History through the Prism of Memory: Post-Communist Novels from Central and Eastern Europe (Publication Grant)

Project leader

Julie Hansen, Associate Professor

Project period

2010 - 2013

Project description

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent end of Communism in Eastern and Central Europe brought about dramatic social, political and cultural changes in these countries. In the literary sphere, censorship was lifted and previous taboos fell, and there was better access to Western literature, as well as an increasing dominance of market forces in publishing. Now, nearly two decades later, we can begin to take stock of the literature produced during these first post-Communist years.

This project examines the ways in which memories of the Communist period are depicted in novels from post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe. The material for this study consists of novels from the Czech Republic, former East Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Russia, published since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The analysis draws upon previous research within the interdisciplinary field of Memory Studies, applying in particular Paul Ricoeur’s theory concerning the relations between history, narrative and memory. Ricoeur argues that historical accounts are similar to narratives in that they are formed by language and require interpretation. Through an analysis of literary depictions of historical events during the Communist period as well as of daily life in a totalitarian society, the various modes of memory—ranging from nostalgic to critical—portrayed in the selected novels are identified. This study also elucidates how the texts, through both their form and content, problematize the workings of memory and its relation to history and forgetting.

Related publications

Peer-reviewed articles

Julie Hansen, "Memory Unleashed by Perestroika: Olga Grushin's The Dream Life of Sukhanov," Die Welt der Slaven, 2012, vol LVII, issue 1, pp 161-177

Julie Hansen, "Stalingrad Stories and Statues: Depictions of War Remembrance in Andrei Makine's The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme," Canadian Slavonic Papers, 2012, vol 54, issue 3-4, pp 341-356

Julie Hansen, 'La simultanéité du présent': Memory, History and Narrative in Andreï Makine’s Novels Le testament français and Requiem pour l’Est," Modern Languages Notes, 2013, vol 128, issue 4, pp 881-899

Contributions to anthologies

Julie Hansen, "Theories of Memory and the Imaginative Force of Fiction," The Ashgate Companion to Memory Studies, ed. Siobhan Kattago, 2014, Ashgate 

Julie Hansen "Le testament français," The Literary Encyclopedia, 2011, The Literary Dictionary Company, ISSN 1747-678x

Julie Hansen, "La terre et le ciel de Jacques Dorme," The Literary Encyclopedia, 2011, The Literary Dictionary Company, ISSN 1747-678X

Julie Hansen, "Requiem pour l'Est," The Literary Encyclopedia, 2011, The Literary Dictionary Company, ISSN 1747-678X

Julie Hansen, "The Line," The Literary Encyclopedia, 2011, The Literary Dictionary Company, ISSN 1747-678X

Julie Hansen, "Olga Grushin," The Literary Encyclopedia, 2011, The Literary Dictionary Company, ISSN 1747-678X

Julie Hansen, "The Dream Life of Sukhanov," The Literary Encyclopedia, 2011, The Literary Dictionary Company, ISSN 1747-678X

Manuscripts

Julie Hansen, "History and the Detective Aleksandr Terekhov's Novel Kamennyi most," in The Arts of Silence: Beyond Remembering and Forgetting, eds. Alexandre Dessingué and Jay Winter, 2014, Routledge, pp 53-64

Funding

The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet)