‘soft’’ imperial management in the best-case scenario and rarely challenges the position of the West as a political subject in control. This is analogous to Ella Shohat and Robert Stam’s ‘‘inverted European narcissism,’’ a situation in which even the evils occurring in the non-European East are blamed on the West (understood as North America and powerful European countries), on the premise that the East cannot produce either its successes or its failures, but is instead a perpetual Western symptom (1994: 3). I do not deny that an examination of American – and other countries’ – policies in post-communist Eastern Europe is in order, but rather that it problematically erases the significance of Eastern European countries themselves and reduces the multiplicity of local narratives that exist both outside of and in spite of Western presence or interference. If the post-communist era is punctured by narratives of Western management and conditioning of Eastern Europe, I am interested not so much – and not only – in cultural texts that condemn Western interference or argue for a more ethical political attitude, as in those texts that map the vibrancy and multiplicity of Eastern European responses to the new situation. The narratives which discursively privilege the West by establishing binaries between the orderly West and the criminal East, cosmopolitan Western nationalism and chauvinist Eastern nationalism, modern West and traditional, Soviet-mentality East, offer a reductive interpretation of the East that obscures ways in which complex issues of its economic restructuring, national and territorial integrity, and national identity have been antagonized precisely by Western racist, managerial attitudes. Specifically, in this chapter I ask how responses that would radically de-fetishize the West as a point of reference not only react to the newly introduced market reforms based on the Western model, but also open up an original critique of the narrative of capital, expose the terms of management and conditioning, and tackle the Orientalist discourses about criminal Eastern Europe that, paradoxically, justify the continuation of reforms. With the goal of countering specifically this elusive imperialist impulse in liberal, sympathetic accounts of post-communist Europe – which nevertheless portray opposition to market reforms as a Soviet-mentality hangover, claims to Western-type territorial integrity as fascist chauvinism – I will look at two recent texts, Victor Pelevin’s Homo Zapiens (2002; Generation P in the Russian original) and Gary Shteyngart’s The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2002). The turn to a Russian author and a Russian-American author does not spring from a desire to sacralize ethnic points of view, but rather from their narrative investment in the particular histories of (post)

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communist societies and a thematization of the Orientalist discourses which prompt such societies to market themselves as postmodern or global rather than criminal. These narratives consider the developments of post-1989 transitions to democracy and market reform against a palimpsest of the communist past and critical discourses, practices and habits that the old regime produced. Lodged within the debris of communism which introduces a sense of heterotemporality,3 the narrative point of view, like the protagonists, is estranged from its surroundings, unhomed in its own country. In this sense, displacement comes not through anti-communist dissidence and exile to the West, but through internal exile from an unfamiliar and continuously changing home, where even the once-feared and persecuted dissident intellectuals have lost their power and prestige.4 From this estrangement emerges Shteyngart’s and Pelevin’s focus on the alienating violence of the transitions to capitalism, especially their innovative commentary on the growing mafia circles, a phenomenon which would typically only help intensify stereotypes of barbarous and crime-ridden Eastern Europe which must be placed under control and civilized. Central to their texts is a suggestion that mafia business practices are not a reprehensible aberration from legal capitalist business ethics, or even its complete opposite – a dualism promoted by Western conservative and liberal discourses alike, as well as by local politicians bent on introducing protective legislation to achieve European standards. This viewpoint underlies historian Philip Longworth’s statement that in the post-1989 period ‘‘legal structures proved inadequate for the new commercial circumstances,’’ for one could not ‘‘tell an investor from an asset-stripper or a criminal entrepreneur’’ (1997: 30–31). For Pelevin and Shteyngart, maintaining such a dualism is impossible even with adequate legal structures, and one would here do better to consider Derrida’s argument in Specters of Marx that the new mafia circles across Eastern Europe are veritable ‘‘capitalist phantom-States’’ which cannot be disassociated from processes of democratization (1994: 83). Like Derrida, Shteyngart and Pelevin critically collapse the binary between ‘‘good’’ capitalism and mafia practices, arguing that mafia lawlessness exposes and embodies the violent nature of the very institutionalization of capitalism, which has acquired a respectable appearance in Western Europe and North America through a long process of legalization. Pelevin parodies this violence as a ‘‘primitive accumulation of capital,’’ accompanied by an ideology of ‘‘Neanderthal liberalism’’ (2002: 9, 160), phrases which inspired the title of this chapter. This seemingly exaggerated qualification of what took place across Eastern Europe in the 1990s may be dead-on if considered in the context of neoliberal economic policies, unrestrained asset-grabbing, and labor exploitation that made the ‘‘Wild East’’ resemble American ‘‘Wild West’’ frontier practices, long since completed. In other words, if neoliberal capitalism reached a peak in wreaking havoc across Western societies with the

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Reagan–Thatcher duo in the 1980s, its full impact, enhanced by the background of state-orchestrated socialism, was not felt in post-communist countries until the 1990s. Commenting on this situation, Pelevin’s Homo Zapiens satirizes the nouveau-riche mafia-businessmen’s ethos as a combination of the falseness of capitalist – and European – emancipation of Russia and the ineffectiveness of Russian nationalism as a challenge to globalization. The mafia violence that continually interrupts the narrative parallels the violence of the incursion of the discourses of capitalist marketing and advertising into Russian. Portraying attempts to add an ethnic Russian flair to Western-type marketing campaigns in order to appeal to the natives, Pelevin signals a collusion of the language of nationalism and the language of corporate advertising. Both domesticate identity within a set of consumable commodities, allowing Russians seemingly to overcome their inferiority complex, believing that they are both truly Russian and European or global citizens. Through a persistent, albeit playful, resuscitation of communist memorabilia and Marxist terminology, Pelevin also stages a critique of the exploitation of a post-communist economy, with mafia circles as major actors in this ‘‘primitive accumulation’’ of capital – as the new propertied elites of a peripheral, neocolonial economy. Unlike Pelevin, Shteyngart empowers and, to an extent, glorifies the figure of a mafia-businessman in order to test the limits of multiculturalism and corporate ethics. The mafia not only exemplify an intensification of the usual violence of capitalism, but are also reclaimed as trickster figures who can ridicule the serious discourses of capitalism, an act that can be read as resistance to serious neocolonial discourses of Western management of the East. Their carnivalesque treatment of ‘‘legal’’ business practices, refusal to subject their time to the rhythm of the corporate workplace, and extreme, ‘‘irrational’’ hedonism resist appropriation by the narrative of capital. These figures importantly reject the position of Eastern European victims waiting to be emancipated into a global, multicultural brotherhood by Western capital, although the narrative perspective changes toward the end, casting the mafia as Orientalized proofs of Eastern European inability to overcome its criminal nature. On the other hand, the Mafiosi are also persistent reminders of the communist times whose fall disenfranchised and impoverished them. My reading will look at how the traces of this past which Shteyngart, like Pelevin, continually inserts into the narrative, haunt the desired image of a global, postmodern Eastern Europe.

Homo Zapiens: the path to your (ethnic) self is a shop Homo Zapiens opens up by placing two historical events in a constellation which helps to illuminate the ensuing complexities and tragedies of the Soviet post-communist chaos as imagined by Pelevin: Leonid Brezhnev’s endorsement of Pepsi, marking an official acceptance of Western consumer products in the USSR, and Mikhail Gorbachev’s ‘‘renovation and

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improvement’’ of the USSR, during which the country ‘‘improved so much that it ceased to exist’’ (Pelevin 2002: 3). Pelevin’s protagonist, Babylen Tatarsky, comes across as a creature whose life is suspended between the two events and as a result, inevitably shaped by them. He is born into the so-called ‘‘Generation P’’ which drank the once-reviled Pepsi-Cola, dreaming ‘‘that some day the distant forbidden world on the far side of the sea would be part of their lives’’; he reaches adulthood roughly when the USSR improves into disappearance and the ‘‘distant forbidden world’’ becomes part of his life (Pelevin 2002: 1). In this way, Pelevin sets the stage for a discussion of consumerism as a play on and manifestation of ubiquitous desire, not limited solely to the ‘‘corrupt’’ Western world and, contrary to specifically Russian xenophobic arguments post-1989, not neatly representing a ‘‘rape’’ of innocent, cultured Russia by an intrusive, materialist West.5 But while consumer desire is not new to old Soviets, manipulated as it was by Brezhnev and others through controlled production and a calculated allotment of commodities, the rampant consumerism enshrined by market capitalism and aided by advertising nevertheless performs a radical rupture in Soviet society as portrayed in Pelevin’s text. When the ‘‘distant forbidden world’’ finally arrives, Tatarsky loses the comfortably lacklustre existence which characterizes his study at the Moscow Literary Institute and is thwarted in his plans for an equally comfortable double life as a translator of poetry ‘‘from the languages of the peoples of the USSR’’ by day and a reclusive poet producing ‘‘creative labours for eternity’’ by night (Pelevin 2002: 3). Pelevin describes Babylen Tatarsky deliberately as a perfect Soviet specimen – his knowledge of Uzbek and Kirghiz, as well as his name which evokes Tatar or, more mysteriously, Babylonian roots, make him a conglomerate of the various peoples of the USSR, an official idealization of Soviet multiculturalism at work. But the name Babylen, Pelevin explains, also combines Tatarsky’s father’s love for Lenin and for the semi-dissident poet Evgenii Yevtushenko, referencing his controversial poem ‘‘Baby Yar.’’6 Thus, Tatarsky’s background evokes the cohabitation of official ideology and ideologically endorsed literature, as well as the antagonistic interaction between the proponents of politically correct literature and dissident intellectuals. His poetic idol, Boris Pasternak, exemplifies the double existence of a recalcitrant author who both challenges and negotiates with the regime, paralleling Tatarsky’s own future plans for a double life of publicly circulated, commissioned translations and privately cherished, ‘‘real’’ literature. But with the passing of the USSR, not only does Tatarsky’s official job lose its significance, but his poetic calling too becomes meaningless and unnecessary: Tatarsky ‘‘knew the new era had no use for him’’ (Pelevin 2002: 5). The society that replaces the USSR does away with regime authors by withdrawing state stipends and pensions, as well as with dissident authors, whose power is simply rendered irrelevant. The anti-intellectual climate of the post-Soviet desert in Homo Zapiens, then, also signals the

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passing of the fetishized role of a dissident intellectual. The new system of values drops the promotion of literature, popular education, or intellectual debate and redirects all creative energy into composing advertising jingles and sales slogans to create perfect consumer-citizens. From Pelevin’s perspective, then, it becomes impossible to imagine the clout of a Brodsky, for example, in the post-1989 period and becomes possible to understand the alienation of dissident authors like Kundera in their home countries, as discussed in Chapter 4. Instead of an expected victory of democracy and freedom of expression and a flourishing of literary and artistic movements, Pelevin suggests an apocalyptic reduction of all human interaction to commodity marketing and purchase, through which identity is similarly advertised, televised, and commodified. Predictably, Tatarsky has no other choice but to redirect his creative energies toward advertising and yet this member of the disempowered and impoverished intelligentsia becomes Pelevin’s vehicle for infiltrating the new circuits of capital only to subject its mechanisms of identity formation and enslavement to critique. In Homo Zapiens, Pelevin specifically tackles the seeming clash between Russian nationalist narratives – ranging from a negotiation of national identity in the global context to a patriotic-chauvinist advocacy of pure Russian identity – and multifarious integrationist narratives of cosmopolitan or European identity. Pelevin here fortuitously draws on the centurieslong debates between Russian ‘‘Slavophiles’’ and ‘‘Westernizers,’’ which acquire a new meaning and a host of original articulations in the post-1989 period when Russia again has to redefine its relationship vis-a`-vis the West. As Sergei Prozorov (2005) has argued, this frequently occurs by way of an antagonized reaction to Western discourses that exclude Russia from the EU, NATO, or Europe. But the text argues that both sides of the debate are missing the point and, indeed, collapsing into each other in the world of market-driven forces which domesticate and promote national identity as an advertising tool for the Westernized vendors as well as consumers. The debates about preserving or developing a specific Russian culture, whether in its chauvinist or tolerant, isolationist or integrationist articulations, no longer apply if one attempts to combine them with a free-market reform because, Homo Zapiens suggests, they can always be rearticulated as consumer commodities, as watered-down quandaries that have less to do with questions of Russia’s place in world civilization than with the ‘‘vulgar’’ concerns of market functioning. Illustrating this situation is a poster advertisement for GAP that Tatarsky encounters, featuring Anton Chekhov (who was engaged with issues of Russian social modernization and cultural development) and reading: ‘‘Russia was always notorious for the gap between culture and civilization. Now there is no more culture. No more civilization. The only thing that remains is the gap. The way they see you’’ (Pelevin 2002: 63). This Russian cultural gap that has been filled by the Western brand name GAP suggests Pelevin’s vision of the post-communist devaluation of

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unprofitable intellectual activity, including the ‘‘empty’’ debates about Russia’s identity: bankruptcy of an aesthetic, cultural ideal of national unity poised against the seemingly chaotic and disintegrationist effects of the market. After all, Tatarsky abandons the writing of poetry and loses his fascination with ‘‘great’’ Russian poets, when he realizes that it is no longer possible to ‘‘waste entire kilowatts of mental energy in dead-end circuits of his brain that never paid back the investment’’ (Pelevin 2002: 102). Pelevin satirically incorporates Russian writers and critics into commercials and advertisements ostensibly to give the latter a cultured, elegant Russian flair, but this gesture also highlights an absurdist incongruity between the elaborate debates over the direction Russia should take and the reality of simple, effective advertising slogans taking over the social landscape. Tatarsky’s scenario for a Gucci commercial, for instance, pictures critic Pavel Bisinsky falling into a cesspit in a dirty country lavatory as he ponders historic arguments over the Europeanness of Russia, referring also to Peter Chadaev’s and Ivan Krylov’s contributions to this argument. The caption reads: ‘‘Gucci for men. Be a European: smell better’’ (Pelevin 2002: 160). Bisinsky is possibly a parody of Pavel Basinsky, a contemporary Russian critic who, among other things, argues that ‘‘tradition’’ must be preserved, that women can’t write as well as men, and that the West should not teach Russia lessons on human rights. Chadaev and Krylov, like Basinsky, are portrayed as deeply invested in questions of Russia’s relationship to the West, Orientalizing Russia as non-Europe, as a cultural vacuum which contributed nothing to humanity. If the insertion of venerated critics and canonical writers parodically alleviates the impact of the Western market model by making Gucci commercials more sophisticated and therefore more ‘‘Russian,’’ it also commits blasphemy against highbrow, ‘‘pure’’ art by tarnishing such figures in the texts of mass consumer culture.7 In this respect, Pelevin’s text seems irreverent particularly towards the proponents of preserving the purity of Russian literary, artistic, or religious culture in the face of a deluge of foreign mass culture (frequently on charges of secularism, promotion of homosexuality, and general laxness in morals and standards). Indeed, Pelevin takes the market and all its manifestations seriously, suggesting that one should look at it critically instead of dismissing it as intellectually vulgar or pernicious, or pretending that it isn’t there. In this sense, Pelevin’s frequent employment of exaggerated, apocalyptic images of Russia’s post-communist anti-intellectualism is both serious and parodic: it expresses a certain nostalgia for the past importance of cultural and artistic sophistication while it also pokes fun at the complaints by xenophobic Russian purists, themselves apocalyptic, about the contamination of Russian ‘‘kul’turnost’’ with inferior mass-market imports. Although the medium and the content of the message may be radically different, contemporary advertising in Pelevin appeals to the same anxieties about Russian Europeanness which characterize the old and new debates between Slavophiles and Westernizers. At the same time, then, ads may sell

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commodities as a path to a European, cosmopolitan identity, or they may market the Russian national identity, invoking everything from Orientalist discourses on the non-European backwardness of Russia to nationalist narratives that extol Russian exceptionalism. Pelevin thus hints at a collusion, rather than antagonism, between the narratives of global corporate advertising and of Russian nationalism or cultural specificity. As an appropriate illustration of this point, Tatarsky’s employer Khanin has two copywriters whom he treats interchangeably: Seryozha, a Westernizer and admirer of America, and Malyuta, a Russian nationalist and anti-Semite. Malyuta wears a Turkish-made Russian folk shirt, which signals an impossibility of pure patriotism and is all the more outrageous as anti-Turkish advertisements and news reports feature prominently in the novel (Pelevin 2002: 200). But Malyuta also caters to the so-called new Russians who surface in the modern world of ‘‘primitive capitalism,’’ with enough money to participate in the promotion of consumer culture and enough power to determine the content of Russian national identity that is to be sold through advertisements. These new Russians comprise the new bourgeoisie emerging in the chaos of transitions, the entrepreneurial-mafia class that Pelevin chastises for its anti-intellectualism and bad taste, standing in for the vanishing middle class of Soviet times to whose memory the novel is in fact dedicated. In Pelevin, mafia circles become veritable ‘‘administrators’’ of the ‘‘capitalist Phantom-State,’’ in Derrida’s (1994) words, which becomes indistinguishable from the ‘‘real’’ state: as such, this powerful conglomerate of mafia–politicians– businessmen takes control over the mediatized articulation of Russia’s attitude to the West. Tatarsky thus updates the Gucci poster to appeal to the ‘‘real clientele’’: he loses the literary references that new Russians won’t understand and instead covers ‘‘the wall of the lavatory with pink silk,’’ and rewrites Bisinsky’s monologue so ‘‘the speaker is recalling a fight in a restaurant on the Cote d’Azur’’ (Pelevin 2002: 160). The ‘‘real clientele’’ is immersed in violence, anti-Semitism, and aggressive nationalism, making up the militant ideology of new Russia’s power circles which Tatarsky observes in his attempt to adapt American advertising concepts to ‘‘Soviet mentality.’’ Although the ultimate goal is to sell a Harley Davidson, for instance and help an ‘‘other’’ economy, the advertisement must nevertheless sell Russian ‘‘cultural references’’ (Pelevin 2002: 20). The narrative continually derides this simulation of nationalist pride in the service of a Western market: Malyuta’s Harley Davidson ad features a successful Hassidic Jew riding a shiny motorcycle past two Russians who recall their unfortunate friend Harley, commenting: ‘‘Just how long can the Davidsons keep riding the Harleys? Russia, awake!’’ (Pelevin 2002: 94). Not only does Russiannness, then, for all its alleged insistence on the legacy of power and greatness, carry little or no opposition to global free-market mechanisms, but it also becomes defined and articulated precisely in the process of Russia’s entry into world capitalist circuits, for out-

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side observers so to speak. Arguably, Tatarsky and others must add a Russian flavour to Western-type ads to make them more palatable for the domestic audience, whose ‘‘Soviet mentality’’ is assumed to be antagonized by the transitions to capitalism and Russia’s ‘‘rape’’ by foreign interventions. More significantly, however, Pelevin suggests that post-communist nationalism loses its potential for being an oppositional practice when it becomes a requirement for competitiveness in the world market of cultural diversity. It becomes articulated not as political or economic resistance, but as cultural ‘‘difference’’ encouraged by and subsumed within the multicultural discourse of globalization, in a televised public forum – here exemplified by advertising – where ethnics can perform their ‘‘difference.’’ In this respect, R. Radhakrishnan’s (2000) observation that in the ‘‘context of the technocapital driven world of deideologized and depoliticized [tele]visuality,’’ cultural hybridity has become ‘‘so eminently stagable [sic] as spectacle and as pure formal surface effect that it resists and trivializes historical explanation’’ can also extend to the phenomenon of the televisually stageable national culture, seemingly different and exceptional but always-already (superficially) hybrid as it employs global media of representation and communication. Tatarsky’s friend Morkovin, who initiates him into the world of advertising, explains that mafia-businessmen order expensive advertising clips as a result of ‘‘totally boundless megalomania,’’ which seems to stem from an inferiority complex and the need to prove their merit in the world market by playing the game as successfully as others and sporting an interesting, original cultural identity, safe for international consumption (Pelevin 2002: 9). This is arguably a ‘‘soft,’’ non-threatening version of nationalism which is what the powerful Western countries will allow on condition that their political and economic mandates are not questioned. In fact, one can surmise here a distinction between ‘‘hard’’ nationalist politics and this ‘‘soft’’ politics of ethnicity, where the only way for Russia – or non-Western others – to articulate its nationalism in an acceptable way is through its ethnic specificity (mirroring the multicultural politics of ethnic diversity in the United States), which includes language, culture, customs, folk heritage, but not any of the institutional or symbolic practices that affirm a confident, independent nation-state. Describing Russia’s position of (self-) exclusion regarding the EU, Sergei Prozorov argues that Russia can only seek national and territorial integrity, revival of the armed forces, i.e. everything that characterizes a modern European nation-state by articulating it as a ‘‘discourse of self-exclusion,’’ because Europe will not allow other states what it allows itself (2005: 32). Accordingly, Mafioso Wee Vova commissions Tatarsky to develop a straightforward ‘‘Russian idea’’ which can be laid out ‘‘clear and simple for any bastard from any of their Harvards’’ because the people from these Harvards treat the upwardly mobile Russians as ‘‘nig-nogs out in Africa . . . Like we was animals with money. Pigs maybe, or bulls’’ (Pelevin 2002: 137).

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Pelevin signals that a simple national identity is important in the global market to enable what Rey Chow terms ‘‘coercive mimeticism,’’ or ‘‘the level at which the ethnic person is expected to resemble what is recognizably ethnic’’ (Pelevin 2002: 107). As Boris Groys argues, post-communist Eastern Europeans’ desire to be ‘‘as nationalistic, as traditional, as culturally identified, etc., as all the others’’ is a ‘‘hysterical reaction to the requirements of the international cultural markets’’ (Pelevin 2002: 312). This apparent nationalism is ‘‘primarily a reflection of and an accommodation to the quest for otherness that is characteristic of the cultural taste of the contemporary West’’: the Russians, Ukrainians, Chechens, etc. have to ‘‘rediscover, to redefine and to manifest their alleged cultural identity’’ (Pelevin 2002: 312). In Pelevin’s absurdist illustration of this point, Chechen Mafioso Hussein shows a Russian movie stereotyping Chechens as brutal savages to a Russian client that he aims to intimidate. This is a ‘‘promotional video: information technology had influenced Hussein too and now he was using an image sequence to position himself in the consciousness of a client’’ (Pelevin 2002: 131). Similarly, in the process of establishing themselves as the national elite, the Russian nouveau riche seek an ideological justification and an image of respectability that would be lodged in the consciousness of world clients and alleviate the fact that they are also neocolonial elites. Aware that they are completely dependent on Western products such as films, cars, and even food, these neocolonial elites complain about not producing anything, except, paradoxically, Western money (Pelevin 2002: 136). The ‘‘Russian idea’’ becomes a fantasy of power in the structures of economic exchange over which the Mafiosi both do and do not have control. This protest against one’s humiliation using the mediatized, globally accessible world of advertising recalls Chow’s argument that claiming one’s belonging to the ‘‘normal’’ world ‘‘increasingly take[s] on the significance of a commodity, a commodified spectacle’’ (Pelevin 2002: 48). In this context, the respectable Russian national idea counts ‘‘less for actual emancipation of any kind than for the benefits of worldwide visibility, currency, and circulation. Ethnic struggles have become, in this manner, an indisputable symptom of the thoroughly and irrevocably mediatized relations of capitalism and its biopolitics’’ (Chow 2002: 48). In Pelevin, there is hardly any actual emancipation or even fantasy of power behind a national idea for those Russians who are not business or advertising elites. When Tatarsky goes to the ‘‘ordinary Russians’’ on the Moscow streets eliciting brainstorming material for the ‘‘Russian idea,’’ they all tell him to bugger off and crash his flashy Mercedes (Pelevin 2002: 181). As we shall see later, the narrative continually highlights this disconnect between the nouveau-riche beneficiaries of the transitions and the angry, impoverished multitudes, a ‘‘gap’’ which opens up the possibility of recognizing the simulacrum and utter meaninglessness of the ‘‘Russian idea.’’ Not only does meaning dissipate in the fact that Tatarsky cannot quite think of a stereotype that would briefly and effectively express the ‘‘essence’’ of Russia, but

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it also becomes absurd to think of Russia through the former grand narratives of imperial might, technological and scientific progress, or cultural sophistication in the face of widespread impoverishment, as well as its subordinate position in the mediatized world of cultural and economic exchange. While Brodsky, as we saw in Chapter 3, upholds Russia as the ‘‘Third Rome’’ which belongs to a world civilization, Pelevin treats the concept with sarcasm, as Brodsky’s cultural-ethical ideal of world civilization, conceived in terms of human rights, freedom of expression, and artistic achievement, has been displaced by the market. Tatarsky’s friend Sasha Blo can only articulate the idea that Russia is the ‘‘Third Rome’’ with a ‘‘total historical self-sufficiency and profound national dignity’’ as an advertising slogan which bears witness precisely to the undignified impossibility of national self-sufficiency (Pelevin 2002: 215). But, in turn, the market can be justified by its ethnic democracy, its tolerance of ‘‘difference’’: Tatarsky’s services are alternately commissioned by Chechens, Jews (who, dissatisfied by his services, call him a ‘‘schlemazl’’), and ‘‘old time [Russian] hoods’’ (who are homophobic and request good, clean heterosexual material) (Pelevin 2002: 67). This gesture again has a double target in Pelevin: a continual discussion of Chechens and other minorities haunts the debate on preserving the purity of Russian culture, while the very multiculturalism of the advertising market and the phantom-capitalism in which these minorities become visible appears hollow, to say the least.

Inside the language of the market So what is to be done? If, according to this scenario, the domination of the market and economic self-insufficiency neutralize any significance of Russia’s negotiation of national identity vis-a`-vis the West, then it seems more fruitful to target market mechanisms and narratives themselves than cling on to the (superseded) ideal of Russian national dignity. The Russian national idea attracts Pelevin’s criticism not only because he sees it as an ineffective weapon in a struggle against consumer economy, but, more importantly, because it participates in an idealist discourse of transcendence, enshrining ideal national types, the ethics of unity, overarching narratives of history and aesthetic canonicity. Pelevin’s blasphemous, anti-national-idea text can therefore be approached via David Lloyd’s intriguing elaboration of Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of ‘‘minor literature’’ as a literature that remains in an ‘‘oppositional relation to the canon and the state from which it has been excluded’’ (Lloyd 1987: 21). It thus subverts the ‘‘narrative paradigm’’ of ‘‘major literature,’’ which requires both a ‘‘production of an autonomous ethical identity’’ that is supposedly a national essence and the autonomy, self-containment and originality of the literature itself, ‘‘where the latter term implies the re-creation at a higher level of the original identity of the race’’ (Lloyd 1987: 19). Perhaps it is only appropriate, then, that Homo Zapiens, which has been denied

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the tribute of aesthetic canonicity or narrative originality by most Russian literary critics (including Pavel Basinsky), itself acts as ‘‘minor literature’’ that ‘‘deterritorializes’’ the aesthetic ideal by immersing itself in the language of the market and mass culture and the ethnic ideal by exposing Russian racism toward Chechens, Turks, and Tatars. In this sense, Homo Zapiens also furnishes a critique of intellectual endeavors in the service of articulating and promoting a national idea – including the ones by fashionable literary critics – but it doesn’t constitute a blanket condemnation of intellectualism. Pelevin conceives of Tatarsky as an intellectual whose critical interventions subject to ridicule both Russian cultural purists and nouveau-riche mafia who float between the simple slogans of nationalist chauvinism and consumer fascination with Western goods without critically engaging with either option. What Pelevin accomplishes through the figure of Tatarsky and a number of similar characters in the novel is an immanent critique of Western narratives of capital, consumerism, and marketing slowly enveloping Russia. This critical option is closed off to those who view these narratives from the outside, so to speak, as an organic contradiction to Russian mentality (with purists, for purposes of glorifying the noble Russian mentality; with Westernizers, for purposes of glorifying the market to which this mentality must adapt). Tatarsky is thus also symbolically implicated in the market as at once its employee, beneficiary, and critic, rather than being on the outside. Pelevin’s text distances itself from praise or condemnation of Russian (or Soviet) mentality, which, like the discussion of identity, entails much introspective and enclosed inquiry and leads only to the abstractions of a Russian idea or essence of which Pelevin is suspicious. Instead, Homo Zapiens suggests a paradigm shift in terms of finding fault, rather, with the system of values within which this identity must find its new articulation and whose contradictions it is asked to internalize as personal failures. Describing the introduction of free-market reforms, the narrator explains how Lenin’s statues were replaced by ‘‘a frightening murky greyness in which the Soviet soul simply continued rotting until it collapsed inwardly on itself’’ (Pelevin 2002: 19). The text resists the reformists’ attempts at legitimizing the changes as something inevitable and views with sarcasm newspaper claims that ‘‘the whole world had been living in this grey murk for absolutely ages, which was why it was so full of things and money and the only reason people couldn’t understand this was their ‘Soviet mentality’’’ (Pelevin 2002: 19). Pelevin further identifies the legitimation of the free market and corporate capitalism through its near-religious discursive glorification – indeed, mythification – and parodies the self-congratulatory language of Western corporate advertising, which Tatarsky calls the mantra of capitalism. Tatarsky’s continual reading of American books on advertising as he tries to adapt Western concepts to ‘‘Russian mentality’’ signals a unidirectional dissemination of metropolitan ideas among the natives who cannot set the terms of this discourse. Its alien, incongruous quality is suggested by its

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inapplicability to the particular Russian socio-cultural milieu: while the book speaks of a competition among trademarks in an advanced consumer society, ‘‘there was no battle being waged by trademarks for niches in befuddled Russian brains; the situation was more reminiscent of a smoking landscape after a nuclear explosion’’ (Pelevin 2002: 17). And yet Tatarsky’s adoption of ‘‘stylish expressions’’ from such texts – ‘‘line extension’’ or ‘‘freelance writer’’ – that he can use in front of clients effects a simulation of advanced consumer practices, arguing that Russia’s corporate culture is ‘‘the same as’’ America’s. But Pelevin targets these concepts not only because they help simulate Western advertising in Russia’s ‘‘smoking landscape,’’ but because they codify the nature of capitalist exchanges everywhere, using lofty, awe-inspiring, romanticized rhetoric. After reading a book appropriately written by two ‘‘highly advanced American shamans,’’ Tatarsky calls it his little bible which contains ‘‘echoes of religious views that had an especially powerful impact on his chaste and unsullied soul: ‘The romantic copywriters of the fifties, gone on ahead of us to that great advertising agency in the sky’’’ (Pelevin 2002: 18). In addition to commenting on this discursive sacralization of business, Pelevin also hints at its seductive, yet deceptive quality: when Ogilvy, another advertising guru, is mentioned, Tatarsky thinks that Ogilvy is a character in Orwell’s 1984 (Pelevin 2002: 45). In this respect, corporate discourses acquire the power of a religious cult which can intoxicate both their promoters and target customers with a ‘‘doublespeak’’ that invents its own system of values. Indeed, Tatarsky writes a pretend-scientific analysis of modern advertising invoking popular concepts of psychoanalytic theory: advertising works on the consumers’ unconscious desire to appear powerful, in control, respectable. Thus, a typical advertisement contains a ‘‘black Mercedes, a suitcase stuffed full of dollars and other archetypes of the collective unconscious’’ (Pelevin 2002: 16). This appears as irrational to Tatarsky as the ‘‘inflation of happiness’’ that he observes in post-communist Russia: the amount of happiness from obtaining a new pair of sneakers in Soviet times is now matched by buying ‘‘at least a jeep, maybe even a house’’ (Pelevin 2002: 70). Of course, what the text attempts to work through is this new process of class differentiation through collecting appropriate consumer commodities, but it refuses to take an innocent, unsullied position on the outside of consumer desire, which would exempt those who can supposedly resist the temptation. Thus, Tatarsky too becomes a consumer, he too rides around in an expensive Mercedes. But the text establishes an ethical difference between him and the mafia-businessmen: while their ‘‘unconscious’’ is fully taken with the success of acquiring a Mercedes, especially as most of their compatriots do not have one, Tatarsky actively attempts to deconstruct the fetish of the commodity. Being both, so to speak, inside and outside of the market, Tatarsky remains inseparable from the losers in the struggle for prestige, who lack not so much the know-how and self-assertiveness, to use

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fashionable corporate lingo, but rather the aggressive greed of the ‘‘successful.’’ Unlike Tatarsky, a mafia-businessman driving around in a stolen Mercedes is imagined to remain obliviously separated from his surroundings: indifferent to people waiting at overcrowded bus stops, reveling in their envious gaze, and complacently affirming ‘‘that all [his] trials were not in vain: [he’s] really made it’’ (Pelevin 2002: 179). In contrast, Tatarsky ‘‘failed to experience [the] sweet titillation’’ of showing off his Mercedes (Pelevin 2002: 179). Although the text, in its characteristically parodic fashion, ‘‘pretends’’ that this is due to ‘‘serious’’ problems such as Tatarsky’s upcoming review at work – after all, he is one of the unsentimental new Russians – there is a hint that he cannot look away from ‘‘some specific after-the-rain apathy of the punters standing at their bus stops’’ (Pelevin 2002: 179). In that sense, the narrative continually subverts itself: the pseudo-scientific discourse of the collective unconscious breaks down as some are shown to be more collectively unconscious than others and the rhetoric of capital loses its mystical, religious substance. Consequently, the text parodies, on the one hand, the corporate business culture’s attempt at self-sacralization, portraying it as at best an imaginatively depleted religion, and, on the other, spiritual and religious traditions which argue they can remain on the outside, free from contamination by ‘‘vulgar’’ consumerism. Towards the end of his climb up the corporate ladder of advertising, Tatarsky reaches the top of the ‘‘ziggurat’’ as he is initiated into a religious conspiracy. The media are revealed to be a supreme power that controls politics, economy, and the market through a written, digitized series of supposedly real characters. Tatarsky is elected the false god of advertising and husband to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, who has been reduced to a pure concept of ‘‘gold,’’ signaling human desire for the idea of gold rather than for gold literally. But as Tatarsky, who references Babylonian and Buddhist religious concepts throughout the novel, tries to find out more about this strange combination of advertising and ancient Babylonian rituals, he receives mostly disappointing answers that betray the ritual’s superficiality and indifference to religious symbolism among the experienced advertising gurus. Although Tatarsky’s initiators are in charge of explaining to Tatarsky his calling as the god of advertising, they know neither the names nor functions of key divinities in the legends they recount. Tatarsky is consequently told not to ‘‘go looking for symbolic significance in everything’’ (Pelevin 2002: 244). As with this false religion of corporate business, Homo Zapiens parodies the other religious options and paths toward spiritual self-improvement mentioned in the novel, especially their capacity to offer salvation from consumerism. Indeed, even the question of whether God exists or not is no longer applicable: one should doubt his/her existence as ‘‘everything in the world is a matter of interpretation’’ (Pelevin 2002: 75). Tatarsky’s friend Gireiev applies the Buddhist solution of turning a television upside down so as not to be brainwashed by ads; and yet the only parallel universe he can really offer to desperate Tatarsky running away from the world of phantom-

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capitalism comes through the hallucinatory benefits of fly-agaric mushrooms. Significantly, Russian Orthodoxy is satirized in the same way, perhaps again targeting the proponents of Russia’s religious morality for their claims of superiority over the secular, immorally materialist West. When Tatarsky encounters Grigory, immersed in the tradition of Russian religious mysticism and expounding on Daniil Andreev’s Rosa Mundi, his authority becomes swiftly eroded as he turns out to be another drug-dealer. At the same time, both Gireiev and Grigory are humiliatingly poor, which severs them from any circuits of cultural influence. Pelevin’s world in Homo Zapiens is disenchanted: even Tatarsky’s attempt at romanticizing Baghdad as a city near the mythical Babylon, with streets where Haroun el-Raschid walks disguised, is countered by his mafia-employer Azadovsky’s comment ‘‘You wouldn’t do too much strolling around Baghdad these days. It’s just like here, only you have to take three jeeps full of bodyguards’’ (Pelevin 2002: 214).

Let us drown the Russian bourgeoisie in a flood of images Although Baghdad may be ‘‘the same as’’ Moscow in terms of their shared dismantling at the hands of global economy, they are both the same and yet not the same as the metropolises of the mythically developed, industrially advanced countries. Pelevin’s narrative establishes explicit links between the (supposedly) developed and the (supposedly) developing, which implies that what is taking place in Russia cannot be considered in isolation from what is taking place in London or New York. Therefore, while it persistently couches the developments in Russia in the same language of corporate trade and marketing as would be used in Western locales, it focuses on the crucial difference of a higher level of social disenfranchisement and pauperization in the peripheral sites of global capitalism such as Russia or Iraq. Commenting on Russia’s current status as a service economy, Tatarsky wonders ‘‘why it was worth exchanging an evil empire for an evil banana republic that imported its bananas from Finland’’ (Pelevin 2002: 7). The inequality of power between the peripheral and metropolitan sites of global economic and political exchange is humoristically portrayed through the Russian advertising ‘‘gods’’’ frustration with their dependency on the United States, which controls their divine right to broadcast frequency. But they are also in collusion with the US media as they attempt to counter any attempts by the Russian ‘‘so-called middle class’’ to think for themselves and resist the effects of ‘‘teleschizomanipulation’’: they employ a program devised by the CIA for ‘‘neutralizing remnants of an intellectually independent national intelligentsia in Third World Countries’’ (Pelevin 2002: 208). It would be tempting to read this as Pelevin’s deliberate, parodic elaboration of a conspiracy theory that would serve as a convenient domestic explanation of all of Russia’s ills. However, the conspiracy may in fact not be one at all if considered in the light of IMF/World Bank policies which discourage developing countries from producing college-educated cadres

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and recommend a redirection of educational funds. Similarly, while it would also be tempting to read Pelevin’s use of serious corporate jargon in the context of mafia practices as a parody that stems from the apparent incongruity between the two, I propose a reading that considers the Eastern European mafia as the new propertied elites of peripheral economies, immersed in the rhetoric of violence and of capitalism and in the violence of capitalism. As the new capitalists whose insistence on a strong Russia as well as a global Russia betrays, in either case, their indebtedness to the West as a point of reference, they become the primary target of Pelevin’s narrative, which uses Tatarsky’s point of view as an (ironic) philosophical lens. As one who can intellectually evaluate the new values and economic developments in which the mafia participate, Tatarsky, a disenfranchised child of Soviet communism who is nevertheless not quite communist, playfully employs the staples of Marxist terminology to articulate his critique. In this way Pelevin’s text returns, albeit parodically and vicariously, to the legacy of communist rhetoric whose memory and revival appear quite appropriate for the project of staging an immanent critique of capital. This choice seems all the more radical and innovative in a post-communist social climate which largely discredits and silences communist political discourse and historical legacy and either accepts, to varying degrees, transitions to private capitalism or dwells on questions of Russia’s national integrity. The narrative collapses binaries between allegedly law-abiding state mechanisms and renegade mafia practices when it implies that both have as their ultimate goal the ‘‘primitive accumulation of capital.’’ Not only do the mafia entrepreneurs avail themselves of the State Bank, for instance, for illegal bankruptcies, but the State Bank is said to have its own mafia (Pelevin 2002: 9). Pelevin signals that even if the situation changes to a full-blown corporate economy, sporting a respectable image and higher stakes, the basic principle of ‘‘work’’ will not change. Instead of ‘‘pot-bellied nobodies’’ dabbling in insignificant business projects, there will be proper capitalists investing millions of dollars; instead of the chaos of nouveau-riche ‘‘jeeps for crashing into lamp-posts there’ll be castles in France and islands in the Pacific’’ (Pelevin 2002: 10). Here the old Dostoevskyan (literary, Russian, Slavophilic) dilemma, ‘‘Am I a timid cowering creature or have I got moral rights?,’’ is replaced by the language of American (Western, mass-media) democracy: ‘‘I’m a timid cowering creature with inalienable rights’’ (Pelevin 2002: 11). The process of ‘‘primitive accumulation’’ becomes justified by and engenders the discourse of human rights for everyone, even for ‘‘timid cowering creatures’’: the inalienable rights to profit and private property. Faced with this realization, Tatarsky philosophically deduces the basic economic law of post-communist societies, which is that initial accumulation of capital is also final (Pelevin 2002: 18). This enshrines the existing class differentiations and undermines the discourse of democratic, inalienable rights for everyone. But post-communist terminology itself attempts to neutralize the process of class differentiation: without focusing on the far

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more numerous losers of the transition, it upholds the ideal of an entrepreneurial, modern middle class in Russia that can join the global economy. Not only does Homo Zapiens expose this middle class as the only moneyed class, but it also dwells on their problematic upward mobility: a representative of this class is portrayed as a ‘‘typical red-necked, red-faced hitman from some gang . . . wearing a black leather jacket, a heavy gold chain and tracksuit trousers’’ (Pelevin 2002: 133). The vanishing middle class to whom the novel is dedicated is clearly distinct from the gangster types in leather jackets: it seems to comprise that large, amorphous portion of Soviet society characterized by comparable, though not high, income levels, urban living, and at least some degree of education and professionalization. Unlike the new middle class, the old one is not the ostensibly moneyed class (there was the privileged party nomenklatura after all), it does not constitute a profit-driven minority living at the expense of the impoverished majority, and it cannot be used as a posterchild for the successes of privatization. Of course, Pelevin’s narrative refuses to bury the old: along with revalidating the not wholly superseded Marxist terminology, it empowers the representatives of the vanishing middle classes, such as Tatarsky and his friend Sasha Blo, through the use of their intellectual capital to take revenge on the new capitalists. Tatarsky articulates another difference between ‘‘the era of decaying imperialism and the era of primitive capital accumulation’’: in the West, ‘‘both the client who ordered advertising and the copywriter tried to brainwash the consumer, but in Russia the copywriter’s job was to screw with the client’s brains’’ (Pelevin 2002: 18). In this respect, the era of ‘‘primitive accumulation’’ seems to carry some potential for early critique and resistance over the era of ‘‘decaying imperialism.’’ At stake for Pelevin is at once a rejection of the role of a consumer who can be brainwashed, as well as of the collusion with a corporate client, i.e. profit-driven mafia, in the fostering of a consumer-based exchange: the copywriter, instead of desiring upward mobility under the wing of corporate capital, politically sides with the projected consumer in feeling disgust with the corporate mafia, in not believing in the rhetoric of advertising. Tatarsky’s participation in the business world is less an enthusiastic enchantment with the possibility of profit and more a tongue-in-cheek pose, a survival technique, and an opening for critique of his ‘‘disgusting’’ association with ‘‘bankers and other scum who want advertising’’ in favor of the ‘‘parallel universe,’’ traces of a ‘‘lost world’’ which still exists with his old, now impoverished, friends from Soviet times – notably, Gireiev the Buddhist, a projected consumer (Pelevin 2002: 226, 32). Through another mock resurgence of communist rhetoric, Tatarsky declares: ‘‘Comrades! Let us drown the Russian bourgeoisie in a flood of images!’’ (Pelevin 2002: 107). The drowning of the Russian bourgeoisie and corporate logic in Pelevin takes place through a Situationist-type de´tournement of ‘‘serious’’ advertising

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clips. This is especially significant in terms of the apocalyptic approximation in Pelevin’s Russia of what Guy Debord (1995) calls the ‘‘society of the spectacle’’ and what the Situationists set out to challenge: post-Soviet Russia reduces all human interaction to ‘‘anal’’ and ‘‘oral’’ ‘‘wow’’ impulses, corresponding to the consumption or ingestion of money with the purpose of acquiring a desirable, advertised image and ‘‘wow-ing’’ another human being, whom Debord calls ‘‘Homo Spectator’’ and Pelevin ‘‘Homo Zapiens.’’8 In the reduction of human beings to widely circulating signs, images, or television programs, the ‘‘Man is wolf to man’’ saying is replaced by ‘‘Man is wow to man,’’ or a television program watching another television program (Pelevin 2002: 90). A similar social internalization of the effects of a technological phenomenon occurs in Debord, who describes the ‘‘spectacle’’ not as a mere collection, production, or dissemination of images but rather as a ‘‘social relationship . . . mediated by images,’’ a ‘‘weltanschauung . . . translated into the material realm’’ (1995: 13). In exposing the spectacularization of social relationships, then, Situationists opt for de´tournement, or a rewriting of existing artistic elements in a new assemblage, in order to ‘‘conceive of a parodic-serious stage where the accumulation of detourned elements, far from aiming at arousing indignation or laughter by alluding to some original work, will express our indifference toward a meaningless and forgotten original’’ (Debord 1981: 56). Pelevin’s intervention into the language and images of advertising carries a similar potential. While the novel discusses other visual advertising media, such as posters and billboards, it importantly targets primarily television advertising because this is television’s main reason for existence, linking it crucially to the circulation of money, i.e. capital (Pelevin 2002: 82). The de´tourned ads, underwritten by Tatarsky and other super copywriters, are at that parodic-serious stage where they both ridicule the safeness of appropriate advertising symbols and make the products advertised ultimately meaningless and undesirable by shifting the viewers’ attention to the violent subtext of their supposed promotion. The proposed ad for ‘‘Parliament’’ cigarettes which invokes Yeltsin’s 1993 shelling of the Russian Parliament, followed up with a line from Aleksandr Griboedov’s Woe from Wit – ‘‘Sweet and dear/Is the smoke of our Motherland’’ – exposes the violent origins of the imposition of this and other US products on the Russian market (Pelevin 2002: 42). Ironically, the ad for ‘‘Parliament’’ cigarettes is made possible precisely by this suppressed history of Yeltsin’s dissolution of the Parliament for their opposition to his neoliberal market reforms, for which Yeltsin received (democratic) America’s backing. But the violence in other ads is not necessarily related to the product itself; nor does it aim at arousing indignation at the realization of the history behind the promotion of a product. For instance, a Nike commercial scenario features the dead members of the San Diego Heaven’s Gate cult uniformly sporting Nike sneakers and the usual ‘‘Just Do It’’ slogan (Pelevin 2002: 96). A proposed campaign for Nescafe´ envisions a fake terrorist alert

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about planted bombs, whereby the police, the authorities, and the media would uncover Nescafe´ packets instead of bombs at various city sites – and all this would be followed up by a slogan: ‘‘‘Nescafe Gold! The Taste Explosion!’’ (Pelevin 2002: 46). What takes place in such mock ads is the subversion of the very structure of Western advertising, whereby the focus falls precisely on the morbid side-effects of Nike popularity that Nike’s advertising team would likely suppress, or to the uncomfortable reference to the real fear of terrorism which prompts an alienation from Nescafe´ products – an unholy betrayal of ‘‘serious’’ expectations by giving them ‘‘pleasant,’’ ‘‘trivial’’ content. Pelevin’s narrative use of the parodic-serious de´tournement seems to express, as it did for the Situationists, ‘‘the contradictions of an era in which we find ourselves confronted with both the urgent necessity and the near impossibility of bringing together and carrying out a totally innovative collective action’’ (Debord 1981: 56). How can collective action be staged and how can the ‘‘wow’’ humanity possibly be able to read the mock ads if it has been completely spectacularized, if its ‘‘identities’’ have been fully shaped by advertising slogans? It seems that the novel’s ideal audience that would understand the inside jokes and the subversive gesture of the mock ads nevertheless exists in the margins of the ‘‘wowerized’’ society. In opposition to what Tatarsky, again employing Marxist cliche´s, terms ‘‘lumpen intelligentsia’’ – presumably the mafia-businessmen and assorted Russian patriots who believe in the viability of the Russian idea in the global market – there is another group who could realize that the global triumph of the Russian idea is a marketing technique to boost sales. But ‘‘only the least materially well-off section of the target group is capable of drawing such analytical conclusions,’’ and therefore sales cannot be adversely affected (Pelevin 2002: 161). The ‘‘least materially well-off,’’ whose identity has not fully collapsed into an advertised spectacle, exist in the interstices of Tatarsky’s climb up the corporate advertising ladder. These are the grumpy Russians waiting at bus stops, Afghan war veterans, ‘‘ordinary Russians’’ who tell him to bugger off and crash his Mercedes – including the ‘‘vanishing middle class,’’ with Gireiev and Sasha Blo as its representatives. Homo Zapiens asks, then, how can the disenfranchised, the poor, and the homeless become political actors, how can they be made to rebel once their illusions have been shattered and once they are again made invisible in the dominant narratives of capitalist globalization – or what Debord calls ‘‘spectacular modernization’’ which has led to a ‘‘complete disintegration of Russia’’ (1991: 10)?

Che and the impossibility of revolution This question becomes even more difficult to answer if one dwells on Che Guevara’s tract on the disappearance of the subject of history as the effect of mass media, arguably the novel’s centerpiece. In a characteristically phantasmagoric fashion, Tatarsky obtains an Ouija board and conjures the

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spirit of Che hoping that this internationally renowned comrade will initiate him in the secrets of advertising unknown to even American ‘‘shamans.’’ Relying, incredibly, on a Buddhist condemnation of the ideology of dualism between subject (human individual) and object (material world), Che prophesies that humanity is now entering the dark age which maintains a dualism between an individual and a material world as it is shown on television, although the individual is now more than ever unreal, a virtual viewer whose consciousness is practically indistinguishable from a television program (Pelevin 2002: 80–85). While the ‘‘subject of history’’ was unreal to begin with – predicated as he/she was on an invented dualism between subject and object – he/she was still capable of analyzing events, of observing ‘‘the chaotic movement of his or her thoughts and moods’’ (Pelevin 2002: 81). In contrast, the spirit of Che contends, the dark age has made this ‘‘subject of the second type’’ absolutely unreal, participating in the ‘‘experience of collective non-existence’’ as a mere ‘‘effect created by the collective efforts of editors’’ (Pelevin 2002: 80). Che thus makes a reappearance on the stage of strengthening global capitalism only to deny the possibility of revolution: ‘‘the individual for whose freedom it was once possible to fight disappears completely from the field of view. . . . The end of the world will simply be a television program’’ (Pelevin 2002: 91). Writing about Che’s posthumous cameo in Pelevin, Stephen Hutchings observes that Che’s ‘‘nonsensical dictums ridicul[e] Soviet predictions of the end of capitalism,’’ as his ‘‘Marxism is couched in the vocabulary of an absurd version of bourgeois idealism’’ (2004: 183). Hutchings implies that Pelevin’s selection of Che has to do with his overwhelming popularity with communists in the USSR and elsewhere, which has led to Che himself becoming a spectacular sign, a brand name of communist movements. Also, Hutchings’s interpretation locates a sense of capitulation, or even indifference, to market capitalism in Che’s ‘‘nonsensical dictums’’ – and, consequently, it is no wonder that the famous (brand-name) image of Che sporting a beret with a Nike logo appears on the original cover of Pelevin’s novel. I wish to complicate Hutchings’s reading, however, as despite Che’s apocalyptic predictions of the end of humanity and freedom, his very resurgence at this stage of progressing capitalism and his abandonment of the traditional Marxist conceptualization of social problems in favor of an updated analysis of contemporary phenomena points to similar interstitial opportunities for critique to the ones discussed in the previous section. Che’s use of, as Hutchings describes it, ‘‘bourgeois’’ terminology of mass media and advertising can be said to stage an immanent critique of contemporary capitalist mechanisms, as a symbolic rearticulation of the problems of social inequality and oppression as they arise in the age of mediatized, advanced capitalism. Here, Che the Marxist benefits from cultural and media studies and no longer believes in an idealized, emancipated subject of history, but rather recognizes how this subject is also ‘‘written’’ into history

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by various ideologies: ‘‘bourgeois science,’’ Marxism, nationalism, and what Che calls contemporary telecracy (Pelevin 2002: 90). In this respect, Che is both a spectacularized logo and, with this recognition, something beyond a logo, what this logo points to by analogy – a possibility of deconstructing the narratives that enable propaganda, exploitation, and inequality, as well as a possibility of understanding how one figures as a ‘‘subject’’ in these narratives. In this respect, the conjured specter of Che becomes Jacques Derrida’s ‘‘specter of Marxism,’’ no longer equal or reduced to ‘‘himself’’ as a famous revolutionary icon, a spectacular sign, but an opening toward an emancipatory promise, toward Marxism as a radical and continual ‘‘self-critique,’’ a rewriting in the context of changing social conditions (1994: 88). This does not entail a facile endorsement of Soviet communism, however. Just as Pelevin’s text acknowledges Che’s own implication in the Soviet version of the ‘‘society of the spectacle,’’ where Che the eternal symbol of revolution is exploited to embellish Soviet social and political problems, so it implies that Soviet ideologues were as postmodern as market-economy ideologues in using television to simulate and advertise a favored image of ‘‘reality.’’ Homo Zapiens confirms Mikhail Epstein’s argument that postmodernism arrived early in the East, with Soviet communists who substituted ideological ‘‘phantasms’’ for ‘‘reality’’ (1995: 97).9 Hence, many ‘‘bourgeois’’ copywriters in Homo Zapiens are unmasked as former Soviet speech-writers. Mafia-businessmen and the staunchest advocates of neoliberal reforms are shown to be former party bosses, giving credence to Slavoj Zˇizˇek’s statement that post-communism is a combination of the worst of socialism and the worst of capitalism (2000: 62). Homo Zapiens, then, does not resuscitate Marxist rhetoric, international heroes such as Che, or the vanishing middle class out of a nostalgia for an ‘‘official’’ Soviet Union or for its televised predictions of a bright Soviet future. And yet there is a nostalgia throughout Pelevin’s novel that complicates Mikhail Epstein’s argument that the USSR was held together solely through propaganda, i.e. postmodernist simulation, which itself maintains an incontestable dualism between idealistic representation and oppressive reality. Tatarsky’s incessant wandering throughout post-communist Moscow’s apocalyptic landscape supplies the narrative with persistent traces of the formerly communist country. He goes to such spectacular sites as former Soviet military compounds whose decrepit condition exposes the propaganda of Soviet power and claims to eternity as fake, as the compound itself functions as a sign, an image of this supposed eternity. But when Tatarsky encounters a pair of ‘‘unmistakably Soviet-made shoes’’ in a post-communist shop window, he is touched by the spectacle (they bring tears to his eyes), although they are ‘‘in bad taste . . . vulgar,’’ and moreover also function as a recognizable sign of Soviet life: ‘‘the clear embodiment of what a certain drunken teacher of Soviet literature from the Literary Institute used to call ‘our gestalt’’’ (Pelevin 2002: 4). Here, the

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nostalgia is not for the ‘‘gestalt’’ that the shoes immediately signify, but rather for what they give rise to, what they bring to mind by analogy, in the same way that the ‘‘official’’ Soviet Union gives rise to a parallel existence that does not neatly fall into the cliche´d category of unrelenting oppression. What has been lost with the passing of the Soviet Union is not only the optimistic belief in eternity, Marxist cliche´s, or the dream of Russian power. Lost is also ‘‘some other world that had existed in parallel with the Soviet Union, even in contradiction of it and had perished together with it’’ (Pelevin 2002: 30). Tatarsky feels regret at its demise because everything that he likes and finds inspiring is associated with this parallel universe. Just as the Soviet Union crumbles without anticipation, this seemingly secure alternate existence vanishes along with the state that made it possible (Pelevin 2002: 30). It is precisely this seemingly eternal parallel universe that Alexei Yurchak illuminates in his brilliant study of late-socialist culture and the last Soviet generation (where he in fact includes Pelevin), Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More (2006). Arguing against ‘‘binary socialism’’ that suggests an antagonistic relationship between the official/public sphere that allegedly fortified the regime and the unofficial/hidden sphere that allegedly undermined it, Yurchak claims that the majority of citizens neither fervently supported nor opposed the regime, but rather subscribed to a ‘‘performative reproduction’’ of ideological rituals which nonetheless ‘‘enabled the emergence of diverse, multiple, and unpredictable meanings in everyday life, including those that did not correspond to the constantive meanings of authoritative discourse’’ (Yurchak 2006: 25). Perhaps this performative participation in official Soviet institutions helps to explain why Tatarsky looks forward to the comfortable cohabitation, rather than antagonism, of his roles as a Soviet poetry translator and as a reclusive poet, and why he is nostalgic for the Soviet Union after it collapses. Yurchak identifies various cultural milieus which performed a ‘‘major deterritorialization of late Soviet culture, which was not a form of opposition to the system. It was enabled by the Soviet state itself, without being determined by or even visible to it’’ (Yurchak 2006: 128). In such cultural milieus Soviet citizens participated in the system without necessarily endorsing its ideological rituals – but rather ‘‘decenter[ing] and reinterpret[ing]’’ them – while they also benefited from the socializing, egalitarianism, solidarity, and education that it made possible (Yurchak 2006: 34). Pelevin’s Homo Zapiens, in its unrelenting satire of the post-Soviet cultural landscape, mourns the disappearance of precisely such diverse intellectual venues that the old system created.

Beta immigrants and mafia thugs: capitalism’s ‘‘others’’ in The Russian Debutante’s Handbook When asked why he wrote The Russian Debutante’s Handbook in English instead of Russian, Gary Shteyngart said: ‘‘No one reads Russian . . . I can

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feed myself in English’’ (Bowman 2003: 38). But although the book is ostensibly in English and rife with American, specifically urban East Coast, references, its medley of Slavic languages – including Russian, as well as invented Stolovan, an Esperanto-type Slavic – and Soviet bloc communist references is intended for all those Eastern Europeans who have straddled the West–East divide in the wake of the fall of communism. Indeed, The Handbook’s hero Vladimir Girshkin is an undetermined, ‘‘Postmodern man,’’ par excellence: born in Soviet Russia, living in the United States, performing the role of a ‘‘Jew,’’ a ‘‘Russian Jew,’’ a ‘‘victim of communist terror,’’ and/or ‘‘an exotic immigrant,’’ but not feeling at home with any of these categories (Shteyngart 2002: 375). In an effort to make sense of all these spatial disjunctions, all the fragmentations and dispersions of identity, Shteyngart’s Handbook performs what Fredric Jameson calls ‘‘cognitive mapping’’: an attempt to arrest and comprehend an individual subject’s position within the vast multinational space of postmodern, ‘‘late capitalism’’ (Jameson 2000: 280). The Handbook specifically tries to come to terms with the most recent expansion of capitalist space into the former countries of the Soviet bloc and Eastern Europe in general. As Girshkin ponders the relationship between his two semi-homelands, seeing every detail in double exposure, the novel focuses on the two faces of global capitalism as inscribed on to and being inscribed by New York City and Prava, a fictional city in the imaginary Eastern European Republic of Stolovaya. Urban space, in terms of its architecture and inhabitants, both performs and disturbs the narrative of supposedly uniform global capitalism, pointing to the distinctions between capital’s center and periphery. New York’s rhythmic yuppie orderliness and cleanliness overshadow disorderly refugee ‘‘masses’’ that Girshkin works with in darker, more neglected Manhattan corners. Conversely, Prava’s (exoticized) mafia rowdiness, violence, and transgression mock the acceptable image of American-type capitalism that the Eastern European mafiabusinessmen apparently strive to learn from Western teachers, only to satirize it in the process. The novel opens up in New York City, where Girshkin, 25 and university educated, works at a dead-end, hourly-wage job at the ‘‘Emma Lazarus Society’’ for the accommodation of refugees and immigrants. Although he feels somewhat at home with his job and identifies with the impoverished multitudes he welcomes to America, he is marked as an outsider in New York and, by extension, in the United States. He passes his dreary existence immersed in insecurities and a feeling of not-belonging, of not being able to find either American friends or an appropriate immigrant social unit for whose rights he could fight (he is both Jewish and Russian, ‘‘units’’ which seem to clash with each other). Eventually, when Rybakov, a Russian exileposeur, offers him a profitable gig with his Mafioso son in Prava, Girshkin initially refuses, but is eventually forced to flee New York for Prava after rejecting sexual advances by Jordi, another shady businessman, in Miami.

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Shteyngart’s New York City, or, more specifically, Manhattan, builds around the conflicts and paradoxes of postmodern capitalism and one of its accompanying processes and side-effects, multiculturalism. Initially Girshkin does not fit neatly into any of these dominant narratives that paint New York: although his background and education qualify him for a yuppie lifestyle, he is not upwardly mobile through either his job prospects or his consumer power. Although he is a Russian exile, he does not try to ‘‘make it’’ in his adopted land, does not believe in the American dream, and remains what he calls throughout the book a ‘‘beta immigrant.’’ Accordingly, Girshkin’s apprehension of New York flashes through the sardonic remarks of an outsider, a subaltern who views the order and the predictability of capital’s center with interminable ennui: suspending temporality, Girshkin’s view of New York testifies to what Slavoj Zˇizˇek terms the ‘‘absence of an Event’’ in ‘‘the basic sameness of global capitalism’’ (2002: 7). The boredom of the same – articulated as an endless repetition of the work/consumption rhythm – pervades the financial district of Manhattan, ‘‘awash with rationalism and dull commercial hope’’ as ‘‘suburban secretaries [explore] bargains on cosmetics and hose; Ivy Leaguers [swallow] entire pieces of yellowtail in one satisfied gulp’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 8). New York could be said to operate through what Guy Debord terms the ‘‘consumable pseudo-cyclical time’’ of capital, which is the time of ‘‘alienated labor’’ and ‘‘modern economic survival’’ (1995: 110–12): for Shteyngart, New York exists only in the timeless present. This alienation also holds captive Girshkin’s immigrant family, as his grandmother, a one-time brutal but colorful communist, is reduced to living ‘‘imprisoned in one of the world’s most expensive backyards,’’ in the midst of the predictable, pseudocyclical time of suburban work versus rest: with ‘‘the rustle of stealth station wagons sliding into adjacent driveways, meat burning everywhere, her grandson a grown man with dark circles under his eyes who came to visit his family seasonally’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 38). This endlessly repetitive world of order and a conspicuous world of rampant and privileged consumption of the spectacle that is New York includes corporate yuppies and allegedly rebellious liberals alike. Cruising into the world of liberal New Yorkers through his acquaintance with the attractive Francesca and her family, the Ruoccos, Girshkin gains insight into the flip side of the rich New York, a hipster one. The Ruoccos’ apartment overlooks Washington Square Park in Manhattan, which simulates ‘‘a venerable plaza of a European capital’’ – a liberal American fetish of sophistication, a statement against the yuppie concrete jungle (Shteyngart 2002: 85). Looking for a stable identity, Girshkin wants to become Francesca, so to speak, wants to be symbolically adopted by the university-professor-progressive Ruoccos. But the articulation of this identity requires fitting into both narratives that Girshkin persistently evades: for all its rebelliousness, this identity requires him to become, ultimately, both an upwardly mobile worker/ consumer and a mascot of multiculturalism. It entails filling a specified role

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or carrying out an acceptable performance through a repetitive consumption of politically correct commodities and images. ‘‘The post Reagan/Bush Manhattan’’ is crowded by a youth deeply immersed in spectacular consumption, ‘‘pierced, restless, weaned on flashing image and verbally disinclined’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 54). Thus, Girshkin’s observation that ‘‘mocking the mainstream had become the mainstream’’ applies both to the downtown youth and to Francesca’s hipster TriBeCa friends with their carefully assembled Glam Nerd image (Shteyngart 2002: 52, 69). Because the hipster-liberal, like the corporate-capitalist identity is essentially commodified – it involves performing ‘‘oneself’’ as a commodified spectacle – Girshkin can participate in it as long as he plays by the rules, that is, regularly spends large amounts of money in quaint restaurants, organic food stores, and second-hand shops. In an East Village store Francesca persuades Girshkin to buy a trendy outfit, after which he feels a sense of belonging on the Manhattan streets: ‘‘his hand in hers, two fashionable, modern people, their conversation by turns warm and breezy, by turns analytic and severe’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 80). Through such careful collection of commodities Girshkin temporarily becomes an insider in Manhattan and the city transforms into a Mecca of relaxed pleasure, for which his and Francesca’s sexual escapade in Central Park is highly metonymic. But this intoxicated relationship both with Francesca and Manhattan can continue only so long as Girshkin has money. The sense of repetitive, vicious-cycletype consumption is aptly illustrated by the tab that Girshkin keeps for his and Francesca’s relationship, itemizing ‘‘bar tabs,’’ ‘‘trade paperbacks & academic journals,’’ ‘‘wardrobe overhaul,’’ ‘‘retro lunches, ethnic brunches,’’ and ‘‘taxi tariffs’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 100). In the end, it is hard to tell the difference between a human being and a commodity, between Manhattan in all its complexity and Manhattan the phantasmagoria of consumer pleasure. To Girshkin, Francesca’s ‘‘American sweat, sweat denatured by deodorant,’’ smells ‘‘purely metallic,’’ while the Ruoccos’ cat, Kropotkin, is jokingly described as having ‘‘hypoallergenic designer fur’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 93, 92). Even a pseudo-radical idealization of anarchism, conveyed by the cat’s name, must come in an acceptably domesticated form. This echoes Pelevin’s articulation of human identity in terms of a television advertisement in Homo Zapiens. The spirit of Che takes a jab at consumer trends overtaking the globe, noting that identification is only possible through listing the goods one consumes: ‘‘I am the individual who drives such-and-such a car, lives in such-and-such a house, wears such-and-such a type of clothes’’ (Pelevin 2002: 86). In Shteyngart, the American version of multiculturalism adds a commodified ethnic image to a list of goods to be consumed in order to achieve this identification of the self. The grotesque description of Manhattan Glam Nerds and their trends is compounded by an equally grotesque enumeration of Russian/Eastern European stereotypes Girshkin is expected to live up to. While Frank the Slavophile dismisses Girshkin’s concern over money, claiming that ‘‘Vladimir has an expansive

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Russian soul’’ and his primary concerns are ‘‘camaraderie and salvation,’’ Francesca exoticizes him as another appendage to her supposedly progressive identity, as her ‘‘signifier’’ who is ‘‘well-read, educated, from a different country’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 77). Girshkin can assimilate to the liberal New York crowds, but only to an extent. Because of his background, he is stuck in Orientalist fantasies about the ‘‘other,’’ which in the case of his liberal friends alternate between images of a soulful Russian, a noble savage untainted by American corporate culture, a member of the exiled Russian intelligentsia, and a badly dressed Warsaw Pact immigrant. Both Manhattan’s exteriors, with its trendy shops and restaurants, and its interiors, such as the Ruoccos’ apartment, become spaces devoted to the identity overhaul of this patronized Russian Jew, without, nevertheless, allowing him to become completely de-exoticized. Fran’s mausoleum-like room – ‘‘the temple to Fran’s strange ambitions, the dessication of early-twentieth-century literature’’ – is dedicated to ‘‘the education and repackaging of one Warsaw Pact immigrant’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 89). In contrast to the privileged New York that is physically clean, safe, welldressed, and orderly to the point of being denatured, Shteyngart portrays a different New York of ‘‘a million opened steam vents and cars backfiring into the night’’ and zeroes in on the less profitable Manhattan, where Girshkin is alone with ‘‘the poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 85, 88). Girshkin feels more at home with this underprivileged, immigrant New York which both unearths the underside of capitalist glory and disturbs the neat categories accepted in the dominant narrative of multiculturalism. His decision to stick to a dead-end job in the society for the accommodation of immigrants reflects his indifference to corporate culture and to the dream about multiethnic America working together towards capitalist prosperity. In fact, the job gives him a warped sense of superiority he lacks as an outsider in the privileged New York: ‘‘The only enjoyment Vladimir derived from his job was encountering foreigners even more flummoxed by American society than he was’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 11). His disillusionment is compounded by that of his boss, the ‘‘Acculturation Czar, a homesick, suicidal Pole,’’ whose introductory note to immigrants sums up America as ‘‘Selfish People, Selfish Land’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 12). The positive attitude of the American ‘‘melting pot’’ ideology and staples of multiculturalist politics, such as respect for otherness, absence of racism, and equal opportunity for all, continually collapse in the Emma Lazarus Society. Simultaneously, Shteyngart challenges the myth of New York as a safe haven for the world’s disenfranchised multitudes. Although ‘‘Vladimir was taught to foster multiculturalism,’’ he draws a blank before the ‘‘sneering faces of his countrymen’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 65). Miscommunication and racism characterize interactions between different ethnic groups at the office. Throughout the narrative, the disturbing effect of such interactions is enhanced by frequent,

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unapologetically racist statements made by Rybakov and Girshkin’s mother. Here is the fear of civilized America, the people whose behavior cannot be securely categorized and commodified – that is, contained. In Shteyngart, this constant threat of urban violence and disorder becomes a means of resistance to, as well as the truth of, the system that places high stakes on qualities such as education, ambition, and tolerance for ‘‘otherness’’ in order to harness them into a smoothly functioning and well-protected corporate culture. Most immigrants that Girshkin welcomes lack many of these desirable qualities and as such can only become badly paid and unprotected underpinnings of such a culture, its exploited mascots of multiculturalism. But Shteyngart’s opposition to corporate culture comes in the guise of a different kind of immigrant – not the one who believes in all the commodified trappings of the American dream, but one who inserts him/herself into the system of multicultural corporatism only to turn it upside down. Rybakov’s surreally fantastic success in fleecing the social security system and becoming a penthouse owner is a statement against the ideology of reward through hard work in America. Like Girshkin, he is a beta immigrant in that he lacks what counts as real ambition. In a similar way, Girshkin’s parents, although deeply immersed in the corporate culture, make their money through corporate fraud, default on the rules the system sets for making ‘‘legal’’ profit. Shteyngart’s America is confused and disturbed by people like Rybakov, its multicultural mythology accommodating him only with a certain dose of discomfort. This is nicely illustrated in the scene in which Rybakov publicly embarrasses the New York City mayor, who refers to him as one of the newest New Yorkers (Shteyngart 2002: 397). Rybakov is a flaming racist whose conservative mindset cannot be re-educated, while at the same time he claims that he loves America and upholds the American dream. He is a postmodern ‘‘mimic man,’’ to invoke Homi Bhabha’s (1994) term, performing an acceptable immigrant identity to a certain point, seemingly assimilated, yet potentially dangerous to the host country, challenging the dominant metropolitan imaginings of ‘‘good’’ immigrants. The subversive potential of colonial mimicry which Bhabha discusses in The Location of Culture (1994) lures in Girshkin as well, as a method of resistance to the sterile cycle of work and consumption in New York City. Living the high life without investing nine-to-five workdays and ‘‘real’’ ambition becomes possible only through activities branded as illegal. First, Girshkin engages in a profitable, though unsuccessful, scheme of posing as a college applicant in Florida and then decides to join Rybakov’s son Groundhog in Prava where he would pose as a ‘‘serious’’ yet liberal and open-minded American businessman. When Girshkin meets members of the Eastern European mafia in New York, he realizes that ‘‘they likely committed all sorts of unfortunate violence in their off hours,’’ but nevertheless ‘‘they seemed so much more cultured and polite than the work-obsessed Americans who crowded Vladimir’s city’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 117). The

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appeal of Rybakov’s posse lies precisely in the fact that they are not workobsessed in the corporate sense of the word. Their intermittent violence, relaxed cruising on The Brezhnev while New York City does ‘‘real’’ work, and enjoyment of choice commodities figure as a line of flight from corporate culture. In a radical, disturbing way, their activities approximate what Michel de Certeau describes as a ‘‘tactic,’’ a mode of everyday resistance to the institutionalized commandeering of individual time: a tactic is ‘‘a clever utilization of time, of the opportunities it presents and also of the play that it introduces into the foundations of power’’ (de Certeau 1985: 38–39). Rybakov and his crew draw in Girshkin, struck with the ennui of New York, because they actively appropriate and transform the notion of work time instead of succumbing to the collective order of ‘‘consumable pseudocyclical time.’’

The crime of refusing to work: reclaiming the time of capital In Prava, Girshkin’s feeling of not belonging and the elusive (dis)comfort of New York are replaced by a dangerous, carnivalesque, yet strangely cozy world, signaling the surreal Eastern Europe of post-communist transitions. Poking fun at the fetishized, emotive content afforded by multicultural narratives to categories such as exile, expatriation, or homecoming, Shteyngart here describes the American–Eastern European Girshkin as both ‘‘Vladimir the Expatriate, a title that signified luxury, choice, decadence, frou-frou colonialism’’ and ‘‘Vladimir the Repatriate, . . . signifying a homecoming, a foreknowledge, a making of amends with history’’ (2002: 170). Girshkin feels at home in the ‘‘criminal’’ yet ‘‘transitioning’’ postcommunist Prava, reveling in pyramid schemes concocted to fleece naı¨ve American expats and indulging in excessive hedonism with his Russian mafia-employers. At the same time, he registers the less cheerful Prava which seems to have been relegated to history yet stubbornly refuses to die. Girshkin’s observations insert into the narrative the physical traces of communist Prava, as well as the undead pockets of communist supporters, projecting the past into the present and complicating the narrative of a hedonistically postmodern or global Prava. Shteyngart’s Prava comes across a fictional city modeled after the postcommunist Prague – ostensibly because Shteyngart endows it with a large American expat population, numerous references to Kafka, and ubiquitous medieval/baroque buildings. But Prava both is and is not Prague, in the sense that it could also be any city in post-communist Eastern Europe, embodying the common turmoil of transitions experienced most painfully in the urban centers of this part of the world. Indeed, not only is Rybakov’s son, the Groundhog, surrounded by a veritable Eastern European multicultural team, but Stolovan seems comprehensible to a speaker of any Slavic language and Girshkin sees Stolovaya as his home because Stolovans and Russians are ‘‘the same proto-Soviet model’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 382). The

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fictional name also marks Prava as an exotic, slightly unreal locale: it emerges as both a utopian spectacle for privileged consumption and an Orientalized dystopia of Eastern European violence and economic chaos. While New York exists through an unremitting cycle of repetition in the timeless present, Prava surreally operates on many temporal levels that contend with each other, its ghostly communist past challenging the seemingly smooth present of global capital’s periphery. In this pan-Eastern European space the traces of history flash through a displaced present, as even the ‘‘pseudo-cyclical,’’ consumable present is appropriated and warped (Shteyngart 2002: 156). Prava figures as a historical European theme park for consumption by the ubiquitous American expats. Like Francesca and other New York liberals, the expats do not fundamentally challenge the narrative of global capitalism and its corporate work/rest cycle: Girshkin contemptuously says of the expats that here they are on the ‘‘five-year-plan of alcoholic self-discovery’’ before they go back to their country and find respectable corporate jobs (Shteyngart 2002: 200). Deriding Morgan, one of those politically engaged expats who grace much literature on post-communist Eastern Europe discussed in the introduction to this chapter, Girshkin criticizes her fight against the fetishized Stalinist oppression as a politically correct rebellion preceding grad school: Morgan is on vacation, rocking to ‘‘the cultural beat of a failed empire’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 301). American expats are essentialized as privileged Western consumers in collusion with multinationals which are obscenely encroaching on the city, transforming it into a neocolonial paradise. Although they are drawn primarily by Prava’s fairy-tale historical charm, the incessant enumeration of the unromantic loci of spectacular consumption – Kmart, an Austrian family entertainment complex, Brookline Gardens mall – renders their adventure a rather safe, homey experience, a EuroDisney of sorts. From this perspective, Girshkin’s indifference to the historic Prava is understandable: fetishizing it would align him with American expats from whom he feels alienated. Thus, while he overall finds Prava more interesting than New York, Girshkin considers its old city flair a bit shabby and melancholic: observing the city while safely ensconced in the Groundhog’s car, Girshkin sees a ‘‘street lined with stately Baroque dwellings in various stages of disrepair yet still wearing their ornamentation, their gables and coats of arms standing out like the flounces on a worn Hapsburg gown’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 195). Indeed, Girshkin’s apprehension of Prava is sad and nostalgic in another sense as well: his nostalgia conjures up the traces of Prava’s communist history that Westerners find exotic but nevertheless want to relegate to the past. The grotesque discrepancies between Prava’s communist past and its present transitions to market capitalism come through Girshkin’s incessant double-exposure notes on the city’s architecture and people. The Great Hall of People’s Friendship, built during communism, is overshadowed by the most expensive restaurant in Prava, which its natives can barely afford

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(Shteyngart 2002: 329). Western tourists at an outdoor cafe´ are juxtaposed with scornful Stolovan babushkas whose ‘‘city is no longer their own’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 195). The ‘‘two-story, deluxe’’ buses from Western Europe bring ‘‘clean, young backpackers’’ who are oblivious to the ‘‘terminally ill’’ IKARUS buses conveying ‘‘tired families’’ from Eastern Europe for whom ‘‘Golden Prava was getting expensive’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 288). Although Girshkin parodies Eastern European communism and its various symbols throughout the book, he feels an uncanny solidarity with leftover communist supporters in the same way that he feels a sense of belonging among the gray and ugly communist buildings: he has ‘‘the undeniable feeling that he [is] home, that these ingredients – panelak, tire factory, the corrupted flames of industry – [are], for Vladimir, primordial, essential, revelatory’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 384). In a sense, the traces of communism recall a failed and ugly dream, but one that was also the dream of social empowerment and equality. They introduce a memory – indeed, a sense of heterotemporality, to borrow Homi Bhabha’s (1994) meaning – of a different way of being, of a space not yet swamped with multinational corporations buying off the country, a populace not yet widely impoverished and a time before commodity consumption becomes a pastime for the select few. Girshkin’s tongue-in-cheek statement that ‘‘state-sponsored socialism had been a good thing’’ because of ‘‘empty wallets, empty stores, hearts filled with overflowing’’ deserves serious attention in the face of his criticism of New York’s (and, increasingly, Prava’s) ‘‘crude avarice’’ of spectacular consumption (Shteyngart 2002: 107). Prava becomes the peripheral site of global capitalism, constructed through the replacement of the ‘‘hearts filled with overflowing’’ with mostly ‘‘empty wallets’’ and a few filled ones. Ridiculing the international middle class that promotes in Shteyngart’s Stolovaya, as in Pelevin’s Russia, the well-trained and brutal rhythm of capitalist work/play, Girshkin instead associates himself with the various Stolovan babushkas who unfailingly recall his own – the staunch, albeit ineffective and ridiculous, supporters of the grand narrative of communism. In Shteyngart’s Prava, the ubiquitous babushkas represent the losers of post-communist transitions, the ultimate subaltern, pointing to all the globally disenfranchised multitudes of neoliberal capitalism. They will not experience the bright capitalist future since they are not the primary concern of the chaotic but ‘‘cool’’ postmodern Eastern Europe. Rather, they are leftovers of the defunct welfare state, as both its builders and the symbolic recipients of welfare. Paradoxically, babushkas and the similarly ubiquitous mafia people are the necessarily linked, twin consequences of post-communist chaos, the sideeffects of capitalist transitions. This interrelatedness is illustrated by the fact that Kostya, one of the Groundhog’s men, participates in all the dubious business deals in order to send half of his paycheck to his aging mother, whose ‘‘pension comes out to thirteen dollars a month’’ (Shteyngart 2002:

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198). In Prava, the ‘‘other’’ of a ‘‘developed’’ capitalist city, rampant crime and violence become justified as a result of limited employment options. In that sense, Morgan’s attempt to bring democracy to Stolovaya by blowing up the Foot, an old communist monument, and her criticism of immoral Mafiosi practices signals, to Girshkin, a Western misunderstanding – and mismanagement – of the situation. Morgan’s attitude exemplifies a liberal mindset discussed earlier in this chapter: she believes in the improvement of Eastern Europe, seeing the development of a democratic, civil society as a cure for all the immoral business deals rather than as a process inseparable from transitions to market capitalism and resulting social inequalities and violence. In contrast, Girshkin calls both the babushkas and the Mafiosi ‘‘his people,’’ lamenting that ‘‘everything they grew up with is gone’’ and now they ‘‘can either shoot their way through the gray economy or make twenty dollars a month driving a bus in Dnepropetrovsk’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 386–87). On the other hand, the Mafiosi’s situation is more privileged than that of the babushkas: while they are adversely affected by the changes and thus opt to ‘‘shoot their way through the gray economy,’’ they are also the ones who enjoy its benefits, the minority with ‘‘filled wallets’’ who make life for the rest of Prava’s population dangerous. Like the scorned international middle class, the Eastern European mafia helps to create a world that rests on ‘‘the wages of sin and the minimum wage,’’ only these class discrepancies of globalizing capitalism are much more conspicuous on its periphery (Shteyngart 2002: 255). Like the New York youth weaned on visual images and spectacular consumption and similar to Pelevin’s Moscow businessmenpatriots, the Prava Mafiosi also inhabit the hyperreal world of excessive consumption as they sport a disenchanted, cynical attitude to the misery that surrounds them and show disrespect for old boundaries. Indeed, the comical scene in which a babushka tries to contain a mafia conflict in the small hours of the night by threatening to call the police aptly illustrates the point: her belief in the viability of old structures contrasts with their absolute breakdown and ineffectiveness. In parallel, as belief in the grand narrative of communism contrasts with post-communist questioning of grand narratives, it is unsurprising to hear the babushkas protesting in the Prava square chant, ‘‘Death to the poststructuralists!’’ and ‘‘Epicures, go home!’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 316). Shteyngart emphasizes the mafia-businessmen’s oblivious immersion in a parallel world of luxury, power, and glamour. On his picaresque adventures, Girshkin joins the Groundhog and his men in largely ignoring the impoverished Stolovans. This divide is enhanced by the style of the mafia’s movement around Prava: they cruise almost exclusively through the privatized spaces such as casinos, malls with expensive shops, restaurants and bars for the nouveau riche, safely conveyed to their destination in a luxurious car and only registering public spaces and multitudes in the streets from these privileged interiors. Since Shteyngart’s narrative treats the post-communist

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mafia circles both as victims and as the privileged classes in the transition, their position could be said to, paradoxically, approximate that of the expat narratives discussed earlier which condemn the immorality of the mafia’s disengagement from widespread social problems. Conversely, Girshkin’s enchantment with transgressive mafia practices could be read as an exoticized excursion into the ‘‘rowdy’’ Eastern Europe by a New Yorker disaffected with the eternally repetitive world of order. In this way Girshkin would resemble one of the American expats on vacation from the stifling corporate culture: The Handbook, then, becomes Girshkin’s Bildungsroman, where Eastern Europe poses as an Orientalized background, alternately immoral and exotic, disorderly from a Western perspective and because of it all the more dangerously attractive to a humble Westerner. But rather than furthering a character-based reading which centers on Girshkin’s trials and tribulations in a rediscovered Eastern Europe or debates whether the mafia are more vilified (criminal) or glorified (daring), I am interested in how the mafia figure not so much as literary characters as Shteyngart’s medium for a critique of the discourses and practices of capitalism and Western narratives of management – somewhat echoing Tatarsky’s positioning within Pelevin’s narrative as less a character and more a specific intellectual and ethical attitude. As we saw earlier, Girshkin’s affiliation with the local mafia is, importantly, a statement against the new Western imperials carousing among ‘‘his people’’ in the impoverished Eastern Europe. Hence, the point is not in outrageously endorsing mafia violence and lawlessness as real practices, but in asking what they do politically within the narrative, what or who they help to expose to critique. Pelevin tries to drown the Russian bourgeoisie in a flood of images because they perform an exacerbated version of Western ‘‘legal’’ asset-grabbing and spectacular consumption. Conversely, Shteyngart wants to drown primarily the American bourgeoisie by turning their own business rhetoric against them, articulating Stolovan mafia practices as a resistance to the colonization of individual time and singular activity by ideologies of success in the corporate workplace through hard work and upward mobility. The Stolovan mafia’s joys of ‘‘living easy and drinking hard’’ recall what de Certeau terms a ‘‘tactic,’’ a ‘‘clever utilization of time’’ which, relying on ‘‘mobility and trickery,’’ opposes the ‘‘strategic’’ ‘‘establishment of a place’’ that would erode the power of individual time through its institutionalization, as in the establishment of a corporate workplace (Shteyngart 2002: 143; de Certeau 1985: 38–39). In Prava the refusal to work becomes possible: time is individually appropriated instead of socially regimented, hourly wages are not fixed in any way and an unrestrained enjoyment of drink, drugs, and crime takes place during work hours, not only on the weekends. This symbolically approximates what Debord calls ‘‘the revolutionary project’’ of opposing the orderly consumption of a spectacularized society through the ‘‘withering away of the social measurement of time in favor of an individual and collective irreversible time which is playful in character’’

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(1995: 116). Girshkin admires the intensity, the creativity, even the violence, of the Groundhog gang after having spent ‘‘thirteen years in the American desert’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 188). They ‘‘smoked too much, drank too much, killed too much,’’ and although Girshkin characterizes this as a ‘‘different kind of tragedy,’’ Prava is still ‘‘a better place to be unhappy’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 188). In this context, violence figures as a radical rejection of cooperation with Western business ‘‘experts.’’ The crime of excessive consumption signals a reactive attempt at controlling one’s life, a defense mechanism against the transitions to ‘‘serious’’ market capitalism, a refusal to become the neocolonial yuppie class – all of which challenges the vilification of Eastern Europe as criminal. Shteyngart expresses this opposition to the ‘‘serious’’ discourses of capital, which have established themselves as markers of civilization, by de´tourning them or by exaggerating their rhetoric in order to lay bare the very violence that makes it possible. The mafia ridicule the respectably bureaucratic blandness of legal business practices, confronting the calculated violence of civilized capitalism with unpredictable violence, controlled insecurity with ultimate insecurity, legalized fraud with creative fraud. They mimic the practices of capitalist colonials only in so far as they can use them to their own advantage, celebrating the subversive potential of colonial mimicry that Homi Bhabha (1994) identifies. This becomes particularly useful in the attempts to involve unassuming American expats in pyramid schemes: the weakness of the legally sanctioned business relations is exposed when the mafia and Girshkin invent PravaInvest, a perfectly acceptable business simulacrum, including an advertising campaign with ‘‘glossy brochures’’ featuring ‘‘plenty of environmental stuff . . . holistic centers and Reiki clinics’’ to appeal to the idealistic Americans (Shteyngart 2002: 190). The Groundhog’s appeal to Girshkin to teach them ‘‘‘Americanisms’ and ‘globalisms’’’ is a similar attempt to give their renegade practices just an advantageous semblance of respectability, not a sincere desire to be like Americans (Shteyngart 2002: 267). In effect, teaching Eastern European mafia Americanisms and globalisms becomes as ludicrous as commanding Eastern European states to become civilized capitalist democracies, pasting neoliberal market economies violently onto the shambles of welfare socialism. The satirized bankruptcy of the rhetoric of the global market uncovers, in another layer of Shteyngart’s narrative, a disenchantment with the promise of post-communist reforms to contain the crime and violence by prescribing legal business practices. The images of the wildly segregated Prava society deflate such an optimistic prognosis: just as the Americanisms and globalisms will not do much toward improving the situation of the Prava babushkas, so legal market reforms will not ultimately contain the crime but rather entrench the conditions that replicate social antagonisms and foster mafia violence. The Handbook grapples with the complexity of causes behind violence and crime in post-communist Eastern Europe, offering a

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critique of market-economy reforms and global narratives of a multicultural brotherhood, which, as Nancy Fraser argues in her discussion of liberaldemocratic policies, effect, at best, ‘‘surface reallocations’’ of cultural ‘‘respect’’ and economic ‘‘goods’’ to ‘‘recognized groups’’ instead of targeting the roots of inequality among groups with the promise of radical social transformation (1998: 35).

Conservative mimicry: capitulation into an alpha immigrant While Girshkin initially celebrates the mafia’s deliberately imperfect mimicry of civilized work and consumption practices, he ultimately finds the various Americanisms he rejects throughout the novel more palatable. This anticipates a narrative containment in Shteyngart, whereby the mafia are seen from the perspective of American ‘‘order’’ rather than as an articulation of revolutionary practice which subjects to critique Western corporate discourses. The Groundhog and his men, as well as Stolovans and other Eastern Europeans, are problematically reduced to Orientalist stereotypes that have built the historically recycled image of uncouth, savage, and violent Eastern Europe. Shteyngart mercilessly employs ethnic and cultural stereotypes throughout the novel, but when he crosses the border into Stolovaya they increasingly refer to physical, even racial, appearance. When Girshkin visits a Russian church in Prava, for instance, he encounters ‘‘tired, stern faces’’ and ‘‘broad, heavy bodies bursting with thick veins and copious sweat, looking as if they had been somehow blown out of proportion by a diet of meat and butter’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 263). At this point, the motley Eastern Europeans are no longer portrayed as subversive tricksters who do not sincerely believe in the American way of life, but as poor mimics who, regardless of how hard they try, can never accomplish the finesse of the civilized Western world. For instance, when Girshkin meets the Groundhog at Brookline Gardens, ‘‘the apotheosis of North-American upper-middle-classdom,’’ he mocks him for eating cereal ‘‘with a heavy wooden ladle, the kind more suited for a bowl of thick Russian porridge than American cornflakes’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 350). The implication that Western trends are worthy of being emulated, or that Eastern Europeans should somehow prove their merit by civilizing their consumer tastes permeates a section importantly titled ‘‘Westernizing the Boyars.’’ Girshkin, a Russian with an inside knowledge of America, assumes the role of a teacher who will show his misguided compatriots the difference between kitsch and good taste. Facing the audience of ‘‘Eastern European refuse in their cheaply cut suits, their nylon parkas, their rooster haircuts and teeth blackened by filterless Spartas,’’ Girshkin chides them for their tastes that are so inferior ‘‘a provincial from Nebraska would have cause to laugh’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 353–54). Although Girshkin gets his way in this episode, the Eastern European mafia resist his civilizing mission when it comes to cutting down on

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violence. At this point, their flair for transgression is portrayed as dangerous rather than playful and liberating, and Prava, accordingly, becomes reified through images of urban violence. Not only can Girshkin not evade an assault by the Groundhog’s men in this ubiquitously violent city, but it also becomes a site of xenophobia and anti-Semitism which withdraws its welcome to Jews (or Middle Eastern Moslems, as Girshkin is mistaken first for a Turk, then for an Arab). The anxiety of civilized America comes in full force when Girshkin’s American passport fails to protect him from either racist skinheads, mascots of post-communist nationalism, or abusive policemen, who seem to have arrived in their Trabants from the time of mythical communist brutality. Walking around Auschwitz, Girshkin ponders the ‘‘Teutonic’’ and Stalinist purges of Jews and others, deciding that he has to ‘‘get out while [he] can and by any means necessary’’ (Shteyngart 2002: 406). Although this subtle parallel between his mafia pursuers and the Nazi/communist butchers is quite uncanny, it is by no means insignificant, in so far as it lodges Prava, and by extension Eastern Europe, into the stereotype of an inability to escape the past, all its attempts to live in the present (to liberally improve) doomed to repeat the atrocities, chaos, and tyranny of the past. In Girshkin’s final exit through the Prava airport, his American passport at last becomes a legitimate ticket of escape, while the Groundhog is stopped and harassed by airport officials. This marks Girshkin as, after all, a privileged American who can visit and leave the dangerous global periphery as he pleases, while the movement of the natives remains safely contained. Prava is here reduced to a fantasy of temporary fun before one can go back to the serious business of adulthood, and it is comforting to know that the wild crowds ‘‘down there’’ are held within secure borders and do not threaten to come and disturb metropolitan centers (at least not in large numbers). Girshkin eventually settles into a dull corporate job and a safe suburban house ‘‘properly insulated from the elements by stucco and storm windows,’’ also settling for the eternal repetition of the same (Shteyngart 2002: 452): This is America, where the morning paper lands on the doorstep at precisely 7:30 A.M. – not the woolly dominion Vladimir once ruled. So he’ll open his eyes and unlock the door. He’ll put in his ten-hour workday. He’ll chat up the secretarial pool and use his spare minutes to ascertain the standing of the local sports teams in the back pages of the Plain Dealer, statistics necessary for the firm’s bizarre afterwork buddy rituals. (Vladimir is, as has been mentioned, partnership-track material.) (Shteyngart 2002: 451) While this surreally domesticated, regimented lifestyle is clearly treated with irony – all the more so because Girshkin the cool Manhattanite ends up in boring, suburban Ohio – it nevertheless appears as a preferable option

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compared to the excessive chaos of economically unstable, culturally intolerant Prava. From this perspective, the Prava episode does become Girshkin’s coming of age, its appeal lost once that Girshkin’s ‘‘youthful instinct’’ is gone (Shteyngart 2002: 451). This is mimicry in its conservative rather than subversive version, as a way to fit into society, capitulate before it, as Girshkin does at the beginning when he performs what Rey Chow (2002) calls a commodified, spectacularized ethnic for New York liberals and even more so at the end when he blends into the despised corporate culture. To an extent, then, Shteyngart’s The Russian Debutante’s Handbook folds back into what Eliot Borenstein calls the ‘‘male narrative of conquest, submission and coming of age’’ characterizing ‘‘the post-Communist expat’s story,’’ as he categorizes Shteyngart’s novel (Borenstein 2003: 33). However, it also importantly examines the global dynamic of post-Cold War capitalism, with its Western expats and Eastern immigrants, its nouveau riche, as well as the nouveau poor. Shteyngart views the grand narrative of communism, or at least belief in it, with a dose of nostalgia, contrasting the collectivist idealism of Eastern European communists with the disaffected, cynical crowds inhabiting post-communist societies, thriving on spectacular consumption that stretches from East to West. Like Pelevin, Shteyngart wonders if much has also not been lost through the transformation of former communist societies into exotic playgrounds for Western tourists, anxious to project a modern ethnic image and oblivious to the plight of the impoverished majority. The Handbook collapses the stereotype of criminal Eastern Europe by showing it to be the side-effect of transitions rather than their obstacle, distancing itself from the West as a point of reference by talking back, by creatively appropriating its own rhetoric. Recalling the social and cultural benefits of the old communist era that are increasingly lost with its waning, Pelevin and Shteyngart usher in a nostalgia not so much for official Soviet life, but rather for the unofficial practices of everyday existence which existed in parallel, as Homo Zapiens’s Tatarsky notes, with official politics, in spite of it but also because of it. In the face of the post-communist and postmodernist climate of instability, extreme social differentiation, and lack of a foreseeable future, these texts express a nostalgia for the familiarity of the former everyday existence, which, in Svetlana Boym’s words, both ‘‘converge[d] and deviate[d] from official politics and ideology’’ (1994: 24). In Russian, these ‘‘practices of everyday life’’ in which de Certeau (1985) locates emancipatory potential are encapsulated in the word byt. Both their function as social anchorage – as a common place, as shared social and cultural practices – and their subversive potential vis-a`-vis the official ideology have been threatened because in the post-communist period of rapid changes ‘‘people simulate byt’’ (Boym 1994: 224). Pelevin invokes such disparate common places as a pair of dingy Soviet shoes and a military compound to both mourn the loss of this comfortable, parallel world and ironize the sense of social unity, or community, that they officially purported to foster (‘‘great’’ Soviet consumer commodities,

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‘‘great’’ Soviet people’s army). Shteyngart, on the other hand, despite the conservative narrative denouement in The Handbook, emphasizes the necessity of keeping alive the subversive strategies of the practices of everyday life in the post-communist period, when new corporate ideologies threaten to co-opt byt, the daily grind. In this way Pelevin and Shteyngart importantly revise the Western tendency to see the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc countries as lands of unrelenting oppression characterized by binary master–slave relationships. As Adele Marie Baker observes, The tendency in the West to champion those writers who ran afoul of the Soviet system was linked to a much broader tendency to view the Soviet Union as a monolithic totalitarian entity in which the relationship between the rulers and ruled was one of domination and subordination – rulership and resistance. (Baker 1999: 21) Instead, Baker suggests approaching communist societies as ‘‘‘sites of contestation,’ in Stuart Hall’s words, in which nonofficial and daily life were engaged in various struggles with the dominant party line,’’ in which small victories against the restrictions posed by the system were not necessarily ‘‘tantamount to dissent’’ or intended to bring down the government (Baker 1999: 21–22). Chapter 6 explores the political potential of this particular type of nostalgia that remembers and grieves over something that exceeds the official communist state and its ideology, but that was also lost with the passing of that state.

6

Ethnicizing guilt Humanitarian imperialism and the case of (for) Yugoslavia

In this chapter, I further explore the post-communist ‘‘criminalization’’ of Eastern Europe, focusing on narratives that use the wars of the 1990s in the Balkans to externalize irredeemable criminal behavior (authoritarianism, violation of human rights, ethnic cleansing, economic plunder and speculation). Other Eastern European countries’ positions on the Balkan wars serve to measure their allegiance to democracy, transitions, protection of human rights (and to disassociate them from old and new Orientalisms). The same language is used by the warring sides in the Balkans to demonize the enemy and invest their own causes with legitimacy. I subject to critique the resulting ethnicization of these discourses as Serbs, Croats, Moslems, and Albanians each portray themselves as bearers of democracy and multiculturalism, a strategy which in fact resonates with the Western treatment of the conflict (with Serbs as the uncontested pariah). Such treatment of the wars exposes the blind (racist) spots in political debates from left to right, even in the most qualified apologies for NATO interventions in the Balkans. I propose that we think this event through the tradition of Western imperialist desire to articulate, categorize, and ultimately ‘‘resolve the mess’’ in both the Balkans and Eastern Europe, as well as through Hardt and Negri’s (2000) discussion of the contemporary logic of Empire and establishment of the right to intervene. To tease out complexities in these discourses, I turn to Slavoj Zˇizˇek’s writing about the Balkans (and Eastern Europe in general), in conjunction with two other Balkan writers whose texts have ‘‘presented’’ the upheavals of the 1990s to Western audiences and were only published at home after they achieved Western accolades: Dubravka Ugresˇic´’s autobiographical essays in Have a Nice Day: from the Balkan wars to the American dream (1994) and Aleksandar Hemon’s novel Nowhere Man (2000). I read Zˇizˇek’s writing about the Balkans in relation to his own attempts to present himself to Western leftist-liberal audiences as a native expert on the Balkans and on Eastern European ‘‘real existing socialism,’’ as well as his protests against Western multicultural fascination with both non-Western writers and communist dissidents like himself, exemplified by Geoffrey Harpham’s statement that Zˇizˇek challenges

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Western thought, having emerged ‘‘from the black lagoon of Stalinism’’ (2003: 467). Western imperialist (or, in Hardt and Negri’s definition, Imperial) disˇ izˇek’s writing about the Balkans, problematizing its courses overtake Z ˇ izˇek critically dissects the New stated radical or leftist allegiance. While Z World Order, the alleged humanitarianism of NATO interventions, and Orientalist discourses about and within the Balkans, his own thinking about the wars is nevertheless embedded within the theoretical accouterments of multiculturalism (especially his lament over much-fetishized Sarajevo as a multicultural city), identity politics, ethnicization of responsibility for the war, and demonization of the evildoers, in this case Slobodan Milosˇevic´ and the Serbian nation. While in no way justifying Milosˇevic´’s many political excesses, I hope to show how this results in Zˇizˇek’s problematic endorsement of the NATO bombing of Serbia, a frequent dismissal of Croatian, Slovenian, and other nationalisms in the Balkans, and a general inability to articulate the Balkans as anything else but a symptom of and for the West: as a monstrosity produced by the New World Order and a problem for the West to resolve. Ugresˇic´ and Hemon offer ways of thinking the Balkans, specifically the former Yugoslavia, outside of the discourses of (failed) multiculturalism, ethnic identity, and the politics of guilt/demonization. Ugresˇic´ places Balkan nationalisms within the context of global identity politics, exposing them as a convenient tool for power circles to market their ethnic group or culture as distinct from all others and worthy of Western support. I am interested in Ugresˇic´’s critique of the type of multiculturalism that at once recognizes ‘‘ancient ethnic hatreds’’ in the Balkans and tries to categorize her as a Croatian, Balkan, or Eastern European author. Ugresˇic´ challenges the preoccupation with the politics of blame and alleged ethnic antagonism, rearticulating the former Yugoslavia as a state existing outside of the politics of ethnicity, its spectral unity still haunting the war years in the guise of letters and emails she receives from the Serbian, ‘‘enemy,’’ camp. In turn, Hemon’s novel similarly reacts against the repeated attempts by Americans to categorize – and hence understand – Bosnians as Serbian, Croatian, or Moslem. Instead, Nowhere Man insists on a Bosnian identity which is a-national, at best a cultural identity, largely nurtured in Sarajevo before the war. Sarajevo’s recent mythologization as a multicultural Mecca is overshadowed by Hemon’s remembrance of the 1980s primarily through tongue-in-cheek references to communist propaganda and an account of Sarajevo youth’s entrancement with Western rock ‘n’ roll. I will explore how this seemingly banal theme precludes the various attempts to ontologize Sarajevo in the wake of the wars of the 1990s: as Auschwitz after Auschwitz, as a portentous symbol of Europe’s future (if multiculturalism fails), as a testament to innate cruelty in the human species, etc.

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Critical intervention How can ‘‘we’’ intervene in the Balkans via the former Yugoslavia? The prominent discourses surrounding the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s treat them as paradigmatic of the post-communist turmoil whose extreme(ist) articulation finds fertile ground in the (historically bloody, bellicose) Balkans. As Andrew Hammond contends, ‘‘for western commentators elsewhere in the [Balkan] peninsula, the representation of Yugoslavia formed the pre-arranged interpretative framework which needed very little modification when accounting for Romanian orphanages, Bulgarian poverty, Albanian anti-government protests or any of those other post-communist crises’’ (2005: 139). The tragedy of Yugoslavia is thus spectralized, multiplied, repeated, albeit less bloodily, among its Balkan neighbors and remains unique in the sense that its unpredictability marks a definitive disappearance of communism in Eastern Europe: if such a relatively liberal, multicultural, softly authoritarian communist society can fall victim to internal war, what hope is there for others? Yugoslavia is a metaphor for lost chance, which was always-already lost. The duplicity of trauma: Western shock at the Yugoslavs’ suicidal destruction of its multiethnic tolerance at the same time as this tolerance is retroactively inscribed into Yugoslavia’s communist legacy precisely as a condition of possibility for such trauma, for the articulation of Western shock at the ‘‘lack’’ (as a negative, colonial attribute) of the will to preserve national harmony. That this retroactive inscription serves, mostly, to open up the discursive space for Western mourning is affirmed by accounts which strip communist Yugoslavia of the very possibility of multiethnic tolerance (of the progressive Western kind). The pluralism of Yugoslavia was only possible with the ‘‘iron fist of empire, the imperial inhibition of identity’’ (Mousavizadeh 1996: 193). David Rieff informs us, ‘‘we had been lulled into a false sense of what Yugoslavia was becoming by . . . much pro-Tito propaganda’’ (1995: 36). He admits that there was a ‘‘South Slav’’ culture common to Croats, Serbs, and Moslems, but is quick to disassociate it from its Yugoslav trappings: ‘‘though not ‘Yugoslav’ in the sense of either the pre-World War II monarchy or the Titoist dictatorship’’ (Rieff 1995: 71). The war is always there, always to come, and yet its arrival is greeted with surprise: Yugoslavia only becomes the possibility of multiethnicity post mortem, when it is safely dead, can no longer speak for itself and becomes a site for the projection of Western multiethnic desire, which is also the desire to rescue, ‘‘restore’’ multiethnicity to this troubled land. The real Yugoslavia is much more threatening because its Yugoslav identity (like the phenomenon of ‘‘Yugonostalgia’’ among the warring ethnics) exceeds explanations supplied by narratives of iron-hand communism and of liberal-democratic multicultural tolerance. One way to explain why the war happened, in its extreme racist version, is by simply criminalizing the Balkan peoples as automatons in the morality

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play of irrational ‘‘ancient ethnic hatreds.’’ This version is typically related to Western justification for its (alleged) non-involvement in the conflict, as there was ‘‘nothing one could do’’ about it. The Clinton administration, for instance, was accused of such distancing from the conflict before it ‘‘finally’’ intervened. European discomfort with military intervention in former Yugoslavia was ascribed to a similar ‘‘misrepresentation’’ of the issue. In ´ Tuathail illustrates an instance of the poliCritical Geopolitics, Gearo´id O ticization of the seemingly neutral geographic discourse by discussing Clinton’s fear of involvement in ‘‘the dangerous quagmire,’’ the ‘‘wild country’’ ´ Tuathail, this enables the West that is Bosnia (1996: 220). According to O not to apply the usual morals to the conflict as it upholds the image of the wild Balkans which are unresolvable and which will only expose American troops to danger (1996: 220). Instead of washing one’s hands of the conflict – with many European countries, by calling this a civil war where nobody should intervene; with the Clinton administration, by using the term humanitarian disaster rather than its proper name, Holocaust or gen´ Tuathail recommends a moral engagement with this Holocaust, ocide – O lamenting that the subsequent intervention came too late. ´ Tuathail’s book, inspired by Derridean deconstruction, importantly O promotes a critique of such seemingly universalist, neutral language as ‘‘moral responsibility,’’ exposing the politics behind explaining, rationalizing conflicts through the allegedly apolitical language of geography, cause-andeffect narratives, and employment of certain key ‘‘iterative’’ terms that reduce the singular complexity of any event. Yet he succumbs to similar temptations in his case study of the discourse on Bosnia. The very use of the term Holocaust or genocide to explain what happened in Bosnia, Croatia, or Kosovo could be what Derrida means by an ‘‘iterative’’ term: a word that acquires its meaning exactly as it is used in different con-texts, as it reinvents both itself and those con-texts, as it is repeated with a difference. Arguably, using labels such as the Holocaust (or even the more general term genocide) importantly historicizes the Yugoslav war horrors as ‘‘similar to’’ ¨ ber-horror of World War II in order to elicit a certain ethical that U response – a diplomatic and/or military engagement designed to prevent the bloodshed, invoking the lessons learned from history. Simultaneously, however, the use of such labels downplays the singularity of the wars of the 1990s in former Yugoslavia. It potentially blocks a multifaceted discussion or understanding of the wars by always-already approaching them with the ‘‘same’’ ethical outrage that followed the World War II horrors. It problematically freezes the wars’ many actors in the imagery of Nazi-like depravity, which relies on a depoliticized language of ethics and morality. In light of the discourses about the wild Balkans, or wild Serbs, it can also cast the wars as an inevitable repetition of the same (‘‘ancient ethnic hatreds’’), as an obscene repetition of that which must never be repeated, the Holocaust. This repeated Holocaust almost provides the onlookers with obscene pleasure as they, too, can repeat history, but with a

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difference – the fanatics are now (thank God) in Eastern rather than Western Europe, ‘‘we’’ can now do something to prevent disaster, this time fascists are, unpredictably, the formerly partisan Serbs rather than the formerly fascist Croatians.1 It can happen to anyone. ´ Tuathail’s discourse because it encapsuI am teasing out the terms of O lates key rhetorical gestures used by many commentators on the Yugoslav wars who are habitually associated with progressive, liberal, or leftist politics. My primary concern in this chapter, as it was in Chapter 5, is not the blatantly racist discourse which blames Yugoslav disintegration on some genetic abnormality of the participatory nations, but rather this progressive, ‘‘humanitarian’’ discourse which, finding fault rather with iron-hand Titoism or manipulative, latter-day communist-nationalists such as Milosˇevic´ or Tudjman, advocates a military intervention in order to rescue the ‘‘people.’’ ˇ izˇek, on whom this chapter will dwell in more detail, In addition to Slavoj Z Susan Sontag, David Rieff, Va´clav Havel, Ken Loach, Ju¨rgen Habermas, Milan Kundera, and others have called for a humanitarian action in Bosnia and Kosovo, invoking a similar language of ethical, moral responsibility in ´ Tuathail. face of the renewed Holocaust identified by O The problem with this war is precisely that it is irreproachable: this is not the morally dubious, virtually unilateral, poorly justified intervention in Iraq by the globally unfashionable American Republicans. This is, according to Edward Said, a war of ‘‘liberal columnists and intellectuals’’ (Said 2000: 343) and according to Alex Callinicos it is supported by the ‘‘Western left’’ and ‘‘NATO’s liberal apologists’’ (Callinicos 2000: 176, 78). I will be so bold as to argue that the intervention in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s marks a passage to what Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri term Empire: the perfecting not ‘‘of imperialist powers in the old sense’’ but rather ‘‘of the right to intervene, a new production of norms and instruments of coercion’’ (2000: 9). Empire is ‘‘not formed on the basis of force, but on the basis of presenting force as being in the service of right and peace’’; depending on the establishment of a consensus about the use of force, Empire ‘‘is called into being based on its capacity to resolve conflicts’’ (Hardt and Negri 2000: 15). It is precisely the aforementioned leftist and/or liberal lament over Europe’s or America’s non-intervention that ‘‘calls Empire into being’’: the internalization of the discourse about the ‘‘good’’ use of force on rogue or terrorist states such as Yugoslavia, or, more precisely, Serbia. It is not so much that diplomatic (or, if absolutely necessary, military) intervention as a political tool to forestall disaster – and undermine such disastrous political leaders as Serbia’s Milosˇevic´ – should be dismissed altogether, but that the particular type of intervention established through the Yugoslav wars, justified by its aim of restoring multiculturalism and its humanitarian mission, was problematic on several counts. Most immediately, the very myth of non-intervention or late intervention can be challenged if we look at the series of critical interventions by the European Union and/or the United States which helped to precipitate the wars: a prompt recognition of Slovenia

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and Croatia as independent states (despite Croatia’s discriminatory practices toward ethnic Serbs), a recognition of Bosnia’s independence (despite the referendum on independence being split along ethnic lines, with most Moslems and Croats in favor and most Serbs against), military and diplomatic aid to the notorious Kosovo Liberation Army and Croatia’s ruling nationalists, and, most crucially, favoring Serbia’s ruling nationalists as country representatives over a sizeable political and popular opposition. What is obscured in such a discourse is the way this intervention, ostensibly aimed at rescuing multiculturalism from the Holocaust, adopts racist undertones in the designation of Serbia as a terrorist state, in an open demonization of Serbs (not just politicians, but the ‘‘people’’) as aggressors and evil expansionists. The irreproachability of humanitarianism, therefore, makes it almost impossible to raise the question of ensuing civilian deaths among Serbs (let alone the political questions of their right to self-determination, territory, etc.). The nobility of helping (or at least vowing to help) Bosnian Moslems or Kosovo Albanians survive the war justifies helping Serbs die: Like Giorgio Agamben’s (1998) homo sacer, they can be sacrificed with impunity, they remain in the liberal blind spot as ‘‘collateral damage.’’ This discriminatory approach is obtained through a hierarchical political discourse similar to the one surrounding the American intervention in Iraq, discussed by Judith Butler in Precarious Life as an establishment of ‘‘grievable’’ casualties through detailed narratives of lost lives which are to be mourned (Daniel Pearl, WTO victims) and, conversely, of ‘‘non-grievable’’ casualties through an omission of intimate information about persons killed, through ‘‘a practice of effacement and denominalization’’ (Iraqi insurgents, Palestinian terrorists) (Butler 2004: 38). In a similar sense, then, Serbian casualties in the Yugoslav wars have by and large remained ‘‘poorly marked,’’ indeed ‘‘unmarkable’’ in the Western media, to use Judith Butler’s phrase, resulting from what she calls a discursive ‘‘dehumanization’’: like the dead Iraqi insurgents and civilians, the Serbian military and civilians ‘‘fit no dominant frame for the human,’’ their lives are not narrated and therefore cannot be mourned (Butler 2004: 34– 35). In this nihilistic political interpellation, Bosnian Moslems and Kosovo Albanians become biopolitical objects of intervention as much as Serbs. The decision on their life and death, although it has a seemingly more favorable outcome – and although they are seemingly humanized through endless personalized stories of wartime suffering – is likewise imagined to be the prerogative of the imperial police. The excuse of protectionist humanitarianism eventually becomes a vehicle for exercising all sorts of forbidden pleasures: destroying the evildoers’ civilian infrastructure, testing out controversial weapons, and promoting racist fantasies about the ‘‘other.’’ It is not quite clear how any form of meaningful multiculturalism can be restored to former Yugoslavia when the conflict is presented in such antagonistic – and antagonizing – terms: as a morality play of bad Serbian nationalism and good Bosnian multiculturalism, between aggressive

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expansionists and passive victims. While the embracing of Bosnian Moslems or Kosovo Albanians is safer ‘‘over there,’’ where ‘‘we’’ will look like openminded multiculturalists, than ‘‘at home,’’ where ‘‘we’’ are scared of Algerian fundamentalists and Turkish Gastarbeiters, the very terms of this political support are less than multicultural. Bosnian Moslems are supported precisely because they are not staunchly religious, i.e. ‘‘fanatic,’’ because they are proclaimed to be of Europe, democratic and modern. ‘‘We’’ can embrace them and integrate them in our version of multiculturalism because we do not fear them.2 The stated goal of preserving multiethnic pluralism and tolerance is thus countered with extreme identity politics, exposing an aporetic moment in the contemporary ideology of multiculturalism which had a veritable schizophrenic effect on Yugoslav disintegration. As Diana Johnstone argues in her discussion of the Kosovo war, Starting with the pretence of militant anti-racism, ‘‘humanitarian intervention’’ finishes with a new racism. To merit all these bombs, the ‘‘bad’’ people must be tarnished with collective guilt. . . . Tony Blair clearly adopted the doctrine of collective guilt when he declared that there could be no humanitarian aid for the Serbs because of the dreadful way they had treated the Kosovar Albanians. (Johnstone 2000: 168) Rather than seeing the conflict as a singular constellation of narratives, circumstances, and events that combined to produce the war, this ideology relies on the politics of blame and collective guilt, ethnicized (for the most part) as Serbian, and on the politics of reward for the good ethnicities, (for the most part) Moslem, Albanian, or Croatian. So tenacious is this simplistic division into aggressive and victimized ethnicities that Moslem, Albanian, and occasionally Croatian nationalism and chauvinist policies are frequently justified as defensive and democratic, or are even glossed over. The point is not that we should redistribute the guilt equally (something that Zˇizˇek, as we will see, finds fault with) or gloss over Serbia’s undoubtedly gruesome share in the war – the responsibility must be acknowledged – but rather that this facile system of ethnic meritocracy widens the rift among and within countries emerging from the former Yugoslavia instead of healing it.3 The discourse of being or not-being European (civilized, modern, democratic, capitalist) preceded the Yugoslav wars. The secessions from ‘‘old-fashioned’’ communist Yugoslavia cannot be understood outside of global identity politics, outside of the attempt to escape the stigma of being in the backwards, non-European, communist Balkans. It encouraged a proliferation of highly dependable ‘‘client states,’’ fighting each other for Western recognition in domains of democracy, human rights, and economic reform (Hammond 2005: 149). It is in this con-text that Western intervention, diplomatic as well as military, becomes schizophrenic: on the one hand, it attempts to preserve

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multiethnic tolerance and cooperation and, on the other, it plays favorites among the assorted ethnics, encouraging them to national self-determination, to marketing their ‘‘cultural specificity,’’ in short to reinventing themselves as independent nations. On the one hand, support for Bosnia as a symbol of multiculturalism and, on the other, support for Bosnia as a state where identity politics takes over: ruled by three nationalist parties, with Croats and Moslems voting yes for independence, Serbs voting no. Promoting national emancipation from what Dubravka Ugresˇic´ jokingly calls, parodying Croatian nationalist discourses, ‘‘the prison of nations’’ that was communist Yugoslavia contradicts mandates to downplay nation-building in order to foster ‘‘true’’ multiculturalism and tolerance of minority rights. The difficulty of reconciling the allegedly long-awaited, open assertion and emancipation of national identity, on the one hand, and nurturing meaningful multiculturalism where the new nation would de-center itself as a primary nation-builder, on the other, is paradigmatic of problems facing liberal multiculturalist ideology everywhere.4 Perhaps this is why most newly independent countries in the region still have problems with overcoming nationalism: it was a key strategy in the process of justifying secession by employing insular, self-contained discourses of victimization. The attempt to escape the backwards Balkans and join Europe was articulated as a necessary disassociation from ethnicities seen as Balkan or Oriental (Serbs for Croatia, Moslems/Albanians for Serbia and Macedonia). The process of ethnic differentiation was encouraged both from the inside – through openly racist narratives about ‘‘us,’’ Europeans, and ‘‘them,’’ Orientals – and from the outside – through the more subtle narratives of cultural racism about, for instance, democratic, hardworking, tolerant Slovenians and authoritarian, shifty, corrupt, and narcissistic Serbs. The near-impossibility of carving an ethnically pure space for the transcendental fulfillment of European fantasies of belonging, together with the fashionable ideology of multicultural pluralism, has made this process perpetually delayed. Full emancipation is thwarted because of all those non-European ‘‘others’’ living in ‘‘our’’ midst; despite the attempt to escape, once and for all, its in-between civilizational status, the Balkans are still stuck in between.5 In spite of this paradox – this crisis of identity which ensures enduring conflict – post-communist rescuing of the former republics from the Yugoslav ‘‘prison of nations’’ is hailed as liberation, as emancipation. For all their shock and mourning over the death of Yugoslav multiculturalism, liberal discourses enshrine the superiority of their own version of multiculturalism over that exercised by communist Yugoslavia by presenting the latter as fake, as a forced arrangement. It is imagined as an oppressive regime that did not allow for much articulation of national or religious identity (the ‘‘inner self,’’ the ‘‘essence’’ supposedly yearning to breathe free, to be vindicated) in order to prevent conflict. Given the history of national conflicts in the Balkans, this is seen as a potentially necessary but ultimately misguided

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policy, since suppressing ‘‘ethnic hatreds’’ could make them even stronger (hence the wars of the 1990s, such theories conveniently say). Or, in another version, Yugoslavia superficially acknowledged national and religious differences, creating an artificially harmonious community. Communists simply did not know how to foster ‘‘true’’ multiculturalism where one would assert one’s cultural-linguistic-religious identity, as well as reach out to others. In the discourses surrounding the wars of the 1990s, Bosnia, especially Sarajevo, become curiously exempt from the superficial multiculturalism of communist Yugoslavia. Almost ubiquitous laments over a multicultural Sarajevo that is being destroyed appear in the academic as well as popular press: Bosnians are not breaking away only from the economically inefficient, defunct communist Yugoslavia, but also from a nationalist-chauvinist Serbia, which nonetheless stubbornly preserves the cumbersome communist apparatus of the dead state.6 Among other things, here we can surmise the paradigm that made some nationalisms more multicultural and others more chauvinist. The Bosnian, like the Croatian, plea for independence is a welcome anti-communist gesture, touching a soft spot in Western democrats, whereas the Serbian plea for a centralized federation is perceived as a dangerous allegiance to communist authoritarianism. At stake is not a polemic inquiry into the multicultural fabric of Bosnian society in order to evaluate the validity of such discourses, but rather the very discursive imagining, articulation of Bosnia in this manner: its ossification as a fetishized site of liberal desire where the ‘‘free world’’ can mourn its own late involvement which led to Bosnia’s unnecessary sacrifice. Its establishment as a Western fetish, or what Ivaylo Ditchev aptly calls the creation of ‘‘capitals of victimhood’’ such as Bosnia or Kosovo which can attract geo-political investors, virtually crystallizes in the recent trend of taking foreign tourists in Sarajevo to the sites of major executions, carnage, and concentration camps (Belgrade is quickly catching up by taking its tourists to the sites damaged by NATO bombing) (2002: 246).7 It is this ontological reification of Sarajevo as Auschwitz after Auschwitz, as multiculturalism under siege, that somehow becomes its final image, precluding an in-depth inquiry into the conditions that led to the war, especially those that helped discredit the Yugoslav option and promote nationalist politics on all sides. Simultaneously, this casting of Sarajevo as a pluralist paradise that needs to be rescued sets the stage for a second death of Yugoslavia, after it has already died through multiple secessions: Sarajevo can finally be disassociated from its Yugoslav context, it can repeat its multicultural heritage, but ‘‘get it right’’ this time – in a modern, liberal-democratic milieu. Preserving Bosnia is thus emphatically not about preserving old Yugoslavia (which, as David Rieff and others tell us, could only come up with ramshackle multiculturalism). Bosnia, yearning for life in the midst of a siege and mass murder, eventually survives as a revised, improved Yugoslavia – enlightened through humanitarian imperialism. Serbia, on the other hand, not only literally brings death to everyone, but is portrayed as an obscene

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(vampiric) repetition of a dead state, of the oppressive, communist Yugoslavia.8 It is this insistence on burying, once and for all, a state proclaimed to be dead, this discursive silencing of the pre-1990 Yugoslav option – especially of the Yugoslav identities and social fabrics – that this chapter hopes to address. At stake is not only the question of ‘‘us’’ and ‘‘them,’’ of who did what to whom and to what extent, but of how the Yugoslav (or another supranational) option was ethnically cleansed, splitting the populace irrevocably into national entities, into ‘‘us’’ and ‘‘them.’’

ˇ izˇek’s ethnic hierarchies Enjoy your bombing! Slavoj Z Slavoj Zˇizˇek, by far the most influential and well-known intellectual from former Yugoslavia among Western academics, casts the Yugoslav wars as a question of ethnic entities – always-already invested with presence, selfsame, monolithic – and of their respective responsibilities in the war. It is not so much that he discounts the tradition of Yugoslav multiculturalism (he acknowledges the constructed nature of ‘‘ancient ethnic hatreds’’), but rather that he follows a Western humanitarian logic in separating evil nationalists from noble multiculturalists and establishing hierarchies between entire ‘‘entities’’ thus qualified. Predictably – and this is where Zˇizˇek mimics the mainstream Western approach to the conflict most transparently – this leads him to pick Serbs as the main culprits who must be stopped, i.e. bombed, while often dismissing or covering up the other nationalisms in the region as defensive, unimportant, or multicultural. Zˇizˇek’s political transparency consists not so much in coinciding with the majority opinion in this assignation of blame, but in his discursive participation in the implicitly racist language of imperial intervention. The purpose of correctly identifying the enemy is to facilitate a correct Western involvement in the wars; a castigation of one entity’s cruelty in the name of multiethnic tolerance justifies cruelty against this entire entity. In this, Zˇizˇek’s writing on the Yugoslav wars, like much of his writing about former Yugoslavia, Eastern Europe, and ‘‘real existing socialism,’’ targets primarily Western audiences. Yugoslav wars are already ‘‘global’’: Zˇizˇek is not addressing internal complexities, antagonisms, or dialogs taking place, or wondering what kind of outside intervention would be necessary to forestall intensifying conflict or increasing accounts of ethnic cleansing. Rather, he always-already considers Yugoslav wars as if from the ‘‘outside’’ – the acceptability of intervention is already inscribed in the very breakup of Yugoslavia, before the war has even started. This fixes Yugoslavia in a position of impossible self-sufficiency and independence, political as well as symbolic. Its internal conflicts are not merely mediated by global identity politics and fantasies of European belonging versus rejection. ˇ izˇek, Yugoslavia’s travails are but another adverse symptom of Rather, for Z the New World Order, a spin-off of global capitalist antagonisms and a problem for major Western powers to resolve. Yugoslavia’s legitimacy – and

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the legitimacy of what comes after its breakup – depends on Western standards and recognition: I think a very simple thing that the West should have done in ‘90, ‘91, is to establish the fact that Yugoslavia no longer exists and then to set a certain series of minimal criteria and every entity – which is of course not only political democracy but also respect for national ethnic rights and so on and so on – and then only states which respect this will be recognized. Instead of this, the West, I claim, played a game which was for a long time basically a pro-Serb game. (Zˇizˇek 1999b) This position is all the more significant as Zˇizˇek gains legitimacy before his Western audiences as an insider, as someone who knows intimately the dynamics of the Yugoslav system and its breakdown. Hence, his approval of the outside military intervention gives even more political leverage to Western supporters of the NATO actions against Bosnian Serbs and Serbia proper. Zˇizˇek both revels in and attempts to combat his somewhat controversial, yet sexily exotic status among Western academics. He has reacted vehemently, for instance, to Geoffrey Harpham’s (2003) presupposition of a difference between him and Western theorists based on the worst cliche´s about communism, that Zˇizˇek’s alleged disregard of the boundaries of critical academic discourse has to do with the bursting forth of creative energies contained by iron-curtain communism (where, supposedly, no philosophical thought was allowed). To Harpham’s proposition that Zˇizˇek may be a ‘‘sublime theorist’’ or an ‘‘obscenity-obsessed Thing’’ engaging in ‘‘para-academic’’ intellectual activity (in the smoky bars of Slovenia) and pushing the limits of critical discourse with the goal of ‘‘overthrow[ing] Western thought’’ (Harpham 2003: 467) Zˇizˇek responds, ‘‘Is anyone who deploys a critical distance towards the predominant model of academic knowledge really either pretending to be a genius transcending the limits of ordinary mortals or an obscene Thing?’’ (Zˇizˇek 2003: 495). Harpham’s qualification of Zˇizˇek as a ‘‘para-academic’’ ˇ izˇek rejects the mystique of the term by not only ignores the facts – Z explaining that he was denied employment as a ‘‘real’’ academic in communist Slovenia – but also invests him with the aura of intellectual transgression, of theory and debate being steeped in ‘‘real life’’ (smoky bars again), just as Zˇizˇek is implicitly venerated for talking about a communist system in which he actually lived. ˇ izˇek himself reinforces this authority, coming out as somewhat of a rebel Z in leftist circles that have taken a keen interest in him. Because of his native expert knowledge – his foreignness and his supposed flair for transgression – he can both correct those misguided Western leftists who fetishize Cuban or Yugoslav communism and make controversially nostalgic comments about certain aspects of ‘‘real existing socialist’’ regimes which most Western lef-

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tists would find unsavory. Zˇizˇek occupies a similar position vis-a`-vis Western blaming of Serbs and NATO’s subsequent interventions against this enemy. He outrages (or believes he does) leftist opponents of the bombings by openly supporting NATO’s mission to stop genocidal Serbs. He reacts against a leftist relativization of blame, the argument that all sides in the war are equally nationalist and thus guilty (suggested, for instance, by Alain Badiou) (Zˇizˇek 1999c). He ‘‘corrects’’ the mistaken leftist assumption that Milosˇevic´’s Yugoslavia is an inheritor of the multicultural spirit of Tito’s state (Zˇizˇek 1999b). But in this Zˇizˇek is less of a controversial rebel than he would wish, in a similar way to that in which Nabokov’s claim to a tragic intellectual isolation among leftist US academics loses its power in the face ˇ izˇek’s portrayal of the war and support of a mainstream Cold War climate. Z of the bombings, despite his astute criticism of the ideology of humanitarian intervention or even the ‘‘humanitarianism’’ of the intervention, nevertheless recapitulates the mainstream concepts of a multicultural, human rights discourse that it seeks to transcend. For Zˇizˇek (1999a), a virulent critic of that elusive entity, the New World Order, the very ‘‘humanitarianism’’ of NATO interventions is suspect on the grounds that it is always followed by ‘‘the vague, but ominous reference to ‘strategic interests.’’’ The NATO actions in Bosnia and Yugoslavia are justified on the basis of an ‘‘ethical normativity’’ of ‘‘universal human rights which assert themselves even against state sovereignty’’; although there is no ˇ izˇek argues, this explicit reference to political or economic interests, Z ‘‘newly emerging normativity of ‘human rights’ is nevertheless the form of appearance of its very opposite’’ (2001: 245). It seems, however, that a humanitarian intervention would be acceptable for Zˇizˇek if it could truly deliver what it promises, that is, punish a country that violates human rights: ‘‘Is not this the only hope in our global era – to see some internationally acknowledged force as a guarantee that all countries will respect a certain minimum of ethical (and, hopefully, also health, social, ecological) standards?’’ (Zˇizˇek 1999a). Positively valorizing the concept of Empire disˇ izˇek does not question the very establishment cussed by Hardt and Negri, Z of the right to intervene, therefore. Rather, the problem lies in the occluded interests of the force that intervenes, as well as in the ideology of humanitarian intervention itself. This ‘‘militaristic humanism,’’ by assuming a purely ethical or moral legitimation, ‘‘depoliticizes the military intervention, changing it into an intervention in humanitarian catastrophe’’ rather than in a ‘‘well-defined political struggle’’ (Zˇizˇek 2000: 57). It sets the ground for an intervention on behalf of an ideal ‘‘subject-victim’’ who is not a political agent, but someone who is simply caught up in the madness of the conflict and whose suffering must be stopped at all costs (Zˇizˇek 2000: 58). The intervening force makes sure that the ‘‘subject-victims’’ are not allowed to ‘‘cast off this helplessness by asserting themselves as a sovereign and self-reliant political subject’’ (Zˇizˇek 2000: 59). Predictably, then, NATO intervenes in Kosovo on behalf

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of the terrorized and displaced Albanians, the privileged and passive humanitarian victims. However, it becomes fearful and hostile when it discovers ‘‘recalcitrant’’ political subjects in Kosovo: not only the Kosovo Liberation Army engaging, without NATO consent, in murder, drug and human trafficking, but Albanians in general opposing the NATO mandate in post-liberated Kosovo because they now see outside management as occupation. It seems that this politics of victimization is a larger phenomenon for Zˇizˇek, and humanitarian interventionism, which reduces singular political struggles to a US police intervention against ‘‘terrorists’’ or ‘‘unlawful combatants’’ that disturb global order, is but one of its manifestations. The intervention among both ‘‘terrorists’’ and ‘‘victims’’ interpellates them in the biopolitics of what Agamben (1998) terms ‘‘mere life.’’ Here Zˇizˇek echoes my earlier observation that both sides are patronized because, rather than being treated as sovereign independent citizens, they are granted certain human rights: the right to live, eat, have shelter, and express one’s religious, cultural or linguistic identity (Zˇizˇek 2002: 92). The main problem ˇ izˇek, is that this biopolitics of ‘‘mere of today’s global political climate, for Z life,’’ predicated on the ideology of victimization and harassment, becomes the ultimate political horizon – paralleling the establishment of liberal democracy as the political master-signifier. To extend my earlier argument that a liberal ideology of humanitarian interventionism is irreproachable, this type of politics also precludes opposition: we can’t say we’re against human rights and in favor of terrorists, against liberal democracy and in favor of fundamentalism or totalitarianism. But despite this critical problem with the ideology of humanitarian ˇ izˇek supports the NATO actions in former Yugoslavia interventionism, Z even as they polarize the populace into helpless, passive victims and incredibly politically powerful terrorists. Indeed, like many former Yugoslav republics, he appropriates the position of a victim in hopes to capture Western political attention and thus ends up blaming NATO for intervening too late and for playing a pro-Serb game in the meantime (for Serbs, of course, it is a pro-Croat or pro-Moslem game; for Bosnian Moslems, it is a proCroat or pro-Serb game). Zˇizˇek does not subscribe to the explanation of the conflict as a pathological inter-ethnic showdown and insists that these myths are manipulated by nationalist politicians on all sides to gain popularity.9 He also identifies European fantasies of belonging which take place through a disassociation from one’s Balkan neighbors, where the ‘‘multiple displacement of the frontier clearly demonstrates that . . . we are dealing not with real geography but with an imaginary cartography’’ (Zˇizˇek 2000: 4). Thus, Zˇizˇek argues, For the nationalist Slovenes the [European–Balkan] frontier is the river Kolpa, separating Slovenia from Croatia; we are Mitteleuropa, while Croats are already Balkan, involved in the irrational ethnic feuds which

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really do not concern us – we are on their side, we sympathize, but in the same way one sympathizes with a third world victim of aggression. (Zˇizˇek 1992) But as with many liberal or leftist commentators, this gesture primarily serves to disprove the claims that ‘‘there is nothing we can do’’ about centuries-old Balkan conflicts and to argue instead that a military intervention ˇ izˇek, the patronizing, liberal racism is desirable and possibly beneficial. In Z of humanitarian intervention overrides – and overshadows – the traditional Orientalist racism of refusing to intervene in the wild Balkans. Indeed, Zˇizˇek perhaps unwittingly reinforces the discourse of a seemingly benevolent, humanitarian intervention to aid victims (who are nonetheless invested with a clear ethnic identity). His critique of Western political responses to the Sarajevo siege disaster points to a ‘‘libidinal economy’’ of Sarajevo’s victimization, Westerners’ ‘‘unavowed desire’’ to preserve it ‘‘in a kind of atemporal freeze, between the two deaths . . . a victim eternalized in its suffering’’ (Zˇizˇek 1994: 213). To counter this racist suspension of the victim, which provides the Western gaze with a safe, mediatized outlet of ‘‘otherness,’’ Zˇizˇek argues for a more radical humanitarian action, beyond providing ‘‘just enough humanitarian aid for the city to survive, exert[ing] just enough pressure on the Serbs to prevent them from occupying the city’’ (1994: 213). The problem lies not in Zˇizˇek’s argument for putting an end to the siege through outside intervention, but rather in his redoubling of Sarajevo’s final image as the victim and of the terms of intervention which sacrifices terrorist Serbs with impunity and rescues victimized Bosnian Moslems by investing them with an idealized (yet patronizing) lack of political agency. ˇ izˇek’s explanation of the wars echoes my earlier discussion of liberal Z humanitarianism which justifies independent Bosnia as a project of isolation and improvement of the best legacies of former Yugoslavia and castigates Serbia as an im/potent, rump embodiment of a superseded communist state, lashing out in its death throes. The political lines are drawn according to unambiguous and apparently fixed binaries: challenging a presumed leftist idealization of Milosˇevic´’s Serbia as an inheritor of Tito’s Yugoslavia, Zˇizˇek proposes that Alija Izetbegovic´’s Bosnian presidency, rather, more faithfully preserves the former state’s heritage. The popularity of Tito’s portraits in Bosnia’s political offices in the 1990s ‘‘proves’’ its continued devotion to multiculturalism. Bosnia is frequently lauded as the most tolerant and open of former Yugoslav republics, a place where being-Moslem did not mean some fundamentalist ‘‘madness,’’ but led to an original rock music scene and cultural scene in general. Hence, the war between Bosnia and Yugoslavia was the war between what was, to put it conditionally, good about the old Titoist legacy, the war

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Zˇizˇek is not an unambivalent apologist for the ‘‘real existing socialism’’ of Tito’s Yugoslavia, but he redeems its multicultural legacy, which, ‘‘even if [it] is a purely manipulative ideological invention, nonetheless it produces certain material effects’’ (Zˇizˇek 1999b). Izetbegovic´’s Bosnia, especially Sarajevo, is thus transformed into a leftist fetish: it is invested with the utopian element of old Yugoslavia. While Bosnian Moslems – and frequently Kosovo Albanians – are the only entities behaving in a ‘‘civilized’’ manner in former Yugoslavia, Milosˇevic´’s Serbia destroys the very utopian element of Tito’s Yugoslavia while preserving its most regressive aspects. Serbia has fallen prey (quite willingly, though) to a ‘‘nationalist neo-Communist leader’’ and therefore the fight against Milosˇevic´ by the seceding republics running for their lives is likened ˇ izˇek evokes stereotypical to the Allies’ fight against Hitler (Zˇizˇek 1999a). Z tropes of the Holocaust and Hitlerism used to explain Milosˇevic´’s reign over Serbia, contributing to the irreproachability of Yugoslavia’s breakup by catering to both leftist and liberal imaginations. The multiculturalist republics respectful of communist Yugoslavia’s legacy seek refuge from a nationalist monster; the democratic republics respectful of Yugoslavia’s liberal legacy seek refuge from an orthodox communist. Of course, this is a problem, not because the image of Milosˇevic´’s Serbia is inadequate or unreasonable, but because such an argument obscures the legacy of other deadly ˇ izˇek’s discursive framing of Yugoslav wars is nationalisms in the region. Z torn between this acknowledgment of the rise in nationalism in all republics and the insistence on blaming some nationalisms and exculpating others. ˇ izˇek explains how nationalist politics gained ground across former Z Yugoslavia: ‘‘every nationality has built its own mythology narrating how other nations deprive it of the vital part of enjoyment’’ (1993: 204). Thus, Slovenes are deprived of their potentially Western European affluence by ‘‘Serbians, Bosnians, . . . because of their proverbial laziness, Balkan corruption, dirty and noisy enjoyment,’’ while Serbs are robbed of the results of their hard labor by ‘‘Slovenian unnatural diligence, stiffness and selfish calculation’’ (Zˇizˇek 1993: 204). But the darker (reverse, as it were) side of nationalisms other than Serbian is suppressed in Zˇizˇek, for what matters is not their ideological overlap but rather their ‘‘concrete’’ manifestations – at ˇ izˇek selectively discusses. Thus Zˇizˇek follows a Western least the ones that Z humanitarian logic in exonerating ‘‘weaker nationalisms (Bosnian, Kosovar)’’ and castigating ‘‘stronger nationalisms (Serbian and, by means of subtraction, the Croatian)’’ (Zˇizˇek 1999c). Even the ‘‘yakking popular on the Left about the [pro-fascist] Ustasche symbols in Tudjman’s Croatia’’ means little set against the ‘‘Serbian aggression against Bosnia in 1992’’ (Zˇizˇek 1999c).

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ˇ izˇek acknowledges that even the 1990s Bosnian presidency is not comZ pletely innocent in that they ‘‘played a strange game’’: ‘‘let Serbs and Croats fight each other and then we’ll take over’’ (Zˇizˇek 1999b). This statement allegedly invests them with political agency, on which Zˇizˇek insists in order to combat the ideology of (self-)victimization, but it nevertheless comes across as no more than a token gesture intended to provide balance. This becomes especially apparent in Zˇizˇek’s problematic insistence that even Croatian nationalism, which openly embraced the fascist symbols and ideology of the World War II Nazi puppet state, has its redeeming moments:10 even such a degenerate, sad regime as the Tudjman regime in Croatia still acknowledges Tito and the old Yugoslav legacy as a legitimate tradition. Even if he is – and he definitely is – a proto-fascist figure, Tudjman still includes Tito within the great Croat legacy, or however he puts it. (Zˇizˇek 1999b) Why this insistence on differentiation between entire ‘‘nationalisms,’’ already assumed as givens? If Croatian, Bosnian, Slovenian, and other nationalisms have their redeeming sides, counterparts, or at least complexity (oppositional parties?), then how is it credible that only Serbian nationalism is monolithic, straightforward, fixed? Most significantly, how does this move ˇ izˇek allegedly espouses when it not forward the multicultural politics that Z only contradicts his theorization of the rise in antagonistic nationalisms everywhere in Yugoslavia but also elevates certain ‘‘ethnics’’ (and their ‘‘enjoyment’’ of their nations) above ‘‘others’’? This alleged insistence on multiculturalism which obscures its racist side, its unacknowledged reverse, ˇ izˇek would say, strengthens the interventionist ideology of liberal as Z humanitarianism which he sets out to challenge. The main culprit in this politics of blame is undoubtedly Milosˇevic´ and even Serbian politicians before him (so Serbian politics is monolithic not only synchronically but also diachronically). ˇ izˇek’s historical cause-and-effect narrative, it is Serbia which sets the In Z stage for the first (symbolic) death of Yugoslavia: by denying autonomy to its provinces Kosovo and Vojvodina in the 1974 Constitution and by sanctioning Milosˇevic´’s takeover of power in the late 1980s. While no doubt significant, this ‘‘originary’’ moment of breakup is exposed to challenge – for instance, why not date the breakup of Yugoslavia to the rise in Albanian nationalism and calls for independence in the 1970s and 1980s? Or to the nationalism of the so-called ‘‘Croatian Spring’’ in the 1970s? Or to Slovenia’s and Croatia’s calls for independence in the 1980s? My aim is not to ‘‘blame’’ any single event or ‘‘entity’’ for Yugoslavia’s breakup, but rather to highlight the need of looking at all of them together, considering their interactions in the particular political and economic constellations whose ˇ izˇek discounts with a specific ideological goal in mind. complexity Z

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ˇ izˇek’s unapologetic support of NATO’s punishment of Serbia results Z from the war situation presented in such binary terms and from a unified historical narrative which monopolizes the discourse of the breakup through a rationalization, a cause-and-effect unfolding that points to indisputable Serbian delinquency. Unlike liberal apologists who justified the intervention by saying that it punishes politicians rather than ordinary ˇ izˇek has no qualms about bombing Serbs as a people. Although he people, Z ˇ izˇek neveridentifies many problems with the humanitarian intervention, Z theless believes the NATO action to be justified, replying to the ‘‘pseudoLeftists’’ who are squeamish about the bombing: ‘‘Precisely as a Leftist, my answer to the dilemma ‘Bomb or not?’ is: not yet ENOUGH bombs and they are TOO LATE’’ (Zˇizˇek 1999a). It is not just about getting over the years of ‘‘entertaining illusions that one can make a deal with Milosˇevic´,’’ a ¨ ber-Serb who fully represents claim that not only installs Milosˇevic´ as the U and embodies the nation, but also strips Serbs of the power of negotiation – one cannot negotiate with terrorists (Zˇizˇek 1999a). It is also about punishing Serbs for their nationalism: When the Western forces repeat all the time that they are not fighting the Serbian people, but only their corrupted regime, they rely on the typically liberal wrong premise that the Serbian people are just victims of their evil leadership personified in Milosevic, manipulated by him.11 The painful fact is that Serb aggressive nationalism enjoys the support of the large majority of the population – no, Serbs are not passive victims of nationalist manipulation, they are not Americans in disguise, just waiting to be delivered from the bad nationalist spell. (Zˇizˇek 1999a) The effectiveness of the NATO bombing as a humanitarian method and a democratic tool for efficiently re-educating bad nationalists into good multiculturalists is a topic in its own right. What is at stake in Zˇizˇek’s nihilistic politics is the very biopolitics of ‘‘mere life’’ which can justify the ‘‘collateral damage’’ among not merely Serbian nationalists, but Serbs as an undifferentiated, cancerous body – all the more ironic as cancer is on the rise in Serbian bodies since the bombing, because of all the ‘‘concrete’’ manifestaˇ izˇek chooses to discuss in theoretical tions of the NATO intervention that Z ˇ terms. Indeed, Zizˇek’s approach, while seemingly devoted to the utopian ‘‘excess’’ of Yugoslavia’s ideology of multiculturalism, insists on a clear delineation of differences among the warring ethnics, contributing to the vying for Western accolades by former Yugoslav republics through a denigration of ‘‘others.’’ Although Zˇizˇek opposes the biological racism of ‘‘primordial hatreds,’’ he nevertheless sets the stage for a seemingly more liberal racism through the discussion of guilt in ethnic (rather than political or economic) terms and the mobilization of ethnicity as the zero degree of either assertive, self-

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defensive politics or aggressive, destructive fascism. In this way, Croatian ethnics can always be half-exonerated for their nationalist enjoyment, regardless of the singularity of the situation in which they find themselves, whereas Serb ethnic fascism will be replicated mimetically at different historical moments, whether we are speaking of 1974, 1986, or 1992. But let me replicate myself – this discussion is not meant to elevate Serbian nationalism or portray it in a more favorable light, or ‘‘tell the truth’’ about Bosnian Moslem nationalism. It is not the question of preferring Izetbegovic´’s vision of Bosnia over Milosˇevic´’s vision of Bosnia, or vice versa. Instead, what if neither of these is adequate (as Zˇizˇek would likely say), but something completely different is true: what if neither option inherits the spirit of Tito’s Yugoslavia? What haunts, exceeds Zˇizˇek’s discussion is the existence, however utopian in (spite of) its impotence, of a pro-Yugoslav party as an option in the Bosnian elections in the 1990s and the fact that most Bosnian Moslems did not vote for it. Neither did Bosnian Serbs or Croats. Even if this pro-Yugoslav option, i.e. its embodiment in the party, was clearly powerless and superseded, it would still be possible to speak of a pro-Yugoslav political attitude, a gesture of respect for Tito’s ideology of multiculturalism. This attitude would likely oppose the politics of ethnic identity, of blame and guilt, as well as of a discursive denigration – or support for bombing – of any one of Yugoslavia’s nationalities. Instead, the former Yugoslav republics have gained independence, but have nurtured it as introverted new nations. They have ˇ izˇek claims, preserved the spirit of Tito’s Yugoslavia; nor have not, as Z they formed some sort of loose confederacy which would have challenged the nationalist-chauvinist Milosˇevic´ government with the full force of its ˇ izˇek’s, multicultural utopianism. For accounts which somewhat complicate Z therefore, I turn to Dubravka Ugresˇic´ and to Aleksandar Hemon.

Croatian, Balkan, Eastern European, or ‘‘other’’? Dubravka Ugresˇic´ and the condition of global dissidence Like Slavoj Zˇizˇek, the contemporary Croatian author Dubravka Ugresˇic´ also grapples with the process of ethnic self-differentiation in Have a Nice Day: from the Balkan wars to the American dream, dramatizing the trauma of undecided Balkan identities which perpetually long for the mythical West yet can never merit its acceptance. A political exile from Croatia, Dubravka Ugresˇic´ develops Have a Nice Day as a series of cultural reflections about the relationship between her abandoned East and her newly acquired West. In contact with the West (initially Holland and, more prominently, the United States), Ugresˇic´’s essays embody a conflict between, on the one hand, the discourse of globalization – for her a traditional colonial narrative which proffers Western models as a goal for the West’s ‘‘others’’ – and, on the other hand, a questioning of such a discourse.

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While she initially positions herself as an Eastern European ‘‘other,’’ denouncing Yugoslav ‘‘backwards’’ nationalism and celebrating Western Europe and the United States as leaders in the march towards global progress, Ugresˇic´ ends up criticizing streamlining Western multiculturalism, which to her reflects the process of globalization, promoting globally recognizable and thus consumable identities. Because this conflict remains largely unresolved, Ugresˇic´ establishes herself as a dissident from both former Yugoslavia’s (Eastern) nationalist euphoria and American (Western) stultifying multiculturalism. Noting that both ideologies, while seemingly contradictory, depend on clear identity politics as the zero degree of any political action or privilege, Ugresˇic´ struggles to locate another way of operating in the modern world. Particularly interesting for our purposes is her attempt to resurrect and piece together the old Yugoslavia which is being destroyed physically and discredited discursively – with the aid of local nationalist as well as global multiculturalist narratives. At the beginning of the book, Ugresˇic´’s escape from war-torn Croatia to Amsterdam lands her thoughts in the midst of Orientalist binaries, which provide a framework for her reflections on the East–West divide: In the Bodega Kayzer cafe´ I drink coffee and write down pairs of opposites. Left – right; organized – disorganized; democracy – democratic symbols as a substitute for democracy; civilized – primitive; . . . rational consciousness – mythic consciousness; facing the future – a necrophiliac preoccupation with the past; predictability – unpredictability; an orderly system of criteria and values – absence of system; individual consciousness – collective consciousness; citizen – nationality. I fill the left-hand column under the heading Western Europe, the right under Eastern Europe. (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 22) At this point, Ugresˇic´ assigns the first items in the binaries a more privileged position, while taking upon herself the burden of inferiority that the second items entail. She personifies Eastern Europe as a ‘‘sister’’ she cannot escape: a disgracefully uncivilized double who wears ‘‘cheap make-up,’’ ‘‘talks too loudly,’’ ‘‘wipes its lips with its hand,’’ and whose desperate eyes reveal a ‘‘need to stop being a second-class citizen and become someone’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 23). This almost contemptuous realization of one’s own insignificance and peripheral status is further enhanced by Ugresˇic´’s references to Croatia’s desire to have its civil war misery recognized by the West. Her mother persistently asks, ‘‘And do they know about us over there? Do they write about us?’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 32). They don’t, Ugresˇic´ implies, because the ‘‘beautiful Western Europe’’ can afford to think about more important things than the misery of its ‘‘others’’ (1994: 26). Her denunciation of the then nationalist politics in Croatia labels Ugresˇic´ as a ‘‘permanent e´migre´’’ from her own country and intensifies her

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association of the Balkans with intolerance, brutality, and moral degradation, qualities which place them at odds with the ‘‘civilized’’ West (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 224). As Ugresˇic´ explains to her bewildered New York shrink, ‘‘I come from a phallic culture, male; a culture of batons, sticks and knives, according to need’’ (1994: 53). Later she painstakingly enumerates all that is wrong with her Balkan land – ‘‘mythic, tribal thinking, . . . primitive, savage ways, . . . illiteracy, . . . the criminal mentality, . . . the newly composed rural mentality which weeps as it kills and kills as it weeps’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 54). These qualifications have their implied, more positive opposites – values that, in Ugresˇic´’s reflections, are scarce in the Balkans. This ‘‘lack’’ reifies the Balkans as a place which Western modernity has side-stepped. Indeed, the Balkans’ ideological displacement from modern Europe is reflected in the shrink’s incredulous reaction to Ugresˇic´’s horror story: ‘‘I doubt that any of that can be taking place in the heart of Europe, on the threshold of the twenty-first century’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 55). Juxtaposed with this wounded Balkan/East European image is Ugresˇic´’s portrayal of the West, particularly the United States, as an organized, smoothly functioning, rational society, leader to the global future, the exploration of which affords her much amusement. An exile-flaˆneur, Ugresˇic´ becomes enchanted with the vibrancy of New York streets and declares that it is ‘‘not a city of dreams, it is a city built by us, dreamers’’ (1994: 214). By describing New York as a city of ‘‘us’’ and not ‘‘them,’’ Ugresˇic´ appropriates her new abode as an outgrowth of her own American dream among others and expresses her solidarity with this collective imagined community of New York immigrants. This feeling of communion also signals that she might be able to rebuild her shattered sense of home in this alien country. As she smiles the ‘‘smile of a convalescent,’’ sitting on a Central Park bench, New York allows Ugresˇic´ to recuperate from personal anxieties and once again achieve ‘‘normality’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 151). Perhaps this is why, as she slowly punches holes in this image, she poses the question: ‘‘And what gives me the right, from my refugee’s disjointed, neurotic, desperate and disabled perspective, to judge a world which is freely setting up its norms, its norms of its normality?’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 150). Her criticism of her Western hosts is accompanied by a sense of guilt because in exile she has recovered the academic privileges that she has irrevocably lost in Croatia: she has become a privileged refugee (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 25). But she nevertheless notices that the ‘‘norms of normality’’ to which she pays homage depend on classifying her as a Yugoslav refugee whose perspective is appropriately skewed, disjointed, and desperate. She becomes a mascot of both Balkan and, more broadly, Eastern European ‘‘otherness’’ which can be securely streamlined into the host society and help reinforce its superior position. Ugresˇic´ reflects on the ‘‘Parisians talking about the yugomafia and Londoners about ‘ustashas’ and ‘chetniks,’ the fear of civilized Europe’’; ‘‘Ha-ha, you’re a dangerous lot, down there . . . ,’’ they tell her (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 28). The images of the Balkans that she sees in the Western media –

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‘‘desperate, wretched, disheveled people with wild eyes’’ – only serve to strengthen the ‘‘myth of the wild Balkans’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 110). Ugresˇic´ also challenges Western portrayals of Eastern Europe as a monolithic entity. In a similar way to that in which she is locked in the image of a wretched refugee from the Balkans, she feels classified as a victim of Eastern European Iron Curtain communism, a veritable homo sacer whose only acceptable position can be that of victimhood. Upon her crossing the border, Ugresˇic´ says, ‘‘the customs officers of culture began roughly sticking identity labels on me: communism, Eastern Europe, censorship, repression, Iron Curtain, nationalism (Serb or Croat?)’’ (1994: 139). The humorous scene in which an American journalist, trying to express her sympathy for Ugresˇic´, condescendingly recycles America’s demonization of communism (‘‘‘I know it was terrible,’ she said emotionally, screwing up her face’’) helps Ugresˇic´ expose the preconceived notions about Eastern Europe which only seek to reaffirm themselves (1994: 139). Of course, the irony that Ugresˇic´ tries to point out to her readers is that her communist Yugoslavia was never part of the Iron Curtain communist bloc. This renders Ugresˇic´’s portrayal of Yugoslav intellectuals in the West all the more grotesque: revising personal histories, they deliberately play into Western stereotypes of repression behind the Iron Curtain in order to reap benefits from the system. A Yugoslav journalist who engages in what Rey Chow (2002) calls ‘‘coercive mimicry,’’ or mimicry of a predetermined ethnic identity, proudly informs Ugresˇic´, ‘‘I’ll sell garbage from the communist store-room . . . I’ll give them the expected picture of the world, stereotypes about life behind ‘the iron curtain,’ stereotypes about grey, alienated Eastern Europe standing in line for sour cabbage’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 67). Ugresˇic´ importantly questions the ethics of reinforcing one’s peripheral status, but also hints that in order for a periphery writer/journalist to enter the Western mainstream he/she is under pressure to conform to the expected image of the periphery. Thus, when Ugresˇic´ observes, ‘‘But we never stood in line for sour cabbage,’’ it is clear that within the dominant discourse on the West– East divide, Ugresˇic´’s insight might not be readily marketable (1994: 67). Instead, she must play into the logic of global identity politics that insists of understanding her position via the predetermined image of being Croatian, Balkan, and/or Eastern European. As a challenge to such a logic, rather than engaging – like Zˇizˇek – in a politics of blaming bad or praising good ethnic (id)entities in the Balkan wars, Ugresˇic´ focuses on the process of self-differentiation itself, implying that every side is similarly caught up in it. Simultaneously, she resurrects a different, less marketable story of subaltern Yugoslavs who do not live up to the myth of wild Balkans, ethnic hatreds, or clear national identifications. These are the people she left in former Yugoslavia, who did not have the privilege of going global or of infiltrating themselves into Western metropolises. Such people, she hints, are historically paralyzed by the entrenched Orientalist discourses on the Balkans and Eastern Europe, which

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can dismiss their individual war tragedies as consequences of expected nationalist escapades in the wake of a post-communist chaos. The peripheral subaltern gains a voice in Ugresˇic´’s narrative in the guise of her mother’s insistent phone calls from Croatia, recounting the latest horrors but also revealing humorous, idiosyncratic exchanges between mother and daughter. Ugresˇic´ also includes letters from her friends scattered all over the former Yugoslavia, people who mainly want to survive and evade the war; such subaltern actions of survival, as Pheng Cheah would say, ‘‘cannot easily be romanticized or recuperated as hybrid resistance’’ (1998: 302). H. from Croatia writes to Ugresˇic´ about the miserable living conditions and a surreal political metamorphosis (‘‘Our new state is like a fairy tale . . . A good fairy came, waved a magic wand and turned us into – Europeans’’) and also inquires after a mutual friend from Serbia, the official ‘‘enemy’’ territory (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 90). In turn, in a letter from Serbia, J. laments not being able to visit her friends in ‘‘enemy’’ Croatia; she denounces nationalist warmongers who chased home the people ‘‘demanding not to be divided into sheepfolds according to nationality’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 94). Personalizing the ‘‘other’’ effectively disturbs the discourse that seeks to reduce the ‘‘other’’ to stereotypes. Ugresˇic´’s narrative, in fact, performs the spectral unity of former Yugoslavia, not in terms of official communist politics, but in terms of its unofficial sense of solidarity and friendship collapsing nationalist boundaries. This method also gives Ugresˇic´’s narrative a polyphonic quality, enhanced by her need to consider every experience through a double exposure: I look at the American flag and suddenly I seem to see little red sickles and hammers instead of white stars . . . I walk down Fifth Avenue and suddenly see the buildings falling like card houses . . . Everything is mixed up in my head, everything exists simultaneously, nothing has just one meaning any more, nothing is firm any longer. (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 55) By situating the Yugoslav experience in the United States, Ugresˇic´ gives the Balkan nationalist conflicts the global relevance which they have been denied by the discourse of globalization, a discourse that depends on associating Balkan nationalism with a ‘‘lack’’ of civilization, progress, democracy.12 Ugresˇic´’s diasporic experience resembles what Radhakrishnan calls a ‘‘ghostly location, where the political unreality of one’s present home is to be surpassed only by the ontological reality of one’s place of origin’’ (1996: 175). In the United States, Ugresˇic´ supplements the unreality of her present condition by invoking the ghostly remnants of her vanishing country. Indeed, she anxiously reconstructs the country that she constantly warns is vanishing, through both its own self-destruction and its increasingly peripheral status in global relations. She enumerates memories of vanishing places, customs, experiences; she lists the names of people who have already been classified as ‘‘disappeared.’’

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The attempt to salvage the memory of a country doomed to extinction is also a reassertion of its past against its civil-war present and against its proclaimed goal of a bright future in the European Union and the prestigious ‘‘free-world’’ society. Although she has no illusions about communism, Ugresˇic´ mocks Croatia’s hasty readiness to reject everything ‘‘Yugo-communist.’’ What takes place politically in independent Croatia is portrayed as an emancipation from the ‘‘prison of nations,’’ but Ugresˇic´ unmasks it as an attempt, rather, to further one’s cultural specificity in the context of global identity politics and gain national legitimacy among eminent Western powers (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 234–35). The entire propaganda of the country which hatched out of the Yugoslav conflict, Ugresˇic´ implies, is directed towards shedding the image of the backwards Balkans and proving that its national identity is not only separate and well-defined, but also modern, democratic, and beneficial to the West: ‘‘we are not beasts thirsty for blood like our enemies,’’ the television images say (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 236). In the process, monuments to scientist Nikola Tesla and writer Ivo Andric´ are replaced by a monument to German Foreign Minister Genscher, who championed an international acceptance of Croatia’s independence (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 235). Croatia’s already peripheral status, it seems, is further exacerbated, paradoxically, by the country’s enthusiastic denial of its cultural heritage – which it shares with other Yugoslavs – in its desire to get closer to the elusive West. Ugresˇic´ draws parallels between the present process of Croatia’s Westernization and the past exposure to Western values and commodities within the communist Yugoslavia. In a chapter appropriately titled ‘‘Yugo-Americana,’’ Ugresˇic´ explains how the American dream arrived in post-World War II Yugoslavia through ‘‘Truman’s eggs, milk and cheddar cheese,’’ through translations of Kerouac and Ginsberg and, most importantly, through Hollywood (1994: 106). According to Ugresˇic´, this permeation of the Yugoslav milieu with American cultural products launched Yugoslavs into a collective American dream, but also created among them a sense of equality in the global world. Because they could identify with common human concerns of American soap opera characters, Ugresˇic´ concludes, her American friend ‘‘Norman’s mother in Detroit and my mother in Zagreb were in that sense equal inhabitants of the global village’’ (1994: 109). With that in mind, Ugresˇic´ mentions a story by Croatian author Pavle Pavlicˇic´, in which he compares ordinary life in Hannibal on the Mississippi and Vukovar on the Danube, casting the American and Croatian towns as equal actors in parallel worlds. But to Ugresˇic´, this ‘‘sameness of various worlds’’ has been destroyed by the reality of the civil war in Croatia, when Vukovar was razed to the ground (1994: 110). This metaphoric realization of material inequality brings to light the precariousness of equality simulated by a mutual consumption of cultural products. This conclusion also seems to be a warning that present Croatian attempts to become Westernized may bring them into the sphere of Western-like market consumption, but not into the sphere of material equality with the West.

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Even the television equality is not what it seemed to be, Ugresˇic´ realizes, as her exilic experience provides her a glimpse into ways in which Western media strengthen the Balkan myth, which only widens the gap of inequality. It is paradoxical then, that, while the media expect Yugoslavs to live up to the Balkan myth, in the civil war itself people continue to live out the American myth: ‘‘Croatian soldiers wear bands round their foreheads like Sylvester Stallone, the town of Knin is known as Knin Peaks and the Serbian paramilitary groups are Kninjas’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 111). Ugresˇic´ thus concludes: ‘‘The world had evidently become a global village. Perhaps it had become a global American village, but we needn’t go into that here’’ (1994: 108). The implication of Ugresˇic´’s discussion is that, although Sylvester Stallone, ninjas, and ‘‘wild-eyed’’ Croatian and Serbian fighters represent symbols of equally brutal violence, violence embodied by the American myth seems palatable, while the one embodied by the Balkan myth is clearly unacceptable and appropriately ‘‘othered.’’ In this light, Croatia’s present anxiety to escape the Balkan myth and embrace the West only gives credence to this problematic distinction. Throughout the essays, embracing the West means participating in a consumer mentality, ideology that adjusts anything into a perfectly marketable commodity. In that sense, not only is Ugresˇic´, as a representative of a post-communist country, expected to ‘‘sell’’ a story about her experience to the Western market,13 but Croatia’s war horrors themselves have to live up to marketable standards: ‘‘If the war horrors in Croatia had been presented by an international fashion designer, someone would have noticed them’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 139, 24). To challenge the dichotomies according to which the West ‘‘rescues’’ the East from the nightmare of chauvinist nationalism into a tolerant multiculturalism, or from the nightmare of communism into liberal-democratic capitalism, Ugresˇic´ compares the United States and Yugoslavia/Croatia in terms of a shared ideological heritage. Ugresˇic´ finds a Western ideology of mass production and marketing of not only goods but human behavior as stultifying as Eastern European communist ideologies and, in the case of former Yugoslavia, populist nationalism. In this sense, Ugresˇic´ compares seemingly disparate societies on an equal footing, highlighting the flaws in what she perceives as their mainstream value systems and subverting the superior West/inferior East dichotomy. Thus, when one of her American students asks her if she thinks that kitsch is a typical product of communist systems, she is able to reply, albeit timidly, ‘‘Kitsch is a global phenomenon’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 170). Both communist and nationalist empires of kitsch, with their superficial, maudlin symbols of ‘‘brotherhood and unity’’ or national costumes and folklore, come to resemble American television kitsch which advertises certain models of behavior, a ‘‘new American sensibility, undisguised sentimentality, a new, ‘better quality’ attitude to life’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 181). Continuing to see everything in double exposures, Ugresˇic´ ponders on the American anxiety to overcome depression, build a strong personality, and project an image of happiness. The ‘‘aggressive synopsis of American

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happiness’’ promoted in films, soap operas, and commercials recalls for Ugresˇic´ the images of Eastern European ‘‘totalitarian happiness, images of parades, happy masses acting as a collective body’’ (1994: 73, 74). Her subsequent epiphany sounds paradoxical and exaggerated, but effectively highlights the common characteristics of the two worlds: ‘‘America has imposed the dictatorship of happiness’’ (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 74). Ugresˇic´ does not ultimately opt for either of these discourses: both the discourse of globalization and the Croatian nationalist discourse (on its way to global Westernization) seek to streamline behavior into acceptable models. In Croatia, Ugresˇic´’s writing is expected to be ‘‘Croatian,’’ while in the West, Ugresˇic´’s writing is expected to be ‘‘ethnic’’ – ‘‘Balkan’’ or ‘‘Eastern European.’’ This double bind gives credence to Benedict Anderson’s critique of what we call global cosmopolitanism: in his view, diasporic, transnational identity is ‘‘at bottom, simply an extension of a census-style, identitarian conception of ethnicity’’ (1998: 131). To borrow Anderson’s phrase, wherever Ugresˇic´ ‘‘happens to end up,’’ she remains a ‘‘countable’’ Croatian (1998: 131). This tendency to focus on Ugresˇic´’s ethnic identity, in Croatia, or ethnic stereotype, abroad, has indeed graced numerous writings about her work. In 1992, the Croatian magazine Globus published an attack on Ugresˇic´ and a number of other Croatian authors for attending a conference in Rio de Janeiro instead of helping the national cause. The article declared that the authors had ‘‘serious problems with their own ethnical [sic], ethical, human, intellectual and political identity’’ (Jansen 1998: 87). The authors’ ethnic identity took precedence over the analysis of any (other) aspects of their texts. In a parallel example from Western academia, Ugresˇic´’s physical appearance as a symbol of an ethnic stereotype found its way into Ellen Spitz’s conclusion to an article about Ugresˇic´’s work. Echoing Ugresˇic´’s description of the ‘‘wild-eyed’’ Balkans in the American media, Ellen Spitz writes, ‘‘The stranger’s hair is unruly, her facial skin creased with worry, her motley garb unkempt. Perhaps she needs just a warm smile’’ (2000: 153). Spitz admits that the ‘‘stranger’’ has made her feel uncomfortable, acknowledging her own tendency to fear the ‘‘other’’: Ugresˇic´ appeared to her as ‘‘the demonic Mr Hyde, or that horrifying portrait of Dorian Gray’’ (Spitz 2000: 154). Importantly, in Spitz’s article Ugresˇic´’s Orientalist image nevertheless becomes a necessary appendage to an analysis of her writing.14 Ugresˇic´’s strategy in Have a Nice Day, therefore, is to avoid any clear ethnic categorization. She refers to herself as a ‘‘dissident’’ whether talking about her experiences in the United States, Holland, Croatia, or communist Yugoslavia. At the same time, her attempt to reconstruct the Yugoslavia that is being dismembered in a civil war is the project of redeeming the relevance of the past in the context of the present: the wars affect not only Moslems, or Croats, or Serbs, but also the people who would not be streamlined into ‘‘sheepfolds’’ of nationality, whose politics is assumed to be dead and thus becomes marginalized, both through local and global interventions.

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Against pater/patria: Aleksandar Hemon’s Sarajevo blues The novel Nowhere Man, by Bosnian-American writer Aleksandar Hemon, approaches the wars in Yugoslavia primarily as the tragedy of the dissolution of old social identities and fabrics in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In a recent interview, Hemon wonders if the ‘‘Bosnian-Herzegovinian literature adequately responded to the experience of war and genocide if it considers itself a monolithic cultural unit’’ (Lasic´ 1999). He thinks that the matter of dealing with the war’s legacies is a question of different generational responses. While the ‘‘older generations are fully immersed in national selfpity,’’ the younger generation (exemplified by the authors Miljenko Jergovic´ and Semezdin Mehmedinovic´) is prepared to confront the disasters of war and identity breakdown . . . This is because they can understand the war not as a war of ‘‘us’’ versus ‘‘them,’’ not as a war between two (or three) ethnic identities with transcendental historical essences but as a war that destroys old and engenders new identities. (Lasic´ 1999)15 In Nowhere Man, which builds substantially around 1980s’ Sarajevo and its youth culture, this younger generation which undergoes a dissolution and transformation of identity in the civil wars that follow is dramatized through the characters of Jozef Pronek and his childhood friends. Sarajevo as its 1980s’ youth culture is an urban space written primarily through an unprecedented flourishing of domestic rock and pop bands, subversive comedy shows and playful de´tournement of official communist ideological cliche´s. This narrative and thematic gesture overtly extracts Sarajevo from a host of popular discourses in the wake of its destruction. Not only does it consistently preclude the casting of its history as a multicultural utopia which nevertheless contains the hidden nationalist seeds of its own destruction, but it also resists its post-war image as a ‘‘capital of victimhood,’’ in Ivaylo Ditchev’s words (2002: 246), by failing to sentimentalize the past, now assumed to be irretrievably lost. In Hemon, Sarajevo’s destruction in the wars of the 1990s cannot be retrospectively traced to either lurking ancient ethnic hatreds or an inexplicable corruption of multicultural tolerance among Serbs, Croats, and Moslems (or people embodying several ethnic heritages). It is not discussed in those terms; the coordinates of national and religious identification remain absent; the ‘‘three entities’’ simply aren’t. Therefore Hemon’s novel does not offer a cause-and-effect narrative that would act as a rationalization of the war, or as an explanation of why the war happened. Rather, the war is seen as an event, in a Badouian or Derridean sense, as something that is not determined by preexisting conditions, but arrives unexpectedly and without anticipation. Alain Badiou describes the ‘‘event’’

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as what takes place being ‘‘absolutely detached from, or unrelated to, all the rules of the situation’’ (2001: 68); for Jacques Derrida, the ‘‘event’’ becomes a ‘‘singularity, an alterity that cannot be anticipated’’ (1994: 65). For Hemon, a possible explanation, albeit insufficient, endlessly flawed, and deferred throughout the novel, lies in the aforementioned generational rift, but this does not foreclose the sense of political and cultural open-endedness in the narrative spaces of Sarajevo. After all, the specter of war, of the event-to-come, ‘‘cannot be awaited as such, or recognized in advance’’ (Derrida 1994: 65). The older generations seem to be prepared for an interethnic war by, paradoxically, former Yugoslavia’s patriotic discourses which promote a glorification of the army and an aggressive masculinity supposed to protect ethnic ‘‘brotherhood and unity.’’ The younger generations, to which Jozef Pronek belongs, remain alienated from patriotism and patriarchy alike, although these keep interpellating them, persistently cutting to the core of social relationships. Pronek and his peers are not good sons to either their fathers or their fatherland, embodying a union between the apparently contradictory systems of patronizing patriarchy and independent masculinity. Hemon follows Pronek through a global narrative which opens in Chicago, where an unnamed Bosnian refugee narrator recognizes Pronek in an ESL (English as a second language) class, flashes back to Pronek’s childhood and youth in pre-war Sarajevo, then switches to Pronek’s adventures in Ukraine, initial refuge from the war, narrated by an American of Ukrainian descent Victor Plavchuk, and ends with Pronek’s cruising through a number of temporary jobs in present-day Chicago. This allows Hemon to demystify the conflict in Bosnia as an exceptional global event. Rather, it is considered alongside the war in Rwanda and even haunts the benevolent and controlled industrial destruction of Chicago. In the first section of the novel, titled ‘‘Passover,’’ Chicago comes across as an ominous urban space, informed by a lack of intimacy, transitoriness, evictions, joblessness, and various intimations of cruelty and violence. Not only is Bosnian violence not exceptional in the context of concurrent global events, but its history – told through Pronek’s personal history – resists the essentializing cliche´s about Bosnia’s alternating ethnic coexistence and antagonism, compounded by iron-hand communism. As almost a slap in the face of such historical reifications, Hemon’s narrator proclaims: Sarajevo in the eighties was a beautiful place to be young – I know because I was young then. . . . The boys were handsome, the girls beautiful, the sports teams successful, the streets felt as soft as a Persian carpet and the Winter Olympics made everyone feel that we were at the center of the world. (Hemon 2000: 49)

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The narrative is self-reflexive here, hinting that what ensues is not the anticipated (hi)story of Sarajevo and therefore forces the reader to open up to the ‘‘event’’ of an alternate historiography. If one includes ‘‘only the important events’’ of life,’’ the ‘‘fireworks of universal experiences, the roller coaster rides of sympathy and judgment,’’ one ‘‘denies the real substance of life: the ephemera, the nethermoments, much too small to be recorded’’ (Hemon 2000: 41). Pronek’s life in 1980s’ Sarajevo is told through such a mix of ‘‘important events’’ and ‘‘ephemera,’’ the real substance of his life existing alongside with and far exceeding the official historical events. This coexistence rather than appropriation, or sublation, between the official and unofficial lives particularly becomes evident in Hemon’s treatment of the state ideology of communism, which the 1980s’ youth culture recognizes and occasionally derides without necessarily feeling threatened. The narrative continually highlights communist cliche´s promoted institutionally in schools, workplaces, and the army: on the first day of school, Pronek ‘‘learned that Nature was everything that surrounded them; that Tito was president; that the most important thing in our society was preserving brotherhood and unity’’ (Hemon 2000: 37). The slogan ‘‘preserving brotherhood and unity’’ is repeated throughout the novel, most strikingly when Pronek begins compulsory military service with the Yugoslav army. There is a certain cyclical boredom of ideological regurgitation, exemplified by annual rituals of celebrating ‘‘Tito’s birthday and other important dates from the proud history of socialist struggle and self-management’’ and singing ‘‘appropriate songs about miners striking and dying for freedom, about the revolution akin to a steely locomotive’’ (Hemon 2000: 38). And yet these cliche´s invest the past with a sense of stability, especially as the repetition of the phrase ‘‘brotherhood and unity’’ highlights the disappearance of these two things in the context of the Bosnian war. From the perspective of Pronek and the generation growing up in Sarajevo in the 1980s, such slogans are less an imposition than a stuffy ritual to be observed. It is a well-known secret that many do not believe in it, yet they pay homage to it as it does not significantly contradict the practices of everyday life. For instance, Tito’s death in 1980 is more a nuisance for Pronek than an earth-shattering political event, since the show of Pronek’s budding rock band, scheduled on the day of Tito’s death, has to be cancelled. As a result, Pronek becomes ‘‘mad at Tito and his selfish mortality’’ (Hemon 2000: 44). In parallel, a concert celebration of a Party-congress anniversary during Pronek’s tenure in the army does not elicit a virulent condemnation of the brainwashed orchestra ‘‘performing a song about the people’s joyful spirit’’ (Hemon 2000: 61). Rather, the narrative zeros in on Pronek’s wistfulness, his jealousy of the guitar player – he misses his Sarajevo band. What emerges in Hemon’s narrative is not so much an image of oppressive, iron-hand communism, but one of rather ridiculous, bankrupt, ritualistic propaganda, which is breaking slowly along the interstices of the aforementioned generation gap.

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Pronek’s parents, embodying the older generation of Yugoslav socialists, are not quite as well equipped as their son with the tools for recognizing ideological bankruptcy. They believe in the benevolence of the army, in ‘‘brotherhood and unity,’’ in the wonders of socialism, and yet it is clear that they have been happy in this system, so these are not wholly empty cliche´s. The distance between old-guard Yugoslavs and the emergent cosmopolitan youth culture is exemplified by the parents’ suspicious attitude toward Pronek’s infatuation with the English language and Anglo-American music, for them the tools of capitalist spies. And yet Pronek’s study of English is not quite a reaction against the oppressive, insular communist regime. Rather, it is precisely the regime that encourages this cosmopolitanism, as Pronek studies English in the ‘‘Pioneer Center Blagoje Parovic´,’’ where he meets his future best friend Mirza (Hemon 2000: 36). In a sense, the regime is also indirectly responsible for an actual ‘‘brotherhood and unity’’ developing across former Yugoslavia: because of the experience of unofficial contact and travel, of friendship and love affairs that far exceed what the system aims to achieve, thus beating it at its own game. It is this experience of mixing, of the possibility of communication across ethnic – and Yugoslav republic – boundaries, that is lost in the war of the 1990s, as we have also seen in Dubravka Ugresˇic´. Upon reading the ‘‘Defenses Collapse in Gorazˇde’’ headline in a Chicago newspaper, the unnamed narrator of the ‘‘Passover’’ section can only associate the town with spending the ‘‘summer at a seaside resort for Tito’s pioneers and [falling] in love with a girl from Gorazˇde. Her name was Emina and she taught me to kiss using my tongue’’ (Hemon 2000: 13). From the perspective of this ‘‘ephemeral’’ experience of ‘‘brotherhood and unity,’’ it becomes virtually impossible to understand the tragedy of Gorazˇde in 1994, the mass murder of its Moslem population. Such moments continually puncture the narrative of Pronek’s childhood and are considered in a double exposure, echoing Ugresˇic´ and highlighting the contrast between the absence of identity politics and its ontological – and ontologizing – importance in the war. In a Croatian seaside resort, Pronek falls in love with Suzana, a girl from Belgrade. In Sarajevo’s cafe´ ‘‘Nostalgija’’ Pronek becomes infatuated with Sabina, whose participation in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics is contrasted with her loss of her legs in a 1993 breadline shelling. The memory of an unnamed girl’s crescent-moon-shaped birthmark is juxtaposed with the memory of her death by a shell in 1993. The possibility of contact, here exemplified by love affairs and friendship, is closed off, abruptly, by the very imagery of war and its act of ethnic categorization and of discursive enclosure. The gesture of ethnic naming that will take place in the war is ostensibly absent from Hemon’s Nowhere Man. Although a local might easily guess, at least partly, someone’s ethnic identity from names such as Dusˇko (Pronek’s father’s best friend), Mirza, Emina, Suzana, or Sabina, the very refusal by the narrative to name something so obvious now performs the ‘‘brotherhood and unity’’

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that is facilitated by, but far surpasses, the official ideology. Throughout the novel, Pronek equally refuses to name himself, to declare his identity either to locals or to Americans in Chicago: whenever he is asked if he is Serbian, Moslem, or Croatian, he simply answers that he is the ‘‘Bosnian.’’ This Bosnian – or, more specifically, Sarajevan – identity is associated with the flourishing of an urban youth culture in the 1980s, bringing with it a certain cosmopolitanism and liberalization to Yugoslavia, although, as we have seen, not necessarily to pose a radical challenge to official socialist ideology or to Yugoslavism as an idea. Hemon comments on a phenomenon that in fact contains significant theoretical potential in terms of exploring both the decline of and lost potential for reform of the Yugoslav – and global – socialist paradigm. Implying that this cultural development carried ˇ izˇek stresses that it is ironic a fratricidal war took utopian potential, Slavoj Z place in Bosnia of all places, since it ‘‘was the center of rock and pop culture, was . . . the republic of Yugoslavia where rock music was by far the strongest’’ (Zˇizˇek 1999b). Pronek’s keen interest in the domestic and international music scene, especially his longstanding affair with the Beatles, after whom he names his own band – significantly in his own language, Bube – uncannily invokes the trajectory of rock and pop music in Bosnia. In his discussion of the Yugoslav music scene legacy which finds its way into Emir Kusturica’s films of the 1990s, Stathis Gourgouris dwells in some detail on the phenomenon of Bosnia’s Bijelo Dugme, a band dubbed ‘‘the Beatles of Yugoslavia’’ (2002: 336). Like Pronek’s bands – first Bube, which draws on the British rock culture of the 1960s and 1970s, and later Blind Jozef Pronek and the Dead Souls, which is inspired by the American blues of Blind Lemon Jefferson and others – Bijelo Dugme drew on and appropriated a number of Western music forms: glam rock, heavy metal, new wave, mainstream rock and pop. Gourgouris argues that bands like Bijelo Dugme opposed the communist regime by making such controversial crossovers into Western music, but without unquestioningly adopting and mimicking American or British forms. According to Gourgouris, Bijelo Dugme’s frontman Goran Bregovic´ somewhat outrageously ‘‘Balkanizes American pop culture’’ by ‘‘incorporating local (Bosnian) folk elements into the material’’ (2002: 340, 336). In a similar way, Hemon casts Pronek and his posse’s affair with the Beatles, for instance, as an ironic, tongue-in-cheek homage to the ‘‘great band,’’ which highlights the cultural hybridity and incongruity of English and Bosnian locales. Imagining themselves to be John, Paul, George, and Ringo, they design an album cover which is to feature an aerial shot of Sarajevo, ‘‘with four stars sparkling in the four different parts of town: ˇ engic´ Vila, Basˇ C ˇ arsˇija, Kosˇevo, Bistrik’’ (Hemon 2000: 43). Thus affirmC ing their symbolic allegiance to the urban space and culture of Sarajevo, they also season American blues notes with a Bosnian folk song form, Sevdalinke, which, like blues, portrays ‘‘a feeling of pleasant soul pain, when you are at peace with your woeful life, which allows you to enjoy this very moment with abandon’’ (Hemon 2000: 49).

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I would argue that this specifically playful, ironic pastiche of Bosnian/ Yugoslav folk elements and Western music forms marks a politically and culturally significant vision of Yugoslavia engendered through the 1980s’ youth culture, which opens up to the West without the danger of being submerged in its cultural exports and which pays homage to the various Yugoslav folk forms without fetishizing them as expressions of a national(ist) ‘‘essence.’’ This culture, albeit critical of the old communist paradigm – exemplified by Pronek’s parents’ xenophobia and perpetuation of superseded, ritualistic propaganda – is not necessarily opposed to the idea of a socialist Yugoslavia as such, but rather largely emerges from its multicultural space, from its ideology, and aims to reform rather than abolish it. In this respect, the antagonism that Gourgouris posits between the Yugoslav rock scene and official regime is exaggerated. Since the Yugoslav rock culture, including Bijelo Dugme, was ‘‘thoroughly committed to absorbing an aesthetic attributed to the ‘enemy’’’ and became a ‘‘fully fledged genre of resistance,’’ the fact that Bijelo Dugme is now ‘‘spearheading the current ‘Yugonostalgia’ fashion’’ can only be read as paradoxical and ironic (Gourgouris 2002: 337–41). Resistance to what, one might ask? What is there to be resisted and who is this enemy when official Yugoslavia was increasing its welcome to the Western cultural aesthetic? Instead, another argument in Gourgouris seems to do more justice to this complex process of ideological, aesthetic restructuring in the 1980s. He describes this rock culture as one that ‘‘flourished by profoundly epitomizing Yugoslavia against the state’s monopoly of signification’’ (Gourgouris 2002: 338). This utopian gesture of coopting the signification of the project that is Yugoslavia from a stuffy, imaginatively depleted regime is evident in other artistic and music movements across Yugoslavia that originated in the 1980s, perhaps most directly in the work of Slovenia’s Laibach and the NSK collective.16 Hemon’s novel, in a sense, performs a similar utopian gesture by trying to preserve this particular aesthetic from what became a fetishization of folkloric forms in the early 1990s, enshrining a nationalist aesthetic that underwrote the inter-ethnic wars to come. As Gourgouris notes, Bijelo Dugme’s intensifying folklorization in the late 1980s, with the goal of deconstructing and ridiculing nationalism, coincided with an increasing nationalist use of folk music, so that their anti-war song ‘‘Spit and Sing, My Yugoslavia!’’ was coopted by the nationalist, pro-Milosˇevic´ demonstrations in Belgrade (2002: 337). Significantly, Jozef Pronek also reads Bijelo Dugme’s folklorization as a straightforward betrayal and contribution to this emergent nationalist aesthetic, unnamed in Nowhere Man but clearly looming on the horizon. Right before the war starts, Pronek writes a review of the new Bijelo Dugme album for a student newspaper, describing it as ‘‘the lowest form of Balkan peasanthood hidden under the gingerbread veneer of hard rock stolen from the stadiums of America’’ (Hemon 2000: 67). This glorification, as Pronek sees it, of ‘‘Balkanness’’ coincides with increasing ethnic differentiation, here embodied by affirmative action policies: in the same paragraph, we learn

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that Pronek’s father had been demoted at work because ‘‘new people were coming, their ethnicity their only qualification’’ (Hemon 2000: 67). The ensuing ethnic conflicts not only spell the demise of utopian urban youth cultures across Yugoslavia, but also capitalize on the macho-patriarchal paradigm embedded in Yugoslavia’s communist institutions, but both preceding and existing outside of them. In other words, while the ideal of aggressive masculinity is encouraged by the cult of the army, the paternalism of the state and its supreme leader Marshal Tito, it is not limited to any particular ethnicity, locale, or institution: it underlies family relations, friendships, and love affairs alike.17 Intimations of violence in interpersonal relationships and the need to prove one’s manhood are ubiquitous. The frequent childhood fights among boys in Pronek’s neighborhood (especially between Sarajevans and newcomers) are echoed in the ‘‘actual’’ war, where Mirza, writing a letter to Pronek in Chicago from the Bosnian trenches, is reminded of ‘‘boys who build the fortress and fight other boys’’ (Hemon 2000: 132). Mirza also recounts a story of a Sarajevo sniper who kills a man and a woman whose lives he had initially spared because they were in love. Yet, because the woman beckons the man to come to her one day instead of the reverse, he kills him: ‘‘if woman [sic] can tell him what he must do, he cannot live’’ (Hemon 2000: 132). This misogynist arrangement also informs Pronek’s parents’ marriage. The mother is frequently silent, almost nonexistent, while the father, who is prone to assuming ‘‘a karate fighting stance – a memory of his days in the police school deeply inscribed in his body,’’ bonds with his son by telling him gory stories full of murder and violence that he has heard on the job (Hemon 2000: 53). It is thus profoundly ironic that Mirza ends up fighting in a war whose ideology of violence he has always opposed. After their compulsory service in the Yugoslav People’s Army before the war, both Mirza and Pronek come to the conclusion that ‘‘only an idiot can enjoy the army,’’ its ‘‘perpetual humiliation,’’ brainwashing, and implicit homophobia and misogyny (Hemon 2000: 60–62). Nowhere Man dramatizes a Yugoslav generation that could not identify with the war and the culture that (potentially) brought it about, with the particularly masculinist mythology that underlay both the communist apparatus and the nationalist euphorias. As in Ugresˇic´, there is potential for a Yugoslavia which subverts, exceeds, and exists alongside official communist propaganda. Hemon traces this utopian possibility in the Yugoslav urban cultural milieu that emerges in the 1980s, both Yugoslavia’s high point and its greatest victim, its last flourish. There is a sense of political and cultural experimentation and open-endedness that could replace and invigorate the superseded ideological cliche´s. The society is on the cusp of something new, something to come – and what comes in the future, therefore, is not the only possibility. The ethnic wars, the ontology of identity, foreclose this type of experimentation, permanently labeling Sarajevo as the new Auschwitz, the image that Hemon’s narrative attempts to complicate.

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Conclusion

I end this work by looking at narratives that might figure as sites of resistance to the ‘‘end of history’’ thesis, in the case of (Eastern) Europe to a belief in its teleological emancipation and end of all trouble upon becoming EUnionized. Parallel with the strengthening of the European Union and especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there has been a proliferation of films that consider – and recreate, as it were – Europe’s imagined community on a level that both intersects with and undermines official EU discourses. A turn toward film here is not a simple question of genre, although, arguably, filmic narratives frequently cut across national boundaries more easily than national literature or television shows, potentially fostering a different ethics of intercultural, transnational communication, a more radical model of European collectivity than that offered by the EU. The films that I have in mind also carry potential as an archive in Jacques Derrida’s sense, as a reproduction, repetition of cultural memory which always opens up to the future: ‘‘the question of the future itself . . . of a promise and of a responsibility to tomorrow’’ (1996: 36). The archive that arises through the films speaking to both East and West on an equal footing, carrying the memory of Europe’s divisions, as well as Europe’s utopian desires, opens up the question of Europe’s future, of the ‘‘to come’’ or ‘‘as if’’ rather than ‘‘as is.’’ I limit my discussion to three films in particular which perform this opening toward a transnational dialog and a collectivization of interests beyond simple economic or political cooperation (a cooperation which, in the neoliberal capitalist models that have come to dominate the EU, often marginalize large segments of semi- or non-European populations). Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye, Lenin! (2003), Emir Kusturica’s Underground (1995), and Theo Angelopoulos’s Eternity and a Day (1999) imagine instances of social solidarity which complicate both racist exclusions of Europe’s ‘‘others’’ from its benefits and liberal identity politics which underpins official multiculturalism. Goodbye, Lenin! comments on East Germany’s climate of Ostalgie by both unmasking the former country’s self-idealization as false and resuscitating its (dubiously) utopian character. The film’s ‘‘recreation’’ of GDR communism does not merely lead to a realization of the former regime’s political bankruptcy, however, but also revives a model of communist

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solidarity, a critical attitude toward labor exploitation and an anti-nationalist Germany. This is in stark contrast with what arrives after the Berlin Wall – in Germany, as well as in the rest of formerly communist Eastern Europe. Underground, in turn, argues against the sometimes rigid identity politics that characterizes conservative and liberal multicultural models increasingly taking hold over Europe. The film retrieves a model of social communication which views ethnic and cultural identities as fluid and open, focusing on relations among human singularities rather than on established ‘‘groups’’ with established ‘‘differences.’’ This project is particularly important in light of popular discourses explaining the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s as conflicts between ethnic and religious ‘‘groups’’ with irreconcilable ‘‘differences.’’ Importantly, Underground associates this alternative type of collective organization with the communist experiment that was former Yugoslavia. Finally, Eternity and a Day undermines the floating West–East hierarchies by imagining the possibility of Western Europe opening toward an Eastern European ‘‘other’’ with a sense of ethical humility and responsibility which replace economic and political paternalism. The film also gestures toward the past potential of leftist politics in non-Eastern Europe. Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin! opens with East German protests against the Berlin Wall in 1989, causing Christiane, a prominent party member, schoolteacher, and single mother of two, to collapse into a coma when she witnesses her son Alex being beating by the police during the demonstrations. Alex, from whose perspective the story is told, attempts to preserve, or, more precisely ‘‘rebuild,’’ the East German landscape for his mother after she wakes up from the coma, judging that her confrontation with what he jokingly calls ‘‘the triumph of capitalism’’ after the fall of the Wall may cost her another heart attack. Alex’s attempt to simulate the East German state proclaimed to be dead consists in a careful preservation of East German commodities, a recreation of the official news programs, and a revival of the ideological accoutrements of the old regime, such as the everpresent pioneers and his mother’s letters to the textile industry in the interest of the people and social justice. This assemblage, in effect, revives the East Germany that would no doubt appeal to its citizens’ sense of a shared past – something they could recognize, identify with, or laugh at. But while Alex revives these real practices of everyday life, he also makes it clear that the East Germany he puts together for his mother is the one he ‘‘might have wished for,’’ implying that this image of Germany is but an illusion. In a sense, it can be said that the narrative that Alex creates is ‘‘impossible,’’ and, as such, is mocked by its various betrayals – by what we call reality, placing a clear dividing line between the real East Germany and the version he creates. This way of reading Ostalgie characterizes, for instance, Charity Scribner’s recent study of communist nostalgia, which argues that an assemblage or musealization of various communist paraphernalia can help us mourn the communist era once and for all, performing a ‘‘tender

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rejection’’ of this political illusion instead of fetishizing ‘‘a diseased past,’’ which can only lead to melancholy and political paralysis (2003: 304). But Goodbye, Lenin! undermines this dualism – and unstated hierarchy – between a healthy rejection through mourning and an unhealthy fixation through melancholy. Alex’s gesture of recreating the GDR in all its quasi-utopian glory both does and does not lay the old state to rest through mourning. It is not just about acknowledging that the GDR was fake, but also about thinking what it should have been like, opening up the ‘‘as if’’ discourse which indirectly criticizes the past regime at the same time as it acquires a new, dynamic meaning in altered circumstances. The recreated East Germany that doesn’t exist outside of Alex’s mother’s room becomes, as he says, his ‘‘little oasis of peace’’ from the changes that are taking place, the only place where Alex can rest and sleep. Thus providing a symbolic anchor of stability, this oasis is also a repository of the still-existing past practices, a nostalgia for the familiar that helps Alex confront the alien world of the Deutschmark and capital. Alex sarcastically comments on the changes that take place post-1989, playfully juxtaposing the idealistic rhetoric of Western freedom and individual entrepreneurship with the new experiences of his family. Alex observes that East Germany has adopted a new ‘‘culture’’ as he goes to a video store renting and showing pornographic movies. This point becomes especially significant when one of his older neighbors complains about the new policies that have scrapped certain cultural programs that used to be on television. In the new Germany, Alex’s sister Arianne becomes ‘‘free’’ to flunk out of an economic theory degree at the university to work at the shiny new Burger King, with its dubious rewards such as the employer-of-the-month title she earns. Following the restructuring of the old economic system, there is widespread unemployment and even Alex loses his old job. He is upset with his sister for leaving school, as well as for falling in love with a former ‘‘class enemy,’’ a West German named Rainer whom Alex resents because he has emigrated to the East to live on the cheap. As East Germany frantically tries to catch up with its more developed and glossy twin, Alex comments that life has become much faster and Christiane, unaware of the changes, wonders why Alex is much more tired after coming home from his new job than he used to be after the old one. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that the recreation of East Germany is crucial not so much to Christiane as to Alex, a member of the young generation who should be rejoicing at the fall of the stuffy old regime, at the freedoms of the new one. Alex continues, against the odds, his mother’s utopian spirit and social engagement that he earlier rejected. For instance, he praises her letters to the textile industry for ‘‘offering constructive criticism to improve conditions in society.’’ In his final news production, on the eve of the German unification which, significantly, coincides with Christiane’s death, Alex features a look-alike of the famous GDR astronaut Sigmund Ja¨hn. The fake Ja¨hn announces his succession to Erich

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Honecker in the post of prime minister and states: ‘‘Socialism is about reaching out to others and living with them. It is not only dreaming of a better world but making it happen.’’ He concludes: ‘‘Ideals we believe in continue to inspire people around the world.’’ In the context of the disillusionment that the new state brings, this gesture of repetition constitutes neither a melancholic obsession with the past nor a clean rejection of the past through mourning, but rather an archiving of cultural memory in Derrida’s sense, always-already at the site of its destruction, the memory whose meaning we will only understand in the future-to-come, one that itself keeps the future open. This gesture of repetition emerges in another scene in Goodbye, Lenin!, where a disembodied statue of Lenin is transported through Berlin in the post-Wall gesture of demonumentalizing communism. This act symbolically destroys the possibility of memory through removing communism’s material traces, repeating, as well, a similar scene in Angelopoulos’s Ulysses’ Gaze (1995), where a giant bust of Lenin is transported on a barge traveling upstream on the Danube. The statue recalls the ossification of the communist impulse in the form of the cult of personality, its paralysis through an impasse in political imagination. And yet its disembodiment itself potentially recontextualizes it, interrupting its ossified meaning, opening up toward its redefinition in the future – perhaps with an emancipatory promise, but certainly with an uncertain destiny. These narratives’ preservation of the (material, symbolic) memory of communism at the very site of its destruction – recording the statue of Lenin at the very moment that the statue is deposed, so to speak – also exposes what Claudia Sadowski-Smith calls the ‘‘conservative politics of amnesia’’ that has been implemented in East Germany and elsewhere in Eastern Europe since 1989 (1999: 121).1 Against this ‘‘discrediting of memory,’’ which means that ‘‘socialism could be associated exclusively with the label of totalitarianism,’’ Sadowski-Smith stresses the importance of narratives that rescue certain utopian potentialities of communist societies, along with their sense of egalitarianism, justice, strong interpersonal relationships, and fluidity of social hierarchies (1999: 121, 124).2 Achieving a similar political effect to Goodbye, Lenin!, Emir Kusturica’s Underground revives the fluidity of cultural and national affiliation, solidarity of interpersonal relationships, and an anti-nationalist politics that is associated with the memory of former Yugoslavia. Underground, like Goodbye, Lenin!, highlights the disconnect between an idealized portrayal of communist heroes and the ‘‘reality’’ of political corruption. At stake is not only the gradual betrayal of such ideals and the abandonment of communist ideology and/or practices, but also an abandonment of the multiethnic Yugoslav idea, which is inseparable from the communist era. The film traces the different paths, from World War II onwards, of two communist revolutionaries fighting Nazism, Marko and Blacky. When Blacky becomes the Gestapo’s main target, he decides to go ‘‘underground’’ and wait for the

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right moment to return, all the while depending on Marko’s protection. Seizing the opportunity to seduce Blacky’s wife Natalija, however, Marko literally keeps Blacky, his family, and a number of war refugees underground, in the basement of his house, for the next twenty years, perpetually delaying their return by invoking comrade Tito’s orders and continuing Nazi victories and brutalities. During this time, which follows the post-war communist takeover, Marko rises in the party ranks, turning into a flat, lifeless, but well-paid bureaucrat, while Blacky, incredibly, remains a revolutionary at heart, still believing in the communist idea and persisting in his loyalty to comrade Tito – and comrade Marko. Marko is almost a stand-in for that enlightened Yugoslav dictator, Tito, as he manages to instill in the people living underground the idea of a ‘‘permanent revolution,’’ a state of emergency and scarcity, in the name of which they foster solidarity and engage in hard work, while Marko, like Tito and the assorted Party cronies, lives in luxury. This disconnect between naı¨vete´ and opportunism seemingly casts the underground people as ignorant, fanatic followers and Marko as an average pragmatic politician. But the film complicates such a reading, as Blacky’s underground existence and his unabated idealism haunt Marko’s descent into opportunism. In a sense, Blacky is almost literally ‘‘buried,’’ yet revived on the ground as a fallen communist hero, thus occupying a truly ghostly position. He is a ghost who refuses to die, who maintains ‘‘real’’ idealism as opposed to the commodified idealism reflected in the monuments to heroes, which the regime itself prefers.3 Marko and Natalija eventually recognize that their lives have become an easy repetition of bureaucratic stereotypes, full of deadweight. Faced with this realization, they decide that they can no longer ‘‘live in the country of liars and murderers’’ and eventually blow up the house, releasing the underground people from virtual captivity and disappearing from Tito’s Yugoslavia. This coincides with the very moment that Tito’s Yugoslavia itself disappears. It is in this context that we again encounter Blacky, and again in a war, but this time in Yugoslav civil wars following the fall of communism. We also encounter Marko and Natalija, who adjust their opportunism to the new situation, becoming ‘‘multicultural’’ war profiteers who trade with Croat, Moslem, and Serb armed forces alike. Blacky, significantly, does not adapt: he maintains a fidelity to his former ideals, which seem jarringly oldfashioned. He confuses UN officials when he asks them to call him comrade instead of sir and tells them that he is fighting fascists. While this might imply that Blacky is out of touch with reality and does not know which war he is fighting, I suggest reading it as a utopian repetition of the communist as well as the Yugoslav idea under different conditions, as the only ethical position in the war. Serbian and Croatian nationalists, as well as war profiteers, all of whom Blacky’s army captures, are in a sense ‘‘fascist,’’ and his declaration to the UN official that his only superior is ‘‘his country’’ becomes Kusturica’s gesture of mourning for the socialist Yugoslavia dying

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at the hands of local nationalists, the international community, and profiteering businessmen – after it has already been betrayed by Party bigwigs like Marko. This repetition haunts the final scene of the movie – frequently praised as the most poignant – where all the dead and undead protagonists of the film, all the friends and enemies, ‘‘revive’’ and congregate on an anonymous riverbank for a symbolic repetition of Blacky’s son’s wedding that has already taken place underground. Blacky, Marko, and Natalija are again, momentarily, friends, Marko saying ‘‘let bygones be bygones,’’ and Blacky replying that he ‘‘can forgive but not forget.’’ In the film’s epilogue, Marko’s brother Ivan turns to the camera and says: Here we built new houses . . . with gates wide open for dear guests. With pain, sorrow and happiness, we’ll remember our country as we tell our children stories that sound like fairytales: once upon a time there was a country. (Kusturica 1995) But the disappearance of a country can never be definitive. The inheritance that is Yugoslavia is this utopian community in the final scene, with its possibility of communication in spite of – or maybe because of – the antagonism, side-stepping the identity politics of ethnicity, religion, and class. This is also expressed in the failure to definitively name the riverbank, which at the very end breaks off and floats away, with all the protagonists rejoicing on it, the failure to give an identity to the community, the land, or the politics. Throughout the film the various characters – speaking with Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian accents, although without being clearly marked (or marking themselves) by a nationality – communicate, fight, and then communicate again. Many critics of Kusturica’s films, frequently critics from former Yugoslavia and the Balkans, have interpreted this as Kusturica’s contribution to the Western exoticization of ‘‘wild Balkan peoples’’ who are seemingly multicultural and get along but can inexplicably jump at each other’s throats the next moment.4 This exoticization is closely linked with entrenched stereotypes about Serbs, Croats, and others articulated during the Yugoslav civil wars, which cast them as exemplars of the Balkan tinderbox, ethnic groups whose fragile coexistence is always-already threatened by irreconcilable differences. And yet this inherent violence is also somehow endearing, so Kusturica is here faulted for a humorous, absurdist approach to ethnic conflict, which implies that the Balkan types are indeed violent, but that this also means they have more passion, color, and overall joie de vivre than boring, civilized Europeans. However, such readings do not do justice to the complexity of the narrative in Underground, especially as the film seems to deliberately serve up Western stereotypes to the West itself only to subvert the politics of

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ethnic, cultural, or religious identity and emphasize renewed communication and friendship regardless of the history of supposed irreconcilable differences. What if another reading is possible – what if the politics of friendship, of solidarity with the ‘‘other,’’ keeps other markers of one’s identity fluid, open, or ultimately meaningless? One way to break through the intellectually paralyzing charges of Balkan self-exoticization is to read Underground as a narrative that deconstructs liberal multiculturalism, that highlights the sharing of a conflictual history and social antagonism not as a gesture that confirms Western stereotypes about the Balkans, but rather as an admission to a secret from which multiculturalists shy away. Not as a disparagement of the Balkans per se, but as a commentary on the complacency of Western liberal multiculturalism. The latter prescribes a get-along group identity politics both without radically tackling the relations of power between different groups as potential sources of conflict and, more importantly, without envisioning the possibility of mutual communication and organization that weakens the rigidity of any one group. Underground offers former Yugoslavia as the possibility of a community whose solidarity is predicated upon anti-nationalism and socialist egalitarianism and whose existence is annulled precisely at the moment that ethnic and religious identity politics, even in its most liberal, multicultural of guises, takes over. The film’s ending is promisingly open-ended and so is its final message, that ‘‘this story has no end.’’ This utopian open-endedness, the absence of a limiting or closing off of a political horizon, also characterizes Angelopoulos’s Eternity and a Day, which in a similarly vicarious way ponders the fate and meaning of Europe at the close of the twentieth century. This openendedness is suggested not only by the title of the film, but also by its narrative structure, which meanders and changes unexpectedly, precluding any certain denouement for the main character, a famous Greek author, Alexandre, or for the homeless Albanian boy he befriends. The narrative ostensibly goes against – interrupts the ontology of – what should happen, what typically happens to illegal Albanian refugees in a Western locale, in this case Thessaloniki, and what transpires in an encounter between a Greek citizen and an Albanian non-citizen. It centers on Alexandre, who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and who wanders around Thessaloniki trying to decide whether to enter a hospital or not. He also wanders in and out of memories of (apparently failed) personal relationships with friends and family, memories that intersect with implicit reflections on Greece’s political past, present, and future. Alexandre encounters an Albanian boy who is about to be arrested as an illegal alien and ends up taking care of him in various ways throughout the film. He not only rescues the boy from imminent arrest by offering him a ride in his car, but also retrieves him after he is abducted by an illegal adoption ring. At one point Alexandre decides to return the boy ‘‘home,’’ and drives him to the Albanian border, but, after seeing the emaciated faces

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of prospective Albanian immigrants lined along the barbed-wire fence, decides that exile is better and returns the boy to Thessaloniki. Eternity and a Day builds this relationship without endowing with more social power either the Greek author or the Albanian refugee. Alexandre is neither a vigilante citizen identifying illegal aliens ‘‘in our midst,’’ nor merely a Good Samaritan taking care of someone less socially privileged. Rather, Angelopoulos opens up the possibility of a utopian understanding of Europe’s inter-ethnic and inter-religious relationships as he breaks the hierarchy between the recognized citizen and the unrecognized homo sacer. In a sense, Alexandre treats the Albanian boy as a neighbor who occupies the same physical and symbolic space as himself. Alexandre is interestingly ‘‘de-centered’’ as a good Greek citizen: he feels like an exile, like a foreigner in his own country. The Albanian boy’s utterances continually change Alexandre’s course of action, keeping him open to the possibility of fostering a selfless relationship – and it is this communication that allows for the crossing of a threshold of cultural alienation, that makes for an unpredictable change in one’s behavior and politics. Having decided to complete an unfinished poem by a nineteenth-century Greek poet, Alexandre finds himself depending on the Albanian boy for ‘‘his own,’’ Greek language, for the very possibility of great Greek literature. In a symbolic repetition of the nineteenth-century poet’s gesture, the Albanian boy ‘‘buys’’ Greek words from passers-by in an effort to help Alexandre to ‘‘speak’’ to his own people. In this respect, it is the homo sacer who is a transmitter of language, a creator of meaning; Alexandre, in the meantime, has trouble speaking and completing sentences. In parallel, Greece itself is ‘‘de-centered’’ in Alexandre’s musings as the essence of Europe, in its much vaunted role as the cradle of European civilization. Eternity and a Day presents Alexandre’s remembrance of the alienation in his personal relationships with a sense of mourning for not only the lost potential of friendship but the lost political potential in Greece. This is reflected in Alexandre’s friends’ and family’s indifference to whether the left or right would win the election of 1967, the chaotic indecisiveness of which resulted in a disastrous right-wing military coup and a seven-year dictatorship. In the film there is a gesture of repetition of this lost potential of the Greek left in a scene featuring street demonstrations in which protesters bear red flags. One of them climbs the bus on which Alexandre and the Albanian boy are riding, momentarily taking up the entire camera frame with the red flag. This nostalgic move – a reflection on what Greece’s political landscape would have looked like if it hadn’t been for the military dictatorship, a desire for the ‘‘as if’’ – importantly links Greece to its ‘‘inferior,’’ non-Western, non-EU(ropean) communist neighbors through a ‘‘contagion’’ with communist politics. Eternity and a Day stresses Greece’s ethical responsibility to its neighbors – and the responsibility of treating them as neighbors, with a sense of social egalitarianism – by situating Greece in a redefined, recontextualized Europe, one that admits to its

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history of communist movements, military dictatorship, war, and carnage, without foisting these off on its uncivilized Eastern fringes. Films such as the ones discussed briefly at the conclusion of this book redefine the concept of Europe, the hierarchy between Western and Eastern Europe, as well as between European and non-European others. Clearly this is not merely a question of genre and there are other modes of intercultural communication that effectively redefine the concept of Europe (or, broadly, the West) but the urgency with which recent films have taken up this role could be a barometer of the other changes to come. Filmic and other artistic and cultural narratives figure as rallying sites around which resistance against political disenfranchisement, racist antagonism, and economic exploitation can be organized. At the same time that they delve into the complexity of racial and ethnic prejudice and its accompanying economic aspect (for instance Code Inconnu (Hanneke 2000), The Time of the Wolf (Hanneke 2003), Lila Says (Doueiri 2004)), or express dissatisfaction with economic neoliberalist greed and accompanying social conservatism (for instance The Edukators (Weingartner 2004), Goodbye, Lenin! (Becker 2003)). They also envisage potential alternatives to European social arrangements, including a utopian move toward a politics of friendship (the ethics of the neighbor), of regionalism rather than nationalism, of social egalitarianism and solidarity.

Notes

1 Introduction 1 In literary and cultural studies, the consideration of Eastern Europe’s post/coloniality is even more recent. For instance, promising work has been done by Dragan Kujundzˇic´ (2000) on Russia’s postcolonial cultural Westernization beginning with Peter the Great, by Andrew Hammond (2004, 2005) on Cold War and post-Cold War cultural representations of the Balkans and Eastern Europe, and by Roumiana Deltcheva (1999) in the field of Eastern European, especially Balkan, film studies. 2 The assorted stereotypes have been discussed at length by Wolff (1994), Todorova (1997), and the contributors to Bjelic´ and Savic´’s (2002) anthology. 3 Go¨ran Therborn (1997) compares the results of Eastern European countries’ transitions thus far, offering bleak prospects for Europe’s united future: greater class polarization, as well as greater upper-middle-class rapprochement, West and East, higher unemployment, and overall strengthening of illegal and criminal business networks. He also cites the portentously worded World Bank recommendations to Eastern European countries: ‘‘Forget Western Europe. Look to Latin America or South-East Asia (Singapore). In particular, look to the Chilean private pension funds’’ (Therborn 1997: 379). Although there is faith and optimism that the European Union may eventually overcome some of these problems, they nevertheless haunt both old and new EU states – and the ones whose EU entry is perpetually delayed. 4 For the historical trajectories of Greece’s exceptional status with respect to Eastern Europe and the Balkans, see Wolff (1994) and Todorova (1997). The differential treatment received in the post-communist period by Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox states is noted by Milica Bakic´-Hayden (2002). 5 In the wake of Western imaginings of the Balkans during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, there have been many more studies about the Balkans specifically than about Eastern Europe as a proto-colonial terrain constructed through imaginary geography. As a consequence, many studies of the Balkans span both historical and more recent twentieth-century discourses. See, for instance, Andrew Hammond (2004) and Vesna Goldsworthy (1998). 6 For a commentary on this voluntary mimicry of the West, see, for instance, Csaba Dupcsik (2001) and Dragan Kujundzˇic´ (2000). 7 Here, I have slightly adapted Mocˇnik’s terms – he refers primarily to ‘‘Balkanism’’ and Croatian and Slovenian attempts to escape it by proving their Europeanness. But I believe his conclusions apply to Eastern Europe in general, as similar mechanisms of power operate in any country desiring emancipation through entry into the European Union.

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8 Although some of the authors discussed in this work ‘‘willingly’’ left their countries after communist takeovers (e.g. Nabokov, Miłosz), I refer to them as exiles because this term, unlike the terms expatriate or even e´migre´, adequately expresses their political undesirability at home and the irreversibility of their decisions. They are, in effect, exiled either directly or indirectly, because the return to their countries during communist regimes was impossible and/or would have imperiled their lives. 9 I will discuss this gesture in more detail especially in the chapters on Vladimir Nabokov (Chapter 2) and Milan Kundera (Chapter 4). 10 I borrow the concept ‘‘constellation’’ from Walter Benjamin (1968, 1999). Benjamin considers historical events in constellations that they might form with one another at different moments, which allows for a more dynamic interpretation of history than its traditional understanding as a linear narrative. 11 Todorova’s analysis of the phenomenon of Central Europe agrees with Longinovic´’s account in that she shows how the Balkans were included by some and excluded by other visions of Central Europe before 1990, but how they were consistently excluded afterwards. She argues that the reason was that the Central European idea ‘‘made its entry from the cultural to the political realm’’ after 1990 (Todorova 1997: 154). That is to say, while prior to 1990 Central Europe was seen as a cultural identity used either to oppose Russia’s ideological appropriation and show allegiance with Western cultural traditions, or else to reject both Russia and the West but pose as an intermediary identity, after 1990 it became a political tool in a general competition for acceptance into the European Union, NATO, and other premier clubs. As such, it had to distance itself from Balkan civil war barbarisms. 12 There is still much emphasis on race and religion – today, most notably Islam – as markers of difference that are targeted despite Western claims to the contrary. While this is undoubtedly a valid emphasis (old racism is alive and well), it does not help expose the mechanisms of this other, much more insidious type of racism exactly because it pretends to be multiculturalism. This is possibly one of the reasons that the bombing of Yugoslavia, a safe operation because it could not be accused of racism, is virtually unmentioned today, while the earlier Gulf War and the Vietnam War are continually invoked. 13 Wallerstein (1991) believes in a co-dependency of capitalist and communist regimes. Because he essentially sees them as offshoots of the same ‘‘world system,’’ he predicts that the demise of communism in 1989 will lead to a crucial crisis in capitalist societies as well. 2 ‘‘Doubly obscure’’ dissident narrative: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire 1 This is an expression borrowed from Nabokov’s Pnin (1989b). Pnin is said to have escaped from ‘‘Leninized Russia’’ (Nabokov 1989b: 8). 2 Nabokov politically allies himself with Western-type liberalism that seems to be inspired by his father’s political engagement. Nabokov’s father was a member of the Constitutional-Democratic Party and was elected to the first Russian parliament under the Tsar, but ‘‘[h]istory seems to have been anxious of depriving him of a full opportunity to reveal his great gifts of statesmanship in a Russian republic of a Western type’’ (Nabokov 1966: 176). 3 Nabokov’s understanding and endorsement of Western liberal democracy is probably closer to its American Democratic than Republican versions in terms of his support of progressive rather than conservative political and social-democratic policies. Nabokov faults the Soviet regime for obliterating political freedoms and institutions provided by a liberal democracy in any version, such as a multi-party system, free elections, democratic representative bodies, and rule of law. He is in

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favor of social-cultural liberalism reflected in the rights of individuals to different lifestyles, including sexual and religious freedoms, freedoms of speech and thought, and protection from government intrusion into private life (in this respect he is opposed to, as we will see, to both American conservative Civil Rights opponents and Russian or German anti-Semites). His discussion of liberal democracy never includes a praise of economic liberalism, typically more important to conservative Democrats. Finally, he is a strong supporter of American Cold-War foreign policy in both its Democrat and Republican versions: he has been kind to McCarthyism and the Vietnam War and has criticized May 1968 protests. Nabokov claims, for instance, that he was embarrassed when his anti-Soviet cause was embraced in England not only by liberal democrats but by the ‘‘English ultraconservatives,’’ and goes on to say he hates all similar ‘‘jolly empirebuilders in their jungle clearings, French policemen, the unmentionable German product, the good old churchgoing Russian or Polish pogromshchik, the lean American lyncher’’ (1966: 264). A similar enmity toward left-wing politics can be seen in his protestation against the London Sunday Times claim that his father was assassinated because he was too left-wing: ‘‘This nonsense . . . is remarkably similar to the glib data distorting truth in Soviet sources; it implies that the chieftains of the Russian emigration were bandits . . . My father . . . merely continued the strain of West European liberalism’’ (Nabokov 1990: 214). See, especially, Norman Graebner (2000). Robert L. Ivie (2000) traces the changes in this rhetoric, from Eisenhower’s insistence on Soviet brutality and unaccountability to Carter’s conciliatory discourse of moral suasion, or conversion of Soviets. Even as late as 1997, Philip Longworth makes the following statement: ‘‘If one regards Soviet communism as a disease, then it seems that Eastern Europe may have had a predisposition to the infection’’ (1997: 7). In a sense, this is a tough battle for Nabokov to fight: throughout the Cold War, it was customary to portray the countries of the Soviet bloc as semi-Western, ones where democracy could have flourished had they not been so brutally invaded by Russia. But Russia, in contrast, was not in the least considered Western European, or capable of a liberal, democratic development – it was beyond hope. See Adam Burgess (1997) for an elaboration of this theme. A one-time Soviet sympathizer, Edmund Wilson frequently disputed Nabokov’s claim that there was a tradition of democracy in tsarist Russia and claimed that, ‘‘except for Lenin’s democratic reign, Russia had remained unchanged from the Middle Ages to Stalin’’ (Boyd 1991: 21). Another common leftist assumption was that, since the Soviet Union had no tradition of democracy anyway, the people did not perceive the communist takeover as an act that deprived them of civil, democratic liberties. Even Nabokov’s famed biographer Brian Boyd is not safe from the appeal of Nabokov’s Slavic exoticism: as a young man at Cambridge Nabokov ‘‘found a barrier between himself and English undergraduates around him. The whirlwinds of the soul natural to a Russian provoked incomprehension on a well-scrubbed English face’’ (Boyd 1990: 167). Conclusive Evidence seems to have met with a great reception from critics, but failed to impress the popular audiences (Boyd 1991: 192). According to Boyd, Nabokov’s lectures were a ‘‘purring success’’ at Wellesley and he was made a regular at ‘‘soirees, banquets and meetings’’ (Boyd 1991: 25). Nabokov’s periodic negotiations with the New Yorker editors over revising the political references in his submissions and his persistent disparagement of Soviet literature, at Wellesley and elsewhere, are documented throughout Field’s (1986) and Boyd’s (1990, 1991) biographies.

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13 For a detailed discussion of the American left (both pro- and anti-Soviet) and left-liberal, intellectual landscape throughout the Cold-War era, see William O’Neill (1982). 14 Along similar lines is a curious comment that ‘‘Nabokov’s ambitions as a scholar are thwarted by his creativity,’’ which says perhaps more about the type of thinking academia favors and less about Nabokov himself (James 1997: 182). 15 Examples of critics concerned with humanism and morals are Ellen Pifer and Richard Rorty. Those who engage in character analysis and read Kinbote as, at best, a highly intelligent and sensitive, yet deranged person, or, at worst, a selfish and dangerous paranoid, include Michael Wood, Peter Welsen, Nina Allan, and Maurice Couturier. 16 Some of the more famous participants in this debate are Andrew Field, Brian Boyd, Page Stegner, Charles Nicol, and D. Barton Johnson. 17 Examples are Mary McCarthy, Priscilla Meyer, Robert Rawdon Wilson, and Brian Boyd. 18 For instance, Priscilla Meyer, Manfred Voss, Lucy Maddox, Gavriel Shapiro, and Peter Steiner. 19 There are, obviously, more overt links with communist countries of Eastern Europe: Zembla is never too far from Russia, geographically and figuratively. Soviet generals help the native Zemblan Extremists take over the government and Zembla hosts a visit by Khrushchev (Nabokov 1989a: 130, 274). 20 By analogy, when Kinbote complains that instead of Shade’s line that reads ‘‘killing a Balkan king,’’ he was hoping to see ‘‘killing a Zemblan king,’’ this might suggest a similar interchangeability, in terms of similarly marginalized histories vying for a spot in the metropolitan text in order to be acknowledged, brought to light, redeemed from narrative oblivion (Nabokov 1989a: 262). 3 Shifting topographies of Eastern/Central/Europe in Joseph Brodsky’s and Czesław Miłosz’s prose writing 1 For both authors, the appreciation of their prose writing in the West came before . and/or tended to overshadow the appreciation of their poetry. See Bozena Karwowska (1998) and Valentina Polukhina and Chris Jones (1997). 2 Brodsky wrote his poetry in Russian, but his essays in English (many were originally lectures delivered at American universities, or editorials published in American magazines or journals), ‘‘explaining’’ Russia to English-speaking audiences. Miłosz notes that his fantastically popular The Captive Mind, which launched him into the dissident spotlight, was ‘‘only a pragmatic of even pedagogical undertaking’’ intended for Western intellectuals (Levine 1988: 113). Interest in Miłosz’s poetry grew significantly only after he was awarded the Nobel Prize; until then, his American audiences knew him primarily for his essays and his English translations of Polish poetry. The Captive Mind was subsequently translated for Polish audiences and circulated in samizdat channels. 3 On the ‘‘metaphysics’’ of exile, see especially Brodsky’s ‘‘The Condition We Call Exile’’ (Brodsky 1995). Miłosz resists being cast as a political writer because of his exile and says, ‘‘The Captive Mind imprisoned me . . . in a special category. . . . I wanted to be myself and not a political scientist or a sociologist’’ (2001: 537). This chapter argues, though, that their attempts at self-depoliticization are frequently disingenuous. 4 For instance, Miłosz has been famously called a ‘‘witness’’ of history and even presented himself as a prophetic bearer of secret knowledge, of hidden truths. Brodsky never quite managed to shake off the designation – indeed, the figure – of a persecuted poet. Arguing that this image has somehow become Brodsky’s final image, Richard Kostelanetz cites as an example Brodsky’s obituary in the

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New York Times, which begins ‘‘Joseph Brodsky, the Persecuted Russian Poet’’ (1996: 240). Miłosz vehemently protests against the New York Review of Books’ ‘‘reduction of his long and complex career to a single term’’: ‘‘Witness’’ (Cava. nagh 2004: 351). According to Bozena Karwowska, though, Miłosz actively works on this self-presentation, marketing himself as a seer of ‘‘hidden knowledge,’’ almost a prophet-like figure (1998: 286–87). Lacoue-Labarthe suggests and explores a connection between ‘‘the representation of Being as figure (the metaphysics of Gestalt) and Darstellung, (re-)presentation – or, if you will, exposition or ‘literary presentation’’’ (1989: 59). See Tony Judt (1991), Jacques Rupnik (1991), and Maria Todorova (1997) for a historical discussion of this concept, especially its dependence on German unification and its articulation as a defense mechanism against the German threat of Drang nach Osten. Both Kundera and Miłosz employ such metaphors; this particular expression comes from a recent article by Sean Hanley et al. (1999). See Todorova (1997: 147) for a list of these. The more prominent publications include Cross Currents: a yearbook of Central European culture, East Central Europe, Daedalus, etc. Brodsky says that he has come to Istanbul in search of the past, not the future, since the latter does not exist in Turkey; this putative future has fled north, to Russia (Brodsky 1986a: 444). He acknowledges neither Atatu¨rk nor any other Turkish reformists, again casting Russia as more Western than Turkey: Russia’s history is a continuation of Ottoman Turkish despotism, but at least it is a continuation, into the ‘‘future.’’ See, for instance, Dimiter Angelov’s ‘‘The making of Byzantinism,’’ and Milica Bakic´-Hayden’s ‘‘What’s so Byzantine about the Balkans?’’ in Bjelic´ and Savic´’s Balkan as Metaphor (2002). A further cultural validation occurs when Brodsky situates St. Petersburg along North American coordinates: at the same latitude as Vancouver, at the mouth of a river that, in its grandiosity, compares to the Hudson (1986a: 131). Brodsky clearly writes for a Western, specifically American audience, so the use of familiar geographic references is meant to make his essay more accessible. And yet there is a sense that Brodsky is at pains to prove, by this loaded geographic association, that St. Petersburg is no worse than Vancouver or Manhattan, just like Alexandria was no worse than Athens. This is, of course, a reference to Samuel Huntington’s notorious explanation of contemporary world conflicts in ‘‘The clash of civilizations’’ (1993). Brodsky’s discussion of the clash of Eastern and European civilizations philosophically and structurally echoes Huntington’s. The fact of Brodsky’s ‘‘Jewishness’’ – although this identity is almost always pasted on him from the outside, so to speak – remains a blind spot for Russia even in the post-perestroika period. Svetlana Boym writes that when Brodsky’s works appeared in print in Russia in the late 1980s, ‘‘the praise was tempered by openly anti-Semitic comments and expressions of hostility,’’ even from many writers and poets. Brodsky was accused of ‘‘not being properly Christian or properly Russian’’ (Boym 2001: 305). I would suggest that Miłosz sees Poland and Lithuania as complementary cultures, suffering similarly from their Russian neighbors; as we have seen, they are both included in Miłosz’s conception of Central Europe. In Miłosz, Lithuanians figure somewhat more positively than Poles, as they are also, historically, victims of Polish nationalism and colonialism. In ‘‘Place of Birth’’ and ‘‘Ancestry’’ (1968) Miłosz describes Lithuanians as the ‘‘redskins of Europe’’ and ‘‘noble savages,’’ harassed by the ‘‘civilizing’’ Poles and Germans. Yet he frequently speaks of Poles and Lithuanians interchangeably, perhaps doing justice to their geographic

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cohabitation in multicultural Wilno. In contrast, Russia is an ‘‘other’’ civilization, incompatible with either Poland or Lithuania. By and large, critical scholarship has not addressed the Orientalisms in Miłosz’s portrayals of Russia. The most comprehensive discussion of this theme so far appears in Katarzyna Owczarek’s doctoral dissertation, ‘‘The Parallax View: visions of Russia in the writings of Czesław Miłosz’’ (2001). While Owczarek notes that Miłosz’s view of Russia is loaded with cultural stereotypes, she argues that Miłosz probes such stereotypes by presenting Russia as complex and multifarious, as a land of bestiality and excess, but also of spirituality, literary achievement and religious inspiration. Owczarek does not, however, analyze the ideology implicit in the rhetoric of Russian bestiality or spirituality. Her theoretical framework is fraught with ethical universals as she focuses on Miłosz’s ‘‘metaphysics,’’ his desire to reconcile to the ‘‘human condition,’’ and his musings on ‘‘the Fall’’ and ‘‘redemption.’’ Cavanagh says that ‘‘Polish poets and critics alike credit [Miłosz] with singlehandedly shifting the cultural axis away from France, which had previously dominated Polish culture, and towards poetry written in English’’ (2004: 346). This shift interestingly coincides with America’s transformation into the politically and economically most powerful Western nation in the post-war period and with its greater involvement in Europe through the Marshall Plan. Miłosz’s act, then, uncovers the more elusive threads that have helped weave American hegemony. See Karwowska (1998). See Levine (1988) for detailed historical and biographical information on the Polish intellectuals hiding behind Miłosz’s code names.

4 Deviant stepchild of European history: communist Eastern Europe in Milan Kundera and Gu¨nter Grass 1 For instance, see Michelle Woods (2003). 2 Fred Misurella (1993), Martha Kuhlman (2001), and Maria Nemcova Banerjee (1990) are examples of such critics. 3 Roger Kimball (1986) and Norman Podhoretz (1999) are both disappointed that Kundera doesn’t denounce Eastern communism more forcefully than Western democracy. David Lodge (1984) ‘‘forces’’ a political reading on Kundera even as he accepts his claim to being apolitical, arguing that Kundera’s life under communism leaves an indelible political mark on his writing. 4 Kundera’s Orientalism and its justification frequently go unquestioned in Kundera criticism. Nemcova Banerjee, for instance, argues against Kundera’s ‘‘Europocentrism’’ by describing Europe as a ‘‘personal metaphor for the metaphysical territory’’ in Kundera’s novels (1990: 9). Hana Pichova (2002) and Ladislav Matejka (1990) accept Kundera’s qualification of Central Europe as a given. On the other side, Michael Cooke (1992) challenges Kundera’s divisions into the rational West and the irrational East, whereas Tim Parnell (1996) accuses Kundera of creating a glorified master-narrative of the European cultural development which homogenizes such disparate authors as Cervantes, Rabelais, and Sterne. 5 Molesworth also criticizes the arbitrariness of Kundera’s regionalism, wondering why Central Europe would be more representative of European destiny, than, say, Western or Southeastern Europe. He argues that Kundera’s ‘‘political and artistic vision’’ is rooted in a myth of the European novel and that Kundera ‘‘flirts with the very dogmatism that it is the hallowed duty of the novelist to avoid’’ (Molesworth 1986–87: 68). 6 Occasionally Kundera also includes Lithuanians and Ukrainians among Central Europeans (Misurella 1987: 41).

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7 I am using this in Foucault’s sense, as a construction of truth mediated by power, a ‘‘discourse which [society] accepts and makes function as true’’ (1981: 131). 8 Karen von Kunes argues that Kundera deliberately uses this name because it is overdetermined with national mythology. The name consists of the word Cech, denoting a member of the Czech nation, and ripsky, which von Kunes believes may be an allusion to Rip, the hill where the ‘‘Czech tribe settled in ancient times’’ (von Kunes 1999: 258). 9 Chakrabarty defines ‘‘affective histories’’ as subaltern or minor histories, referencing postcolonial discussions of the subaltern and drawing on Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of a ‘‘minor literature.’’ ‘‘Affective histories’’ are also Heideggerian ways of being-in-the-world which supplement the narrative of capital, but also expose its limits and its inability to ‘‘translate’’ into its own language all human experience (Chakrabarty 2000: 95). 10 The title German, disregarding the markers East and West, is quite appropriate: Grass frequently speaks to all Germans in the two states, as well as to those who exist on its borders, in terms of either physical location or ethnic background. Grass himself comes from Danzig/Gdansk, a contested German–Polish city, and is of a mixed German–Kashubian ethnicity. He made numerous visits to the GDR to give public speeches and maintain contact with its authors. For Grass’s complex and changing reception by the GDR regime and literary critics, see Jochen Wittmann (1991). 11 In ‘‘Literature and Revolution or The Rhapsodist’s Snorting Hobbyhorse,’’ Grass implies that the isolated radical leftist writers are delusional in their belief that the majority of workers desire a revolution rather than ‘‘medium-range reformist goals’’ (1985: 97). 12 See, especially, ‘‘Erfurt 1970 and 1891,’’ in On Writing and Politics (Grass 1985). 13 See Hollington’s (1980) excellent discussion of Grass’s rhetorical strategies. 14 For more discussion of Grass’s Eurocentrism, see Daniel Reynolds (2003), who faults Grass’s Show Your Tongue for a colonial gesture of recommending the Enlightenment achievements as a recipe for overcoming the misery he documents in India. 15 For an overview of the different socio-economic programs for a united Europe post-1989, see Peter Gowan (2000). In addition to the EU model that we know today, Gowan identifies two other significant models that were in play, one of which would have implied a gradual transition from the old economic cooperation structures among former communist countries toward a social-democratic-style development for both East and West. This option, Gowan argues, failed as it ‘‘clashed with the whole American paradigm of neo-liberalism and globalization, a paradigm which was attracting great support amongst the leaders of big capital in Western Europe’’ (2000: 33). 16 This political leveling has serious implications for European East–West relations. Commenting on a parallel 1997 ‘‘reconciliation’’ of Germany and the Czech Republic over the Nazi occupation and a retaliatory post-war expulsion of Sudeten Germans, respectively, Adam Burgess (1997) finds the establishment of equivalence between the two experiences problematic. ‘‘The German dismemberment of Czechoslovakia’’ is not only relativized as ‘‘just one unfortunate incident, no better or worse than post-war population displacement,’’ but, more broadly, ‘‘the historical domination of the East’’ becomes equal to ‘‘the East’s own rare and feeble attempts to ‘get its own back’’’ (Burgess 1997: 188). The very political imbalance – indeed, blackmail – under which this occurs is also problematic: by extending its apology to Germany, the Czech Republic gets a prime spot in the queue for EU membership. 17 Charity Scribner comments on the irony of the successful outcome of Solidanosc’s 1980s struggle for an autonomous trade union at the Lenin Shipyards in

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Gdansk: ‘‘Solidarity’s victory ushered Poland into a postindustrialist era, where the chances for . . . the autonomous organization of workers . . . seem to diminish. . . . the Lenin Shipyards have gone bankrupt’’ (2003: 16). 5 Primitive accumulation and Neanderthal liberalism: Victor Pelevin, Gary Shteyngart, and criminal Eastern Europe 1 For an overview and analysis of these texts, see, especially, Andrew Hammond (2005). 2 It is interesting that some of these expat writers arrived in Eastern Europe precisely to help develop civil society and democracy. For instance, Tom Bissell volunteered with the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan, whereas Paul Greenberg, another expat author, taught seminars on management skills in Tajikistan and produced programs on conflict resolution in the Caucasus and the former Yugoslavia (Fishman 2003: xiii). 3 I use heterotemporality in Homi Bhabha’s sense, as an active memory, or presence of a past which ‘‘poses the future as an open question’’ through ‘‘history’s intermediacy’’ (1994: 231). ˇ izˇek refers to Va´clav Havel as an example of the decline of dissident 4 Slavoj Z intellectual power. Ironically, the return of capitalism deprives the once powerful dissidents of the space of critique opened up and sustained by the ‘‘Communist breakthrough’’ (Zˇizˇek 2001: 130–31). Svetlana Boym comments on the waning in post-communism of the importance of Soviet high culture (‘‘kul’turnost’’) and its collapse into the new commercial, consumer culture from which it used to maintain its distance. The result is that ‘‘‘Culture’ in an old Russian and official Soviet and underground dissident sense is in big trouble. It has blended into everyday life and it is the ‘twilight of Russian intelligentsia’’’ (Boym 1994: 224). 5 This fear of Western influences is reflected in the unfavorable reviews that Homo Zapiens received from major Russian critics, despite Pelevin’s overwhelming popularity with readers (also, American critics have embraced Pelevin, comparing him to Joseph Heller, Sergei Dovlatov, and Mikhail Bulgakov). As Aleksandr Genis (1999) explains, Pelevin was accused of writing best-selling, pulp fiction because of his excessive talk about consumerism and advertising. That the purity of literature must be preserved is also implied by Genis’s own remark that the mythologicalBuddhist layer in Homo Zapiens remains ‘‘too thin,’’ as if a profound discussion of Buddhism is somehow to be expected in ‘‘great literature’’ (Genis 1999). 6 ‘‘Baby Yar’’ denounces a massacre of Jews by Nazis in Kiev in 1941 and also suggests that the USSR has forgotten the messages of the ‘‘Internationale’’ by promoting anti-Semitism. This is significant in light of Pelevin’s treatment of Russian nationalism and xenophobia, which is matched in the novel by similar sentiments among other former USSR peoples. 7 Pelevin also commits this blasphemy when Navna, the feminine ‘‘soul of Russia,’’ a concept developed in Daniil Andreiev’s popular text in the tradition of Russian mysticism, Rosa Mundi, is imagined to be raped by a black man, presumably a character from a Harold Robbins novel. This is less Pelevin’s endorsement of Robbins (the text pokes fun at the anti-intellectualism of mass-cultural products) than a commentary on Russian fears of contagion and mixing, fears that American mass culture will tarnish the Russian ‘‘soul.’’ 8 ‘‘Zapping’’ is defined as the ‘‘switching to and fro of the [television] viewer that is controlled by the producer and cameraman,’’ whereby the television is converted into a remote control for the viewer, turning him into a Homo Zapiens. Enslaved by the ‘‘coercive zapping,’’ Homo Zapiens is at the mercy of television producers and advertisers, rather than being a subject in (remote) control who independently performs the ‘‘zapping’’ through channels (Pelevin 2002: 81).

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9 Although Epstein’s argument importantly prompts a reconsideration of Russian postmodernism outside of Western narratives that see postmodernism as a cultural logic of global capitalism, an effect of the schizophrenia of postindustrial society, or a product of modern teletechnologies, it is problematically invested in Orientalist narratives that castigate Russia for being a poor mimic of the West, for historically relying on ‘‘labels, surfaces, simulation’’ (Epstein 1995: 191–92). A sophisticated analysis of the issue of colonial mimicry would undoubtedly help Epstein’s case; so would a less black-and-white portrayal of a binary between communist ‘‘ideology’’ and ‘‘reality.’’ 6 Ethnicizing guilt: humanitarian imperialism and the case of (for) Yugoslavia 1 In an article in The New Republic, Martin Peretz observes, ‘‘A Serbian victory in Bosnia does not leave the Catholics of Croatia safe. The shadow of clerical fascism in Nazi-era Croatia is now stalked by the reality of clerical fascism in present-day Serbia’’ (Mousavizadeh 1996: 148). Peretz’s statement not only glosses over the ‘‘shadow’’ of former clerical fascism in present-day Croatia, but also rests on the assumption that Croatia has since matured into a modern democracy by seeking entry into the West. The Balkan Holocaust is both of Europe and extraneous to it. The Balkans are Europe’s responsibility because of their geographic, cultural, and racial proximity and yet they come after ‘‘our’’ history in which ‘‘we’’ in Europe have matured from fascist dictatorships into liberal democracies. 2 David Rieff condemns Europe’s alleged non-involvement in the conflict, pointing out that ‘‘Bosnians imagined that the fact that they were Europeans would protect them from the horrors of war. Europe, for them, was a continent in which the cosmopolitan values they stood for had become the norm’’ (1995: 31). Susan Sontag similarly counters arguments that this is a war between Moslems and Christians immersed in Balkan mythology and explains that ‘‘the Bosnian cause is that of Europe: democracy and a society composed of citizens, not of the members of a tribe’’ (1995: 820). This argument is replicated in her subsequent support for military intervention in Kosovo: the Balkans are in Europe and Europe will not be able to conjure away images of the slaughter of people ‘‘who look like us’’ (Sontag 1999: 52). 3 In an article published in the Serbian literary magazine Recˇ, Drinka Gojkovic´ affirms the necessity of mapping the coordinates of Serbia’s collective responsibility for the wars. However, she argues that this will not come out of either external imaginings of Serbs as ‘‘primitive mythomaniacs’’ or ‘‘self-centered provincials, blind to crime’’ (Gojkovic´ charges ‘‘world moralizers’’ Susan Sontag, Thomas Friedman, and Michael Ignatieff with promoting such an image and mandating Serbia’s punishment and self-flagellation), or from internal imaginings of Serbs as ‘‘innocent victims’’ (Gojkovic´ 1999). Rather – and this is where the insistence on assuming collective responsibility carries true ethical potential – Gojkovic´ believes a confrontation with one’s guilt is possible by engaging with the host of texts published in Serbia that criticize its recent politics and behavior in the wars, highlighting complexities beyond the binary of criminal or innocent Serbs. For Gojkovic´, any meaningful assumption of responsibility also takes time, beyond instantly proving to the international community that one has transformed into a democratic country (1999). 4 Gu¨nter Grass’s The Call of the Toad, as we saw in Chapter 4, comments on this very problem as exemplified by post-communist Poland. 5 Even in liberal, affluent Slovenia, the poster-child of EU enlargement, citizens voted overwhelmingly to remove residence rights to thousands of people from other parts of former Yugoslavia in a 2004 referendum. These non-Slovenian

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7

8

9

10 11

12

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residents, known as the ‘‘erased,’’ have been punished for not renewing residency in independent Slovenia. They are seen as ungrateful Yugonostalgics who oppose Slovenian independence and are thus considered disloyal. Here we see an interesting paradigm shift in the enforcement of exclusionary policies, which seek to cleanse a European Slovenia not so much of non-European, Balkan others, but of the very idea of Yugoslavia. In an article published in the New Republic, Patrick Glynn aptly summarizes the justification for favoring some nationalisms over others: ‘‘State Department officials in 1991 regarded the Slovenian, Croatian, Macedonian and Bosnian leaders as at least nascently democratic and pro-Western in orientation. It was . . . the still-Communist regime in Serbia that was repressive and prone to violence’’ (Mousavizadeh 1996: 133). Consider, for instance, the recent tourist phenomenon of Bosnian war tours, where sites of carnage and former escape routes from the besieged Sarajevo are marketed through such Hollywoodized names as ‘‘The Mission Impossible Tour.’’ As we will see later, Dubravka Ugresˇic´ comments on this uncanny yet marketable mixture of actual war horrors in the Balkans and internationally acclaimed Hollywood action movies. Also see Tomislav Longinovic´’s intriguing essay on the Western ‘‘gothic imaginary’’ which frames ‘‘the serbs’’ as perfect phantoms, ‘‘skeletons in the closet of Europe,’’ whose ‘‘obstinate resistance to bombs and starvation is a vampiric one, since it is the secret of those who stand outside of reason and the light of day’’ (Longinovic´ 2002: 46–47). ˇ izˇek argues that the See, for instance, The Metastases of Enjoyment, where Z ‘‘Western gaze is thoroughly responsible’’ for its own seduction by the myth of Balkan ‘‘primordial cruelty’’: in ‘‘ex-Yugoslavia, we are lost not because of our primitive dreams and myths preventing us from speaking the enlightened language of Europe, but because we pay in flesh the price of being the stuff of others’ dreams’’ (Zˇizˇek 1994: 212). Yugoslavia is not the other of Europe, but rather ‘‘Europe itself in its Otherness, the screen on to which Europe projected its own repressed reverse’’ (Zˇizˇek 1994: 212). ˇ izˇek ennobles Slovenia’s nationalist secession in the same Not surprisingly, Z way – they too preserved the respect for Tito’s legacy. The Clinton administration and NATO commanders frequently emphasized that their actions were really meant to protect the people from Milosˇevic´’s government. However, their official statements and media apparatus nevertheless exposed the people as a target, for what else could account for a deliberate disabling of civilian water and electricity supplies and the arrogance reflected in NATO spokesman Jamie Shea’s remark, ‘‘We are able to turn off and on the light switch in Belgrade’’? That the bombing provided a significant dose of enjoyment of the ‘‘justified’’ hatred of Serbs as a people is confirmed by Thomas Friedman’s statement which ‘‘admits to’’ targeting the nation, not only its leaders: ‘‘We are at war with the Serbian nation and anyone hanging around Belgrade needs to understand that. This notion that we are only at war with one bad guy, Slobodan Milosˇevic´ (who was popularly elected three times), is ludicrous’’ (Friedman 1999). Reading Have a Nice Day after September 11 brings this point home. As Ugresˇic´ desperately tries to make the shrink understand her story, she hints that the war in Yugoslavia may become a global virus: ‘‘But what about the virus? What if at this moment, while the two of us are talking, the Empire State Building is collapsing! And you tell me that everything’ll be all right!’’ ‘‘You know yourself that it’s impossible!’’ replies the shrink (Ugresˇic´ 1994: 56). According to Martha Kuhlman, in 1993 a Danish critic vigorously criticized Ugresˇic´’s book Fording the Stream of Consciousness, ‘‘misreading the work as an

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15 16

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offensive satire of the war. The critic accused her of engaging in a crass form of literary escapism when she actually had other pressing concerns like the ‘bloody war’ raging at home’’ (Kuhlman 1999: 679). Kuhlman adds that Ugresˇic´ is often expected by Western interviewers to act as the spokesperson for her country, although, as Ugresˇic´ says, ‘‘the Yugoslav writer has traditionally not been called upon to be the voice of the people and never really wanted that role’’ (1999: 679). ˇ izˇek takes a similar approach, especially in semiSome Western writing about Z academic, semi-popular magazines such as the New Yorker, for instance. Discussions of Zˇizˇek’s philosophy are often not only overtly sensationalist (Zˇizˇek transgresses the limits of acceptable academic discourse or outrages audiences with radical statements) but also accompanied by references to his exotically bearded, bearish, and blue-jeaned appearance. Translated from the Bosnian–Croatian–Serbian by the author. For instance, in the documentary Laibach: a film from Slovenia (Landin and Vezjak 1995), the band members argue that they continue the specifically modernist, utopian project that was Yugoslavia, which has since symbolically and physically died. This perspective also informs Hemon’s recent short story ‘‘Love and Obstacles’’ (2005). As former Yugoslavia is mapped through a teenage protagonist’s train ride, intimations of violence and misogyny come up in the conversation between two former prisoners, with Serbian and Bosnian accents respectively, sharing the compartment with the boy.

7 Conclusion 1 This is not to claim that Lenin’s statues are among the most positive legacies of communism which need to be preserved – quite the opposite – but rather that this politics of erasing the memory of communism was manifested, among other things, in erasing all of its visible signs, including the Berlin Wall, statues of communist ideologues, hymns, flags, street names, etc. 2 Recently, promising anthropological and sociological studies have tackled the issue of this ‘‘conservative politics of amnesia’’ and recuperated the nostalgia for communism as a meaningful rather than pathological act of collective remembrance. Alexei Yurchak’s Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More (2006), discussed in Chapter 5, complicates binaries between the oppressive Soviet state and victimized citizens by reading most citizens’ participation in official state institutions as performative rather than constantive (affirming or resisting) acts, which made possible other rewarding experiences that they remember fondly. Politics and Emotions in Central and Eastern Europe (2006), edited by Maruska Svasek, argues that nostalgia for communism should be taken as referring to an authentic loss, to a collectively felt ‘‘truth’’ (e.g. regret that solidarity and egalitarianism have been supplanted by hostility and selfishness), and not just as an imagined or politically expedient image of loss. Socialist Spaces: sites of everyday life in the Eastern bloc (2002), edited by David Crowley and Susan Reid, overlooks ‘‘oppressive’’ political structures for various sites of everyday life where ideology was both ‘‘territorialized’’ and ‘‘deterritorialized,’’ concluding that nostalgia mourns precisely the loss of these sites and everyday practices rather than state apparatuses. 3 Kusturica plays with communist monumentalization too: the uncovering of Blacky’s statue in front of Party sycophants and trained student pioneers becomes the decisive instance of Marko’s betrayal of the revolution and of its domestication. ˇ izˇek’s disparaging discussion of Kusturica’s politics and 4 For instance, see Slavoj Z artistic perspective in the introduction to The Fragile Absolute (Zˇizˇek 2000).

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Index

Adorno, T. 84 Agamben, G. 14, 161, 168 Ahmad, A. 3 Akhmatova, A. 59, 62, 64 Angelopoulos, T. 9; Eternity and a Day 8, 118, 188, 189, 194–6; and identity politics 188–9; and nostalgia 195; Ulysses’ Gaze 191 Appadurai, A. 12 Badiou, A. 14, 167, 181–2 ´ . 2–3, 13, 15, 113; and Balibar, E European unity 16; and Yugoslavia 11–12 Bakic´-Hayden, M. 3, 46; ‘‘nesting Orientalisms’’ 3, 46, 52, 60, 65 Balkans 2–3, 8, 10, 50, 51, 53, 156–9, 162, 168–9, 172–88, 194; ‘‘Balkanization’’ of the West 24; definition of 9–10; identity 15, 46, 163; image 118; racism 163; studies 4; Yugoslav war 4, 156, 176; ‘‘wild Balkan people’’ 159, 193 Bauman, Z. 12 Becker, W. 7, 9; Goodbye, Lenin! 8, 188–91 Bellow, S. 103 Benjamin, W. 18, 56, 73, 100; ‘‘constellations’’ 9, 76, 81, 90, 95, 98–100, 122, 162, 171 Bethea, D. 45–6 Bhabha, H. 6, 12, 20, 26–30, 57–8, 148; and hybridity 12, 15, 127, 185; and mimicry 18, 25–6, 30, 35, 43, 47, 85, 145, 151, 152–5 Bjelic´, D. 2, 10 Blomster, W. 101 Boym, S. 100, 154

Brodsky, J. 7, 44–64, 69, 79, 81, 82, 85, 87–8; and Byzantium 53–4; and capitalism 62; and democratic ideals 56–7; and exile 44, 57; and language 19, 63–4; Less than One 44; On Grief and Reason 44 Budapest Roundtable 49, 51 Burgess, A. 24, 117, 199, 203 Butler, J. 161 Byzantium 46, 52–4, 59, 88 Callinicos, A. 160 capitalism 92; and marketing 19–20; postmodern 142; transnational 16, 75; Western practices 16, 47, 76, 99 capitalist globalization 2, 8, 13, 18–20, 90, 95, 108, 127, 133, 138, 147–9; narratives of 137, 141; occupation 98 Cavafy, C. 62, 63 Cavanagh, C. 70, 71 Central Europe 9, 10, 70, 79, 80, 81, 83, 87–8; culture of 87; definition of 48– 52; and liberal-democratic ideals 81; naming of 50 Chakrabarty, D. 18, 83, 89, 95, 100 Chow, R. 65, 70, 128, 154 Clark, S. 23–4, 41–2, 43 Clifford, J. 8 Cold War 6–7, 22–3, 29, 41, 44, 52, 82, 154; mythology 6; narratives 116; and the ‘‘other’’ 28; and political correctness 27; politicians 42; regimes in 103; rhetoric of 23, 71, 77, 102; testimony 43; and the United States 21, 22 Communism: as a disease 24–5, 38, 40, 190; as fascism 101–6; and Orientalism 52–6, 77, 81, 84–8; see also nostalgia for communism

Index Conrad, J. 5–6; and Poland 6; and Russia 5–6; Under Western Eyes 5, 6 Cory, M. 115 Czaykowski, B. 50 Czechoslovakia 83, 86; and capitalism 18; communist history 82, 92–3; and identity 87 Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F.: ‘‘minor literature’’ 18–19, 31, 63, 129 Deltcheva, R. 51 Derrida, J. 28, 30, 62, 63, 126, 139, 159, 181–2, 188, 191; and democracy 20; and Marxism 77, 78, 121 Ditchev, I. 17, 164 Drakulic´, S. 20 Drnovsˇek, J. 11 Dupcsik, C. 48, 49 Durrell, L. 23 East Germany 104–8; and Goodbye, Lenin! 188–91 Enlightenment, Western 6, 7, 48, 81, 83–8, 104, 106, 110; and capitalism 7, 85, 102; and democracy 7, 49, 102; nostalgia for 102; values of 101, 105, 108 European Union (EU) 1–2, 7, 8, 24–5, 89, 116, 124, 127, 160–1, 188; characteristics of 2–3, 82; Enlargement 1, 14, 15, 117; and racism 116–22 exile 5, 19, 22, 32–3, 38; and authors of 6, 7, 27; in literature 37, 42, 45 Field, A. 23 Finne, E. 101 Fishman, B.: Wild East 119 Foucault, M. 9, 45 Fowler, D. 37 Garton Ash, T. 10 geo-graphing 3, 7, 46–7, 52; and the ‘‘other’’ 6, 64 Giroux, H. 114 Goldsworthy, V. 197 Grass, G. 7, 77, 80, 81, 116; The Call of the Toad 7, 81–2, 109–15; and capitalist reform 101, 103–5, 110, 114; The Citizen and His Voice 115; and communist politics 105; and definition of Europe 108; and democracy 102, 104, 111–3; From a Diary of a Snail 105; and ethnic stereotypes 111; and German

219

reunification 107–8, 109, 112; ‘‘Kafka and His Executors’’ 108; and minority rights 113; and Nazism 101–2, 105, 110; Peeling the Onion 101; ‘‘Racing with the Utopias’’ 108; and religion 106, 112–3; Show Your Tongue 103; as a socialist democrat 101, 108 Greece 3, 24, 102–3; and democracy 53, 103, 110; as Balkan/Eastern European 9; see also Angelopoulos, Theo Habermas, J. 160 Hall, S. 12, 155 Hammond, A. 158 Hanley, S. 50–1 Hanneke, M.: Code Inconnu 118, 196; The Time of the Wolf 196 Hardt, M. 13–14, 15, 156, 157, 160, 167; and imperialism 20 Harpham, G. 156–7, 166 Harvey, D. 15 Havel, V. 4, 60, 64, 160 Heaney, S. 70 Hegel, G. W. F. 105 Heidegger, M. 18 Hemon, A. 8, 157, 173, 181–7; and identity transformation 181–7; and multiculturalism 157; Nowhere Man 156, 181–7 Hingley, R. 31 Hollington, M. 101, 102 identity 27, 52; containment 96; crisis of 12; displaced 7; emancipation 16; European 20, 52; fixed 115; national 19 Iron Curtain 1, 7, 9, 10, 24, 28–9, 32–3, 44, 71; and communism 9, 48, 166, 176 Jameson, F. 32, 71, 75, 119, 141 Johnstone, D. 162 Judt, T. 51 Jungmann, M. 82 Kafka, F. 18–19, 61, 63, 87, 108, 146 Kaplan, C. 57 Kennan, G. F. 23 Kisˇ, D. 50, 87 Konrad, G. 50 Kundera, M. 6, 7, 9, 45, 49, 77, 81, 82, 86, 101, 102, 105, 110, 116, 160;

220

Index

The Art of the Novel 82, 86; The Book of Laughter and Forgetting 89, 90; and capitalism/consumerism 84, 85, 88, 90, 95, 99; and crowd mentality 84–6; and dancing metaphor 90–91, 94–5, 97; and definition of Europe 108; and democracy 83, 88, 90, 92, 97, 98, 100; and exile 82–3, 87, 93, 96; and histories/memories 88, 90, 94–5, 99; Ignorance 18, 81, 82, 88–100; and imagology 84, 88–101; Immortality 85, 89, 91; and irrationality 84, 85, 106; The Joke 82; Life is Elsewhere 90; and nostalgia 87, 95, 100; and Russian authors/novels 86–7; and self-victimization 14; Slowness 7, 13, 81, 82, 88–100; The Unbearable Lightness of Being 14, 82–3, 85, 90 Kusturica, E. 7; and identity 192–4; and multiculturalism 194; Underground 8, 20, 188, 189, 191–4 Lacoue-Labarthe, P. 22, 46, 53–4, 70 Leninism 1, 21, 25–6, 29, 39, 55, 57, 77, 123, 130, 191; and imperialist characteristics 56; ‘‘Lenin’s gang’’ 24; and monuments in St. Petersburg 62 Leroy-Frazier, J. 32 Lisbon Conference on Literature 49, 51, 70 Loach, K. 160 Longinovic´, T. 10, 206 Lowe, L. 10 McCarthyism 23, 27, 37 Magris, C. 51 Makine, A. 14 Mandelstam, O. 58, 59, 61, 62, 64 Marxism 48, 52, 62, 75, 105, 110; philosophy of 77; rhetoric of 139; terminology of 134–5, 137, 138–40 Milosˇevic´, S. 157, 160, 170–3 Miłosz, C. 6, 7, 9, 44–8, 49, 51–2, 64– 80, 81, 82, 83, 85, 87; ‘‘Ancestry’’ 67– 8; and capitalism/democracy 78; ‘‘The Dance of Death and Human Inequality’’ 77–8; in exile 44, 72; ‘‘Journey to the West’’ 72–5; and language 19, 79–80; and Marxism 77–8; Native Realm 44; ‘‘Place of Birth’’ 67–8; and racism 73–4, 76, 80; To Begin Where I Am 44; Visions from San Francisco Bay 44, 75, 80

Molesworth, C. 84 Moore-Gilbert, B. 10 Mouffe, C. 88 Nabokov, V. 4, 14, 44, 45, 55–7, 71, 167; Bend Sinister 22, 29; and childhood memories 27, 28; as a democratic liberal 21–5; as exile literature 31–3; The Gift 23; Invitation to a Beheading 22, 29; Lolita 21, 25; Pale Fire 6, 21, 28, 29–43, 58, 59, 65; Pnin 6, 28, 29, 31; as a Russian exile 6, 25; and self-exoticization 38; Speak, Memory 27; and stereotypes 35–7, 39–40, 42; Strong Opinions 22 NATO 7, 12, 116, 124, 156, 160; bombings 3, 4, 14, 108, 157, 164, 172; interventions 156, 157, 166–8 Negri, A. 13–14, 15, 156, 157, 160, 167; and imperialism 20 nostalgia for communism 18, 100, 139– 40, 154–5, 189–90; definition of 7–8 ´ Tuathail, G. 3, 46, 52, 159, 160 O October Revolution 5, 16, 55, 56, 65 Pasternak, B.: Doctor Zhivago 25–6 Pelevin, V. 7, 148, 150; and corporate advertising 130–40; and exile 121; and Guevara, Che 137–9; Homo Zapiens (Generation P) 8, 19, 120, 122–40, 143, 154; and the mafia 121, 122, 126, 128, 130, 132, 134–40; and national identity 124–30; and nostalgia 125; and racism 103; and Russian culture 129; and transitions to capitalism/ democracy 121, 127 Platonov, A. 61, 62 Poland: and democracy 66; and geographic affiliation with Russia 65; and language as ethnicity 66–7; and racism 47–8; Wilno (Vilnius) 64–8, 72, 75, 79, 80 Porter, D. 8 Radhakrishnan, R. 127, 177 racism, multicultural 13, 14, 15, 19, 115, 163, 169, 172, 198 Rieff, D. 114–5, 158, 160, 164 Ricks, C. 31 Ross, S. 91 Roth, P. 93–4

Index

221

Russia: and Asiatic influences 52, 77; and national identity 63; as ‘‘the Orient’’ 9; and Peter the Great 55; St. Petersburg 55–7, 59, 60, 61–3, 64–5, 70; and tsarist monarchy 23, 26, 47, 55, 56, 66, 86

Todorova, M. 2, 10, 23, 197, 198, 201 Tolstaya, T. 49–50

Sadowski-Smith, C. 191 Said, E. 1, 10, 160; academic criticism of 3, 8–9 Savic´, O. 2, 10 Scribner, C. 189 self-colonization 5 self-stigmatization 4, 6 self-victimization 14, 45, 70, 72, 88, 163, 171 Schueller, M. 72 Shohat, E. 81, 120 Shteyngart, G. 7, 9, 14; and exile 121, 142; and the mafia 121, 141, 146, 148–55; and nostalgia 147, 154–5; and racism 144–5; The Russian Debutante’s Handbook 8, 15, 18, 120, 140–55; and transitions to democracy 121, 146, 148 Sontag, S. 49, 160 Spitz, E. 180 Spivak, G. C. 16, 27, 41 Stalinism 3, 4, 16, 39, 55, 65, 81, 84–5, 96, 104, 106–7, 147, 153, 156–7; regimes of 77, 109; ‘‘Stalinist dogmatists’’ 82 Stam, R. 81, 120 Stolz, D. 109

Wallerstein, I. 15, 16 Wilson, E. 31, 34 Wolff, L. 2, 3, 4, 9, 10; and Churchill, W. 24 Wolfreys, J. 30, 40–1 Wood, M. 39 World War I 4, 64, 68, 71, 87 World War II 3, 21, 27, 71–2, 74, 76, 98, 101, 158, 159, 171, 191; cinema of post-51

Ugresˇic´, D. 7, 8, 14, 157, 163, 173–81; Have a Nice Day 13, 15, 156, 173–81; and multiculturalism 157, 174, 179

Young, R. 8, 16 Yugoslavia 157, 158–65; and cultural identity 157; and identity politics 162; and multiculturalism 156, 158, 160–3, 169–188; and national identity 163; wars 4, 8, 11–12, 15, 20, 48, 50, 157–62, 165, 189, 192–3; and Yugonostalgia 158, 186 ˇ izˇek, S. 8, 14, 16, 30, 61, 91, 139, 142, Z 157, 160, 162, 165–73, 176; and Eastern European communist regimes 17; and humanitarian imperialism165–73; and multiculturalism 157; and nostalgia 166; as a ‘‘para-academic’’ 166