This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
9 789532 191424
Nikola Petković A CENTRAL EUROPE OF OUR OWN Postmodernism, Postcolonialism, Postcomunism and the Absence of Authenticity
Editor Milan Zagorac Review articles dr. sc. Stipe Grgas dr. Katherine M. Arens
Publisher Adamić, d.o.o. Zvonimirova 20 a, Rijeka, Croatia tel.: 00 385 51 650 145 fax.: 00 385 51 650 144 www.adamic.hr For the publisher Franjo Butorac Photo Ranko Dokmanović
THE CROATIAN MINISTRY OF CULTURE and THE CITY OF RIJEKA – DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE provided a financial support of this book.
Edition 750 copies Print BMG Ltd., Zagreb
CIP – Katalogizacija u publikaciji Sveučilišna knjižnica RIJEKA UDK 327(4–191.2) PETKOVIĆ, Nikola A Central Europe of our own: postmodernism, postcolonialism, postcomunism and the absence of authenticity / Nikola Petković. – Rijeka : “Adamić”, 2003. Istodobno izašlo na hrv. jeziku. – Bibliografija. ISBN 953-219-142-0 101102048
Printing completed in September 2003
PRINTED IN CROATIA September 2003
A CENTRAL EUROPE OF OUR OWN
Postmodernism, Postcolonialism, Postcomunism and the Absence of Authenticity
It would be impossible to name all the colleagues and friends without whom this book would never be written the way it is. I will start with my close friend Connie Newton without whom it would not be written at all. None of the words that keep coming to my mind seem to contain enough meaning to encompass my gratitude for her unconditional friendship and support. I would also like to single out Katherine Arens, my mentor, professor, and dear friend who had patience to work with me all these years, following the development of my English and my ideas about the topic with so much needed understanding. Also, I would like to thank my professors for their suggestions and advice, especially the late André Lefevere, who was not able to see the final version. Velimir Visković had a personal and professional courage to employ me as an editor of the Encyclopedia Krlezijana back in 1987. and introduced me to the writings of Miroslav Krleža. Milorad Stojević remains the exemplary colleague and close devoted friend without whom many aspect of Croatian literature would still be unknown to me. Nenad Smokrović and Nenad Miščević witnessed my first scholarly works and gave me the necessary encouragement that kept me devoted to literature for over two decades. Also, I must acknowledge all my professors from The University of Zagreb who broadened my horizons and encouraged me to continue my education abroad. Finally, I would like to thank my family for their patience and support, especially my grandfather Nikola Luzer, who, among beutiful things that surpass the language, brought home a copy of The Good Soldier Svejk when I was five. Above all I must express my gratitude to Jacqueline Loss, for all the pages she read, and articles she corrected over two years, as well as for all the suggestions that improved this manuscript. All the errors that remain are my own.
I would like to thank The Graduate Research Office at The University of Texas at Austin for a Continuing Fellowship that enabled the essential part of this research. I am especially, grateful to The Soros Foundation office in Prague, The Research Support Scheme, for a Grant in 1995-96 that enabled me to complete my project. This book received a financial support from The Croatian Ministry of Culture as well as the City of Rijeka – Department of Culture.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 Defining the River . . . . . . 21 History comes to you: Kafka. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107 The River . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Kundera’s Anabasis . . . . . 91 The importance of a Journey I . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Performing Central Europe . . . . 98 The importance of a Journey II . . 91 The Poetics of a Classical Exemplar . . . . 81 An Interim Conclusion . . . . . 21 Two faces of utopia:a paradigm for Central Europe . . . . 98 Travelers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Svejk and the Butcher’s wife . 13 Locating the “post” in postmodern and postcolonial . . . . . . . 4 7 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 A Central Europe of our own . . . . . . . 48 From Svejk to the post Soviet successor states . . . .Contents Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Chapter 1: The Worlds of Central Europe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 Chapter 2: Six Characters In Search of the Danube . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 Central Europe between “post” and “past” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Josef Svejk and the Loss of Historical Narratives . . . Author’s Note . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. 122 Outflow: a provisional conclusion . . . . . . 205 A Supply Sergeant in the Barrel: The Displaced Anger of Loborec Štef . . 221 Krleža as Central European Other .The invisible Danube: the question of Source Professor Claudio Magris . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 241 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199 Trdak Vid’s Long March through the Institutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141 From Herr Kyselak to gospon Krleza . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146 The Lost Letters of Herr Kyselak . . . . . . . . . . 205 “It” a world seen from beyond and above . . . . . . . . . . . 155 Chapter 4: Miroslav Krleža’s Colonial Motifs . . . . . 199 Multiple voices II . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221 Romantic patriots and decenterd matriots . . . . . . . . . . Claudio the Pilgrim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175 The Croatian God Mars . . . . . . . 155 Miroslav Krleža: Identity as a “Servile Embodiment of Worthlessness” . . . . . . 146 Voices from the outsikrts . . . . . . . . 184 Multiple voices I . . . . . . . . Amedeo—A Secret Historiographer of Misguidance . . . . 212 A colonial perspective from below . . . . . . . 118 . . . . . . 131 Chapter 3: The Poet(h)ics of the Danube:Rethinking Identities . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141 Inscribing desire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 241 Beyond the Nation State . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
” Traditionally. It has neither precise geographic outlines nor a single dominant cultural tradition to which it belongs. even before I embark on a more detailed expositions in the chapters which follow. requires a set of tests against historical data. For that reason.Author’s Note This project attempts to offer a new theoretical paradigm. one that will allow a re-conceptualization of the literary and cultural histories of the countries of Central Europe—that vaguely defined geopolitical entity. 7 . however. Central Europe has been associated most closely with the successor states to the Austro-Hungarian Empire (disassembled at the end of the First World War). which lies between the traditional hearts of “Eastern” and “Western Europe. it is important to outline here precisely what kinds of conclusions should and should not be expected of this discussion regarding Central European literatures and cultures. This assumption has been made on various grounds. each of which play a role in defining its existence. First and foremost. the “Central Europe” under discussion is a region of aggregates. Instead. To define and explore such a theoretical construct. “Central Europe” has always had the status of one of Benedict Anderson’s “imagined communities. but now the term is re-emerging in reference to the successor states of the Eastern Block located outside of the Russian-language sphere.” since it has been assumed to exist by both its inhabitants and by outsiders.
The cultural life of Austro-Hungary. for example. Instead. for example. most notably. has an equally surreal journey to the war front by train as that undertaken by the land surveyor K. as a German-speaker in a city that is rejecting German heritage and Svejk as a member of a Slavic nation that has little political power of its own. in Kafka’s The Castle. producing a culture with a very distinctive everyday life for the middle classes while creating a set of expectations for less dominant groups that could not possibly be met. then. but which does not acknowledge their individuality behind their shared existence as recipients of the Austro-Hungarian justice and governance. Italian. 8 . and Czech. Budapest and Vienna. Yet in including examples of these literatures. when he is considered as a Central European. German. Franz Kafka. Jaroslav Hasek’s Good Soldier Svejk. the examples cited will shy away from the point of view of specialists in the various national literatures involved. my treatment of the narratives in question will re-create the trans-national and cross-cultural space in which traditionally recognized works of various national literatures have been produced. one discovers that the kind of existential crisis in which his characters find themselves are echoed in literatures other than German. has a prominent position within the German-language literary canon as a modernist writer. Croatian. for example. It is a region in which the traditions of many ethnic groups meet and blend. In many ways. Prague.namely. but also including Trieste.Perhaps the best way to define Central Europe is as a cross-cultural space. I will be writing against the grain of the national traditions in which they usually have been framed. Central European culture and literature that I will be discussing must include literatures written in several languages -. Both characters are also from the margins of their cultures: K. had several centers at the turn of the century. and other smaller cities where various religions and languages crossed paths and adjusted their expectations to each other and to the absent central (and largely German-language) culture of the Habsburg nation. Both are at the mercy of an unknown and unknowable central authority that has their names inscribed in its record books.
I argue that Central European culture continues to impose itself as an “imagined community” on the identities and lives of its intellectuals and authors.” and if other Slavic cultures are “actually” more like Russian culture or influenced by other cultural spheres. The overriding uncertainty about “what remains” after the purported dissolution of the Soviet block allowed a free discussion about cultural boundaries to emerge: the critics and writers were arguing other issues—if all Slavic culture is Russian culture. I argue for the validity of the key assumptions underlying my project: that Central European culture exists as a constant behind the political changes characterizing the region over the past century and a half. such an event really happened at a 1990 conference at Lisbon where a discussion was held about the relationship between political and cultural traditions in an era of massive political trauma. I will do violence to their positions within their various national traditions as well as to their individual aesthetic programs. In the rest of the introduction. It draws on statements by the modern masters of Slavic and Russian literature today. In discussing this panoply of voices. To their voices from the Soviet successor states. and that this culture has a certain very distinct set of implications for the identities of its authors. and Joseph Brodsky. I treat critics themselves in an event which documents the continued existence of Central Europe. I add that of Egon Schwarz. the region is thus always “postcolonial”: some external pow9 . and inhabitants. then. that this Central European culture is not exhausted by the influences of any one ethnic group or national culture. I treat these authors as part of an event in which the existence and cultural-political implications of a Central European cultural space emerged clearly. Conveniently. an émigré intellectual from that vanished Austro-Hungarian Central Europe who. including Milan Kundera. has convinced himself that Central Europe had always been a utopia. By playing off these points of view.The “introduction” is typical of my approach to national traditions. intellectuals. unlike the writers at Lisbon. even when it has no official existence in geopolitics. however. Considered politically. Tatyana Tolstaya. if Russian culture is “eastern” or “western.
never lost an alternate (if relatively undefined) source of identity as the land in between. I believe that the geopolitics of Central Europe run counter to its cultural history. of blendings. neither are the historical conventions of dividing epochs from the turn of the century until today followed. the culture of meetings. yet distinctive. The specific. with authors as far back as the turn of the century —also from the West (Musil). these narratives share the sense of a displaced geopolitics and uncertain personal identity politics as they tell the stories of Central European characters. In fact. who can never find out who wrote the orders he thought he was following). Central Europe has been a postmodern culture for at least a century. They are thus postmodern (even if almost a century old) because they concentrate on protean identity as a function of competing traditions rather than on the crisis of personal identity that characterizes the literature of modernism. by presenting the work of two Central European authors. but in10 . the Center (Hasek and Kafka). the region has. Yet at the same time. This is intentional: just as each author is not placed within an independent national/ethnic/linguistic tradition. Such culture may never have absorbed the high modernism that characterized the literatures of the Western colonial powers.er has always exerted dominance over it. The chapters that follow expand on this theoretical paradigm for the cultural existence of Central Europe as postcolonial. and the East (Russian modernists). As we shall see. These works make the case for the persistence of Central European culture as a culture of resistance to external domination—a postmodern culture as defined by Lyotard—one that resists the imposition of external master narratives by showing where those narratives cease to make sense in those everyday lives far from the power centers of the empire (such as Kafka’s K. I am comparing authors of the 1980s and the 1990s. drawn from the West (Italy) and the East (the Lisbon Conference authors) and the Center (Schwarz. Because of its unusual colonial cultural-historical situation. and cultural renegotiations. for the last century and a half. nonlinear treatment of time employed in this study deserves special note before I enter into the main body of my discussion: its chronological organization is reversed. Kundera).
Some of the narratives analyzed in this study demonstrate that the region has done so in prose for at least the last century. not only at the brief fin de siécle but also now as the power blocks realign. since it has always been colonized. The theoretical paradigm offered thus moves toward a new modes of how literary history can be done. colonized-colonizer) into a more flexible image of how dominant and non-dominant cultures have blended at the margins of Europe for the last century. and since it has nonetheless always been Western (and hence fully able to understand various “Western tradition” as insiders. but in opposition to the dominant western norms. as well as colonized aliens) Central Europe tells its story in postmodern terms. That is. and hence not able to exert its own cultural authority except within its own unwritten spaces. 11 . moving beyond simple dichotomies (East-West.stead constituted itself as a cultural space that is somewhat paradoxically Western.
my own search for operative dimensions of such overly discussed topics (postmodernity. but also to the provisory cognitive and narrative methods of the postmodern context.Introduction Locating the “post” in postmodern and postcolonial Before he embarked on an analytical journey to locate the constitutive and operative elements of postmodernity and postmodernism as they characterize the aesthetics of his world. ethnopolitical. colonialism and postcolonialism) for Central European cultural. Although the tradition of borrowing from other narratives is neither historically nor qualitatively the exclusive property of postmodernism. In other words.1 and aware that he is already operating within a cliché. geographical and literary strata will try to remain faithful not only to those issues. Kwame Anthony Appiah decided to play with the already-existing commonplaces of that overly-discussed condition. In order to illustrate Jean-François Lyotard’s remark that postmodernity is a metanarrative about the end of metanarratives. implying that narratives still resist the “shark-infested waters around the semantic island of the postmodern” (Appiah 140). Appiah offers his own account of post. I am going to revisit a seemingly overused and overdetermined region of literary and cultural theory usually referred to as postmodernism and postcolonialism in order to reclaim and resituate these theories as they apply to under-studied geocultural space of 13 . in the study which follows. postmodernism.
to prepare a paper. and referring to them all by using the same word ‘paradigm’?” (Margaret Masterman. After her catalog of these twenty-one uses. asked to participate in a discussion on Kuhn’s work. she was able to sit in her hospital bed -. 1. in Appiah 140) Appiah compares Masterman’s semantic chase to identify meanings of the word “paradigm” to Lyotard’s.and create a subject index to The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In the midsixties. given the adversity.65. qtd. with other authorities. the late Margaret Masterman. she developed infective hepatitis in the period leading up to the symposium and she was unable. Jameson’s and Habermas’ search for “postmodernity” and “postmodernism. to whose staff the paper she finally did write is dedicated -. I will invoke a story already ‘recycled’ by Appiah.” and calls 14 . she was invited to a symposium on Thomas Kuhn and. it is obviously reasonable to ask: “Is there anything in common between all these senses? Is there. philosophically speaking.61. a story about his friend. as a result.” 59 n. anything definite or general about the notion of a paradigm which Kuhn is trying to make clear? Or is he just a historian-poet describing different happenings which have occurred in the history of science. To evoke the descriptive and diagnostic power of a narrative as the possible introduction to the topic of postmodernity and postcolonialism in Central Europe. Appiah remembers: Unfortunately for Margaret. not less” in which Kuhn uses the word paradigm. possibly more.Central Europe that presently lies between the postcolonial Western and Eastern powers and has been repeatedly colonized.in block 8. Fortunately for all of us. Margaret identified no “less than twenty-one senses. she remarks laconically that “not all senses of ‘paradigm’ are inconsistent with one another”: and she continues: “Nevertheless. “The Nature of a Paradigm. Norwich hospital. In the course of working through the book with index cards.
To speak of postmodernity and the postmodern today. postcolonialism. when a historical shift requires the redefinition of both an intellectual program and the means of accomplishing it. Appiah also treats postmodernism as it were as simple or as complex as the person who searches for its meaning. Already complicated and complex enough. The comparative “simplicity” of her task is due to her cataloging the shifts of a scientific paradigm.2 Barth balances between modernity and its historical consequences.it “a work for a minute before breakfast” (140).as they are descriptive of a particular geocultural reality. While unwilling to further complicate the subject and sharing the same atmosphere of productive ambivalence and uncertainty that occurs. arguing that the apparent exhaustion of all literary forms requires the contemporary writer to “confront an intellectual dead end and employ it against himself to accomplish new human work” (Barth 7). senses the dual dynamics of a paradigm shift. at the end of the millennia. She took a part in a process which. Invoking Margaret Masterman and comparing it with his own research in locating the connections between the postmodern and postcolonial. they simultaneously have to move forward while confronting the complexity of any newly emerging aesthetic and/or scientific reality. like Appiah in 1992. does not require a geocultural or geopolitical context for the varieties of the paradigm to be reenacted. if they wish to retain that productivity along with their culturally distinctive interpretative powers. Both authors sense that. Historical paradigm shifts thus require new projects and even a new kind of subjectivity on behalf of the intellectuals involved. He in 1967. unlike the search for postmodernism. sounds just as exhausted as the exhausted literature discussed in John Barth’s celebrated 1967 essay. Margaret Masterman’s forest of paradigms appears simple and linear compared to literary theory’s present hunt for the meaning of the word postmodernism. both in light of the political shifts that started with the “disappearance” of The Berlin Wall 15 . I cannot escape the feeling that both Masterman’s and Appiah’s searches are fairly manageable in comparison with the project intended in this study: the tracing of three parallel terms-postmodern(ism). and Central Europe -.
and in their own unique historical tradition. The dimensions of my quest to articulate what the “paradigm” of Central Europe can mean to culture and history become especially acute in the light of the theoretical question guiding this work is: Does the “post” in “postmodern” equal the “post” in “postcolonial”? In other words, how does the anti-essentialist thrust of postmodern theory answer to fundamental notions of identity that are encountered in postcolonial political situations? Or asked another way: can a literary and cultural theory that announces an end to one kind of history be used to clarify the cultural dilemmas of individual subjects caught in the political changes characterizing a period of decolonization? Also, can a theory that has traditionally been used to confront Europe with other parts of the globe have application to cultures and models for subjectivity available in the Western part of the “Old Continent” as they interfere with non-dominant “Western” identities of Central Europe? In postmodern thought, one’s identity is defined not out of one’s own essence, but in relation to others. But what happens if those others are defined by an extremely fluid political and geographical situation, such as that which is historically found in Central Europe? What happens if those others do not themselves have any consistent reference point against which to define themselves, or if the underlying historical and cultural narratives against which they define their own identities are so unstable as to make them almost useless in defining personal subjectivity? In its practical dimensions, this project confronts these difficulties by analyzing examples from the literature of Central Europe as it addresses precisely these intertwined issues. This literature is itself from a landscape shifting and fictional, a literature whose cultural and historical fictionality is a result of its un-univocal political and intellectual identities. Its “fictional” identity nonetheless exerts influence on the identity constructions of its inhabitants, thereby creating a “reality” for individuals who live in this essentially “fictional” space. Moreover, this “fictional” space also produces a different cultural reality characterized by different artistic and intellectual programs than those
found in the more stable geopolitical regions with their own immanent historical continuity. To avoid the almost circular theoretical discussions about distinctive elements of postmodernity characterizing current theories, this work will abstain from discussing the “aesthetic of textuality, or of ‘the eclipse’... or the ‘death’ of the subject, or ‘the culture of the simulacrum,’ or ‘the society of the spectacle”3 (141). Instead, it will examine yet another, operatively potent segment of the ongoing debate, exploring postmodernity as a practical paradigm shift about “the social functionality of culture itself,”4 a shift that is closely tied to the historical ground on which Central European cultures are based. In clarifying this particular use of postmodernism, I will employ a variety of approaches to this epoch of axiological decline, especially to the absence of grand narratives of legitimations in a post-colonial era (Lyotard) and to post-individualist notions about an author as a potential disturbance—as a late modification of the modernist bourgeois-democrat intellectual whose deeds in high modernism were meant to discomfort the audience and eventually to correct their contingencies of truth. The paradigm shift between modernism and postmodernism in which grand narratives whose legitimacy was transcendent in relation to narrated objects were replaced by non-logocentric and truth-producing, locally-grounded narratives will be exemplified in Claudio Magris’ novel Danubio (Danube ). Speaking from within the margins of the former geopolitical totality of Mittereuropa, this novel calls the majority of geopolitical and cultural narratives regarding Central Europe into question. Magris explicitly demonstrates to the readers that “historically speaking”, the Danubian basin is itself in a postmodern condition, and that the kinds of geopolitical narratives conventionally used to describe its politics, history, and culture are inadequate tools for redrawing the map. A second facet of Central Europe’s contemporary postmodern and postcolonial condition will be represented in the form of the intellectual as a potential disturbance resisting externally imposed contingencies of truth—the Croatian author Miroslav Krleža. Reacting to mainstream Central European culture, he uses his geopoliti17
cal and cultural displacement to interrogate the authority of the narrator and narrated subject within the culturally colonized reality of Southern Central Europe. Where Magris explores the narratives of postmodern and postcolonial Europe as they relate to the Danubian basin, Krleža offers an analysis of the region’s subjects in their different colonial condition. By combining these views from two different kinds of margins, the paradigm of colonial as well as postcolonial Central Europe offered here suggests a historical postmodern condition of a distinct type for the region. The novel Danubio is placed at the juncture between the modernist tradition and the postmodern ambiance of its own symbolic order; although it belongs to contemporary Italian literature and, as such represents an item of a universally acknowledged literary tradition; in this particular Central European context, Danubio actually comes from a marginal middle European landscape. In spite of its geo-cultural marginality in relation to German-dominated Central Europe Danubio represents the mainstream of Central European narratives through its connections to canonical traditions. Its mainstream qualities are connected to the novel’s commitment to follow the interactions between Italy and other successor states of the Habsburg (and Russian empires). Danubio convincingly demonstrates how various historical narratives have failed to represent the reality of the region. Magris uses the river as the organizing principle of his narrative, one which expresses both the flux and the continuity among various geopolitical constructions of Central European identity. Against the background of the historiography of Central Europe (the political constructs used to discuss the region), the discursive space of the novel outlines some of the most pronounced tensions in the broader body of Central European literature. Following Magris’ narrative strategies allows one to view the possible “realities” offered by various geopolitical and literary constructs of Central Europe and to present Magris’ unique formulations of the regional inhabitant’s narrative strategies as a result of this geopolitical fiction and its attendant intellectual dynamics. From a more “minor” strand of Central European literature (in Deleuze’s sense of a “minor” literature), chapters three and four
present a dissenting view—the perspective of Miroslav Krleža, a hegemonic figure within Croatian literature. His case is intriguing since he represents the power center of a literature that was, practically speaking, at the geographical outskirts of Central Europe. Compared to the permanent outsider status of more marginalized figures in Croatian literature, Krleža was a true representative of Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of a minor writer. He parallels Kafka’s position in German literature. His narratives offer a diagnostic of an artistic and intellectual identity constructed within the geographic margin outlined by Magris. The concluding chapter offers a return to the theoretical questions of the relation of postmodernism in Central European literature to postcolonial models of geopolitical identities—it suggests a theoretical scheme for explaining the prevalence of postmodern narrative strategies among postcolonial writers. Using the contemporary culturo-logical achievements of “displaced” authors such as Czeslav Milosz, Milan Kundera, George Konrad and Ivo Banac, the conclusion briefly resituates the more canonical representatives of Central European tradition -- Hermann Broch, Robert Musil, Franz Kafka, and Jaroslav Hasek -- within the broader scope of Central European Literature from the perspective of postcolonial criticism and the theories of postmodern narrative. This conclusion offers the clear thesis that the cultural space of Central Europe has been permanently colonized by others, and that, in consequence, its literature has offered a distinctly anti-essentialist, colonial and (later, after the 1990 non-revolutions) postcolonial perspective on subjectivity and truth in fictional representations since the turn of the century. I suggest that the Central European literature of the twentieth century is “inherently” postmodern and, as such, in conflict with the modernism prevalent in the narratives of the imperial powers at the first half of the twentieth century. The significance of this study is two-fold. First, it offers a discussion of the links of post-colonialism and postmodernism in a European context, where it has not been used before. It divorces the question of a Western colonial tradition from the assumption of a dominant political hegemony whose imperial dynamics (in the di19
mensions familiar to the readers of the existing postcolonial criticism) have been directed out of Europe . Moreover, it introduces and validates theories of post-colonial discourse as a tool for interpreting writings from Central Europe. Although the mechanisms used to colonize Central European peoples from the times of the Romans to date cannot be compared with the “mainstream” views on colonialism offered by scholars of British and French literatures, the social, cultural, ideological and economical effects of cultural colonization in Central Europe are strikingly similar to those of India, Africa, and Latin America. The same can be said for their literatures. This study thus promotes an analysis in postmodern world literature from the “marginal” Central European perspective, suggesting a temporal rather than a geopolitical template for the future study of the global postcolonial condition.
cultural. after outlining various of perspectives regarding Central Europe. he concludes: When I look at what I have read and experienced. But in spite of his superb handling of regional historical and cultural problematics. I come to the inevitable conclusion that all efforts which might have led to the creation of a Central European community have either long stopped or are being 21 .5 exemplifies that sense of a productive intellectual loss that drove Masterman to find difference under sameness. definition. An essay by Egon Schwartz. Schwarz 6 acknowledges the semantic.Chapter 1: The Worlds of Central Europe Two faces of utopia: a paradigm for Central Europe There is a clear connection between Masterman’s index-card search for the various meanings of Kuhn’s word paradigm and the ongoing debate about the notion. nature and location of Central Europe. delivered in the spring of 1985 in Linz as a lecture organized by the PEN Club of Upper Austria. geographical. when I compare these controversial and largely incompatible concepts. political and ethnopolitical confusion that follows each and every thought concerning Central Europe and demonstrates his very deep and analytical knowledge of the region’s history.
artistic effort and emotional content. an identity of our own.. has disappeared. and a more peaceful and less deceptive self-conscience. Since there is no definable Central Europe. it also attempts to free the people from their inevitable political encumbrances by transporting them to another dimension. (In Search of Central Europe 153-54) 22 . in spite of all its faults. It is permissible to call the quest for such a vague entity as Central Europe -. Most of those who use the term today know that these possibilities have disappeared and that they must restrict the meaning to the sphere of cultural. and its cultural openness. it had ceased to exist in reality. which threaten to crush everything in their path and under whose rule we find ourselves searching for spiritual freedom. which saw Central Europe as a territory in which to execute its power. a coexistence of several nations and ethnic groups might have been possible. The emancipated Jewry. Even basically negative influences such as German imperialism..an entity which contradicts the historical “givens” -. with its tolerance.a utopian project. This is accompanied by at most a few historical memories and strong uneasiness in view of the increasingly hysterical confrontations between the ideological powers. And even the advancing Soviet Union has not been able to effect a coming together of European nations. because the search for Central Europe stems from the same suffering under the historical conditions as a utopia. we are free to postulate a utopian one. are dying. Like any utopia. For all these reasons I feel that we should make the best of the situation. no longer exist.. The last witnesses to the Habsburg Monarchy in which.. its cosmopolitanism. Long before the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved officially in 1806. In these circumstances Central Europe can be seen today only as a cultural concept.phased out.
to be looking backwards by choice. however. all of whom governed with the same 23 . the Habsburg Monarchy. it would not be fair to base a critique simply on the author’s belief that the realities of Central Europe belong to history. in 1985. (because “whenever a group of people is formed in the name and spirit of utopia. In order to replace his historiographical analysis with his authorial voice. The fact that after 1990 Central Europe re-gained its more active position on the global map. it is hardly convincing that an author capable of this kind of precise historical and political analysis. only five years before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. it gains ipso facto the power of existence” ). completely defeated by any of its numerous intruders. its reemergence reveals that the troubled region never actually ceased to exist in the way that Schwarz suggests. making it the “legal” narrative for the region. Since the essay was delivered as a speech in 1985. rather than alluding to forward progress. In a protean sense. or to a timeless category (utopia) in order to enter safer waters of essayistic impressionism and thus avoids current cultural politics. as it was reconfigured in geopolitical shifts. speaks in favor of the potential realism of such utopias. either because their constitutive elements (the Holly Roman Empire. the region may have entered and reentered into different mimicry games. Hitler’s and Stalin’s conquests) or their witnesses (the contemporaries of the Habsburgs. it would be very hard to prove that Central Europe had ever actually vanished from the world. could not have anchored his optimistic belief in a utopia’s inherent power to call things into existence in a more realistic context. the author concludes in an emotionally generous manner. it is difficult to escape the impression that he unnecessarily “poeticizes” the topic or removes its immediacy to a past time. Rational in an analysis that encompasses the historical events between the Holy Roman Empire and Mikhail Gorbachev. Although Schwarz admits that such a utopia should not be understood as esoteric or ineffective. He seems. not because there was no post-Soviet future on the horizon.This rather long quotation is typical of many analyses of Central Europe as it looks backwards to a vanished utopia. Still. the Jewry) have disappeared. Schwarz elevates his feelings about the problem to the level of rationality.
Milan Kundera and George Konrad who frequently speak of Central Europe. the text selected for analysis is not written by a poet. Schwarz still reflects the region historically in a restrained manner.idea—that they were more central to history than those they encountered on their imperialistic journeys east from Germany and France or west from Turkey and Russia. The sense of the region’s hierarchy of values and respect toward tradition that characterizes Schwarz’s essay is also still present among Central Europeans. and that there is so far no clear cultural or geopolitical 24 . Schwarz’s essay written in a hybrid genre as a poeticized historiography uncovers a disoriented semantics similar to that uncovered by Margaret Masterman.7 In order to echo this climate and to demonstrate the ambiguity that surrounds all such discursive treatments of Central Europe. is supposedly freed from all the connotations that a vocational tie might produce. by virtue of his non-commitment to a specific aesthetic program. or a historian. one that may be summarized in two questions: (1)given this semantic instability of definitions. Although in a possession of such a freedom. he does not attempt to redefine it. and (2) who is speaking about these problematics? Like the confused semantic web employed in Kuhn’s writings on paradigms. but the fact that Central Europe is being discussed from a variety of perspectives. Different conclusions might be reached by poets such as Czeslav Milosz. Joseph Brodsky. what is actually the topic of the discussion. it is legitimate to draw on Masterman/Appiah’s question in order to reframe our own: is Egon Schwarz perhaps just a historian-poet describing a random set of different happenings in history and referring to them using the same word ‘Central Europe’ without really making historical redefinitions? It would be premature to decide either for or against this comparison. After following Schwarz’s shifts in definition: from a pedantic taxonomy to a prophetic visions of utopias. Their personal contributions are also analyzed in this project.” poses the predominant question about the definitiveness or generalizability of any notion of Central Europe. but by an intellectual who. Schwarz’s “What Central Europe Is and What It Is Not. Nonetheless. The tone of both essays provokes a similar reaction.
speaking of the previously unspoken and “lending” their voices to those underprivileged and colonized who have not been in a position to represent themselves without mediators. once taken from the dimension of political and philosophical fiction and applied to Central European reality. including a nostalgic tone used in utopian narratives. The cultures who dominate self-impose their imagined historical obligations to involve parts of Central Europe in relationships with themselves. a pleasant place. ignoring the region’s claims to an individual identity. Schwarz hopes that such narratives of utopia. He believes such a new narrative could bring them. In their colonial search for an object of conquest. regardless of geographic location. yet-unknown dimension of history and of their own histori25 .8 Many more renowned philosophers and critics have gained universal acknowledgment in locating cultures. at least mentally. viewing Central Europe as a political utopia contains the intrinsic program of freeing its inhabitants from the obligatory history superimposed by external agencies of power. vegetating on the outskirts or at the crossroads of civilizations and cultures that see themselves obligated to dominate. may provide Central Europeans with an adequate theoretical apparatus employable in a process of self-liberation. the colonizers feel obliged to serve history and to make this same history obligatory for the colonized. but have also failed to understand the peculiar and ambiguous realities of Central Europe. From the general perspectives of the Western and Eastern Europe. Schwarz’s problem is thus by no means his alone. or it is some odd mixture of marginal countries squeezed in between East and West. “Central Europe” either does not exist. More precisely. into another.9 Schwarz used the chronic indeterminacy in defining Central Europe as a possible culturological space of freedom in which to postulate a utopian region. which made them eu-topos.consensus determining what Central Europe is. He sees the search for Central Europe as utopian not because it is a no-place (ou-topos) but because it shares the same historical conditions with imagined geopolitical entities known as utopias. underscores the confusion that surrounds the vague conceptual and historical borders of the borderlands in question.
but as an actual geo-political demarcation of contested nationalisms. not as an international treaty or a mere political declaration. Unfortunately. if this reconception works. his narrative is drawn from an imaginary past. “The calls for a ‘post-essentialist’ reconception of notions of identity have become increasingly common” (255). a nominally “Eastern” Europe) in a contemporary context which recognizes a much more diverse European geography of margins and dominant cultures and their very useful and effective de-colonizing discourse which they increasingly employ to re-read and re-interpret such reemerging cultures in spite of their geographical dis-location.” Generally speaking.” Yet given the entirety of Appiah and Gates’ work. Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates write. not looking to a particular future. Beyond the sphere of intellectuals of Central European descent like Schwarz. there is nothing wrong with their general statement—except that it is too general to be useful in redrawing the concepts of identities active in any newly-emerging “Eastern European States” because it reduces the identities of Central and East Europe to a single category. the most pronounced revivals of nationalisms have not even taken place in Eastern Europe. As they see it today. is “the resurgence of nationalism in Eastern Europe. one of the most urgent issues which might be understood. What is confusing is the discrepancy between the terminology they use to locate their subject (in this case. In the introduction to this volume. A thematic issue of Critical Inquiry entitled “Identities.cal imagination. this reductionist position is very surprising. unless prominent post-colonial locators of cultures like Appiah and Gates were suddenly to embrace the Yalta Agreement (1945).”10 illustrates this. one which accurately determines the “natural” location of peoples and cultures presently engaged in neo-nationalistic discussions as simply part of an “East” or “West. What is the real signifier of Eastern Europe to them? This omission becomes especially worrisome because their statement introduces an essay entitled “The Time of the Gypsies” by Katie Trumpener11 with focus on the representations of “people without History” in the 26 . According to Appiah and Gates. however Central Europe still has a marginal position in the mainstream of today’s cultural investigations.
and Split on Appiah and Gates’ identity map? Appiah and Gates have thus mapped and re-mapped post-colonial identities while failing to distinguish between Eastern and Central Europe. their narrative and its consequences were deeply grounded in a colonial discourse familiar to the older superpowers such as 27 . At the same time in Hungary.) belong to the Eastern Block. Azerbejdzan. the aforementioned countries did indeed belong to the Eastern Block. In so doing. after the artificial and very pragmatic division of Europe introduced during the Crimean Conference.” Where are Bratislava. Although the Three Men of Yalta were on a mission to stop the war. a construct specifically opposed to historic and cultural context of the region. the main outburst of violence between the members of different groups was already taking place in the former Yugoslavia. while the most pronounced partitioning between the two peoples happened in former Czechoslovakia. Hungary. where are Zagreb. The Czech Republic. Karlowy Vary? Where is Budapest? If a resurgence of European-style nationalism is taking place in Eastern Europe then. Although they were officially part of the “Eastern Block. Although in 1992 there were some problems (even some local wars) in the former Soviet Union (Ukraine. These two events took place in Central.” none of these countries had ever really belonged to “Eastern Europe. which had pretentiously and inaccurately become identified with Eastern Europe. Slovenia. Dubrovnik. they have unilaterally decided that the newly emergent (or should we say re-emerging) independent countries located in between the blocks politically known as East and West (countries such as Croatia. neo-Nazis started brutal propaganda campaigns followed by deeds targeting mainly. not yet Czechnia).narratives of the West. not Eastern Europe. This essay was submitted to the editors of the thematic issue as a part of Trumpener’s book on Central Europe as a transnational area. etc. to determine and further pursue provisions for a permanent peace in post-Hitler Europe. However. but not exclusively. Slovakia. this fact should not overshadow the truth about this political construct imposed by the Great Powers. Poland. Shortly after World War II. Prague. as she details the position of Gypsies in Central Europe. Jews and Gypsies.
from Cape Horn clear over to Surit’s Sound and beyond it. We are bound to. is echoed in transparent imperial narratives. a strategy always followed by different power centers in their need to justify a conquest or an occupation. Such a statement is colonial because it assumes the existence of a powerful us and powerless them for whom our help is absolutely essential on their way to freedom. some day we shall step in. art. I guess. on the other hand.” In spite of its inherent irony and Conrad’s self-distancing from the character’s imperialistic arrogance. politics. this statement is essentially colonial. (Nostromo 77) The Western imperial powers of the nineteenth century easily continued their self-justifying narratives well into the twentieth: “The world can’t help it-and neither can we. too. trade. and religion. just like the phrase “The New World Order” which was manipulated by the George Bush administration to justify American military intervention in Kuwait in 1991. or the more recent one aimed to stop the Serbian orchestrated genocide of the Kosovars. Time itself has got to wait on the greatest country in the whole of God’s universe. But there’s no hurry. this invasion of their public and private sphere is not avoidable. journalism. Such rhetoric is as clearly at play in Central and Eastern Europe as 28 . The language employed in the Conference. if anything worth taking hold of turns up at the North Pole. The world can’t help it--and neither can we. I guess. Of course. For us. later invoked in President Clinton’s 1995 address to the nation in support of yet another intervention in Bosnia. And then we shall run the world’s business whether the world likes it or not.Great Britain and France. Their rhetoric conveys a sense of duty and obligation to divide and rule. We shall be giving the word for everything--industry. because it is both understood and represented as a historical necessity and logical consequence of our position in the world. such as this one offered by Joseph Conrad: We can sit and watch. law. as well as the political implications that followed the Yalta Agreement.
Roosevelt and Stalin also left countries like Austria under occupation until 1955 and the German Democratic Republic in limbo until 1989. not historical identity or cultural affiliation. in consequence. More precisely. Such an incomplete mission left enough provisional space for all kinds of interventions by the power-centers surrounding the region and. fluid and utopian. they launched colonization of Africa. Australia. the Big Three never reached agreement. from the Western point of view. they guided Churchill. but the entire region was subordinated to the Soviet Union and proclaimed to be Eastern Europe. Moreover. Finally. lost its independent historical 29 . although they endorsed free elections and proclaimed political independence for the “liberated” nations of Europe. they did not establish an effective plan to ensure that goal. Central Europe officially perished in Yalta. once again left the borders of Central Europe undefined. Roosevelt and Stalin in their division of the World after the Second World War. these inconsistencies tacitly endorsed and facilitated Stalin’s post-war imperial policy in which Russian or Soviet Communism colonized Central Europe. Although their stated global mission was to provide both Europe and the World with a stable and definite peace settlement. Churchill. once again. because. In this sense. The colonial gesture reenacted in the Crimean Conference is thus too obvious to remain unnoticed. Americas. Such geopolitical narratives about a higher cause or a mission were equally representative of the public sphere in times of the Crusades: they were used to deify Isabella’s and Ferdinand’s business aspirations embodied in Columbus’ so-called voyages of discovery. Not only did free elections and political independence become fictional.it is in the further-renewed (post)colonial maps of the “Middle” and “Far Easts” with which Appiah and Gates are more familiar. Asia. The injustice was not only to Central and Eastern Europe. As Schwarz confirmed in this gesture Central Europe. These are maps of political conquest. That was the case of a classic imperialist substitution. in which an imposed geopolitical narrative annihilated the rich cultural strata of the independent countries in Central Europe and prescribed their future as Western colonies of the new greater Russian empire.
these countries’ narratives have not been recovered or reclaimed their part of the universal attention paid by theorists to other postcolonial regions. poets. it is inappropriate to equate a superimposed post. decided to objectify it. after the Russian decolonization. for instance. For contemporary intellectuals dedicated to speaking up in favor of the underprivileged.and geopolitical narrative. The mistake of dislocating the region in question.even though these dynamics may be taking place in an officially nonexistent part of the world. the existence of Central Europe is still being questioned on many levels. Yet in spite of its comeback. and philosophers who. and thus the intellectual discourse of many critics. it also affected the public sphere. either by removing it to the realm of fiction or by erasing it from the maps. becoming less and less utopian in many a sense (as eu-topos or ou-topos). The Yalta Agreement did not pacify only the political and military superstructure. the Czecho-Slovakian divorce followed by Yugoslavian custody battles -. It has taken almost half of the century for the region to re-enter the gaze of discussions. This open issue puts the future application of Appiah and Gates’ theoretical position in a particularly questionable light. in 2003. One soon realizes that Appiah’s and Gates’ type of anti-essentialist analysis is extraordinarily precise and perfectly useful for explaining. In spite of their misconception about Eastern and Central Europe. Appiah and Gates do provide a methodology for the successful understanding and possible overcoming of the current identity crisis in the var30 .. They allowed a hegemonic substitution in which politics imposed by the superpowers erased other possible realities of Central Europe.war political compromise among the plural identities of a trans-national region with actual borders and intersections of different traditions and cultures. however. an unnatural construct (the Eastern Block) became real by consensus in a political act which relocated Central Europe from its historical realness to the realm of fiction. Even now. becomes even greater when pursuing the question of postcolonialism in relation to the departure of the world superpowers from Central Europe. without questioning its geopolitical status. As a consequence of this substitution.
As an essentialist group-cognition or self-recognition proceeds. before it is even addressed by its members. And. unfortunately. in fact. The closer the enemy is. To understand the identity of any particular group in essentialist terms. When defining a singular identity for a nation. are the most suitable vehicles for the elimination of such identity dilemmas. “others” are looked upon as obstacles in the imagined development of a national “self” and.ious regions of Europe. such an identification or evaluation of us thus automatical31 . as it is in other so-called “successor states” of the former Soviet Union. have to be neutralized for the imagined “self” to become real. The fact that 90% of Kosovar Albanians lived in the province was not powerful enough to secure their logical majority position. The experience of the former Yugoslavia particularly speaks in favor of their theory’s anti-essentialism in discussing identity in a national culture. In order to emphasize its importance I will briefly demonstrate the use of their rather disembodied model by grounding it in an example from the most extreme Central European crisis today. The Serbian attempt to carry out the genocide against the so-called Albanian minority is an example of how arbitrary a group proclaims itself as a majority. In Central Europe.” Once singled out. Civil wars. the more convincing and thus real the imagined danger becomes. and the lack of a group’s own identity. Such an evaluation of national essence as individual and group possession of objects essentially linked to the soil is. recognized and defined. without evaluating us as fixed or stable entities of some sort. the other is a fiction made up to define us. In these cases. projects itself onto the unknown but threatening “other. there is no better way to conduct such a search than in a war of some sort. but always in comparison with others. essentialism presupposes possessing something as the crucial category underlying the problem. presently happening again in all parts of the former Yugoslavia. this evaluation is never conducted in and of itself. it always happens at the expense of others--others who must be available and present to the “historically” self-proclaimed majority in search of its own identity. as such. Moreover. for instance. one must argue that we are not able to understand who we are.
in an essentialist condition. we are not us in terms of a positive self-recognition. members of a “nation” that has been called into existence by our convincing ourselves that we can and ought to become masters of all the objects in our newly-created geo-historical space -. it also means that the survival of one group. In such a context. but as the major tool in taking away territories which a group “needs” in order to adjust them according to “its own” deeds. would perhaps answer the question who we are. such as Croatia. once postulated. it is natural that geopolitical narratives have distinctive consequences for personal identities.ly also isolates and evaluates as positive everything that we claim that is ours. to be (a Croatian. In such an environment. but rather in terms of the objects that must be adjusted to our needs in that process of self-definition. or social background. racial. In terms of personal identities that arise.a space to which we are “naturally” (essentially) entitled. An identity search. directly depends on the demise of another group(s). The new us does not have the same reference as the we had at the beginning of this identity search. Serbia. and becomes instead a set of alienated wanderers.circumscribed space is defined not in terms of an “original” or “natural” environment. This newly. physical extermination logically follows 32 . an act which is impossible to perform without simultaneously fencing in the space of our selves. Practically. naturally gains support of a geographical map viewed not as schemes for geopolitical and cultural location. In such a war. From the eminently Central European example of the so-called successor states of Yugoslavia. similarly. Such a contested political space is thus itself a consequence of this process of self-recognition rationalized by new historical narrative. the new us skips the moment of positive definition which. regardless of its ethnic. but rather we become us through the negation of not-us – entities singled out and labeled as the historically empowered annihilating energy which constantly endangers our invented us. Bosnia. through the evaluation as “other” of all the entities which do not belong to “our” communicative space. it is evident that the essentialist act which takes possession of a cultural space leads directly to a war. for instance) theoretically equals to have (things the Croatian way).
we rush to differentiate ourselves from themselves and continue to strive to base our identity via comparison. and that they eliminate their possible and real reference as the 33 . Today’s most blatant example. paradoxically based on exclusivity. On the contrary. In other words.12 According to the colonial narratives that are dominant in representing the region throughout its history. Appiah and Gates’ antiessentialist scheme can help us understand newly-emerging identity constructs in Central Europe and other so-called democratic changes in Croatia and Slovenia. And this gaze has hardly been modified since the last three great invasions of Central Europe took place – the centuries long occupation by the Habsburgs and the twentieth-century. before we even attempt to answer the question who we are in positive terms. and for representing the underrepresented and misrepresented ethnicities that make up the region. to ourselves we will continue to be better and thus more authentic than the others. Such reductionism. Aside from providing us with the tools to comprehend the Serbo-Croatian or Bosnian war as identity politics as well as fiscal policy. is psychologically and geopolitically at stake in Central Europe. Hitler’s and Stalin’s military. And that is why it is a particular pity that. political and ideological missions aimed toward colonizing the region and adjusting it according to their imperial needs. Appiah’s and Gates’ requests for a post-essentialist reconception of identity are thus of enormous importance for remapping the vanishing parts of Central Europe. by erasing Central Europe. speaks in favor of the necessity of their conception. the country formerly known as Yugoslavia. the gaze of these important scholars became a reductionist one.the theoretical process of identifying ourselves through alienating the others because it is based upon the false premise that we are not what we want or ought to be. such a “primitive” psychological strategy for self-description becomes identified as a distinctive quality of its inhabitants. claiming that we are and will always bee all that the others have failed to become. regardless what we do or don’t in and for ourselves. who are usually depicted by the Great Powers as tribes essentially immersed in old and incurable Medieval hatred.
Instead of joining Egon Schwarz in creating utopias (this time seen not as potential spaces of social and cultural freedom. where it temporally and geopolitically belongs. based on their lived experience within the region. Those others are usually insiders who introduce new versions of subjectivity determined by historical locus — new historiographies of subjectivity. Appiah and Gates could have included Central Europe in their largely discussed post-colonial space. along with the non-Western countries they have already recognized as part of the “postcolonial condition” of the modern world. but rather as literally and theoretically nonexistent landscapes) by recognizing it as a unique region with its distinctive qualities. it has been left to others to offer their services concerning the missing work. the most recent and perhaps the most fruitful contributions in the search for Central Europe and its historiography are being uttered by the hybrid voices of poets or historian-poets. Significantly. and survives only as a hybrid whose appeal to the public is largely unrelated to his or her place in the structural web that traditionally divides poetry from historiography as exclusive genres. them34 . History comes to you: Kafka. In this new context. Svejk and the Butcher’s wife Since theorists from the outside of the region.core of the problem to be analyzed. as well as those who believe that the region no longer exists. the term historian-poet loses the intrinsic meaning that Western modernity presumed it should have. have abdicated explorations of identity in Central Europe. To be a historian-poet in the world of paradigms and the kind of scientific revolutions that were the last easily-recognized bastions of modernism may sound like a disqualifier. The contemporary “postmodern” condition as described by Lyotard and others rejects the exclusivity of insight that would allow only scientific paradigms to claim to be an statement of dominant focus of knowledge.
Aware of his region’s globally subordinate position.. sold. George Konrad employs a straightforward confessional narrative to make contact with a variety or readers whose knowledge of Central Europe is impossible to predict. the Second in Gdansk. His voice is especially interesting as an competent insider’s own representation of the colonial struggle historically imposed on Central Europeans.13 To overcame the familiar feelings of uneasiness and noble boredom which confront every writer writing on topics familiar to himself and yet new to his audience. the world better pay attention. Repeating his well-known belief that the notion of the region is a profound historical phenomenon which transcends the boundaries of political blocks and calls them into a question by surviving all the superficial changes of the maps.” for instance. In his “Letter from Budapest. who in the current media are usually depicted as tribes with the distinctive medieval characteristics of hate and savagery. Konrad spoke about the problems of locating Central Europe. traded. (Cross Currents 2  12. The First World War started in Sarajevo..” Konrad writes: We [Central Europeans] have been argued over.) The voice of the colonized is easily recognized in Konrad’s summary of the historical sub-position of Central Europe’s peoples. the Hungarian author George Konrad gives a personal account about his sense of the plural and peculiar identities of Central Europe.selves the witnesses or/and victims of the abrupt and mainly unpredictable regional changes that have called the dominant historiography of the past into question. At the 1990 Lisbon Conference on Literature 14 sponsored by the Wheatland Foundation of New York—the conference that marks the reemergence of Central Europe onto the world stage as a contemporary cultural problem. agreed upon. Konrad offered a historical analysis: 35 . dismembered. squeezed between “Soviet-style state socialism” and “North Atlantic liberalism. we have been the subject of peace conferences and settlements.
Many. slippery.. intruding itself into their most private rooms in a world where the difference between public and private sphere is nonexistent. for example. a tank came through the wall into the room because the road was icy.I guess that the only wealth that people in our part of Europe have is history and memory. I asked him what happened. in which they were heroes in spite of themselves. Probably that’s a typical relationship of people with history: they don’t jump in but history jumps in. people date their own biography according to some important dates of our century — such as 1946 or 1956 — but I’m sure that they are ready for some new dates! A time ago I lived in a village and in this village there was a butcher. We share a common history with people with similar ethnic and national backgrounds... In Hungary. in the older generations in these countries—those who are more than 50. while the butcher’s wife was in the bedroom changing sheets. It means that it’s hard to avoid the intrusion of historical events. heroes in the Svejkian sense of Jaroslav Hasek’s novel. It’s really astonishing how often small historical details come up in conversation among people in our countries. (Cross Currents 9 : 92-93. His house was on a street corner and the street was on an incline.. and the front of the house was destroyed. 36 . some quite colorful personal anecdote. 60 or even older—are sure to have. events which otherwise would be outside the context of their personal lives. Once. For instance. They didn’t want the war but the war came to them. “History came in. The next time I saw the butcher.” he said. In the proximity of this village there was a military base. in an otherwise banal and normal life-history. you may find yourself in this comical Kafkaesque situation where somebody comes for you.) The example of the butcher’s wife is just such an episode that speaks about the intersections of local regional dynamics and a variety of colonial concepts where a superimposed narrative of history visits individuals.
taken from the deontic world of literature. It begins rather dramatically: 37 . all parties were oversimplifying their own insiders’ political narratives in order to establish “their” Central Europe as part of Europe and the World after the fall of the political blocks. it should be remembered that Central Europe is an alien theme not only for outsiders such as Appiah and Gates whose all-encompassing academic mission tends to oversimplify facts but for insiders as well—as Schwarz’s analysis suggests. The beginning of this on-going argument was Kundera’s wellknown essay “The Tragedy of Central Europe.” The author’s vision of the decline of his essentially western country. notion. Paul Hoffman remembers this famous soldier: A Prague-born writer. among whom the most prominent and most outspoken opponents were Milan Kundera and Joseph Brodsky. started a long-lasting controversy about the existence. a group of poets. This less-private intrusion of history into the life of a person has been canonized in Jaroslav Hasek’s famous novel Good Soldier Svejk. Before Svejk’s famous detours from the official and obligatory history imposed on citizens of Central European countries are examined. located in the distinctive region of Central Europe. first appeared in the New York Review of Books (1984). In these controversies. and significance of Central Europe. Writing about the roots of Central European ambivalence and commenting on the most prominent symbols of Mitteleuropa. this may well be the brief plot summary of the book. speaks of another individual to whom history came. (Viennese 34) Despite of some conceptual problems in Hoffman’s idea of “fooling the bureaucracy”. In the early 1980s. Jaroslav Hasek showed in The Good Soldier Svejk (1921) how a sly dealer in stolen dogs who had been redrafted into his regiment after being medically discharged on account of “chronic feeblemindedness” manages to fool the bureaucracy and survive World War I.Another example.
As a part of Russian Orthodoxy’s imperialistic game.“It is November 1956. but by culture and destiny. Unlike the Russian and/ or Pan-Slavic monolithic cultural stratum that Kundera shows victimizing Hungary. qtd. sent the message to the world. is its post-war barbarization of the Western European civilization—a barbarization which is most probably the effect of American political and cultural domination. for Kundera a mere political mystification that emerged in the nineteenth century.. just a couple of seconds before the fire from the Russian tanks will destroy his office in Budapest. who stated 15 38 . Central Europe is not the same as Eastern Europe: Central Europe is the most European part of Europe made of families of small peoples not determined by geography.”(“The Tragedy of Central Europe. Central Europe’s identity is thought by Kundera to be based on a cosmopolitan culture which had Jews as its constitutive element in the Twentieth Century. His “real” Eastern Europe is Russia. It ended with these words: We are dying for Hungary and for Europe. Kundera offers his vision of the tragedy of Central Europe in these terms. Kundera concludes that the result of those mechanisms is the decline of European self-recognition and the loss of the European powers’ sense of responsibility for the destiny of Central Europe. according to Kundera. he believes. Slavism — or the ideology of the Slavic world—is. The real tragedy of Central Europe. According to him. especially against the idea of Central Europe as an independent sphere. what is important for locating Central Europe is not only that Hungary is not represented as an Eastern European country. in Gordogan 18-19 ) In this historically accurate testimony of a dying insider. but also that Eastern Europe is seen as the villain. To simplify his essay and focus on the pragmatic consequences of his ideas.. Later in the text. a Russia which is not really Europe because. modern European culture finds its roots in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment—two periods in Western European history that never took place in Russia. The director of the Hungarian press agency. Kundera states explicitly that Orthodox Russian civilization is in contradiction with the (transnational) idea of Europe and works against it. using telex. we can follow the historian Ivo Banac.
but also whenever it gets close to its own cultural identity through personal histories such as Kundera’s. without knowing it. It is a skepticism that is attributable to the experience of an extremely concentrated history: we have seen the collapse of a great empire in the course of our century. Kundera has actually created a new conservative utopia out of his East-Central Europe. the Stalinist reign of terror and its downfall. has no future. in The Man Without Qualities. the glimmer of Socialism. Musil. democracy. In Kundera’s own words. speaks of a society that. that cultural identity is always 39 . In this activity. fascism. massive deportations. It is from Central Europe that a lucid form of skepticism has arisen in the midst of our era of illusions. In his contradictory Slavic anti-Slavism.that Kundera emphasizes an unfortunate harmonic dualism in which the nostalgic idea of the Slavic outsiders’ yin has to cope with the aggressive yang of Russian imperialistic conquests. Hasek finds a last trace of freedom. and finally. we have seen the most essential thing of all-the death throes of the West within our own countries and before our own eyes. the awakening of nations. Hermann Broch understood contemporary history in terms of a breakdown of values. Kafka conceived of the world as an infinite bureaucratic labyrinth. published in Cross Currents 2  28-29) This passage notes that Central Europe has not had its own historiography. Not only does it lack its systematic historical narrative. (from the interview given to Alain Finkielkraut. the cultural space of Central Europe can be circumscribed as follows: Gustav Mahler wrote a farewell song to a world that was disappearing. Jaroslav Hasek’s brave soldier Svejk imitates the ceremonies of the surrounding world with such zeal that he transforms them into an enormous joke. we have seen the Nazi occupation. in which man is hopelessly lost. which could hardly be less heroic.
Even the authors such as Kundera. Yet paradoxically.already lost. And yet. According to Kundera. suppressed in this way. who through their personal narratives have attempted to offer an accurate picture of Central European reality. a common culture. the West itself has undergone a process of self-colonization carried out through the oversimplified market-oriented logic of late capitalism. it is an old Western European country and it wishes to retain this identity. But the cultural dimension has dropped out of the contemporary 40 . or was silenced by the regime within the borders of their own country. killed by “The three wise men of Yalta” who detached it from the Western World while showing no interest in its great culture. nor do I think it wants to become so again. Kundera also accuses the West of colonizing Central Europe in its own way. but also that the past. Kundera sounds suspicious thinking about “the lost cultural identity” of Central Europe. The West continues a common history. This kind of historical delay as a consequence of the oppression produced a strong belief among the Central European intellectuals that not only the present and the future have to be gained in the on-going identity search. In his pessimistic account of the region. have found their voices silenced by censors. Vaclav Havel. a delay which again determines the peculiar sense of time in Central Europe. and the like. Kundera strongly suggests that Central Europe is dead. Almost everyone who did not emigrate in the Sixties served time in prison. Those particular gestures conducted by the occupying forces of the Russian Communist Army produced a delay between the events and the stories about these events. Although the West has always been identified with power and imperialism. needs to be recovered. The reality of Central Europe is thus fixed within a paradox of its own historical time that never allows the present to speak for itself. Josef Skvorecky. Kundera promotes the idea of a West that has been colonized by narratives of the economic identities at stake between Western Europe and the United States of America: My country is not capitalist. Unlike Franz Kafka’s idea of a past that needs to be earned.
Also. took place after the rest of the world had already undergone a process of decolonization. a Europe with identity narratives written in terms other than economic. to remain more faithful to the mechanism of colonization of Central Europe from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. still act suspicious about deciding to consider Central Europe as a colony. 41 . which. In so doing. where the nineteenth-century’s was prevalently economical. it is also significant that the twentieth-century colonization of Central Europe. but it is even a colonized West that has in turn never colonized anyone else. in its initial stage. but a Europe that has not yet succumbed to the international homogenizing action that the “real” West has undergone.and Frankophone colonial models. whose blueprint is the post-WorldWar-II Yalta Agreement. the consequences of colonization are the same in both cases: a dominant historiographic narrative has been imposed on a region at the expense of the region’s own histories. as we have seen in Appiah and Gates. the region has to undergo an emancipatory process. and why this idea is poorly grasped today and refused. Not only is my country a colonized form of Western Europe. critics should use a spatial rather than a temporal model. In the ridiculous theater of allegory that today’s political thinking represents. Sufficient historical grounds must be established in order to widen already-existing horizons of expectation not only about what the West is. At least in its initial stages. In spite of the subtle differences between colonial dynamics. (18) Kundera’s Central Europe is part of Europe. Such a broadening has already been used in explaining Anglo. In this respect. If Kundera is to be believed. those differentiating the colonization of Africa and India from those employed in the Austrian and later German and Soviet conquests. That is why the idea of a colonized West does not enter into the current system of symbols. but also about how Central Europe relates to the West and the East. colonial criticism can help reinterpreting these narratives of Central Europe. this twentieth-century colonization is predominantly political.vision of the world. it is the West that plays the role of the colonialist.
In today’s symbolic order. the dominant West has abandoned the cultural particularities of its nation-states and entered yet another. the West’s history narratives are not sensitive enough to the complex problems of Central Europe. have been blended into a new hybrid entity heavily influenced by the U. model of colonization in Europe. a closer look needs to be taken of Kundera’s idea that his “essentially Western country” actually has been colonized by imperial Greater Russian aspirations cross-dressed in the red caps of the global communist revolution from the East. not as a colonial region. for instance. the West itself is equated with Imperialism. Theoretically. at least at a first glance. more global phase of economic Westernization. Spain. Due to its historical course. the Habsburg Monarchy. in which all the individual and territorial values of Italy.. and from the self-colonized West on the other side of Europe. Therefore Kundera’s concept of a colonized West within the Western cultural block calls for a re-conceptualization of the existing notions of power. was not that open to 42 . Kundera’s notion of a “colonized west” initially sounds puzzling. Colonization. (18) According to Kundera. In his attempt to negotiate such a colonial presence. can help us illuminate this different. In his interview with Alain Finkielkraut. But the West is also made up of little nations who have no reason to feel guilty for the crimes of the larger countries and who have right to defend their western culture without remorse. In order to avoid a further terminological confusion while differentiating Central Europe’s political and cultural existences. for instance. then. less conventional. Kundera’s nostalgic longing for the times in which “our” Western civilization. and France. Kundera states: The big Western countries identify themselves too easily with the values belonging to the entire West. and they also attribute their own sins too easily to the entire West. aware of its spiritual values in establishing a notion of an unalienated individual. called the West.S. Power.Because of its centripetal colonial structure.
looking to a suicide as the way out of existential and physical slavery—as a way out of an unacceptable change in the domi43 . because it assumes a linear idea of progress in the West (and East). Similarly. and other oversimplifying manifestations of the unification of the market-oriented Occident. has its parallels in the Frankfurt School of Max Horkheimer. to be sure. individuals who did die in for these ideals. or Jan Palach. these individuals decided to demonstrate their own personal freedom in a Sartrean way. in front of the Soviet tanks. Herbert Marcuse and other philosophers who examine the endangered totality of a pre-industrial West. Although captured by the occupying forces. a student who publicly set himself on fire in order to protest the Russian colonial presence in Prague in 1968. 16 Yet Kundera’s nostalgia for a moment before the West turned into a block should be taken with caution. Those thinkers nostalgically lament the disappearance of individual values as the West engages in a process of becoming victims of mass media. On the metonymycal level. such as that brave director of the national news agency. such acts can be taken as representative of a nation and its story.be objectivized that way. The entirety of Hungary or Czechoslovakia was not dying for Europe when the Soviet tanks occupied the streets of Budapest and Prague. known as pars pro toto. He is convinced that “no one grasped this pronouncement less well than Europe itself” because “in the non-occupied West. Criticizing the new Western identity as an economic block. but in their essence they belong to individuals. Kundera himself has made an almost identical cognitive mistake historically employed by the colonizer. a conclusion which confuses a part with a whole. Theodor Adorno. citizens of Prague were protesting the occupation by laying on the streets. is the core of Kundera’s bitter critique of the western Europe’s historical amnesia. which is in opposition to a history that acknowledges an eternal struggle in Europe’s center. it is not understood that Europe is capable of standing for values that one can still die for” (19). There were. economic reductionism. His favorite example of the director of the Hungarian news agency and his telex message to the world disclosing the Russian military offensive. culminating in a statement how they (the Hungarians) will die for Hungary and for Europe.
one which is subversive of 44 . It would be wrong to assume that no one in the West would be willing to do the same in a similar situation.” “Deterritorialization” is a technical term that addresses the dynamics of individuals’ desire to move away from the fixed categories of perception. like Kundera. non-economic West. and meaning that limit their lives. Kundera may be right in calling attention to the West as spiritually colonized by the United States. but a literature whose performance is based on a notion of “deterritorialization. and as such. perceived as a victim of the East in the eyes of the American capitalist media. But. if we agree to embrace the idea that the realities of some European countries can be more spiritually intact than those of Americanized Europe. individual) colonial gaze.” as the non-American. in contrast to his current experience of chronic Occidental amnesia in which his Central Europe keeps sinking lower and lower. Minor literature. Franz Kafka is a favorite early example for analyzing the position of such minor literatures 17. undermines reductionist divisions of literature. Kundera’s gaze perceives Europe as it was in its mythical “good old days. at least in their beginnings. now critically aimed at the United States. one should be cautious making such generalizations. according to Deleuze and Guattari is not a literature of a secondary importance. Living in the gap between the West and East was a problem for other contemporary writers as well. a literature produced outside the dominant imperial powers. representation. Employing them may easily be regarded as yet another (in this case.nant history which came to them regardless of their will. usually those who. In spite of Kundera’s seductive narrative about the tragedy of Central Europe. Unlike Freud’s fixed category of Oedipal desire. nomadic quality of a self that is constantly being redefined. and due to that subversive act. “deterritorialization” refers to the wandering. He is an author whose paradox becomes paradigmatic for those cases in which the work of a writer surpasses those provisory boundaries of a minor discourse and enters the so-called “mainstream”. represented so-called “minor” literature. To claim that those examples reflect a universal state of affairs in not-yet-spiritually-colonized Central Europe would be too bold.
and had found itself in between Western and Eastern Jewry.18 Aside from being “a minor writer” in the previously outlined sense. (Letters 218-19) Although Kafka here most probably targets the absence of cultural and political continuity which. according to him. Franz Kafka expressed his confusion about his contacts with East and West on many occasions. a world where. everything has to be earned. 45 . but in degree a great deal.more traditional hegemonies based on the firmly-centered authority of historical tradition. what is the most interesting in relation to Kundera’s comments about the colonized West is Kafka’s sensitivity toward history and ideas of progress. after all. He lives instead in the alienated and historically-fragmented world partitioned between small nationstates with various languages. as he puts it . not only the present and the future. Kafka was very puzzled about his own identity. Kafka does not accept a naive linearity of time. nothing is granted me. “everything has to be earned” (Letters to Milena 218-19): I have one peculiarity which in essence doesn’t distinguish me much from my acquaintances. This means. He sees himself as a presumably Western Jew from Prague who feels disconnected from the history and tradition of the Eastern European Jews who remained faithful to their communal and religious life. who believes that the spiritual past was better than the material present. We both know. One of the most telling confessions can be found in a letter to Milena Jesenska (1920). I am as far as I know the most typical Western Jew among them. expressed with exaggeration. but the past too—something after all which perhaps every human being has inherited. this too must be earned. As a Jew whose generation had experienced a failure of a cultural. Unlike Kundera. that not one calm second is granted me. it is perhaps the hardest work. has been present in western Christianity (further confused by the geo-cultural divisions between the two types of Jewry). economical and religious transition in Central Europe. enough typical examples of Western Jews.
too. according to him. Countermemory acts from the peripheries of power centers that proclaimed historical facts. In the process of ‘earning the past’. individual. Central Europeans never had had a chance to examine the normal segments and constituents of their lives. Therefore. It is a reaction to hegemonic. it remains to the individual to adjust to the constantly emerging circumstances in the peculiar cultural space of Central Europe. becomes crucial. because by addressing one issue (of a Western Jew living on the outskirts of the West and yet far enough from the East. everything has to be earned—the past. as Kundera’s is. all Central Europeans are “other”— not only as a collective entity but also as individuals. a space in which even the past looks alien to its inhabitants. in re-configuring falsely ideologized and idealized history both created and later directed by grand narratives of representation. It is rather “under construction. Always guided and owned by Others 46 .Cosmopolitan in ways of being a member of a deterritoralized ethnic and cultural group par exellence. from his “deterritorialized” nomadic perspective. but that it is made. It is hard to accept such a concept because in Central Europe’s colonial situation. locally grounded corrective narratives of authenticity whose specific power is described in Vaclav Havel’s concept of “the power of the powerless” posses the energy to reorganize the conundrum of historical assumptions based on hegemony. familiar with destinies such as Kafka’s. outside hierarchy—a subject whose individual psychology recognizes the importance of a narrative of authenticity. created truths in history—a reaction whose main goal is to undermine the grand-narratives’ claims to ‘objectivity’. Kafka’s past is not lost. Countermemory belongs to a subject ‘outside official history’. In such a trans-national and trans-cultural framing of what history is and means. it can all-too-easily seem as if the entire space of Central Europe has been addressed. or of the colonized West). Oppressed by superpowers of the age even before the Habsburgs fully emerged in 1521.” Kundera and Kafka agree on one thing: there is an unusual and complex relation between universal and particular categories in Central Europe. Its plural. the role of countermemory as the underpinning of counterhistroy. Kafka does not believe that inheritance is natural.
like a scheme of destruction outside “real” historical space. The Third Reich. by virtue of Central Europe’s complexity. It enters one’s apartment. Yet from the perspective of Central Europe. the kind of deprivation usually prescribed in manuals that deal with totalitarianism. He is not simply East or West Jew. Central Europe has simply accumulated an enormous number of problematic identity narratives that overlap and. Although in his letter to Milena. for example. Kafka asks for the possibility of re-building his own symbolic order and understanding his own self. through imitation of the system. Svejk. 47 . the past that Kafka needs to earn cannot be separated from the fragmented but very firm structure of the Central European complex. His assumed feeblemindedness enabled him. That is the situation of Kundera’s colonized Czechoslovakia — a consequence of the past that has to be earned. are ready to explode.(Habsburgs. speaking German and writing in an artificial variety of standard German language in a Czech country controlled politically by the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. history is even closer to the essence of an individual. to become a metonymy for the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. For an outsider. and the butcher’s wife whose bedroom was visited by a tank share the consequences of such an undifferentiated set of cultural strata that constitutes the reality of Central Europe beyond any simple economic or political narratives. rather than to be analyzed. Unlike George Orwell. History came to Svejk in the form of Austro-Hungary. the events described in his novel The Trial. just like it happened to Josef K in The Trial. at the present. a process so familiar to Kafka from his individual perspective of a spiritual and religious crisis. another metaphors for the system not knowing the difference between private and public sphere decide to step in and arrest someone as an outsider who is not aware of his own hiding. Kafka. In Kafka’s case. and can be interpreted in infinite ways. reality in all three cases looks like a utopia (or dys-topia). He just followed a familiar paradigm of absolute deprivation of historical and individual space. Some agents. Issues introduced in Kafka’s writings thus again seem to be universal. are very realistic and particular. Kafka did not need to write an anti-utopia. Russian/Soviet Communism). he is a Western Jew living in Prague. the insiders.
what seems unreal. Central Europe is seen as an epic. Although geographically 48 . In consequence. Kundera likes to call it “the tragedy of Central Europe. phantasmal. all of which apply sometimes. In contrast. to some extent. Miroslav Krleža write their epic utopias with strong colonial premises. For them and their fragile geopolitical identities. and also as a comedy. it is impossible to move a part without disturbing the whole. such events are parts of their lives. In such dynamics between historical narratives and narratives about individual lives. History came to them. imposed upon them from the outside. they experience a so-called domino-effect in which either their sense of themselves or their sense of historical truth necessarily dissolves. Performing Central Europe Josef Svejk and the Loss of Historical Narratives Analyses of the location of Central Europe do not look encouraging for a scholar who wants to analyze the reality of the region as the consistency of its narrative problems.Unfortunately for those who had witnessed and experienced that same reality as their own fictionalized reality. present and future. And this intimacy between the particular and the universal characterizes every event in Central Europe. tragi-comic. becomes real. Josef Svejk. In Hasek’s case. in its past. The former is the case of Kafka’s heroes. Each time Central European individuals meet such a dominant narrative of history. and the butcher’s wife share experiences of the same kinds of historical and political intrusion. Robert Musil and.” The Butcher was satisfied with his contribution to the oral literature. Musil’s Kakania from his Man Without Qualities and Krleža’s Blitva from his novel Banket u Blitvi (The Banquet in Blitva) are imagined as anti-utopias in which the reality of Central Europe is reduced to the mechanics of their imagined communities. the latter. of Svejk. traditional genres compete with one another as individuals try to understand and explain the Central European complexity of their lives by reference to a patchwork of traditions. Josef K.
whose life story explicitly calls the story of his “country” into question. In his book Viennese. Kundera. one of the founders of the Austrian Social Democratic movement. one hopes.” According to Viktor Adler. Paul Hofmann states that Svejk’s luddic acts are enabled by “Emperor Franz Josef’s system of government. inefficiency. The puzzle called “Central European identity” can be. was “absolutism mitigated by Schlamperei. Like the Butcher’s wife. Svejk would not have been able to “fool the bureaucracy 49 . Gates) or as a nostalgic lament of an exiled poet of a nation whose innocence after 1968 once again remained unprotected (Kundera). Appiah and Gates share a methodological assumption which enriches the rhetoric of the present discussion. The evanescent reality of Central Europe documented in the individual historical narratives speaks against verbalizing the identity crisis of this region. or mental dimness. accurately addressed through a singular deontic (Dolezel) performance — that of Josef Svejk. tortes. They discuss the crisis by thematizing it on its own theoretical level. the entire system in which Svejk had to live too. and this geocultural crisis can be represented in a work of fiction. Nevertheless. If it were not for Schlamperei (a diagnosis of “chronic feeblemindedness” by the army officials in a totalitarian world is not a disqualifier for those who want to avoid the senseless duties imposed on them). either in the language of intellectual description enriched by the implied formulas for change (Appiah.” where Schlamperei connotes messiness. Svejk was paid a visit by history. and a lack of exactitude.as well as ideologically far apart. Even nowadays the Viennese are accused of Schlamperei by North Germans and the Swiss. but leaves its grammar intact. has ever since been practiced in Central Europe under Nazi and Communist domination as a form of a passive resistance. and operettas. An examination of several his representative deeds facilitates the location of Central Europe from within. and to many others who lived the real consequences of that fictional world of mates. 34). Schlamperei sounds appealing and has “amiable overtones of humane laxity” (Viennese. from the perspective of a soldier and the man whose Svejkism. in Vienna. To avoid the vicious circle of verbalizing crisis in this way the subject can be brought closer to literary studies.
which by the time they arrived there from Vienna.” On the last day of his life. Prague was one of the approved circles on Franz Joseph’s centripetal map of power. I was very pleased. Svejk had to live in a world like that Hoffman described by: Proverbial virtues of the Viennese bureaucrats were urbanity. A manifestation of such dynamics of communication.and survive. agricultural fair. In totalitarian regimes fear grows proportionally with communication on the relations between center and province.M. rank.” Svejk was not from Vienna. But. the eighty-sixyear-old emperor went to bed earlier than usual. as was the meticulousness with which he invariably appeared at the exact moment scheduled for an official function. because “there is so much to be done. as one of the anchors purportedly holding the Empire together. 1916. title and authority— many other historical “facts” had to be avoided. on November 20. as a demented private of the glorious imperial and royal soldiery. To ridicule the Viennese syndrome of “verboten” that helps elide truths that do not fit into this hierarchy as forbidden. Robert Musil said: “If for some reason crime were allowed in Austria. it would be committed by officially authorized criminals only. the call for obedience launched from Vienna encountered Josef Svejk sitting 50 . and punctuality — no Schlamperei in reporting for work on time! Franz Josef had been an admired model: his iron bed was legendary. He was from Prague. “It was very nice. Prague had to deal with centralizing demands of the Emperor. not a second late. moderation. telling his attendant to wake him at 3:30 A.” After all.” He died in his sleep (Viennese 35). or new building was to say. To preserve humanity in an empire with a centripetal colonial order that has its center of imperial attraction in Vienna—the city in which all the values and limitations of officialdom were embedded in its intrinsic sense of hierarchy. had been blown out of proportions. frugality. His stock response to every opening of an art show. not a second early.
There are unknown heroes who are modest. (Svejk i) Regardless of its museal reality. On a broader.. with none of the historical glamour of a Napoleon. shabbily dressed man is indeed that heroic and valiant good old soldier Svejk. and in the republic his glory will not fade either. Austro-Hungarian.’ And this quiet unassuming. for a while. However. Today you can meet in the streets of Prague a shabbily dressed man who is not even himself aware of his significance in the history of the great new era. I am very fond of the good soldier Svejk and in relating his adventures during the world war I am convinced that this modest. anonymous hero will win the sympathy of all of you. even before and during World War I.” Svejk could not avoid the call of history and he was drafted a footsoldier in Franz Joseph’s army. Habsburg history remained the obligatory narrative for Sve51 . He goes modestly on his way.. If you asked him his name he would answer you simply and unassumingly: ‘I am Svejk. without bothering anyone. In Austrian times his name was once on the lips of all the citizens of the Kingdom of Bohemia. he was always (essentially) a Czech while behaving. Nor is he bothered by journalists asking for an interview. After his fictional escapades during World War I. If you analyzed their character you would find that it eclipsed even the glory of Alexander the Great. Svejk became a hero. calmly drinking beer and telling stories from his never-ending repertoire. Unlike that stupid fellow Herostrates he did not set fire to the temple of the Goddess in Ephesus just to get himself into the newspapers and schools books. geopolitical scene. In spite of his officially-recognized “feeblemindedness. Perhaps the best way to introduce him is Hasek’s own Preface: GREAT times call for great men. his personality remained intact and absolutely unassuming. And that is enough.in the tavern.
because their police was perfectly trained to spot those who fooled. but isn’t this just a reversal of the kind of absurd communication between two agencies that do not make sense in themselves. Svejk mirrored both the bureaucracy and the Habsburgs. He was drafted and redrafted ad absurdum. Not literally. Svejk did not fool the Habsburgs. To remain Czech in his hidden essence. His “humble reports” addressed to superiors have driven everybody crazy. The police and Army had infiltrated meticulously into the reality of the Central European families of small peoples who have been effectively melted into an amorphous whole for Franz Joseph’s consumption. Those who fooled usually perished. Instead. and in so doing. and his theatric performance had to be exaggerated. Neither Svejk nor any other “great everyman” could circumvent this obligatory history. while making a kind of sense in juxtaposition? Therefore. he was the system. he lived in the world whose reality (at least for the last hun52 . not by creating a mirror image of the Emperor who died comparing and identifying himself with history at the dawn of a day when there was so much to be done. Svejk did not fool the system. Folly works much better if it has an agency of reason against which it can perform. for instance. He simply did “his” duty. no matter how often he was “officially” discharged. Svejk’s amazing work-avoidance program was not based on disagreements and refusals. Svejk performed according to the letter of the laws. To avoid succumbing to such a history. he showed the absurdity of those expectations. That boredom is evident in the way they kept imposing their “official” identity on regions by violating regional cultural and geopolitical identities.jk and all the inhabitants of Central Europe. but as somebody who. he had to play a role of an Austrian. Svejk had to take an active role in perpetuating its absurdities. On the contrary. He did not live in the world of rational and standard roles. just as those powers-that-be expected. imitated the same totalitarian pattern of that center of power. within the limits of law. And that repetitive enactment of sameness in all its absurdity is the most realistic way of depicting the fantastic boredom and predictability of the Habsburgs. it would be hard to agree with Paul Hoffman’s statement that Svejk managed to “fool” the bureaucracy.
Convinced that the borders of their empire contain the 53 . The theoretical scheme produced through the colonial narratives of the Court also negated the existence of everything outside the system. imposed by someone else’s story. The realness of the Dual Monarchy. by virtue of their manipulated reality. It is precisely because of this negation that the entire conquest of Central Europe became both possible and real as a (hi)story. In order to undermine the surreal and absurd system of the Habsburgs without being seriously harmed. was based upon this archaic and historically displaced symbolic order. Svejk had to achieve the level of existence theoretically assumed by the rulers. their empire was the only historically-permitted reality for the region. Svejk chose to become absolutely real within the system by not admitting any reality outside of it. According to their totalizing and totalitarian narrative. have always been a little too late to relate to the present. on the eve of World War I. Many historians assert that Franz Joseph’s own empire was mainly the imitation of his ancestor’s legacy: The Emperor himself was not really able to perform his official duties. In his near symbiotic harmony with the system. Franz Joseph had to imitate the performance of an Emperor. As a product of that machine. His imitation was perfected by his command of the verbal and nonverbal signs of the Empire. The framework of his actions was as equally dislocated. the relation between Franz Joseph and Josef Svejk is a relation between a master and a slave. As such. In such a context the best way for an individual to uncover the falsities of the regime and to reveal its absurdities is to cope with it through exaggerated obedience based on an absolute compliance with all details. a twice-crowned Monarch who nonetheless died with a pathetic cry for more work and more order. As seen in terms of Hegelian dialectic. as those personal historical narratives of the Central European writers who. temporally. Svejk also imitated the actions expected of him in his unique way. it was imposed on Central Europeans as yet another colonial narrative of greatness to which they had to live up. In order to be less ridiculous and more real in his public attempts to preserve the imperial image of the declining dynasty.dred years) was based on imitation of reality.
in a dialogue between Svejk and Lieutenant Lukas: “Do you know Svejk what a march battalion is?” “Humbly report sir. after he applied the methodology introduced by his master.. We always use abbreviations.only existing universe. a march battalion is marshbatzak and a march company is a marshkumpachka. The same negation of the outside world..” replied the good soldier Svejk. This initially subordinate position of a slave. who.” (Good Soldier Svejk 238) In the deontic conditions of Hasek’s fictional world. I’m awfully happy. legal. This mechanism can be seen in the closing scene of the first part of Good Soldier Svejk. a colonizer invading Central Europe entered a space where “nothing” existed—a space of historical. Svejk’s luddic space is circumscribed in the time and space of an absurd binarism. which serves as a justification of a conquest after it becomes the intellectual property of a slave. Negating the reality outside the Monarchy brought glory to His Imperial Majesty. In spite of being a perfect colonial narrative in action. reflected through the eyes of a supposedly-demented private of the imperial army. Svejk’s performance enriched everyman’s perspective on the Habsburgs’ politics and turned him into a literary hero. Hegel argued that the theoretically-acceptable narrative of a master. if you like such abbreviations. But don’t think that at the front you’ll be able to drop such bloody awful clangers as you’ve done here. it eventually undermines its originators. Are you happy?” “Humbly report sir. but 54 . “It’ll be really marvelous when we both fall dead together for His Imperial Majesty and the Royal Family. and cultural void. Svejk.” said the lieutenant in a solemn voice. once repeated within the system. the binarism of a world in which nothing is permitted. also revealed all the absurdity of such an unjust project.” “Very well then. “I wish to tell you that you are going with me on the marshbatzak. the same performative act of absolute reductionism gains absurd qualities. revealed the insanity of such a totalitarian concept.
In Svejk’s case. somewhere between the permanent domains of obligatory history and prohibited freedom. he decided to continue walking toward the front lines on foot. One of Svejk’s greatest escapades takes place during his transit from Prague to Galicia. the early 19th Century workmen who. 19 Since there is no space for public disagreement with this historical power. protested by destroying machinery. In Svejk’s performative. In a conversation with the locomotive. a destination assigned by the army.where everything is either obligatory or prohibited. the objective reality of the Dual Monarchy. and warned that his long absence could be considered desertion. This sincere statement verbalizes Svejk’s luddic position within a transitory and restricted space. 20 After he missed his train. his detours are not his escapes from history. In so doing. convinced that machines were the reason of the enslavement of their labor. In consequence. a slave ridicules his master by making the master’s absurd concept painfully real to both sides of the binary opposition. but playful and adventurous escapades (Dolezel) pointing to an unexpressed reality beyond that history. Unlike the Luddites. he comes much closer to the core of the problem of a dehumanized and alienated self than the Luddites ever did. imagined and explained in Franz Joseph’s official narratives. Svejk underscores that the Habsburgs saw him (and others like him) as mere 55 . Svejk’s devoted imitation of absurdity enables him to take numerous detours from the obligatory history. which produced an intolerable delay. Upon his arrival at the front. Svejk shares with the readers his attitude toward obligations imposed by history by replying. “every train which is going to the front will think twice before bringing only half a trainful to the end of the station” (511). only half of the soldiers from his transport successfully made to Ceske Budjeovice. he was told by his superiors that. Svejk chose to embrace a mighty engine as his equal and communicate with it on the same level. in addition to his own lateness. becomes what in fact it really is—an objectified and dehumanized reality unable to accommodate the differences of many of its subjects. Svejk’s communication with the machine that partially moved him through Habsburg space revealed the essence of an individual objectified by an inhumane system.
In his deontic performance. From Svejk to the post Soviet successor states Kundera’s Anabasis Given the persuasive voicelessness of Central European Svejks and the nostalgia of the intellectuals in addressing Central Europe. as part of an on-going “dumbshow” that allows the reader to see how silly the values of an enslaved world can become. once again ridicules the Habsburg’s totalitarian universe. voluntarily or intentionally — he has become the requirements’ nameless and faceless object who cannot actively change his position because he is a subject deprived of his own self. to become permanently unable to accept his obligations without undermining the effects expected of his deeds. it 56 . Svejks’ imitations of actions enable him. Confronted with a very powerful historical absurdity. absolutely and repeatedly. History is imposed on him. Svejk simply mirrors it back through his imitative gestures. a self-analysis in which the good soldier. it has very serious consequences for the authority of history. and escaping further and further away from the centers under the control of Franz Joseph. Svejk thus does what the intellectuals discussed above are not able to do with their essays: he points to the absences at the very center of their fictional duality between East and West. By mirroring this kind of reality. once such a world is depicted in its true dimensions. Although his mirroring strategy is insufficient to influence history. Svejk can confront it indirectly. through an absolute acceptance of the terms of existence imposed upon him. by playing games. Josef Svejk’s Central Europe resembles his voiceless being — it is either different in terms of folly or a permanent historical draftee of the Austrian colonial politics. Talking to the train is an applied introspection of a kind. Due to the totalizing and totalitarian reality of the late Habsburg Empire. Moving along with our soldier.object. He has no opportunity to adapt his actions to its requirements. through his absolute obedience and unity with the Empire.
The bases for such a distinctive spiritual existence of the region are to be found within its cultural history. can make the region the ultimate imagined community. better for this approach. Central Europe has a strong awareness of history. a project. Claudio Magris. with its unique Central Europeaness which refuses to be identified with either the West or the East. Central Europe can even be defined as a cultural attitude. This model of a spiritual community is probably the most important development in rethinking the notion of Central Europe since it merg57 . firmly believes that the distinctive qualities of such a culture can be found in its tendency to analyze and to defend the individual against the totality. Svejk’s performance. however. Because of its hybrid cartographies and the polyphony of regional histories.is logical that there remains a confusion regarding the real and imagined maps of the region. Therefore. and although it is regarded as an “act of faith. Such cultural energy feeds on the power of its locality. rather than as a political. real and fictional locations of Central Europe embrace both intellectual constructs and actual concepts that reflect the existence of a trans-national entity. In his account. for instance. takes the place of its political divisions. it is still a part of Europe. According to both writers. of its cultural details which.” it is still seen by many as a realistic project. closer to the West than to the East. transcend the politically-introduced diversity of borders that has conventionally been seen as the major obstacle in accepting the existence of the region. Josef Skvorecky sees Central Europe as purely emotional and spiritual issue. Like Milosz. economic or social sphere. trans-cultural reality of Central Europe. once put together. Its real grounds are to be found through a substitution in which cultural borderlines or. deeply grounded in its rich history and in the awareness of its distinctive cultural historicity rather than a real site on a geographical map. Milozs and Skvorecky. a utopia. is not necessarily a geographical concept. Central Europe. Czeslav Milosz can be seen as a representative of the first extreme according to which Central Europe “seems to exist only in the minds of some of its intellectuals” (“Central European Attitudes” Cross Currents 5 : 101). rather than a geographical entity. for instance.
from the colonial and imperial narratives which organized such a hinter-national world 21 a world simultaneously beyond the nations and behind the (Great) nations. but as a multi-ethnic confederation whose disappearance from history left a serious political void. proclaims culture superior to a nation. regarding to the many. he still sees it as a real entity based upon a strong and clearly-enunciated statement of the region’s “unease toward history and of resistance against that unease” (Budapest Roundtable. Although aware of the oppression which made individual needs of smaller peoples unified under the Austro-Hungarian rule nonexistent. In many of his writings and interviews. nostalgic world of transnational and timeless spiritual narratives the difficulties to grasp the region in fixed and positive terms comes as no surprise. to its more recent postcolonial situation evident after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the newest re-unification of Germany. and thus allows Central European cultural differences and similarities to link various nations and nationalities in a trans-national project. 30). His lament differentiates a culture from a nation. Such cultural or mental space enables the inhabitants of Central Europe to be different and unique in terms of their individual fixed identities. Such dynamics theoretically open a space for a geopolitical fluidity able to accommodate the many faces of Central Europe. These two seemingly contradictory approaches exemplify Magris’ method in transcending the limitations of binary oppositions.es nations cross-culturally and transculturally. Central Europe is both: a real geographical entity and a fictional. Many other authors have taken part in the cultural-historical debate regarding the question of the absence or presence of Central Europe over the last century. Since. a strategy widely exploited in his hinter-national narrative Danubio. Eugene Ionesco describes the Habsburg Empire not only as a spiritual mosaic. Ionesco finds the absence of the Monarchy irreplaceable. Although Magris recognizes a “flirtatious fashion” behind the widespread intellectual desire to locate and re-model Central Europe. but still similar in their giv58 . Magris still can define Central Europe as a metaphor of protest—against the Soviet’s occupation of the East and the American way of life in the West.
emperor. of his philosophical and religious convictions. Unlike Schwarz. but his solution still reveals a Eurocentric attitude toward the Other. where each person would be master of himself.”22 This Hungarian intel59 . but also Croatia and Czechoslovakia. remaining respectful of the personality of each of the countries making up a confederation. Ionesco is looking for a future.en possibility of coexistence. and Milosz. humanity’s unique defense against Russia’s pseudo-ideological barbarity and spirit of conquest.” Cross Currents 4 : 6) Like Kundera. and of his spiritual autonomy. a fresh principle to organize humanity. This vast confederation. but by ignoring the scopes of smaller peoples under the Habsburg rule. A similar discussion about the future construct of Central Europe (on the horizons in the last decade) can be found in Endre Bojtar’s study. “Eastern or Central Europe. king. he still ignores very real alternative histories whose absence has deprived the region of its real past. This vast federation would be our spiritual universe and our indispensable political force. or president would merely be a master arbiter. would constitute Europe’s. Ionesco expresses an aggressive anger toward the Russian spirit of conquest. Hungary and Romania. and the chief. His so-called confederation is not worked out carefully enough to be taken as a serious optimal projection for the region in question. Only the individual governments would be wholly autonomous. Ionesco sees this kind of transcultural and cross-cultural existence as a model of new justice for the region. Kundera. (“The Austro-Hungarian Empire . He states: It would have so many human lives and assure so much peace through a new kind of freedom. The confederation of a new Mitteleuropa could consist of not only Austria. this empire in the best sense of the word (as was the Roman Empire).Forerunner of a Central European Confederation. a principle that has a serious chance to be employed in organizing a society.
not imaginary. it would be hard to predict its future.. all the way to the Balkan federation between Bulgarians.. Unfortunately. Frantisek Palacky. to acquire their own historical narratives.lectual is perhaps the most realistic among the aforementioned authors in thinking about the future of the middle European lands: Many saw the remedy in a Central European federation of states. Serbs. as Kafka said. beginning with proposals such as the Austro-Slav federation of the Czech. an approach to the present situation of Central Europe from the colonial perspective is of utmost importance. Europe. regardless of their geographical location. with the UN and NATO presence in ex-Yugoslavia. but the past has to be earned and understood. All who dreamed of a confederation or of an alliance of the small states agreed that the danger to this kind of Central European existence comes from the superpowers. those small states need to live apart from the colonial presence of the West and the East. even though it has not yet been written into its own historical existence. Romanians and Greeks proposed by one of the chief ideologues of the Bulgarian rebellion in 1876. Central Europe is real. It just violently rewrote the historical narratives emphasizing the extreme manifestations of the region’s instability. Today. Ljuben Karavelov. To locate it properly on the global map. in 2003. Perhaps it is no coincidence that just such a federated state-Yugoslavia-is the only one that withstood the trial of history for a relatively long period of time. may depend on the stability in the Balkans. (“Eastern or Central Europe” Cross Currents 7 : 255) The disintegration of Yugoslavia (just two years after Boytar’s essay) did not kill the dream of Central Europe. then the Danube confederation of Kossuth. However. not only the future. if not the World. the present situation speaks against any political resolution emerging to organize the reality of Central Europe from within. and with the Russian colonial attitude toward the same region. at least. In order to become real. History has proven that the stability of. 60 .
under his name. Kundera later questioned his sudden negative feelings. including a possible paradigm for its existence that would include its own geopolitical and geocultural realities. they do emphasize the distinguished and distinguishing elements which speak in favor of Central Europe’s uniqueness and complexity. one should bear in mind their pragmatics. his public activities outlawed. although improvised. Kundera refused. Kundera’s books were banned. In spite of his situation. (469) 61 . and needs to be further pursued to understand the Czech exile’s perspective on the regional dynamics.” Kundera introduces this new outlook on Central Europe by explaining why he prefers Denis Diderot over Fyodor Dostoevsky. Unlike earlier nostalgic laments which designate the West as the oppressor. Kundera found that his annoyance was not “making claims to objectivity” (Cross Currents 5 : 469. Kundera’s critique of the Russian colonial attitude is ultimately much more precise and effective. Unaware of their origins. where feelings are promoted to the rank of value and of truth. an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. Shortly after the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968. in other words. Kundera. because. trying to connect them with the Russian occupation. but the Soviet military presence was not the answer to his reluctance to adapt The Idiot. A theater director from Prague asked him to write. offers a utopian version of Central Europe. and decided instead to reread Denis Diderot’s Jacques le Fataliste.Although Kundera’s remarks about a colonized West and the lost innocence of Central Europe may be exaggerated. According to his own testimony. In his text “An Introduction to a Variation. Kundera did not understand his aversion to Dostoevsky in the beginning. He also agreed that his aversion had nothing to do with the aesthetic value of Fyodor Mihailovich’s writings.): What irritated me about Dostoevsky was the climate of his novels: a universe where everything turns into feeling. and he had to look for alternative ways to earn a living. in fact. Still not completely understanding his reaction.
Something about that transformation blocked Kundera’s ability to work with Dostoevsky’s text. “but it will straighten itself out. not in the least. Czech Government leaders arrested and abducted. Please understand me: he had no desire to condemn the invasion. On the contrary. and an officer of the occupying army makes you a declaration of love. Why do these Czechs (whom we love so!) refuse to live with us the way we live! What a pity we’re forced to use tanks to teach them what it means to love! (470) The problem that kept Kundera away from Dostoevsky is neither his style nor his possible ethnic identification with the occupying forces. the future of the country compromised for centuries. Three soldiers began searching it. “kak chuvstvuyes?”--that is. “How do you feel? What are your feelings?” His question was not meant to be malicious or ironic. “It’s all a big misunderstanding. We love you!” The countryside ravaged by thousands of tanks. their attitude based on the sadistic pleasure of the ravished but on quite a different archetype: unrequited love. On the third day of the occupation. in the woods. everywhere. Kundera has nothing against feelings. the officer who had ordered it asked me in Russian. they are for him very noble. he drives from Prague to the town of Svejk famous escapade—to Budjeovice: All along the roads. Once the operation was over. On the contrary. At one point they stopped my car. he thought. there were encampments of Russian infantrymen. They all spoke more or less as he did. but rather a painful reminder that Dostoevsky’s characters incorporate a manner of elevating feelings to the level of an operative rationality. in the fields. What horrifies him is that author’s repeatedly-demonstrated mechanism for understanding feeling as “values 62 .” he continued. You must realize we love the Czechs. That Dostoevsky himself was not the object of Kundera’s disturbance finally becomes clear in his 1968 episode.
elevated feelings are epitomized by the Russians on their mission of Central European conquest. After the Renaissance. in which “the famous mystery of the Russian soul” can be found. On the contrary. these sentiments are very Christian in Western. The present identity crisis in Russia suggests that such mystified “Russian soul” can easily misinterpret historical sensibility in the everyday lives of average Russians. that this kind of romantic sensibility has been balanced in the West through doubt and reason -. In consequence. or imbalance. individual. his breast swelling with lyric fervor. he 63 . Although. Kundera believes. Because it missed the Renaissance. criteria of truth. national. or class feelings (or the mixture of all the above—as is most probably the case of that Russian missionary-officer).landed in Czechoslovakia in 1968. they can become a theoretical justification for social and political horrors and thus enable an existence of such a world in which “a man.23 Kundera thinks that this rational irrationality -. in Kundera’s context. carried on the Russian tanks. If in such a substitution as proposed by the behavior of Dostoevsky’s characters. Catholic terms. justifications for kinds of behavior” outside of real historical space (470).a shift and appropriation that had driven the contemporary liberal Western mind to accept relativity as a fundamental factor in liberating and pursuing human deeds.the result of an absence of the paradigm shift that was supposed to have taken place in the Renaissance -. in fact. The example of such an “emotionalized” space is the space in which Russians meet Czechs convincing them that their military deeds. the lack of such a balanced humanist concept of doubt and reason is exactly what differentiates Russian concepts relating sentiments and real historical deeds from those in use in the rest of Europe. a balance. they are not the exclusive property of Eastern civilization. Russia thus “maintains a different balance between rationality and sentiment” (471). Appreciation for feelings and a sentimentalizing will to power through politics is an age-old Christian concept. According to Kundera. are allowed to fill up the absent space rationality. commits atrocities in the sacred name of love” (470). promote their love and concern for the future of the occupied country. instead of violence inherent to every occupation.in themselves.
and personal act of self-recognition. but also Russian Nobel Prize winners for literature. their imperial politics throughout the centuries has provided the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being with enough evidence for creative doubts about their benevolence regarding Central Europe. ethnic. the Russian officer does nor ask “who are you. on pluralism of thought and on tolerance. it is only natural that Mr. (476) Although one may feel an uneasiness reading Kundera’s generalizations about Russian attitudes. In a small Western country I experienced the end of the West. a pure phantasm.” meaning how do you react on yet another intrusion in your own space of repeatedly proscribed personal and political freedom. can think that Central Europe is a work of fancy. mentally exiled from his country before he embarks on yet another exile (this time.dislikes Dostoevsky--Dostoevsky who does not balance sentiment with reason. he asks “how do you feel. It is interesting that not only Russian tanks. Joseph Brodsky. with outbursts of feelings which are beyond control. That was the grand farewell. characterizes the Czech’s exile and his own thoughts regarding Dostoevsky: Having lived for so long in Eastern Europe (Western Asia to some). I had experienced in Prague the violent end of Western culture such as it was conceived at the dawn of the modern age. Kundera should want to be more European than the Europeans themselves. based on the individual and his reason. Defeated by the occupation. a physical one). a voice of that Russian presence in his and Kundera’s famous polemics. He dislikes him because of his seductive narratives impregnated with high emotions. Kundera concludes his analysis of the rational irrationality of the immediate East with the following words: Faced with the eternity of the Russian night. As a product of such a symbolic order.” which would require a geopolitical. Apart from anything else. this posture must have consider64 . beyond any historicizing or relativizing.
Apart from the serious set of culturo-logical contradictions apparent in his treatment of both Europe and Europeans. Brodsky actually lends credence to the Czech author’s fear of the Russian presence. It 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 preserve in that civilization against terrifying odds. thus superimposing the Russian pravoslav culture on decadent Western values. Brodsky’s logical conundrum is evident in his terminology: “Having lived for so long in Eastern Europe (Western Asia to some). Kundera from a recognizable imperial perspective that remained silent in front of the Russian tanks in Prague. Brodsky rejects the politics behind Kundera’s definitions of two conflicting types of subjectivity currently operating within the region. where Asia has a derogatory meaning). excludes Russia from Europe and Central Europe. Brodsky reacts as he does simply because Kundera. Europe is clearly Western Europe only. and that they truly need their loving and lovable Eastern 65 . Being excluded from the European sense of self that Kundera asserts. and his Eastern Europe is nothing but a smoke-screen for the poet to promote a new and fictitious cultural.able appeal for him. (482) Because of the way he appropriates Czechoslovakia for the East.” For Brodsky. geographical and political entity from which the entirety of Central Europe is expelled. Kundera should want to be more European than the Europeans themselves. By talking down Mr. or uniquely “Central” in their cultural independence. Brodsky’s statement can hardly be taken seriously. Russia’s grand-narrative does not hesitate to patronize the citizens of the occupied countries. pointing out that all those years they were wrong in thinking that they were Western. and his rhetorical position unnecessarily elevated above Kundera’s. because it endows his past with more logical links to the present than are normally available to an exile. Yet. it is only natural that Mr. his tone is a lecturing one. Brodsky continues by insisting that there is no such thing as Central Europe (recycling the colonial metaphor of Western Asia.
mentors to teach them their ways of life through the imposition of their own forms of historical experience. And to call it “imperialistic.” Cross Currents 120) because of its assumption of Russian ownership of the region which negates the possibility of parallel development of Central and Eastern Europe. I think it’s terribly myopic.. Danilo Kiš. This confrontation highlights the other side of the issue of dominant histories. Well. she objected to the overall Russian tone which demonstrated that the Soviet writers were not interested in the countries called “Central Europe” because they strongly felt that the problems of Central Europe would be solved after the problems of Soviet Union were solved (120).. In attempting to dismiss Sontag’s charges. As an anti-Soviet concept. Salman Rushdie. The one who finally made Brodsky admit to his paternalistic tone (also clearly heard from his colleagues Lev Aninsky and Tatyana Tolstaya) was Susan Sontag.colonialist disregard of the cultural and political realities. the concept of Central Europe is not effective (120). and especially those who sat at 66 . and other advocates of Central European decolonization. She denounced such attitude as “horrendously imperialist and immoral position” (“The Lisbon Conference. offering different historical narratives with their new forms of subjectivity based on individual experiences of Central European history. Brodsky also attempts to distinguish writers and intellectuals in a similarly unacceptable way. it is simply the only realistic attitude that we Russians can adopt toward the problem. the Russian poet said: Of course. He believes that writers in general. Associating herself with George Konrad. Czeslav Milosz. Derek Walcott. I would add one more thing. The first person to reply was Josef Brodsky. it’s not an imperial position. Well. In addition to the polemics between Kundera and Brodsky about the notion and status of Central Europe. Later in his reply to Susan Sontag. the most pronounced confrontation between proponents of these two different viewpoints took place at the famous 1990 Lisbon Conference.” to charge us with a sort of colonialist attitude -.
What defines a Russian writer. according to Brodsky. and to the divorce the connection between power and culture in process of colonization is simply shortsighted and wrong. the language in which a Russian writer writes. is the Russian language. does not grant them the comfort of silence in face of the wrongdoings of their government. but whether or not he (and his colleagues) could question Russian occupation on the basis of their subjective experience of history and use his public persona to condemn the conquest. As such. he or she is liberated from the requirements of the political system by entering a cultural system. The question being asked was not whether Josef Brodsky could send the Russian tanks back to Russia. not by petoljetka or perestrojka. and so it is not incumbent upon him or her to comment on the Russian military presence in Central Europe or Afghanistan. it is very hard to accept his one-sided and arrogant analysis. His arguments do not hold when held up against the realities of the various historical narratives in the region. Also. are not determined or defined by a political system. Brodsky calls the occupation of Central Europe (that same region which. His realism. according to him does not exist) a political reality and completely dismisses the regional-cultural dimension. according to Susan Sontag.the conference and represented either Russia or the remnants of the Soviet Union. yet unrecognized. The assumption that writers are defined by a (national) language. A Russian writer. Unfortunately. regardless of their differences. With all due respect for this poet laureate and Nobel Prize winner. to exempt himself from facing reality of the conquest by placing his creative persona in the realm of national culture. Brodsky believes. is not a representative of the Soviet State.” To say that one is not interested what happens to small countries because it is not realistic for him or her to think of their destiny in independent terms reveals imperial arrogance. his subjectivity did not react to Russian occupation in terms through which immanent narratives of Central Europe could be recognized. With such pressure from both sides of Europe. is nothing but “imperial arrogance. between two cul67 . Resisting such a call to possible engagement. Central Europeans find themselves existing. according to Brodsky.
looking for a place of their own. but he was accustomed to constant historical dynamics of a change.tural powers. What was disturbing was the new kind of subjectivity that had been forced on him. the Romans and the French had successfully exploited the region. In “Central European Attitudes. but two empires collapsed (Habsburg and Tsarist). 68 . In other words. To this point. in which not only the Germans were defeated. several discussions need to be mentioned—discussions usually among writers. and later through Brodsky’s world-view. has evolved by reference to federations of the small states. a model for Central Europe’s postcolonial cultural condition must accommodate not only Hasek’s ironic use of historical narratives. the Austrians. Even earlier. brought about two federations: one of the Czechs and the Slovaks. the quest for a model of Central European identity. The end of the First Word War. but also the sense of self which he develops creating Svejk’s deontic space— whether the authorities of history “approve” of them or not. in which the region has explicitly been addressed as a colony. His critique of colonial presence in Central Europe speaks of foreign agencies such as the Turks. losing their claim to national identity. the Germans. A Central Europe of our own In order to employ the discourse of colonial theory in analyzing Central Europe. liberated from the colonial presence of the foreign agencies. The very existence of attitudes such as Josef Brodsky’s ask for a more complete study of Central Europe—a study which would incorporate all facets of the regional as well as individual identity politics. both in terms of their historical position and of the forms of individual subjectivity that these historical narratives engender.” Milosz outlines how countries in Central Europe went through periods of prosperity in their earlier history. for example. and the Russians. Similarly. first on his way to Budejovice. Kundera “knew” that his Prague was undergoing a shift in geopolitical narratives. but nevertheless all were still subjected to foreign domination.
Yet innumerable soldiers Svejks in their dealing with Russians must pretend their reverence and gratitude for Big Brother (“Central European Attitudes. The basic fact is the border of the empire and the garrisons of its army. seems sterile and unattractive.and another composed of the South Slavs.” Cross Currents 5 : 103) These centripetal colonial moves. Unfortunately. independent states of half of Europe were converted into colonial satrapies controlled from outside. Russian self-admiration. while the mentality of the masters is felt by the subdued populations as alien. which then occupied the small countries on the outskirts of what is geographically known as Western Europe. Similarly. the old Tsarist Russian attitude came back (this time as Communism). nearly incomprehensible and barbaric. Even though the Germans disappeared as a superpower. more than that-self-worship. 69 . Those satrapies send their delegates to the United Nations-more correctly. The aftermath of the Second World War similarly enslaved Central Europe once again. at the very moment the British Empire and the French Empire were crumbling. Czeslav Milosz comments the Western and the Eastern presence in Central Europe after the World War II: In an era of anti-colonialism. signed a pact that wrote them out of active history. can be regarded as the slow process of Central European colonization and decolonization followed by its temporary resolution after the new unification of Germany. whose dynamics are being followed here from 1521 to 1990. not united nations but disunited governments. because just thirty years later (1939) two of the strongest nations. frozen by censorship. goes beyond the habitually expected range of national vanity and bears the mark of a XIXth century messianism which in that part of the world left no good memories. the Germans and the Russians. the national “independence” from the superpowers did not last long. obstinately clinging to clichJs. Russian contemporary art and literature.
Milosz’s remark briefly summarizes the regional colonial dynamics. It is difficult not to agree with the assumption that a nation-state. for Central Europe was yet another colonization. but a long lasting period of colonization can hardly allow increased awareness among the new. power centers. Svejk’s story was narrated from a political periphery toward its center. Milosz acknowledges another defeat of the otherwise culturally rich Central European attitudes. The first is a practical one and it seriously undermines democracies in their development. regional but firm. losing their colonies (especially after 1939). Although itself an alternative center of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Prior to World War I. The problem of re-creating the nation states cannot make such postcolonial dynamics fruitful. is an outdated and archaic form of homogenizing ethnicities produced either by a subjective and feudal conscience of a hegemon or by hegemonic blindness in front of the contemporary demands as a result of colonized minds. When the French and British empires were declining. It underscores a slow process of decolonization within the region—a process that needs to be understood and examined in the context of global decolonization that took place half a century before the actual collapse of the Berlin Wall. His personal historical narrative explains how a figure like Svejk can leap into Soviet hands. those independent states of Central Europe were once again converted into “colonial satrapies” (Milosz). The second problem is a theoretical one.which can be seen as an opening moment allowing a postcolonial situation to emerge. following the colonial reforms that started in 1918. What for rest of the world was the age of decolonization. suggesting what general types of historical narratives have been imposed on Central Europe. a presence anchoring all the outskirts of the mon70 . Speaking retrospectively. The phenomenon of recreating nation states illuminates two serious problems. Such a subjective repetition of history calls for a brief historical summary of colonial presences in Central Europe. despite the reality of Central European centuries long colonial condition. Prague did not have that centripetal attraction of Vienna with the Emperor on his throne. bringing his own Habsburg legacy into post-World-War-II Europe.
or will it be possible to use a form of Central European subjectivity not only to resist. by ridiculing the empire through his appropriation of its absurdities. however. 43 years after the Red Army liberated it from 71 . after she has repeatedly been asked about her opinion as an intellectual about the Russian military presence in Central Europe. That exchange of the nominal owners of Central Europe enabled Milosz to “transport” Svejk from Austro-Hungary to the Soviet Union. the non-Russian participants of the Lisbon conference had in mind the recent provisory decolonization of Central Europe. It seems as if. In consequence of World War I. but to rewrite the historical narrative of the region? This question became especially “troublesome” toward the end of the conference. in their struggle to describe the agency of postcolonial Central European subject. vegetating in the liminal space between the two new world Blocks. In referring to this history. convincing him that his region had yet to undergo a process of self-recognition independent of these colonizers’ histories. was trying to decolonize his mind. Its dynamics were. Central Europe split again and remained undefined. after 1989/90. His challenging tone was mainly a direct reaction to the Russian author Tatyana Tolstaya—who. one officially initiated in Yalta in 1945. global political re-colonization was taking place in form of numerous battles between the Axis Powers and the Entente. drawn from within the system. the existing power blocks involved in the war were writing their official history for the region. The real conflict in Lisbon in 1990 was initiated by George Konrad’s remark addressing his Russian colleagues. hoping that the postcolonial question in addressing Central Europe emerged as central. the participants asked the following question: are all (historically) postmodern Central European subjects doomed to Svejk’s mirror tactics and his dumb-show. from the place where Svejk had already performed his identity imitating a bad Austrian soldier in order to remain a good Czech everyman. not recognizing the voices of its “feebleminded” inhabitants.archy. new wave of ethnic and national self-definition of Central Europeans took place. While Svejk. At the same time. The end of the Second World War brought another colonization.
you will have to think of the world which is closest to you. It is also necessary to review Russian imperial politics. which is part of Europe and which did not want the presence of your tanks. you will have to confront the role of your country in the world. both of the past and as it manifests itself today. about the insignificance of the Soviet military presence. your whole ethos. Konrad states: I would like to avoid a false conversation in which I have this unpleasant feeling that colleagues from the Soviet Union talk about eternity. they say that tanks are small climactic disturbances. and somehow this anomaly. I believe that it’s not enough to speak only of the necessity to rehabilitate the Russian or Soviet past. but which would like to have your presence as tourists. So the question is whether our Russian colleagues will have enough moral stance and civility to confront these questions. (“The Lisbon Conference” 107) This is a clear call to Soviet writers to question what kind of subject position. I believe very strongly that your whole attitude. must end in this century. and hence what kind of agency. reflects the fact that you are quite cautious with your own reality in the sense that you feel somehow unconnected to your tanks. has lasted far too long. but this took place 43 years ago. your literature. But I believe that sooner or later. Moreover. about the cosmos. this provisory situation. at least a military withdrawal from Europe. I don’t believe that these are small climactic disturbances. or as friends who come and visit and then go home. First of all. This war situation. Central Europe was indeed liberated from the Nazi’s Third Reich by the Soviet Armies. With regard to Europe there should be a withdrawal. In your change of climate. they are exercising (even 72 .the Nazis—remained firm in refusing to issue a statement about the matter. this state of martial law. under which we live after all.
according to Kafka. it was disturbing that none of the Russian representatives felt a need to look back at the history and criticize those obvious moments which. They looked at the history as some sort of fatum that reminds of Leo Tolstoy’s concept of Divine Providence and as such would be expected to contradict the Communist ideology—a fatum which is superimposed on the peoples and has to be taken for granted.” Konrad’s angry remark calls not only for the decolonization of Central Europe and its historical narratives. but they repeatedly emphasize timeless aesthetic categories such as the beauty of the literary text. To the rest of the participants. Since Tolstaya and Aninsky have voices that can reach far. Although Konrad is well aware that neither Tatyana Tolstaya nor Lev Aninsky (the two most pronounced opponents to the idea of protest against the Soviet military presence abroad) own these tanks. Since underrepresented intellectuals have no comparable public sphere from which to comment on the tragedy of 73 .that they do not see the necessity of identifying their subjectivity vis-ŕ-vis these historical facts. Not only did the Russians remain silent regarding their army’s presence in Central Europe during the conference. the Soviet army was still in Central Europe. in 1990. it asks a further question about the role of intellectuals in that historically unavoidable process. or the notion and greatness of a national literature. What bothers him and other non-Soviet participants of the roundtable is the oblivion that the Russian writers demonstrate in face of the fact that. need to be earned. many Central European writers believe that they should assume the role of an intellectual as a public disturbance. he is still amazed that they do not see the importance of a public condemnation of the situation -. Not only do they not comment on that real state of affairs. they also constantly demonstrated their country’s imperial attitude toward the rich cultural region inhabited by the underrepresented groups of peoples whose culture and history have been strangled by the colonizers. the importance of an individual in a creative process.indirectly) as part of the geopolitical entity that encompasses the narratives of both “Russian soul” and “Soviet dominance. They still are assuming Panslavism under Russia. and speak up about this anachronistic colonial situation in the heart of Europe. as opposed to accepting alternative Slavic cultural spheres.
Here we’re talking about literature. the number of deaths. Literature is something which is written by an individual. not because they took an active part in a military operations. Contrary to what Lev Aninsky said. and whose attitude toward Russians is otherwise very friendly. whose books deal with the experience of Stalinism in its original Soviet mode. Silence on the writers’ behalf equals agreement with the Russian government from the perspective of the intellectuals outside the power center of the East Block. It’s a “Soviet” manner of talking and I always feel it irritating.their countries. The Yugoslav writer Danilo Kiš. This pedagogical tone continues to irk me. these other notions: Russia.. and they are not doing it. their absence of words is converted into a language of opportunism and collaboration with the colonizer. Central Europe doesn’t exist. and they’re saying that from the Soviet point of view.” This is something so elementary that I’m wondering if I misunderstood something. but simply because they have a duty to criticize wrongdoings of their governments. their notion of a superimposed history is quite different from that of an oppressor culture. but we’re interested to know whether the presence of these tanks enters into their consciousness at all. Or. Soviet Union. The two representatives of those countries which are the invaders thus actually speak from the viewpoint of hypothetical villains. Also. we’re talking about Central Europe.. there is the fact: Soviet tanks are in Central Europe. is there a sort of Big Brother or Big Sister syn74 ... similarly found himself upset with their “pedagogical tone. they’re talking to us not as individuals but as teachers to a group of students: “We Soviets are going to explain to you what literature is. We agree that Lev Aninisky and Tatyana Tolstaya are not sitting in the tanks and aren’t driving them.” He explains his frustration: I feel like a small child being taught elementary lessons by Tatyana Tolstaya and Lev Aninsky. (of the Soviet soldiers in liberating Europe from the Nazis) We know all this. Within this framework. Through silence.
There are small countries and small languages that don’t want to be homogenized and brought to order. still. let us assume that Tatyana Tolstaya and Lev Aninsky are the voices of the oppressor. their denial and silence in face of the new Central European reality irritates them. writers from the West and the East as well as those from the center are members of a family of intellectuals whose 75 . It isn’t simply a question of wanting to defend the concept of Central Europe as such. again. The binary opposition recognized by Kiš. Like the Soviet army officer. for both Konrad and Kiš. the one between an individual and the state. To appropriate Kiš’s statement and use it as the point of departure. is maybe the place where one can find an explanation for what is presently at stake in Central Europe. rather this idea is being promoted to counter the concept of Soviet Union so that Central Europe won’t just be considered as a part of it and we will have a right to self-identity. as individual members of small nations. these post-Soviet intellectuals are asking “how do you feel?” rather than “who (as a Central European) are you?” Aside from his very sharp critique of so-called “Soviet” imperial attitude toward the region. Kiš’ remark opens perhaps the crucial problematics that deal with an individual as a member of a small nation in the de-colonizing world—a search of his or her personal as well as group identity. within the framework of the postmodern condition where nations merge in search of their scattered identities calling their own master narratives of history into question. Kiš’ critique thus addresses not only Central Europe. Intuitively. a paradoxical process of recognition as well as self-recognition for both oppressor and oppressed.drome which condones the presence of these tanks? This is the problem before me. On the other side. Kiš and Konrad speak in favor of the oppressed. trapped in between two imperial politics. Both Kiš and Konrad understand that their Soviet colleagues are not the proximate agencies of oppression. but the problem of regionalism in general. (114) Kiš’s critique echoes Kundera’s. although they insist on remaining detached from their state politics.
Poland. because Central Europe nowadays is a “successor historical narrative” for both the East and West. Central Europeans yield to the inauthenticity of the colonial presence of the mighty others. Hungary.24 Characters like Josef Svejk are detached from reality in the most ironic way. the ultimate target of the good soldier’s performance. a creature as exaggerated as Franz Joseph. Their exchange is the key in understanding the dynamics between individuals and the state in Central and Eastern Europe. Svejk constantly identified himself as a super-patriot. who. The totality superimposed on their history by the superpowers has control over peoples’ lives. Svejk’s individuality had to enter a mimicry game in order to find its own contextual realization. Following this pattern. Yet if the individuals were to accept the hierarchical rules of that totality. In the deontic world of fiction. however. the good soldier mirrored the reality of the Dual Monarchy. regardless of their origins. in order to become. in this case within an alien political narrative. avoiding every hint of a totality—a totality which may be a potential danger. Bulgaria. Svejk’s imitation may also be interpreted as the sacrifice of his conscious agency. has to detach himself or herself from everything that really defines individual both as citoyen and bourgeois.consciousness ought to operate actively in the face of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. In the ontic world of the authors. Demonstrating their distrust toward the centers of power through numerous comic and tragi-comic situations. unlike their Western counterparts. the rules of that game are more danger76 . and thus survived it. Romania. Central Europeans. writers from both sides are expected to comment on the state of affairs in Central Europe. and via negationis praise the authenticity of an individual. Moreover. not just for smaller Central European states. For an individual to survive in such a world he or she has to take it in fragments. as intellectuals and public figures chosen to represent their countries. Through the art of imitation. his will to be human as opposed to given reality. developed a strong sense of powerlessness and detachment from any power structures. they would be swept away by its inhuman dynamics. Oppressed by foreign agencies for so many years. In a process of decolonization. etc.
larger than one’s individual life. as authorities.ous. it erased the awareness of individual qualities within their own citizens. a category crucial to make an act of writing real. as such. In so doing. Although Tatyana Tolstaya and Lev Aninsky may produce Svejk-like characters who will ridicule the authorities. Because they have internalized the Greater Russian attitude that an individual has no political significance. they chose silence. is the same feeling that has silenced Tolstaya and Aninsky. And in this sense. It is paradoxical how these Soviet people of letters. The feeling of a mission that had driven that Russian officer who intercepted Kundera on his way to Budjeovice to express his love and care as the only forces which motivated him to visit the writer’s country in an armored vehicle. but. are not able to detect their own potential role as individuals in using their own consciousness 77 . and. in its almost century-old practice. it is a voice that has nothing to do with that state’s preferred. and dehumanized reality of a group or collective. an individual has no real value or meaning. Soviet-type homogenization of Central and Eastern European reality did not destroy only the local qualities of the nations and their cultures. In order to escape this totalitarianism which could erase the realness of their fictional works as a reflection of society. those writers who refused to embrace Socialist realism had to claim that their work is nothing but a work of an individual--no more than an individual expression of the world. are asked to issue individual statements about the totality of their experience as procreative and political beings. Such a constructed reductionist gaze enabled these post-Soviet writers to act as if they were not obliged to acknowledge an individual value for either hypothetical or real small nations and cultures. reduced. because all the values are superimposed. they are reenacting one of the fundamental premises of the state they claim to reject because they recognize it as the totalitarian moderator of their lives. But “individual” in this Soviet-context means somebody whose voice does not count. they can assert that they do not need to make public statements. while advocating the pleasures and privileges of being an individual. when they. impersonal. because it is very personal.
Kiš and Konrad. Opposing and criticizing the post-Soviet Russian writers. long after the rest of the world has been. the captured minds of the Soviet intellectuals are as colonized as the reality of Central Europe. although precise in their analysis. cultural and economical conquest. they cannot see the implications of the conquest. by praising the self-evident issue of creative writing as a process that celebrates an individual. Kiš and Konrad have a sense of what Vaclav Havel calls: “the power of the powerless. just as the tanks of totalitarianism sit in Central Europe. but the reality of the meeting between the oppressor and oppressed does not allow them to do so. Such a one-dimensional exchange dealing with theoretically self-evident topics is not imposed by the main theme of the symposium. The underrepresented authors of Central Europe would most certainly be happier to use the opportunity to gather in Lisbon to discuss the individual acts of creative writing. and so have the feeling that all the Russians in the debate are speaking about the obvious without being able to agree on the single and self-evident issue of the existence of that obviously real Central Europe outside the various Greater Russian historical narratives imposed on the region over history. physically.” that theoretical insight into the totality of problems imposed on them by the colonizers. can do little to open their imperial eyes. their position in the dispute resembles Svejk’s existential emptiness when it comes to making active history. This pedagogical tone employed by Tolstaya and Aninsky thus becomes nothing but a new colonial narrative.to comment on totalitarian phenomena such as military. From Kiš’ and Konrad’s perspective. at least nominally. As oppressed members of the community of smaller nations. In a paradoxical way. decolonized. but as representatives of the power structure. deeply entrenched within the Soviet system. the two Russian authors actually prove that their minds remain the property of the same oppressor who owns them mentally. they have to de-colonize their mind in order to gain the discursive position from which their newly-acquired language of 78 . Ironically. a Hungarian and a Yugoslavian see the problem clearly. a narrative once again present in Central Europe. Instead.
the more its representatives interpret their constructed histories as “natural. Its dynamics are seen in the cases of Kafka. Svejk. As members of a multinational political entity. the notion of history as a mission silenced Tolstaya and Aninsky. by European nation. It is no surprise that the discussion between the Soviets and Central Europeans has provoked a writer with rich colonial experience outside of Europe. Their romantic escapism. This same sense of mission in the age of European decolonization.mutual understanding can be heard. and its authority is not within individual people’s reach. The official history of the Imperial powers is the only existing grand historical narrative for Central Europe. History as a mission. and the Butcher’s wife. history of the “powerless” is a History that comes to you. is most probably no more than their personal denial of a colonial tragedy. Unfortunately this personal denial has its general and global consequences. I think that is what Danilo Kiš is talking about: tone. but as such. it does not lead to understanding Central Europe. directed the Soviet tanks in the heart of Europe. in my opinion. This is not merely an historical posture of ancestry and tradition which goes under the general name of “civilization. Similarly. In contrast to such imperial narratives. is that force which drove missionaries with their books. Derek Walcott stated: The imperial voice. Also irritated with the talk. That intruding history is always superimposed. present in every colonial narrative. im79 . About a linear concept of progress and experiment in literature which I find no different from the presumptions of the priest and the conquistador. swords. and their history rewritten.” taking them for granted. and crosses into lands that were never theirs.” I am talking about tone. (115) Walcott’s observation about the reproduction of colonial narratives recognizes that the stronger a European nation is. dominates this conference and its range increases with every representation by European tribe. evident in their infantile adoration toward a humble and self-denying individual who produces literature.
Tolstaya and Aninsky have decided that what counts are those few literary Slavs (Czechs. Polish literature as fragments of the last bastions of historically lost Pan-Slavic culture. In the same vein but unwilling to completely erase peoples from their reduced imperial map of Europe. This situation replicates itself across the postcolonial world. such a world is yet to be found. What comes out of their writing is literature. self-defeating gesture to hide their already mute consciousness. But that political issue is not important here. For Lev Aninsky and Tatyana Tolstaya. To close their eyes in face of Central European colonized reality. because they did not believe in them. Czech. Slovenes. The cultural location of such literature is of no importance to the Russian writers of the end of millennium. they must partition it into smaller entities. Northern American slave owners renamed their African slaves because they did not care for African cultural register and consequently for the slave’s real names. but in which individual acts of writing keep people alive in a practical way. Eastern (Central) Europeans live in a world in which individual values are completely non-existent. Tolstaya and Aninsky had to reach for a desperate. But such an act of humiliating silence is precisely a colonial act. Croatian. politically named Eastern Europe. according to which one does not talk about things in which he or she does not believe. Aninsky and Tolstaya even claim that it does not exist for literature. Slovaks) who sit in their rooms and write. just as it was not for Kundera’s Dostoevsky. This debate is why the Lisbon Conference must be taken as a milestone in every future analysis of Central Europe from the colo80 . In Central Europe and its culture. The paradox of the Russian colonial treatment of Central Europe is contained in Tolstaya’s and Aninsky’s outlook on writing and living.manently strangled by the Soviet-Russian rule. As they say. For the time being there is no way out of such a circle of cognitive and emotional escapism. British missionaries in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart did not want to talk about the tribal gods. Croats. they do not believe in the existence of Central Europe. because the exit has to be found by an individual in a context with existing individual values. recognizing Yugoslavian. and therefore they do not want to talk about it.
and its inhabitants have always reacted to the versions of history that these occupiers have imposed onto the region. the periphery for these alien centers. as well as their own incomprehension and dissatisfaction about the realities imposed on them. This permanent postcolonial status by no means implies that Central Europe is entirely fictitious. it was in Lisbon that they were named and brought to attention of the West by intellectuals from all over the world. the very existence of Central Europe is a kind of narrative of postcolonial condition. Characters like Svejk or Josef K. But this periphery has not ever been absorbed simply into the occupiers’ historical spaces. have always remained on the map of this Central Europe to signal or enact the dis-ease of occupation. Invaded by alien 81 . the region has functioned as the limes for the colonizing powers. so far principally employed to examine mainly those narratives closely attached to Anglo. Central Europe has always been able to define a prior colonizer. Instead. and people like Kundera or the butcher’s wife.nial and postcolonial perspectives.” or an unrecoverably lost past entity.and Frankophone modes of colonization.25 Once such a discussion of Central European colonialism and postcolonialism has entered a public sphere and acquired its own idiom within the global language of postcolonial liberation and cultural theory. Although such dynamics have existed in Central Europe throughout the centuries. Central Europe between “post” and “past” An Interim Conclusion The various historical narratives to which the “worlds” of Central Europe have been attached represent the reality of Central Europe in a postcolonial and in a postmodern condition. because since the beginnings of recorded history it has been constantly occupied and re-occupied politically and economically. In fact. future studies can be undertaken in which Central European authors can be interpreted through the gaze of colonial and postcolonial criticism. merely a “state of mind.
but deprived of its own. however provisionally. The question raised by Central European intellectuals to Tatyana Tolstaya and Lev Aninsky remains: what is required of an intellectual in the postmodern and postcolonial space of Central Europe. sometimes. they cope with the surprises in more or less active ways by partially resisting the kind of historical “sense” or official “truth” that is being imposed on them. In this sense. Such questioning of authorities is done actively (Kundera) or in a mode of passive resistance in which Central Europeans agree to lose themselves as subjects of history. Claudio Magris and Miroslav Krleža.). Central Europe is also always in a postmodern condition. For them. That is. In each particular case. as a set of economically and politically non-dominant countries on the crossroads of two dominant civilizations. addressing Central Europe’s status as “post” will be crucial to understanding how the texts to be discussed. and for other Central Europeans. just like the essays and novels mentioned earlier in this chapter. transnational military corporations (Josef Svejk). a dialogue in which Central Europe is argued upon. the butcher’s wife). these texts call a fundamental tenet of postcolonial theory into question. By rejecting the idea that the West is a monolith (a claim rejected uncategorically for postcolonial regions outside Europe). participate in a very consistent dialogue between the East and West. depending on the epochal condition’s availability in their immediate environment will be explored. or in the postmodern and decolonizing situation of the former occupying powers? The next chapters will take on that question by addressing the works and ideas of two paradigmatic Central European intellectuals. its inhabitants and their personal lives call the master narratives of the occupiers’ histories into question. In their narratives of regional historical recovery. or tanks (Kundera. 82 . in its perpetual postcolonial situation. their reflection. mode of self-representation. even the facets of their embracement of respective postmodern and postcolonial situations. or. Magris and Krleža appropriate basic notions of postcolonial theory to various realities of Central Europe. The answer. the region exists in real space.laws (Josef K. free. while carefully preserving their locations as independent objects (Svejk).
They are dealing with their nations as “post” and “past” a Western cultural tradition that nevertheless fails to grant them either political or cultural acknowledgment of their own. 83 . distinct subjectivity as Westerners who cannot exert power and dominance.
eds. Bryan S. 1991) . After the Future: The Paradoxes of Postmodernism and Contemporary Russian Culture (Amherst: U of Massachusetts P. Thomas Dochery. A Critical Theory of Public Life: Knowledge. After Theory: Postmodernism/ Postmarxism (London-New York: Routlege. but rather the choice of a fair and well-suited illustration 2 3 4 5 84 . 1995) . 1995) . 1984). Orientalism.. 1994) James M. Sequel to History: Postmodernism and the Crisis of Representational Time (Princeton: Princeton UP. Harper. Manipulating Needs: Capitalism and Culture (Boulder: Pluto Press. 1995) . Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke UP. The Barbarian Temperament: Toward a Postmodern Critical Theory (London: Routlege. MA: Blackwell. Can Modernity Survive? (Berkeley: U of California P. Krishan Kumar. Stjepan G. Postmodernism and Globalism (London: Routlege. 1993) . Frederic Jameson. Mestrovic.” Atlantic Monthly Aug. 1994) . trans. Mapping the Future: Local Cultures. Framing the Margins: The Social Logic of Postmodern Culture (New York: Oxford UP. Haber. Linda Nicholson. 1990) . see: Jean-Francois Lyotard. Turner. ed. David Lyon. Global Change (London-New York: Routlege. UK . 1967: 29-34. Vol. 1994) . trans.Cambridge. John Bird. Rorty. For an extended discussion of postmodernism in relation to my approach in this study. 1992) . The Ideologies of Theory: Essays (1971-1986). Discourse. 1993). Glan. and Steven Seidman. 1984) . Brian S. and Politics in the Age of Decline (London-New York: Falmer Press. Foucault (New York: Routlege. Hall Foster. Ben Agger. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. 1990) . ed. Ben Agger. 1991) . Postmodernity (Buchingam: Open University Press. ed. 1990) . Erwarth. 2: Syntax of History. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: U of Minessota Press. 1994) . From Post-Industrial to Post-Modern Society: New Theories of the Contemporary World (Oxford. 1992) . 178-208: 195. Jean-Francois Lyotard. Mestrovic. 1993) . The Balkanization of the West: The Confluence of Postmodernism and Postcommunism (London-New York: Routlege. Shattered Selves: Multiple Personality in a Postmodern World (Ithaca: Cornell UP. Turner.. The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture (Seattle: Bay Press. Social Postmodernism: Beyond Identity Politics (Cambridge-New York: Cambridge UP. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: U of Minessota Press. Agnes Heller. The Discourse of Domination: From the Frankfurt School to Postmodernism (Evanston: Northwestern UP. Beyond Postmodern Politics: Lyotard.. Philip B. 1995) . Mikhail Epshtein. Stjepan G.. John Barth. “The Literature of Exhaustion.1 For more. and The Literature of Replenishment. The randomness of my choice is not a sign of any lack of a systematic research related to this project. 1994) This discussion of terms and its syntax used is summarized in Frederic Jameson. Theories of Modernity and Postmodernity (London: Sage Publications. Honi F. 1983) . Elisabeth D. see: Conrad Lodziak.
(Summer 1992): 843-884. who after history came to him in a form of an omniscient police-informant. For instance.4. 11 Katie Trumpener. (Summer 1992): 625-629. Svejk. I cite: “I think we should distinguish between writers and intellectuals. History visited Svejk and became obligatory. The traditional view of the narratives and individual involvement still alive in Central Europe is not an inherently Central European phenomenon. and the Butcher’s wife. who tried to ascertain what our states of being were” Partisan Review LIX. “The Time of the Gypsies: A ‘People without History’ in the Narratives of the West. 1992.of the arbitrariness of naming and understanding Central Europe. define. Lenin. since it has been adopted throughout the West at least.4. was arrested. or even properly name. They have formed the major projects of modern times. The historical obligation imagined by the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph had driven the Austrian police in a Prague pub in which they found an unassuming semi-retarded civilian. and by virtue of the historical mission imagined by Austro-Hungary became a soldier of the Austro-Hungarian infantry.. like the writers. 10. “Editors’ Introduction: Multiplying Identities. 85 .. in the realm of feeling. George Sch`pflin and Nancy Wood (Cambridge: Polity Press. 4 (1992): 530-539. it is important to distinguish here between those intellectuals who had a formative influence upon politics and society over the last two or three centuries and those who. we have in a way been in the hands of intellectuals. and we should all think very seriously about this. locate.” Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities is one of the only cases where postcolonial theory addresses a Central European culture. such a conservative and outdated belief was also evident in Saul Bellow’s paper presented at the 1992 conference Intellectuals and Social Change in Central and Eastern Europe. so to speak.” Critical Inquiry 18.” In Search of Central Europe..” Critical Inquiry 18. an arbitrariness present in almost all the published work on a region that is extremely hard to recognize. Jr. Intellectuals like Marx. simply tried to follow subjectively. presented us with transformations which we had to live with and which not only dominated our lives but formed our minds. not necessarily writers. and so on down the line. In modern times. held at Rutgers University on April 9. 6 Egon Schwarz. It’s an important distinction which deserves to be made. 7 8 9 10 Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates. Perhaps the best example to illustrate such a game between the historical obligation of a colonizer and the obligatory history imposed on the colonized is the tragi-comic destiny of Jaroslav Hasek’s Good Soldier Svejk. Josef Svejk. eds. Rousseau. so that it required a considerable private individual effort to cast off this framework imposed on us. 1989) 143-156. using the example of Hungary. and 11. “What Central Europe Is and What It Is Not. The notion of the obligatory history superimposed on individuals in the dual monarchy is analyzed below in the section entitled: “History Comes to You: Kafka.
and Derek Walcott (West Indies). Adam Zagajewski (Poland). Glan. 13 Such terminology is repeatedly employed in the Western European (particularly British) media as well as in the public discourse of the United States of America. Susan Sontag (USA). Danilo Kis (Yugoslavia). Ivan Lalic (Yugoslavia). Such arrogant treatment tells more about the colonizers than the colonized. see. Shattered Selves: Multiple Personality in a Postmodern World (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Although it was not planned in the program. 1994). The transcript of the roundtable discussion is published in a yearbook of Central European Culture entitled Cross Currents (9-1990) 75-124. Jan Blonski (Poland). 14 The Second Wheatland Conference on Literature (Lisbon. Peter Esterhazi (Hungary). Roberto Calasso (Italy). Interestingly enough. Other participants were: Hans Christoph Buch (W. and Zinovy Zinik (USSR). Salman Rushdie (India). Veno Taufer (Yugoslavia). The writers who participated in the conference were. “medieval” means “bloodthirsty.” “untamed” (often untamable). Tatyana Tolstaya (USSR). Sergei Dovlatov (USSR). New York: Routlege. 86 . Krzysztof Michalski (Poland). Jan Jùzef Szczepanski (Poland). “Milan Kundera i povratak Srednje Europe. it addresses their own crimes. Ismael Kadare (Albania). Klaus Rifbjerg (Denmark). Anatoly Kim (USSR). the issue of Central Europe became the central topic of often seriously polarized discussion among the Central European and Russian writers who attended.1990) brought together writers from various countries (predominantly from Russia and Central Europe) who discussed concerns in their literatures within the new developments in Europe. Pietro Citati (Italy). Ian McEwan (UK). Josef Skvorecky (Czechoslovakia). George Konrad (Hungary). in both cases.” “uncivilized.” Apart from the fact that the war in Bosnia and Croatia has nothing to do with the media-fabricated concept of “medieval tribal hatred. Lev Anninsky (USSR). see: Stjepan Gabriel Mestrovic. Also for an account on similar dynamics of Central European decolonization in the Postcommunist world. The Lisbon Conference is considered a turning point in bringing Central Europe in the mainstream discursive space of contemporary analysis of European literature. social psychoanalysis and history as a superimposed modifier of selves in a postmodern conditions. James M. 1993). Czeslaw Milosz (Poland). Germany). 15 Ivo Banac.” Gordogan 19-20 (1985): 39-46. Joseph Brodsky (USSR).12 For an elaborated account on the connection between individual psychologies. and “wild. because in all cases. Grant Matevosian (USSR).” it reveals the West’s deeply-rooted colonial treatment of remote lands on behalf of those who wish to deny their own responsibility in exterminating natives either in the lands they settled (USA) or in those enslaved for their economic greed (GB). The Balkanization of the West: The Confluence of Postmodernism and Postcommunism (London. All the sessions were moderated by Michael Scammell (UK).
Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. taken for a deserter by a farmer.16 For a systematic outline of the Frankfurt School treatment of totality see. “Eastern or Central Europe. 23 Perhaps the best novel that uncovers an everyday life of a Russian everyman and is written under the strong influence of Hasek’s The Good Soldier Svejk is 87 . 1987). In the same collection of essays. R. During his escapade many things happened to the good soldier: he was helped by a motherly old woman. and reaching his destination much too late. 1984).. for some mysterious reason. and Giles Deleuze. see Lubomir Dolezel..” Cross Currents 7 (1988): 255-269. Robert Hurley. Once Svejk finally arrived in Tabor. eds. arrested by the gendarmerie and mistaken for a Russian spy. also: Martin Jay. see also Hana Arie Gaifman. Lone (New York: Viking Press. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research 1923-50 (Boston: Little. the lieutenant ordered him to walk there. and FJlix Guattari. and signifies a world “hinter”—behind the nations—a mix in which on some level it looked as if one did not know to which nation he or she belonged in a multi-ethnic and multi-national context. 1977). 1986).” 307-323.” Language and Literary Theory. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. and Felix Guattari. “The Road of History and the Detours of the Good Soldier. Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lucks to Habermas (Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California Press. However. and Lubomir Dolezel (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. and put on a train to Èeške Budjeovice. 18 For more on “deterritorialization” see Giles Deleuze.finally he was excorted to Pasek by the corporal. and Felix Guattari. Titunik. he started drinking and missed all the trains to Èeške Budjeovice. “Svejk-The Homo Ludens. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. 22 Endre Bojtar. a sense taken with a fatalistic sense of humor. Martin Jay. and Helen R. 1973) 17 For a detailed discussion of “minor literature” see: Giles Deleuze. and Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz. it was stopped and the alarm handle was released. Mark Seem. trans. trans. Brown. approximately five minutes after the train arrived to Tabor. Stolz. almost walking in circles. Infuriated with the situation. “Kafka and Hasek-Reflections on a Meeting in the House of Fiction. In this picaresque part of the novel. trans. Instead of walking in the direction of Èeške Budjeovice. Hasek epitomized Central Europeans’ sense of historical and individual loss. Dana Polan (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. 20 This escapade happened during Svejk’s transport to Èeške Budjeovice where he was sent by the Imperial army.” 339-355. 21 Hinter-national is a term which belongs to the Prague writer Johannes Urzidil. 19 For a precise analysis of the role of the obligatory history and the prohibited freedom in Good Soldier Svejk. Svejk took a long trip. 1984) 241-249. I. Benjamin A.
1992. Partisan Review LIX-4 (1992). 25 Although the Lisbon Conference was not the only one to discuss Central Europe as an independent geopolitical and cultural entity.” in Vaclav Havel. April 9-11. it was the most important one for addressing the issue of colonialism and postcolonialism in the regional politics.Vladimir Voinovich’s The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin. 24 The powerless peoples of Central Europe are not entirely deprived of their role in the active regional history. For a suggestive account on “the powerless” as a possible agency of social. see Vaclav Havel’s essay “The Power of The Powerless. 88 . For another important conference. cultural. (London: Faber and Faber. see Intellectuals and Social Change in Central and Eastern Europe. and political change in Central Europe. Living in Truth. 1990) 36-122.
and offers his own historiographic and aesthetic outlook on the protean region. In so doing he recounts and deconstructs these master narratives of history and culture. or repeat Svejk’s silent performative irony. Magris’ authorial voice follows the metaphor of the region’s main river to build a discursive space in the novel which shows how this metaphor expresses the main tensions in the broader body of Central European culture. the reader is brought to investigate the historiographical and narratological consequences of 89 . Magris’ own. Their experience is narrated by a polyphony of voices. former schoolmates. The organizing voice in telling a story about the journey.Chapter 2: Six Characters In Search of the Danube So that one does not face the same “surprise” Kundera experienced being intercepted by the foreign tanks. that can express one’s own experience of the everyday life of that region. As he follows the river from its source(s) to its estuary. Magris offers a tableaux of possible “realities” offered in the past by various constructs of Central Europe. Following his travels. Taking up the challenge of finding the metaphor. Claudio Magris writes a book about the region organized around a river: The book describes the journey of three couples. Aware of the background of the historiography of a colonial Central Europe. who follow the Danube from its sources in the Black Mountains to the Black Sea. who use the trip along the banks of the river as their main motivation for constructing the narrative. recreates the spiritual reality of the Danubian basin through this sextet.
on a real map. Magris is also trying to show what else is at stake in the Central Europe through which his Danube. Somewhat like Svejk. which he treats as a traveler-nomad whose guide is his curiosity in a fragmented word of post-subjectivism. Engaged in the battle for an adequate representation and cultural space. Unlike Svejk who. Magris performs a specific function in Central Europe: by taking on the role of a picaro. in spite of the assumed clarity of the term “colonization” in its Anglophone or Frankophone contexts. the latter wishes to claim the kind of voice that. reveals the abundance of different modes of colonial presences within Central European native lands and shows the variety of 90 . and to determine what kind(s) of geopolitical identity may be depicted in them. a key figure in Western literary tradition. One of the possible implications of the author’s intentions is to provoke his Central European audience to react to these geopolitical narratives imposed from outside the Central European space. He is arguing that Central Europe’s consciousness needs to be postmodern if the individuals who live there are to overcome the superimposed reality of the modern power blocks which have now been broken up and claim some sort of agency in writing their own histories. flows. with real historical implications. for obvious reasons. Claudio the Pilgrim construes his narrative while following the unpredictable river.these constructs. temporally and spatially. His deterritorialized position of a de-centered traveler-nomad enables Magris to assume an active role of a Central European intellectual with his own historical rights and duties—aware that one cannot define present without regaining the past (Kafka). trapped in the role of a colonial subject systematically annihilates the colonizer’s reality by perpetually bringing it to the level of absurdity. By undertaking this journey in a context of postmodern questioning rather than colonial reality construction. Hasek’s Svejk never could—to assert his own existence as a postcolonial Central European intellectual. Magris’ Danubio is based on his realization that Central Europe’s reality has been permanently based on the inequality of “cultural representation involved in the contest for political authority within the modern world order” (Redrawing the Boundaries 437). The journey down the Danube.
In his textual search. Once it is held up. This choice is based on a more intuitive and certainly more literary reading of Heraclitus -.on the hope that a river can be stopped. Magris’ novel Danubio can be taken strategically. To resolve this tension. offering a polyphony of non-hierachized identities rather than a single holistic identity of the colonized. they can never grasp the nature of their position because the river is always new. but equally plural and flexible subject positions that the varied colonialisms have produced in the textual testimonies from countries such as Austria. as a travel guide and map that directs its readers to the realization that Central European identity is not ou-topos. hoping to encounter a model for the river. According to Heraclitus. and the like—themselves also never officially recognized as colonies.different. but very real and plural entity. Slovakia. Heraclitus’ image of a river as an entity in its eternal change. the author simultaneously travels along the Danube and time travels into the metaphors that reside within the history of philosophy. Magris embraces both dimensions of the river metaphor.1 a piece of old wisdom stressing how utopian and vain is the human desire to comprehend flux. the body of water behaves like those particles and atoms of which Zeno’s arrow3 is composed. By employ91 . Bosnia. Yet Magris is torn between the dialectic dynamic of this metaphor2 and his own Western human desire for the security of scientific analysis -. regardless of how many times individuals step in the river. and whose configuration may be seen as permanently static. Magris introduces an old Western metaphor. Italy. Czech Republic. so familiar to the socio-political dynamics of Central Europe. Deﬁning the River The Poetics of a Classical Exemplar Magris’ first approach to Central Europe is philosophical. Croatia. Aware of the impossibility of establishing a firm historical contour for the region.the desire to achieve results which may definitively codify the labyrinths of a single existence.
however. but only in relation to all those particles of difference. Thus Magris’ experiment has its roots in the Western tradition of science. how it feels. and so will need such metaphysical encouragement and confirmation from ancient thinkers. then. Following Zeno’s aporia more in the realm of the imagination than as traditional metaphysics.one which could ultimately reconcile those two metonymycal polarities. If wood is wood. looking for new solutions to the definition of the Danube -. rather than. His description of the river reflects the “proper” scientific method accepted by Western intellectuals. the author cannot be satisfied with his simpler 92 .by asking what it is. therefore unreal. Thus the arrow’s atoms in their interrelation do not move. The poetics of Magris’ travel book will. be romantic in intent. According to Zeno.” This restatement leads Magris to a redefinition of the Danube’s landscapes and its changing histories as truths which cannot be grasped universally. Magris’ goal is to liberate his own fantasy about the river metaphor. in consequence. represented in various occupying powers and historical imperatives. like in Kundera’s case. Perhaps the fragment should state: “Regardless of how many times one steps in the same river. Magris hopes to isolate and freeze the Danube’s ever-changing history in order to find out what each may imply as historically-determined geocultural narratives. regardless of an object’s motion. yet still nostalgic vis-ŕ-vis the literary traditions of the West. and so. Consequently. the river is always essentially the same. its essence nonetheless remains fixed because all the elements that compose it are essentially static. that a traveler will encounter when following the river’s currents. its wooden fabric remains undisturbed. its movement is only an appearance. To distinguish between an object’s invisible essence and its “real” appearance. one must only refer to the solidity of those atomic particles. then water is water—and maybe Heraclitus was wrong in saying that no one can comprehend flux? Perhaps Heraclitus’ fragment has to be re-formulated in a third way. if it is to illustrate the dynamism of the Danube’s fluctuating reality. Despite his respect for the literary past. thinks Magris. once an arrow is discharged. fictitious. This is an illustration of how the traditional West determines identity -.ing these two readings of Heraclitus.
while exploring the stability of moments in its historical existence. poetics and politics seen as part and parcel of the same body of water translated into metaphors that have designated the Danube and Central Europe definable from within its inherent regional qualities. Magris’ new definition therefore stresses the literary (and thus fictional) structure of his intention to “reframe” and question the wastelands of Central European historiography. In consequence. both the methods and results of Magris’ literary journey speak to postmodern and anti-essentialist perspectives. While striving to define the Danube. Magris hesitates to offer a clear exegesis of the river-as-fragment in order not to coin it in a Western way. Instead. has experienced. questioning the West’s traditional metaphors just as Kundera questioned the role of intellectuals’ emotions in the presence of tanks that came to Central Europe from the East. He demonstrates his respect for the artist’s internal sense of the pragmatic poetic justice which the topic deserves. stressing the essential wholeness of entities under their varied perceptions. thus tries to make peace between western poetics and the po-et(h)ics of a postcolonial world— between metaphors and poetic references seen as tools of representation. even if it has not yet been aesthetically codified. as a Central European. His clear intent is to remain consistent and faithful to the topography of Central Europe. Magris’ dilemma regarding the two different possible interpretations of Heraclitus does not lead him to either of the poles of the binary. Magris. he embraces the infinite variety of the metaphor’s flow. The cultural iconography of western modernism has followed the pattern of its science. as an active traveler.appropriations of Heraclitus’ definitions of a river because these two “incompatible” concepts create two polarities that do not correspond with Magris’ paradigmatic experiment of Central Europe. Heraclitus’ and Zeno’s aphorisms seem to be crucial for understanding the meanings of the narrative that Magris uses to frame central theoreti93 . which is always the same (personally) but always different (politically). His solution embraces both possible readings of the river metaphor. Within the Western tradition. Yet such wholeness seems contradictory to the fluctuating and merging semiotics of the Danube that Magris.
but also in relation to others. affectively.4 since there are too many different landscapes to allow a straightforward narrative resolution of the river’s geocultural identity. Kundera’s East. Magris had divided his authorial voice. His attempt to maintain a commitment to both essential and relational definitions of identity also splits Claudio Magris as narrator. the Danube. their own fictional model for experience. Conflicts in definition each need their own speaker. The relation between Magris the author and Magris the traveler thus directly alludes to that between Dante the poet and Dante the pilgrim in La Commedia. however these aphorisms will now read: an identity in its simplest meaning is defined not simply out of its own essence. nonetheless. As Professor Claudio Magris. the knowledge gained by the two pilgrims targets and 94 . Magris’ admiration for the modernist and traditional master narratives of his own national literature finds its place in the novel’s ideological narrative frame. whose “Virgil” offers various narratives that are too protean to be of any help. Magris brings the two extremes together by organizing and destabilizing the epistemological and affective truths of his dominant metaphor. In Dante’s case. The West wants to “read” metaphors essentially. however. Instead of speaking as two voices whose hierarchical interrelations are relatively stable as narrative topoi or tropes (Dante the author and Dante the pilgrim). Like Dante in his La divina commedia. Their ontologies (stressing the solidity under appearances) have been widely exploited in modernism. In the postmodern framing which Magris acknowledges just as he does modernism.cal and methodological questions that govern the intentional level of Danubio. he is a representative of a strictly-defined Western poetics and critic of literary reference. while moving beyond Dante’s belief in narrative as a single truth. and they have been translated into the idiom of more contemporary post-modern epistemology. he grounds the discussion of Central Europe in newly appropriated terms as well. to make himself and his readers into travelers. In so doing. but this strict role is alien to Magris the pilgrim. Magris splits his narrative voice in new ways to liberate himself from clear identification. into pilgrims whose ability to define themselves and the region grows as the journey develops.
but its core. but. of eternal rest. due to the topic’s structure. In other words. Heraclitus speaks of eternal movement. or for a relational one? Yet isn’t such an essentialist definition of an object still relational when that strategy is defined as the relational stillness of its particles? That is. Zeno (Parmenides). can one narrate or define something that has always disappeared from the horizon? In other words. it is useful to inquire exactly how a metaphor corresponds with a narrative reality. This seemingly clear distinction between the two narrative voices in Danubio thus also illustrates not only the arbitrariness of this search for the identity of the Danube. ends up questioning both. is no longer there. the water. Can Zeno’s idea. while in Magris’ work. A river has banks and a streambed.reveals a hierarchical truth. for instance. Danubio is a narrative that seeks to define something that does not exist as a traditionally/positively definable referent. should one define an object by describing what it intrinsically is. never fixed? In this case. be seen as a justification for an essentialist narrative point of view. is never a steady referent point. so it has limits and borders. defined spatially. Yet why does a narrative explaining something in flux like the Danube. inactivity. the knowledge of the narrators is conclusive only as an inductive aggregate of individually interpreted facts encountered in the course of their wanderings. fixed existence or reference? Why would a definition of the Danube have to refer to the essences of things? By using the aforementioned aporiae as a nar95 . an “essence” is also established through an essential absence: the water. Magris attempts to sustain both of the models. In order to understand the narrative implications of Magris’ choice for the river’s definition. they offer Magris two competing models of the “essence” of his river metaphor—activity vs. have to be based on words or signs that have a discrete. Recovered as potentially equal authorities on the philosophy of nature. since it is based on a model of flux whose essence (if any) is always relational. but also the negotiability of Magris’ choice of two (or more) different readings of the river metaphor. or can an object be defined by defining the relationships into which it enters? Or is Heraclitus’ aphorism perhaps more suitable for a narrative defining a river’s identity.
known mainly to the outside world through fictionalized representations of its own historical reality.” The tragedy of Central Europe can easily be summarized in one sentence: Central European reality has never been produced indigenously. is not an ontic dimension of Central Europe. because it defines identities relationally. Central Europe has almost always seemed fictional to its inhabitants because of the colonial dynamics of conquest and possession. Its actual existence has therefore seemed fictional to the ethnicities whose land it really is. instead. Magris’ poetics also provides anti-essentialist grounds of his forthcoming po-et(h)ical analysis of the Danubian reality. rather than as permanent essences. except the officially imposed historical master narratives generated in the workshops of the various colonizers. what if those “colonized” others do not have any constituent reference point against which to define themselves? And this is what is precisely at stake in Central Europe: its inhabitants have nothing to define themselves against. For these cases. as Kundera’s experience confirms it. then. Moreover. It also affects the ways in which these identities were constructed or otherwise called into “existence. but rather in terms of the imperial conquests.rative strategy. is constantly shifting. due to which the region has never belonged to its own peoples. In one sense.of powerful agencies alien to its geography. This fictionality. The various fluid and 96 . moreover. Magris reveals his awareness of how geohistorical reality is fictionalized. The landscape’s reality has had polyvalent and extrinsically imposed political and intellectual identities since the time of the Romans. As Magris has noted. This strategy for definition is necessary when the reference points against which defined subjects are imposed upon a fluid political and geographical situation. It has been constantly in the hands of strangers -. however. nonetheless. he is arguing for a metonymic textual strategy that can reflect a non-essentialist and non-essentializing image of the objective world. This narrative strategy is pragmatic. as is the case of Central Europe. the Danubian landscape. unrelated to the colonizers’ histories. As a part of such an explanation. this colonial polyphony is an empirical “proof” of such “regional” fictionality. the region’s “fictional” identity still exerts influence on the identities of its inhabitants.
which written in an essentialist way might read as the author’s possible textual conquest—Magris follows the metonymy of the river to uncover all the possible narratives which any pre-given definition would suppress. Although he is asking a Central European question. he refuses to impose his colonizing vision onto a space which he is experiencing differently. Because his poetics is po-et[h]ical. closely attached to colonial narratives. Magris declines to create a new master narrative which would objectify the topic and adjust it to the traditional modes of colonial travelogues. cultural. not as the master narrative.fictionalized realities of the Danube. Seen as part of Western scientific traditions. political. together with all the real connotations of its mythical representations. So instead of defining the Central Europe— the topic of his travel book. however. who holds a prestigious job at the University of Trieste. Following the Danube as a narrative organizing principle and expressing both the fluctuations in and continuities among various constructions of “Central Europe. But these fictions are not simply in the minds of the region’s inhabitants. Expressed more scientifically.” Magris’ narrative thus meanders through history as the actual river does. In questioning these master narratives. he cannot or will not decide between Zeno’s and Heraclitus’ definitions of an entity. the author does not behave as a colonial traveler. On the contrary: he is unable (or unwilling) to decide on even a single definition on what he offers a view. Magris’ novel is nonetheless based on Western narrative model of traditional “travel literature. and geographical maps used to negotiate one’s courses through the region. Danubio is thus not only a piece of travel literature that circumscribes or represents the region’s various identities. thus actually create its reality (and/or “realities”) for the individuals who live in this essentially “fictional” space. follows the well-known Danubian colonial paths from the West to the East. po-et[h]ical narrative recreation of the unstable historical identities encountered in Danu97 . They exist as the templates for the social. it is also a faithful. Magris’ journey can be described in the following terms: an Italian Germanist educated in Torino. produced by such colonialism.” resting on a “mainstream” view of Central European cultural history. from the North to the South.
And it is clear from Danubio that such a re-creation has to be done from within— from the very object of discussion. contextual. Therefore he simply refuses to impose the dominant Western conventions of experience onto someone else’s experiences of reality. however. locallygrounded approach in re-inventing Central Europe. the subtitle 98 . It suggests that. Chasing a river on a journey. means a genuine betrayal of human essence because one is emphasizing change rather than exploring a core self. into a narrative defining a certain phase of an individual’s life. and. at least in memory. Magris builds his ethical position into his narrative. a traveler can re-member all the individual elements of a trip and assemble them into a certain system of coherent experiences. Magris’ poetics is ethical because it honestly reflects the Danubian flux rather than insisting on its externally proclaimed stability. Magris is confronting the immorality of such travel in his own (Heraclitian) way when he receives an invitation to participate in an exhibition6 on “The Architecture of the Journey: The History and Utopia of Hotels. the idea that a journey has an architecture sounds comforting to him.”5 Weininger’s statement easily refers to Magris’ own experience of a fragmented river whose flux contradicts the imagined holism of one’s individual existence.traveling is immoral. colonial. In other words.”7 Initially.bian lands. as such. As Danubio opens. Claudio Magris knows that the idea of the Danube’s stability is external to the region. in Weininger’s view. His novel is a narrative re-creation of the unstable and de-centered historical identities whose poet(h)ics is indeed based on ethics that insists on an internal. a famous source for a variety of the region’s historical narratives whose outlook on traveling is rather holistic: “A river has no totality -. He quotes Otto Weininger. However. The importance of a Journey I Travelers Early in his novel. He prefers a polyphony of personal experiences instead.
Magris’ journey still has a literary topography within its divided narrative whose classical counterpart is to be found in Dante Alighieri’s trip through the triadic Christian construct of Inferno. Instead. Yet it again reflects how this conference’s implicit master narrative anchors itself in essences and fixed objects. They move the plot forward within the text. the stance of such a narrator is thus paradoxical as Magris’ choice of avenues through which to question master narratives: he plays with authorities inside and outside the text who are confessing their reactions and thoughts in various historical terms. Nevertheless. Such internal narrators are confessional references which create the impression of subjectivity within the objective form of the narrative. Such internally focalized voices produce confessional references whose collective subjectivity results in an objective reality of the novel. rather than as a shifting pattern of an individual’s experience. Magris’ textually and culturally subversive modes are peculiar because more than once they depend on a stable subject-position usually taken from his own national literature. he parodies the very idea of narrative topoi-icons by multiplying his own focalization separating/connecting it in six subject-positions who. Seen through the eyes of a narratologist. all of them. he decided to undertake a journey himself and record it in a different kind of fictionalized testimony. since it principally has to do with travelers -.with their ideas of rest. at its basis. communicate either by reminiscing (whenever they speak of time or actively relate to it) or in a confessional mode (whenever they speak of or relate to space) thus producing a plurality of meanings. Purgatory and Paradise. This immorality of leisure is of lesser importance for the idea of the journey.of the exhibition points out another level of immorality in which a journey can be implicated in: The History and Utopia of Hotels. Disturbed by the thought of the architecture of a journey as a stable object that desires to restore yet another set of master-narratives built around essentialist notions of rest. While he reaches in the past invoking doubles such as Dante. not a change. but they also always narrate the 99 . Magris refuses to visit that exhibition. The narrative authority of Dante the pilgrim still structures the historical form of Magris’ individual experiences just as rigidly as a hotel objectifies a traveler.
It is a novel which allows the reader to follow the six characters who travel the Danube on its/their way from the Schwartzwald to the Black Sea. they must take control. and exemplifies the various kinds of subjectivity that can be produced within those official narratives of history. Claudio’s knowledge. A reliable but still partial narrator. his cognitive method parallels that of Dante’s.world that already contains them. Such complementary doubles. Such deconstruction of binary oppositions suggests the nonexistence of firmly defined boundaries between subjectivity and objectivity of the topic—the Danube. Claudio the pilgrim has no preconceived truth to grasp through a quasi-inductive way of collecting empirical data. he offers various perspectives on the historical realities of Central Europe. Although. offers additional meditations based upon the movement of that large body of water. The fragmentation of the world. such narrator-characters narrate everything that does not narrate itself. For the same reason Claudio Magris multiplies his voice and fictionalizes his own world in order to testify about the multiple narrative architectures which can be imposed upon the experiences of his real journey. Although in its beginning Danubio seems to be a travelogue. Therefore Dante the pilgrim follows first Virgil and later Beatrice whose celestial being enables communication within the imaginative. Their introspection is both objective (in relation to the narrated object) and subjective (in their personal communication). To avoid the question of who narrates them. Claudio the Pilgrim. Characters must multiply until the main focal point. multiply themselves and send their complementary doubles off on journeys. a set of loose100 . unlike Dante the pilgrim. so immoral to Weininger. the imagined bearer of narrative stability ‘disintegrates’ and in his dis-integration produces an effective narrative structure whose elementary narrative units are doppelgängers. although constantly within a reach. grows with the flow of the river. like Dante the pilgrim’s. It is a constitutive element of his narrative world. By multiplying personae. Being a part of their narrated world. and exemplifies Magris’ textual poet(h)ics. it has its guides built in—through a considerably less stable way than Dante. seems completely natural to Magris. never meet each other in any shape other than that of a functional narrative unit.
whose authority claims. is spontaneously postmodern. precisely the same tedium that they left at home. but when it comes to writing his own book. (Danube15)* * Certo. Comparing the six different personal histories incorporated in Magris’ rereading of the official Central European historical narrative. lo stesso tedio lasciato a casa. it is unclear which figure. Magris does not hesitate to line up his ideas in a more contemporary. Magris’ acknowledgment of those narrative exemplars pays tribute to the legacies of his own thought. can claim the authenticity of their report.ly-connected fragments. dividing his voice into more voices. già i viaggiatori di Baudelaire. unlike Dante’s. and in spite of every unforeseen disaster. the adventure and mystery of travel would seem to be dead and done for: even Baudelaire’s Voyagers. if any. to be sure. nonostante ogni disastro imprevisto. who set out to look for the unheard-of and were ready to face shipwreck in the attempt. He remembers Dante and his Doppelgänger. make the axiologiclal mistake of deciding which one is “better” than any other. are each unclear. Sometimes the narrator just mentions some of the great writers from a polite distance. however. Magris recalls his literary exemplars as cultural icons related to the Danubian landscape. He pays his tribute to the various histories of the region in various ways. each offered in another voice for the reader to consider from outside the novel’s fictional space. This narrative move. As the river goes by. even though it has been generated in a literature professor’s nostalgia about the monolithic and hierarchical iconography of European modernism. found in the unknown. as well as to the diachronic coherence of his narrative voice. non-hierarchical catalogue. with respect: In this world administered and organized on a planetary scale. Magris’ reaction to an invitation. nel mondo amministrato e organizzato su scala planetaria l’avventura e il mistero del viaggio sembrano finiti. partiti alla ricerca dell’inaudito e pronti a naufragare in questa sortita. His nostalgia is still evident in the meta-textual tributes he pays to his literary predecessors. He does not. trovano nell’ignoto. (Danubio 12) 101 .
. at least spiritually. Like Baudelaire.1. Magris tries to be both aesthetic and comprehensive: he needs to acknowledge the authority of past masters in constructing the subjective experiences of his realities. His reference introduces the atmosphere and inner security of a literary milieu that Magris wants his readers to consider as relevant to the definition of the river. Through such references. (Danubio 12) ** Così lo schema del progetto [L’architectura del viaggio. even when one feels the pitiless azure break open beneath a debatable reality. (Danube 17)** * Velleità. In a similar vein.2.1.12 etc.2. storia ed utopia degli albergi ]dei due espansivi studiosi. dedicated to the same cause. articolato come il Tractatus di Wittgenstein (1. In some. within the historical traditions of Modernism. 2. 2. 1. more rigid cases. the distance between Magris and the great writers of the past decreases.11. set out like Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (1.12 ecc. almost as Magris’ peers.) . Such a nostalgic gesture gradually comforts Magris’ desire to remain. is nonchalantly implicated in Magris’ prose: Vain fancies. a German poet. as a source of infinity. (Danubio 13) . . says Benn. diceva Benn. other authorities are cited in a tone of more scholarly pedantry: In the same way the project drawn up by these two effusive scholars. 2. other mainstream writers are introduced in a more relaxed way. 2. (Danube 16)* This is definitely an invocation of a high poetic register that characterizes the river as art. Gottfried Benn. anche quando si sente lo spietato azzurro spalancarsi sotto l’opinabile realtà. . 1.) . when Claudio the pilgrim cannot escape the influence of Magris the professor. .11.Magris’ polite aside clearly identifies Baudelaire’s high-culture definition of a journey as significant to his own: he too discovers that all journeys are tedious.
comprese le illustrazioni. che pesa cinque chili e novecento grammi e che. less established intellectuals with great precision: Like Flaubert or Proust. Significantly. * Come Flaubert o Proust. Maddalena. and the pedant Neweklowsky) and the six characters who follow the river in Magris’ narrative. his attempt to break old. deals not with the Danube as such.164 pages (including illustrations). It emphasizes Magris’ de-hierarchized attempts to imitate the randomness of waters as they gather in Danubian gutters. spontaneously. the six characters seem to relate simply. (Danubio 66) 103 . Magris mentions other. but more modestly with Navigation and Rafting on the Upper Danube (1952-1964). but rather to introduce a chaotic set of various fragments based on their shared art of memory. The contrast between these various registers signals the chaotic nature of Magris’ fictional reality as well as the polyphony of the narrative voices. al libro. The collective memories of the former classmates and Magris’ narrative personae (Amedeo. all the master narratives acknowledged by Magris are not from high culture or official science (as the Weininger example has already suggested). come dice il titolo. Like these four writers.9 kilos and which. Neweklowsky ha dedicato la sua intera siztenza all’opera. Benn. (Danube 59)* There is a certain parallelism between those four authors (Baudelaire. Neweklowsky devoted his entire existence to the work. Magris leaves the impression of an oxymoron—a paradoxical mixture of self-aggrandizement and self-parody that calls narrative authority into question. which weighs 5. affronta non il Danubio. a total of 2. to The Book. To continue his questions of traditional narratives. ma. La navigazione e la fluitazione nel Danubio Superiore (1952-1964). il risultato è un volume in tre tomi di 2164 pagine complessive. as stated in the title. Their voices are not intended to produce any kind of harmony. Gigi. alla scrittura. più modestamente. Wittgenstein.By introducing the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in this way. The result is a work in three volumes. fixed power relations. to writing.
so that they can bring their individual and subjective idealisms into some fixed classifications and allow the reader to compare the results of their various journeys through the fluctuating and ever-fleeting landscapes of their shared Danubian reality. As author of a narrative. Yet. Only their nostalgic appeal to master narratives re-members their essentially dismembered personal histories that cohere for the readers. Gigi. Maria Giuditta. as a Central European. extra-textual coherence for the text itself. just as it is for the polyphony of Magris’ fictional clones. Wittgenstein and Neweklowsky. clearly noticeable in his addressing the panoply of voices in respectful tones. The fictional travelers have a single shared reference: their source.Magris. No matter how seriously one tries to codify the landscape of the diverse region through which the Danube flows. On the contrary.Francesca. less able to be expressed without reference to the kind of narrative schizophrenia that all these various “authorities” from inside and “outside” the text represent. his personal experience is more fragmented. Benn. closed. yet also define him as a product of the hierarchical melancholy of his region. as a creator of his own. the author. chaos is the only possible uniting framework for their references. the connection between the references in the text and the referent outside of it is not 104 . Maddalena. Benn. Magris occupies the position of a modernist. or as reflections of his subjective experience. The only reality that logically keeps the chaotic particles of the two parallel sets of “authors” together (either fictional [Amedeo. Francesca] or fictionalized [Baudelaire. Neweklowsky]) is their connection with another referent -. Claudio and Maria Giuditta) are as essentially different as their personal experiences. fictional world. Magris is not positing these multiple voices as his straight alter-egos. Magris’ polite and worldly manners. His narrative manners ultimately must remain free of any such strict references to the traditions of modernist literature which would preserve an underlying. place him squarely among them as fictional. The chaos that determines their scattered references is reflected in another intentional element of Magris’ narrative structure—his devotion to the equally chaotic polyphony of Baudelaire. Wittgenstein. Claudio.
In framing his narrative. appears and operates as a world-making process which is contained in the discursive reality of the river. the unanswerability of a single common-sense question (what is Central Europe?) speaks against the region’s essentialism. The morality of possible contradictions between these various speakers is therefore of no importance for Claudio the Pilgrim. Magris is redefining writing not as an act of creation or re-creation. non-essentialist world. Although any general reference to “Central Europe” may have initially suggested the nobility of a high culture’s melancholy attached to a region lost in history. which would be a modernist gesture. decentered) that simultaneously enables and produces a mimetic space needed for truth-production. whose truthfulness resides within a multi-layered coherence of utterances. nor do they value the concept of truth as an effect of so-called artistic authenticity but rather cohere with an initial textual reality of a particular narrative structure. dehierarchized.8 The pragmatic function and rhetoric of such prose narratives do not define themselves as reflecting the verisimilitude or truth of Magris’ own narrative position. but rather as a free play of signifiers whose existence as a postmodern analysis. it is rather a postmodern structure (polysemic. and even writing. on a larger scale. not the hidden habitat of its absent historical reference or truth. is textually based and which thus has no need to be 105 . He inscribes his own narrative syntax into a non-referential. Even though we do not know how to define Central Europe. The reality of Magris’ text. in which statements remain true as long as they do not contradict themselves in the realm of syntax. but rather reflects only a relation of contiguity and coherence. In such a discursive reality the Danube is not just a material reference. meaningful books on the topic. A book on a topic whose existence is based upon absent signifiers proves the efficiency and creativity of writing itself. the reality/coherence of Magris’ text in its entirety operates on the level of a discourse: his narrative truth is the effect of his authorial sincerity in choosing modes of representation and putting it in concordance with his authorial intentions. nothing prevents us from reading.referential in traditional terms: it is not adequatio intellectus (or verbis) et rei. Consequently.
it has been historically suggestive and plural enough for an entire phenomenological scheme to be built around the collection of the various historical narratives available in this space. the nature of Danube’s reality is narrative. As in works of fiction. they become implicated in the luddic composition of narrative variations whose free fluctuations are convincing enough to make readers accept their continually re-emerging and re-evaluating reality. In a phenomenological sense. The subjective reality of the Danube’s history is organized like literature. because. and therefore is suggestive the way literature is. moreover. The 106 . in an essentialist framework the Danube it is not. they no longer need to appear to refer to any imagined or even desired reality. In the context of such reality-producing syntax Magris neither has to nor can he represent/describe the real Danube—the Danube the way it is. The river exists in the reality of humanism(s) and humanity. he truth about the river is defined as the effect of a cognitive method in which an individual sees as real things s/he internalized in the mind of the (traveling) subject alone.related to any worldly objects. It echoes contingency. The Danube communicates with a subject through a polyphony of voices. A poet and novelist as well as an intellectual product of such a cultural and historical context. Instead. Magris thus builds a multiplicity of narrators’ voices into a representation of a subjectively-experienced reality which simulates the unavailable objective existence of the river in a more plural. giving it a kind of human reality through their mental representation—through human knowledge of a phenomenon. Magris knows that once such icons are de-hierarchized and removed from their purported “real” historical and cultural references and hence from a fixed set of relations. a scheme also represented in the collected iconography of Central European museums and catalogues. He cannot represent a “real” Danube (he has already demonstrated the unavailability of an acceptable metaphor around which to build that kind of narrative). however he can show how various travelers respond to the river. which exists in a subject’s consciousness only as a perception whose legend lives despite the referential status of the narrated object. and thus a historically more responsible way than has been done before.
Danube’s plurality.polyphony of voices in Danube represents a subjective. The importance of a Journey II The River The polyphony of focal positions along with the plurality of narrative voices eager to re-construct the region obscured by history exemplify geopolitical dynamics of combining literary and literal elements that. empirical truth about a reality that is not one. in a rather paradoxical way. Those individually multiplied narrative utterances engender both suggestibility and credibility of Magris’ fiction. is the reason why this book already belongs to both the regional iconography of not-yet-dismantled modernist museums. Such a plural reality of the locally positioned reports about the object/topic simulate negative existence of the objective narrative accounts (the legacy of Modernism) while suggesting the need for a change—the necessity of a paradigm shift. made the political as well as cultural reality of the Danubian basin. The plurality of locally grounded narratives and testimonies has replaced the universal particularity of all the external stories concerning the Danube. This plurality clearly and with reason rejects any holistic vision similar to that of Baudelaire’s voyagers. within the course of time. which caused their universal experience of boredom. deconstruction of museums of a ‘yesterday’s world’ (Zweig) whose past can be preserved under one condition only: if an individual begins to think of this world’s past as well as of its presence in terms of areality-in-becoming—the reality whose coming into being depends on the realness and effectiveness of its efforts to destroy the museal hierarchies and re-sort the catalogues of cultural data following the cultural logic(s) of the worlds known to reject uniformity as the dominant model of self-determination. Baude107 . and the global postmodern catalogue of historical and fictional works that in a way make their own canon. The novelty of Magris’ novel is in its attempted and partially carried out. less than twenty years after its publication.
Magris’ intellectual tourists also become aware of their incompleteness. like the river. but by their own constructs of reality and by their pre-scripted (and prescriptive) reactions to them. crosses all borders. The absence of totality in the “reality” on which they all comment in various ways and voices is neither moral or immoral -it is simply real in a plural region. but because they are human. Where Weininger had lamented the absence of totality in a river.” On the contrary. It is simply the existential condition which can accompany travelers wherever they are. Baudellaire calls such inability to adapt to the spaces of ‘others’. They feel they cannot re-capture their own past without resuscitating the contents of the region usually referred to as the former entity. the castaways encounter the same tedium they left at home.to tedium. They are confronted not by forces of nature or by absolute realities.laire’s poem as well as Magris’vignette suggests that. this reality is represented through a state which is seen as negative. a condition which fundamentally characterizes the Danube’s historical reality-as-perception whenever those per108 . Magris realizes that there is nothing really immoral in boredom. as tedium. Their lack of imagined finality they feel in the mutual sense of loss of their individual pasts. Repeating a random fragment politely borrowed from Baudelaire places no demands for totality on Magris or on his fictional alter-egos. Their preconceived cultural code brings them too in their journey. Not because they travel. following individual travelers -. Baudelaire’s travelers encounter a reflection of incompleteness of their personal identities in the unknown. boredom. for the traditional traveler. Such individuals’ reactions will be key in showing that reality is somehow equivalent to the ways in which the immediate environment affects the individuals. after a shipwreck in an unknown land and in spite of their tragedy. Their obviously uprooted selves lose themselves in boredom. he even characterizes his river by reference to an existential condition which. Magris does not seem to be bothered with the intellectual ‘accusation’ of the river claiming that “it has no totality. However. to the way in which it is constituted and refracted in their common experiences. in their shared need to excavate that same past and rescue it from the oblivion. And.
Along with organizing his narrative sextet into a novel’s structure. To restore contours to human experience while decolonizing the subjects. Magris temporarily embraces Baudelaire’s ideas and manipulates it into a question: if boredom is the only positive (extant) category of human experience that survives a journey. one can easily rephrase it asking: what is the point of lamenting the absence of totality. Magris must embrace the postmodern condition—a plurality of narrative modes which. emphasize the uniqueness and realness of an individual experience. Magris’ river is thus much more complex than Weininger’s. He repeatedly stresses how the world is only a text that can be read in various ways for various purposes—all of them equally moral or immoral. on a esthetic level resembles the grand narratives of political domination. At best. by rejecting totalizing gestures. and. 109 . or scientific values. the traveler can only pay the tribute to those “great thinkers” who accompany him on his journey and realize that there is always more of the same to see and that the experience of the river is the only definition of everything that anyone who travels will ever encounter. philosophical. Magris. nor can Magris’ “great thinkers” reveal the truth of the world as a set of aesthetic. what reality does this journey represent? Or. when that tedium is the only reality that any traveler experiences? The totalizing move of a high modernist narrative like that such as Baudellaire’s. Such uniqueness and realness are necessary in what Kafka refers to when he speaks about the collective and individual past of all the underrepresented groups that needs to be regained. however builds another river of experience. On a journey like his. Magris insists on seeing the world as a discourse phenomenon. After superficially reading Plato and Hegel. if that totality only produces tedium for humans? Why even trying to look beyond the experience of tedium to define reality. if this question sounds too difficult to be answered. Weininger had demanded an underlying totality that would make sense of travel and guarantee the integrity of human experience. levels all human experience.ceptions are governed by a stable master narrative. the “whole Danube” cannot possibly be found.
let us keep it as a mental souvenir—as something we recognize all our lives—something that. travelers. and all changes in the perceiving individual are measured against the markers of time and space.The fact that the tedium of existence continues in every fictional or real space points to the conclusion that. but has been alerted to it only after it has received its signifier.” The traveler is experiencing his or her being-in-the-world. Therefore a traveler needs no definitions of rivers whose banks s/he visits. As the 110 . feel tedium wherever they go. false. either temporarily or permanently inhabit. Today’s traveler moves much faster through different systems of signs. in this particular context. s/he has to continue the journey being very curious. “to travel” equals “to be. resides in time. In Danube’s case it is made of an operative fiction whose truthfulness attempts (once more) to regain the past hidden from its own historical content by a construed. independently from space. but also their illusion of existential loss. because there is always something new and unseen that makes every journey deprived of its finality. while our experience is crucial in understanding the times of spaces we. not only in our immediate living space but also in all the spaces we choose to occupy in (our) time. Therefore a scientist needs no definition of a region in order to experience it. in this Western tradition. Both time and space are the foundations of our experience. S/he knows that. We are constantly changing. by reference to Baudelaire’s metaphor which allows it to be turned into a narrative that inscribes individual experiences. if s/he wants to apprehend the world. the traditional western worldview favors the concept of the experience of (linear) time and space that structures all the rest of human apprehension understanding time and space as the preconditions for any and all knowledge of human existence. Let us grasp that tedium as a signifier of our time. After all. but each new encounter with that universal boredom reinforces not only their illusion of knowledge about a present world. and tedious reality of its official histories. The reality of the Danubian basin is the reality of its travelers and its inhabitants. People. in order to rid ourselves of boredom as a spatial category without completely erasing it from the cultural and ideological legacies of Western order of things. Therefore.
we come into being by permanently adjusting ourselves to a fragmented world and defining it in reference to our own selves. not only in reference to other criteria such as art. nonetheless can help our understanding of the world’s (in)coherence more than any earlier holistic thinkers’ thirst for radical change of the master historical narratives does. She has agreed to enter into a relationship with the landscape on the terms narrated by history. not necessarily an answerable one. but the fact that she. the traveler’s sense of self is modified during a trip. science. As a traveler. Magris’ text demonstrates that there is nothing immoral about living in accord with one’s own nature. but what that change “really is” is now marked as a particularly intriguing question. To be sure. philosophy. evolving through an experience like travel. but the fact that she9 can recognize tedium as “the same” as it unfolds through the landscape suggests that there is some coherence in her self. or the master narratives of history. Yet Magris’ thinking is not utopian: utopia belongs to hotels and museums. he prefers the active imagination of an individual asserting a sense of self in the present as an agency which can be revisited and re-membered while he is resting in a hotel room after travel. For us to share multiple experiences of the river is also to learn about its “definition. to be in this world also means to accept it in various ways. then. not to human experience.landscape changes.” Magris narrates the world as seen from the perspective of a postmodern traveler who refuses to see it as a dialectically organized set of opportunities which gradually reveal either the end of history or its fulfillment. can still pinpoint her own tedium speaks in favor of her journey as a perfectly acceptable existential condition. howev111 . This cycle of individual being-in-the-world is obvious from Magris’ own relation to the aesthetic (Baudelaire). Instead of copying the construed mechanics of usually immoral collective historical experience. so does the traveler. scientific (Neweklowsky) and philosophy (Wittgenstein). For Magris. Each individual destiny of a member of a group. although displaced. Rather than assuming that we may understand and follow so-called nature of history. and as a perfectly acceptable reference point around which to re-constitute the horizon10 on which her own definition of the river will appear.
actually reflects for Magris the randomness of a singular existence and a precious uniqueness of life. nowhere to be found on the map. every journey. unlike the agreement signed by the trio in Yalta. On the contrary. not as an object. philosophy. In his version. but because he could not cope with a world that had been deprived of its own finality—in Weinenger’s. The journey undertaken by Magris’ six characters is. prose. of its mysterious sense. but rather a journey which does not betray life and its day to day particularity. he in verbis. travelers and readers. The postmodern traveler sees existence not as a definite historical reality pre-scripted by master narratives. Magris exemplifies the phenomenological narrative scheme of postmodernism. As a writer who reads as he travels. Magris’ Danubian world is thus itself defined and definable only as a representation. If the morality of an individual life were understood as a systematically arranged journey (the fear of which perhaps killed Weinenger: not because rivers did not have totality. The plural narrators who represent each of these options as master narratives tend to collapse the distinction between writers. It is an introspective trip that will help readers decolonize their mind as they approach Central Europe. history. stressing how plural stories constitute and structure the perceived realities of individuals and groups. The scattered representations of reality that occupied his Central Europe in an age of political fragmentation did not appease his metaphysical anger. not a colonizing mission of any sort. His plural narrative incorporates many different types of narratives: poetry. This trip is based on personal close-ups seen through an analytical 112 . with its unpredictable reality. individuals merge their stories in order to recover identities which have been too ambitiously and inflexibly defined in modernism. yearned for) then it is irrelevant within the postmodern existential scheme. natural sciences. he is not interested in a future guided by any single narrative because that would turn experience and history into an ou-topos. recasting individual experience as it generates infinite sets of possibilities of personal identity. Weininger could not accept a disjunction between subjective and objective reality. geography.er.
Although there is the occasional practice in Italian literature of leaving articles out in book titles. What is more important. in Italian (Il Danubio) requires the same definite article Il that is found in the English usage (the Danube). As Magris himself states: The whole scheme is a first draft of a Statute for Living -. * Lo schema è la bozza di uno statuto della vita. come si suol dire.if [it is true that] life is a journey. The name for the river Danube. Yet interestingly enough. then the title of Magris’ book confirms his desire to puzzle readers with its semantics. (Danubio 11) 113 . one which is left to Magris-the-professor to provide. The impossibility of its “accurate” depiction speaks in favor of the Danube’s natural polysemy. (Danube 15)* Seen in such parameters. are significantly closer then they appear. Danube is thus Magris’ postmodern narrative response to the postmodern condition of the perpetually-postcolonial Central Europe. its indeterminacy calls for a new kind of explanation. se è vero che l’esistenza è un viaggio. e che passiamo sulla terra come ospiti.magnifying mirror wherein all the objects. and [that] we pass across the face of the earth as guests. Magris’ choice points to some important elements in his approach to Central Europe—the indeterminacy and polyphony of the Danube. once reflected. its metaphoric and geographic cluster. The invisible Danube: the question of Source Professor Claudio Magris Often immoral in its detachment. as they say. Claudio Magris decides to entitle his book Danubio. If it is true that a name is a sign. to hint that they are valuable monuments in national high culture. leaving the article out. the “real” Danube preserves its random coldness and thus opens itself to the variety of interpretations reflected in the many voices incorporated in the text.
If Magris were to have named his book Il Danubio. Danubio. Consequently. the difference is irrelevant.something else -. Francesca. then articles are of no importance in baptizing the river-text. But Danubio is simply “Danube” -. Amedeo. not written on a piece of paper. But scientific reality speaks against any determinacy in this particular case. Magris suggests that the river should be seen not as a fixed entity. once written. instead of The Danube. Although all large bodies of water presume feminine gender. articles are again of little importance. at 114 . of course. Uncertainty about the water’s beginning once more logically implicates the nominal uncertainty of the book’s title.the Danube. By naming Il Danubio Danubio. then he would have implied that the name signifies some kind of geographic stability. as if they were carved in stone. according to the norms of scientific geographies. Maria Giuditta . In geographers’ realities. there must be something more fundamental in his choice of leaving the article out. Il Danubio is the river -. Danube. Il Danubio is male. Danubio instead of Il Danubio.If books. . there are many little Danubes surrounding the river’s source in the Black Mountains. A Danube/the Danube: on the eternal scale claimed by high culture. Danubio thus becomes a personal name -.the name of a fictional character. The instability in naming reflects an additional “scientific instability”: the question of the Danube’s source is not even close to being resolved. that it refers to a river with a clear identity. Except. But keeping in mind Magris’ playful treatment of signifiers. and therefore Magris fictionalizes so-called objective reality in the very first step of inscription performed by his professor-persona. who enjoys the same fictional status in the narrative as do the other characters: Gigi. for example.different and freer than the geographical and historical river. as a physical reference. are universal and aimed toward infinity. In German (which is the river’s native tongue. in this sense. all the other characters possess a gendered identity. “Danube” is not really gendered in English. It quite literally does not exist as a determinate physical entity. that regardless how superficially treated. but as a sign aimed toward its own realization. . Such high-culture names speak to eternity. In the original Italian.
the very object of his science. but hoping that they will succeed in making their names meaningful. Is the Danube therefore a tributary on the Inn. on page 30 of his Hidrographia Helvetiae. from the very start. che scorre verso il Mar Nero. Dr. support him. not in the way scientists name nature. which apart from all else can lay better claims to that colour? Plainly. who have measured the breadth and depth of the two rivers. observed that the Inn at Passau is broader and deeper than the Danube. be called . è più ampio. che oltretutto potrebbe rivendicare a 115 . a Passau. which flows on toward the Black Sea. But why should the river formed by their confluence. Like children in their beginnings.11 The question arises: where is Magris’ Danube? Section 29 of the second chapter. e Johann Strauss ha composto il valzer del Bell’Inn blu. die Donau is female. since I have decided to write a book about the Danube. Dunque il Danubio è un affluente dell’Inn. nella sua Hidrographia Helvetiae.the Danube? Two centuries ago Jacob Scheuchzer. Magris thus named his river Danubio. I cannot possibly accept this theory. not yet knowing them. Preusmann. where the little Ilz and the great Inn pour their waters into the Danube. and should Johann Strauss have composed his waltz to The Blue Inn. a pagina 30. Metzger and Dr. deve chiamarsi ed essere il Danubio? Un paio di secoli fa Jacob Scheuchzer. la piccola Ilz e il grande Inn si gettano nel Danubio. Il dottor Metzger e il dottor Preussman. and has a greater volume of water having a longer course to its credit. but according to how parents name their children. che hanno misurato i piedi di larghezza e di profondità dei due fiumi. (Danube 122)* * A Passau confluiscono tre fiumi. più ricco d’acqua e più profondo del Danubio ed ha anche un percorso più lungo alle proprie spalle. “The Universal Danube of Engineer Neweklowsky. Ma perché il fiume formato dalla loro confluenza. osservava che l’Inn.and in fact be .least at its source). gli danno ragione.” asks the same question: Three rivers meet in Passau. any more than a professor of theology at a Catholic university can deny the existence of God. Danube sponsors conflicting cultural and scientific schemes.
the art of memory.Magris rightly decides to turn away from a science that is meant to explain objective reality and to confront that reality with a realm of aesthetics. Instead of justifying his narrative against a so-called extra-textual or objective world. in this passage. Metzger. In his narrative search for the source of the Danube. Preusmann). The reality of Magris’ decision to write a book about the Danube makes his subject real. the reality of the Danube’s being there in Passau. because a scientific discourse behaves in its own fashion. simply because it can be narrated. define and comprehend it in any objective way. as well. in Passau. science negated the Danube (Scheucher. Magris’ Danube. After all. it has to reach its estuary. Another art. Magris produces a reality based upon his personal interpretation. is gradually redrawing the borders of the Danube’s identity. Magris still cannot literally describe the Danube. whose data is being collected throughout the journey of Magris’ fictional characters. Nor can he re-invent the Danube. because he may scientifically end up by describing the Inn. For a literary author. maggior diritto quel colore? E evidente che. In this particular context (leaning toward science) the fact that the Danube appears (even in Passau) does not necessarily mean that the Danube exists in any referential way. because his topic simply cannot be explained through objective reference. come un professore di teologia in un’università cattolica non può negare l’esistenza di Dio. it codifies reality and translates it into a story using its own particular language. Moreover. while art affirmed it (Strauss). as it appears in the book. Magris cannot simply mimic any scientific discourse in its original empirical and experimental meaning. just has to flow toward the Black Sea. l’oggetto della sua scienca. he can only follow the narratives of science and report about their observations and results. (Danubio 142-143) 116 . Yet. At best. avendo deciso di scrivere un libro danubiano. he decisively closes his eyes to the objective reality of the river. non posso accogliere questa teoria. even those reports are limited. does not need to find its affirmation in any pedantic notebook of a scientist who would be eager to name. in order to be. because then he would be asked to offer a “scientific proof” for the Danube’s existence.
but rather will only re-generate it creatively for the personal experience of his readers. Magris chooses rather to restore all the important segments of this reality by inventorying many of its “appearances. because Magris must still represent that nature in terms acknowledged in various forms of Central European reality. His choice of a river that is not in terms of its self-explanatory continuity and coherence. he has invented the most suitable medium for his particular mimesis -. He underscores the fictitious nature of the borders between the scientific and the creative discourses. Magris’ solution to his narrative problem is his recourse to historically established tropes of narration. acknowledging both not as parts of the intellectual 117 .” to become uniquely postmodern. In order to map out the space for his literary intervention as truth. but also poetry and political narratives are the media for Magris’ writing. but to understand “its own nature.” Following this premise. or representation of the river would assume the ability of providing Magris with a precise definition of the Danube—at its source.” His writing. as represented by each of his fictional voices. on its way to the Black Sea and on to its end. by drawing on established traditions of “thinking its presence. Magris shows the reader that any possible way of thinking about the river could “actually” define our experience of it. appearance. any presence. still remains mimetic in certain ways.” In writing Danubio. Magris’ mimesis cannot reduplicate reality. Magris’ decision to use seemingly unstable aesthetic signs does not shy away from strict scientific determinants and requirements. Not just science and philosophy.the one which combines many voices of modernism. responds to the nature of Central Europe—a nature that cannot be duplicated within the realms of imagined modernist semantic coherence. but not authorized over one another. though.Instead of being realistic in scientific terms and referring to the “objective reality” of Danubian landscapes. Since there is no such thing as “the Danube” present in its entire and undisturbed length. Faced with the “objective” authority of science. including “scientific objectivity. Magris’ travel-record seems to become historically real in another way because of the reality of his genuine desire neither to imitate nor to portray the Danube.
Amedeo—A Secret Historiographer of Misguidance Once it “disappears” in Passau. If this is the truth about the Danube. Magris calls on many other discussions that debate or explain the beginnings of Danube. from its very beginnings. One among such narratives tells us that there is a plaque mounted at the source of the Breg River in Southern Germany with the legend: “Here rises the principal branch of the Danube” (Danube. if not in re at least in verbis. actually caused a centuries-old political dispute over the historical narratives confirming the river’s origins. Instead Magris demonstrates that. the plaque. then the river becomes the epitome of the entirety of Central Europe. predecessor of Herodotus. in the comparisons and parallels between the two rivers which for 118 . This following paragraph illustrates how Magris travesties such battles about “reality” while nonetheless acknowledging their consequences as serious for the lives of two political communities: Without wishing to summarize the age-old library of publications on the subject -. Each discussion ties into a different historical master narrative that has been imposed on the region. all of which stress the ambiguity of the Danube’s reality and the indeterminacy of its source. on-news-stands now -. 19). Danube is referentially nonexistent but nonetheless real as experience. the Danube does not simply become fictional. two German towns (Furtwangen and Donaueschingen) acknowledge one other as rivals in an identity/custody battle.we should at least mention the aeons for which the source of the Danube was as unknown as that of the Nile. as different modes of writing the world. in whose waters it is in any case reflected and mingled.history’s hierarchy or the hierarchy of the history of ideas.they stretch from Hecateus. read by many interpreters. but rather as different genres. Because of this on-going dispute. Originally meant to make the story of the Danube simple by affirming its source. to the issues of Merian magazine.
like many others. basta ricordare gli evi per i quali il Danubio era di sorgente ignota come il Nilo. we see how (nostalgically) Magris again combines narrative strategies drawn from the philosophical context of modernism to remind the reader of their postmodern consequences. Magris attempts to shift his readers’ attention to the ways the river’s reality is created by narrative for various purposes. while fiction is created in verbis. che va da Ecateo. Such a definition makes Magris’ sentimental retrospective on European modernism almost ironic as a political reality. rests on the contextually-outdated ontological dichotomy between reality in re and in verbis. ai fascicoli della rivista Merian nelle edicole. “if not” and “at least” are connectives signaling evaluative relations. As he describes the various narrative identities of the Danube. In their original logocentric usage. not as a narrative or as scientific evidence. In this. Knowing that the existence of his Danubio has no complete counterpart in re. In spite of this lapidary claim the centuries-old dispute over the sources of the Danube is still raging.13 Because of the plaque. suggesting that the textual existence of material things is purportedly backed up by a real existence. states the plaque by the source of the Breg. and is in fact responsible for heated * Senza voler riassumere la millenaria biblioteca sull’argomento. the author once again affirms the coexistence of different historical narrative traditions and illustrates how each travesties and simultaneously reifies the others. but rather that it is almost completely initiated and represented in verbis. Magris finally gives priority to Amedeo’s opinion. se non in re almeno in verbis. nelle cui acque esso del resto si rispecchia e si confonde. il predecessore di Erodoto. according to which reality resides in re. temporary narrative choice.centuries tread on each other’s heels in learned commentaries. however this Danube exists as a political dispute. (Danubio 16) 119 . (Danube 19)* In this passage12. nei commenti dei dotti. This battle between towns. Amedeo’s insight offers an “objective” account of the Danube’s indeterminacy: Here rises the principal branch of the Danube.
His decision opens up new ways for his text to refer to reality without defining it. Nonostante questa dichiarazione lapidaria. but rather is produced within the narrative. inoltre. (Danube 19)* This passage begins in a scientific tone. and ends in a fairy-tale conclusion: the source of the Danube is a faucet. In order to continue his upstream journey to the source of the Danube. Instead. A complicare le cose si è aggiunta. instead of the ultimate one.contention between the towns of Furtwangen and Donaueschingen. reality does not appear through depiction. secondo la quale il Danubio nasce da un rubinetto. highly esteemed sedimentologist and secret historiographer of misguidance. Magris has emancipated referential narratives from their traditional realms. The narrative ethics of this choice again confirm that the absence of referential truth as demonstrated by the absence of a “real” Danube. di recente l’azzardata ipotesi sostenuta da Amedeo. the author indicates that he has done away with the Cartesian question of the primacy of the material world. the novel’s historiographer of misguidance. by emancipating the traditional definitions of the river. dice quella targa presso la sorgente della Breg.14 a tool to create a fiction which does not only “discover” but can also “change” reality. By making this choice. * Qui nasce il ramo principale del Danubio. In the Danubian travelogue. (Danubio 16) 120 . according to whom the Danube is born from a tap. il plurisecolare dibattito sulle fonti del Danubio è tuttora acceso ed è anzi responsabile di vivaci contese fra le città di Furtwangen e di Donaueschingen. Magris dedicates an entire section (“La relazione”/”The Report”) to Amedeo and his “scientific” discourse on tracing the source of the Danube in order to force the readers to react to science as a possible reality. To complicate matters. a bold hypothesis was recently set forth by Amedeo. he embraces Amedeo. Instead. apprezzato sedimentologo e segreto storiografo di disguidi. does not mean that Magris is losing his claim to mimetic representations. The narratives around the metaphor of the river can now become “productive references” (Ricoeur). Claudio the Pilgrim now refuses to follow the cultural historians and scientists. and thus to explore the impossible.
and that there is no point in trying to stop it because absolutely no one can turn the faucet off. Amedeo’s report is written in pubs and revised in the Clock Museum. before he can actually liberate another voice to confirm Amedeo’s new and non-hegemonic fictional markers. who has figured out that. however. Magris explains his reasoning. Amedeo has discovered that he is pursuing scientific oblivion. Aware that there is no 121 . And this is to be expected. he would actually betray the protean nature of the topic he is supposed to examine. Instead. they encounter an old and cranky woman who tells them that there is water running into the gutter from a basin which is constantly full. as he loses himself in those uncertain landscapes of the Danubian lands. and trusting his own experience. Magris uses this humorous story to challenge Amedeo’s possible sense of loss about science and traditional literature. As expected of a non-hegemonic fiction. especially for non-hegemonic ones. When he and Maria Giuditta finally enter the house where Amedeo believes the tap of the Danube is located. by nailing down his report to a single set of findings. As time goes by in his travels.Unable to find sufficient grounds in scientific and literary traditions to confirm the reality of Danube and governed by his own senses and faculties which do not lie. Amedeo’s amusing approach to fiction tells the truth po-ethically by glossing over the inherent uncertainties about the referent’s identity and promoting the absence of the topic into a productive non-essentialist source for new narratives about the region. tormenting their author. nor is it indifferent toward reality in terms of self-reference. and which ends up God knows where” (Danube 24). Amedeo’s scientific fiction does not reflect reality. Magris has chosen Amedeo in order to elevate his referential apparatus and convert it into a productive tool. After a while. because what could possibly be more real than one’s concordance with Nature? He is slowly losing his faith in science. Amedeo appears calmer and calmer. she also told them that this is all “connected to a lead pipe. as anything but a linear or abstract category.” where time appears objectively. in the midst of “forests of pendulums. More narratives emerge in different inns. which may well be as old as the house.
whose textual investigation. its productive references as narrative are still real. but its visibility to him. According to Amedeo. perhaps even outside established historical. that of Claudio –the-pilgrim.the-narrator uses methods of phenomenology to assemble the scattered particles of reality that appear to the reader and to his travelers as a Danubian landscape. This last exploration of metaphors for the Danube’s source and existence allows Magris to decisively combat the modernist poetics of origin. Hereafter. insists on the kind of scientific arguments that Amedeo has already revealed as bankrupt. at least for the moment.for the same centuries during which all the fictional and fluctuating manifestations of the Danube have escaped definition. Its exposure “to the sky and to the eyes of humanity” (Danube. now becomes the criterion for its existence. scientific. Claudio the Pilgrim The immorality of the river in escaping such geocultural definitions is made the topic of Magris’ third. Amedeo had decided to look for the real within the things and objects whose reality is to be sought in his own consciousness--as stories of other kinds. putting them into a narrative of everyday life. not the material existence of the water. cultural. The novel then follows this threefold introduction so that the relation of geopolitical truth and narrative is neither realistic nor modernist. 24) confirms the existence of Danube’s gutters. Magris’ closest personal double. Magris. at least once the old woman can explain them. because the “fictional” varieties of presence of the river that they produce correspond to the plenitude of realities present in the various philosophical. not as objects. In spite of the Danube’s positive absence as a stable signifier. and aesthetic narratives that govern and have governed the life of Central Europe for centuries -. and most referentially rigid narrative perspective. and scientific tradition. historical.such a thing as an empirical referent in tracing the Danube. but rather phenomenological and postmodern. In the section that follows Amedeo’s enchantment with the mythical faucet (Moralisti e geometri alle 122 .
At least for the moment. Claudio the Pilgrim momentarily regains his declarative Modernist confidence (in verbis) and. Claudio the pilgrim decides to take his own steps in investigating the reality: “sousing his shoes. that tap does not exist.” he climbs toward the house in order to see the truth. Yet.sorgenti della Breg / Moralists and Geometricians at the sources of Breg). verso la casa. aware of the superior objectivity in which he is framed. It is not difficult to follow Amedeo’s itinerary. bagnandomi calze e scarpe. climb up through the meadow toward the house. the apparatus of phenomenology will be of utter importance in bracketing the purported reality of the region. with the authority of an author. I take the few steps from my branch downhill to the source of the Breg. Ripercorrere l’itinerario di Amedeo non è difficile. la sorgente fluisce tranquilla. and returns to the innocence of a child. Instead of embracing the existence of the tap (and consequentially of the Danube) in verbis (Amedeo’s verbis in particular). He thus divides once more the realm of objectivity from that of Amedeo’s wanderings. Claudio notes that his “steps toward the house are like sentences on a sheet of paper”: (his) * In primo luogo. then sousing my shoes and socks. On more than one occasion. the traveler (Claudio the pilgrim) decides to return to referential reality as he takes off his shoes and socks. Il viaggatore si sente un po’ goffo e meschino e avverte la superiore oggettività della cornice che lo avvolge. the green of the trees is good. L’acqua brilla fra l’erba. The water glitters in the grass. The traveler feels rather clumsy and small. the spring flows quietly out. states that the tap does not exist: In the first place. il verde degli alberi è buono. Scendo i pochi metri che separano la mia panchina dalla sorgente della Breg e risalgo il prato. this same author must confirm that there simply is no tap. e anche il suo odore. quel rubinetto non esiste. and so is the smell. Later in the text. (Danube 25)* This previously debated empirical “superior objectivity” now seems to be recuperating itself. (Danubio 16) 123 .
* Claudio’s clear and short statement acquires another. (Danubio 26) 124 . longer explanation. who appeared on the doorstep rather snappily warns us not to steal. it is relegated to the status of a fairy tale: However. una vecchia. circumventing a clot in heart and thought. invita bruscamanete a non rubare e ad ascoltare. apparsa sulla soglia. and carries on. It’s an old house: the kitchen dates back to 1715. fresh and timid but inexhaustible. (Danube 26). The water that drenches the meadow in which rises * Un rubinetto. But Claudio’s perseverance transcends this ambiguity. This Danube is no longer part of science. based upon his authoritarian voice whose usage of scientific discourse is aimed toward establishing the finality of his narrated empirical truth: There is no tap. comunque.foot tries out the waterlogged soil and avoids a puddle as the pen encircles and crosses the blank spaces of the page. An old women. (Danube 25). either in the house or outside. there is no tap in the house. His language becomes almost stubborn in repeating that resolute statement about the absence of the tap. no tap at all. Now. This simultaneous idealization of writing and recognition of its limits and powerlessness in front of the world’s mysteries resembles an intellectual surrender and brings Claudio closer to Amedeo’s playful resignation because that “secret historiographer of misguidance” would have definitely agreed with Claudio’s decision to walk through the wet grass and to close his eyes to science to explain the subject matter of his book. and underscores his awareness of the narrative reality of his journey. la cucina risale al 1715. Writing ought to be like those waters flowing through the grass—full of spontaneity. La casa è antica. nella casa non c’è. but to listen.
nella conca più in basso. The old woman has put a hollowed-out log under the outlet of the pipe. piantato diritto nel terreno. che la scarica a sua volta in un secchio. l’acqua di cui è imbevuta la terra. which is to say of the Danube. irrora il terreno dal quale. forming a kind of gutter. springs the source of the Breg. Comunque l’acqua sale lungo il tubo. fosse la neve che si scioglie alimenta. the water rises through the pipe and overflows. insieme ad altri rivoli. “from the roof of which one gutter pours water into the Danube. and drenches the land from which. un po’ in alto si vedono macchie bianche. nel quale la vecchia raccoglie l’acqua che le serve. in the hollow down the hill. Il tubo getta l’acqua in questa grondaia rudimentale. Now. In any case. Here the old woman collects what water she needs. his voice plays a new role in the ongoing game of appearance and reality. (Danube 27)* But the literature professor now runs into other historical traditions. Dilheim already speaks of the house on Mount Abnoba in 1785. Earlier in our narrative. streams down the slope. e l’acqua in eccedenza. everything and nothing appears to seem and * Non esiste nessun rubinetto. The bucket is always full. and the other into the Rhine” (Danube. in spite of the exactness of Claudio’s “tractatus” about the nonexistent tap. pouring in unceasingly. che arriva di continuo. the Breg.the source of the Breg comes out of a pipe stuck upright in the earth. La vecchia ha applicato al tubo un tronco cavo. contributes to the volume of water which keeps the meadow sodden. and it may be the melting snow. inonda e imbeve il prato. This is “not a new discovery” (Danube 27) because Johann Hermm. Il secchio è sempre pieno. at the same time. e ne trabocca. L’acqua che irrora il prato dal quale sgorga la Breg viene da un tubo. and the excess water. nè in casa nè fuori. che forma una specie di grondaia. the Danube had almost lost its name to a much smaller river. scende lungo il pendìo. Slightly higher up are a few patches of white. The tube pours water into this primitive gutter.15 join to demonstrate that. (Danubio 26) 125 . His and Dilheim’s perspectives. align with other local rivulets. nasce la sorgente della Breg ossia il Danubio. which in turn empties into a bucket. 27). floods and inundates the meadow. each special and specialized in its own way.
the nonchalance of Claudio’s indecisive treatment of the Danube’s name reveals the importance of art and literary narration as a corrective force to the narratives of science and politics. to come up with a few moral critiques of the supposed exactitude of science” (Danube 26). the reader not only needs to think about things. In order to examine the Danubian state of affairs in re. In spite of its resistance to definition. As Claudio himself explains.” there are only different narratives.in the past. to reveal the claims of authority hidden in each narrative of “the truth” of the Danube’s Central Europe. he is motivated to contrast their seemingly different ideologies. he must admit that his footsteps remind him of a text.to be real -.a literary and a scientific one. It is an ambiguity which decides not to define itself against the fictitious and thus empirically unreal narrative worlds. did not end in negating his traveling companions’ endeavor. Claudio— in verbis—invokes the empirical evidence of science. which hoped to undermine Amedeo’s bad treatment of evidence. that his walk to the house is a literary walk with which he intends to fill up the margins of a page rather than to explain the primary source of the Danube. The realities of those ideologies reside in two different modes of representing and writing the world-. She is also supposed to multiply the images in order to expose them “to the sky and to the eyes of humanity” (Danube 24). This repeated ambiguity on a textual level echoes and equals the scientific ambiguity of the beginnings of the Danube (or the Breg? or the Inn?). each seeking to impose its authority on our perception of reality. When Magris-the-author contrasts the last two narratives (Amedeo’s and Claudio’s). but instead to enrich the illusion of its indisputable presence through a game of comparisons and mirrors. for instance. In this game. even before he decided to present the readers with his scientific excursus: “Little inclined to exactitude. On the contrary. There is no “scientific progress. or now. in spite of the very real possibility that the Danube may not be the 126 . in order to reflect upon the things. the writer prefers to ramble on a bit.16 The Danube (or the Breg) is a large body of flowing water which escapes definition. At the same time. Claudio’s scientific trip.
spoke of the two gutters. Dielheim. Unlike the Danube. In spite of such an aqueduct.17 In spite of the polyphony of the individual perspectives depicted in the book. Kafka’s. there can hardly be a river less likely to be compared to the Rhine than the Danube. it invites to its banks the sleepwalkers whose entire beings are based on Stirner’s. Instead of answering it within the empirical discourse of Claudio the pilgrim. If there were a clear way to define the sources of the Danube. Freud’s. but is instead just a name that signifies its own absence. Magris the author uses it to re127 . Belgrade -. regional narrative. because it resists spiritual geometry. Similarly. Magris’ Danube is a world. The Rhine is a “mythical custodian of the purity of the race” (Danube 29). And this “disorder” is exactly the beauty of the Danube’s resistance. and despite the mysterious existence of the tap.Danube at all. all of Magris’ characters take Maddalena’s question about the ambiguous faucet seriously. especially in a political sense. Wagner. Too many different tribes meet and live along its waters for the Danube to be a custodian of stability. and the other into the Rhine. Musil’s. Johann Herm. The Danubian world follows the river’s currents from the Black Mountains to the Black Sea.a trans-national signifier that enabled the Kaiser to speak of “his peoples” and not to sound any more ridiculous than the Danube finds appropriate. Hasek’s. Weininger’s. representing a civilization whose essence (if any) is still to be recognized by a new de-colonizing. the Danube does not circumscribe the world of Thomas Mann. Wittgenstein’s. the Danube is the river of Vienna. She asked what would happen if somebody turned the faucet off? Although both Amedeo and Claudio agree that no one can turn the water off. one pouring water into the Danube. Budapest. who for some reason decided to hide (or gain) his identity behind the pseudonym Danubian Antiquarius. in this novel and beyond it. Schulz’s. the Rhine is Germany. Maddalena’s question sounds cautious and prophetic as an global regionalist’s address for history. Meyrink’s. Hegel or Heidegger. Broch’s. this entire story would not correspond with the truth and so would be a lie. or Krleža’s senses of emptiness and nothingness. Unlike the Rhine. The Danube is not pure enough to be crowned with anything close to the German aura. In its flux.
in a paradoxical way. this is not what interests Claudio. Even if it is true that a natural science deals with the items whose accuracy is either assumed or is yet to be proved (either in an empirical or experimental way). she could not have addressed a more appropriate issue. as Claudio. when she asked her seemingly simple question. Magris uses experiments and explanations based on scientific discourse as just other modes of writing. Her question is crucial because it addresses the essential connection of a region geopolitically and economically located in between the West and East. Just like a work of fiction. forges. the universal question hidden behind her unassuming and naive words emerged as the most fundamental question about the world: “what will happen there if something happens here?” Whether she knew the Danube or was just chasing it. beyond the realm of the masculine narratives in the Danube’s story. an experiment acts as a synecdoche that. and. Vienna or Belgrade would definitely not look the same if somebody deprived them of the water. while intending to explain and possibly to improve objective reality. at the same time. Although always seen through Magris’ eyes as a beauty who walks too slowly. and at the same time universalizes the “objective data” of the real.mind himself of the ephemeral nature of Central Europe. This textual awareness of the linguistic 128 . Even in his own synecdoche. Yet. Like all the voices examined. Perspectives of such desired regionalism must be de-hirerachized in their relation to centers regardless of the quality of their powers. but this is not what Maddalena had asked. All the empirical manifestations of the Danube have become real in a phenomenological sense because they expose themselves to “the sky and to the eyes of humanity” (Danube 24). Yes. one that uncovers the core of fragile and turbulent Central Europe. Budapest. geoculturally tormented between the grand narrative of the two former political blocks and the needed regionalism that has yet to be introduced into new historical perspectives. she decided to use the Danube as an allegory of reality. minimizes. Maddalena’s question has actually opened a new realm of discussion. Experiments stand only in metonymic relation to Nature: they substitute as a simulacrum for it. other kinds of fiction.
Magris’ travelogue has demonstrated how narratives advocate particular visions of reality. By adding various narratives. Although both the Ilz and the Inn pour their waters into the Danube. was already illustrated in the part of the book that speaks about Bell’inn blu (the “beautiful blue Inn”). Instead. Magris’ idea of the natural sciences. science denied the Danube. three rivers meet in Passau. In this framing. stands for Central Europe. the smaller Danube does not surrender its name. the Inn and the Danube. All individual narratives in Danube fictionalize reality in the process of their seeming contradictions in relation to parts of individual experiences.realm of communication. Further on its way to the Black Sea. his awareness of language reveals the natural sciences (Geography. In Passau. in this case. the Blue Inn. one should recall. In spite of such a reality. This discrepancy in the controversial scientific situation thus leads to a very legitimate question: “why should the river formed by their confluence be called the Danube?” This is a metaphor for the fundamental question of Central Europe: why should a region that has never been decolonized to have its own kind of self-awareness deserve to be remembered as a “power” in history? Magris the author easily dismisses the argument targeting its own irony and invoking Strauss’ waltz. As the reader recalls. the Danube ought to be seen as a tributary to the broader. like tortes. as different genres whose metalanguages operate with another symbolic order. or at least for the German-dominated Mitteleuropa. quite objectively. the Ilz. deeper and bluer Inn. cross-dressed as die Donau. which in itself. Following the same path of art and poetics.) as different ways of writing. parallel to that of so-called objective reality. Hydrology. like Strauss’ notes in a waltz that make the Danube the un-erasable river by giving it an appealing but arbitrary identity. and maids. 129 . does not follow the original expectations of a scientific experiment. Magris does not produce a meta-narrative which can explain and justify a particular view of reality. on a superficial (but very real) level. Strudel. the Danube is neither the largest nor the deepest river. etc. at the point of their encounter. failed to seduce art (Strauss).
(Danubio 143) 130 . The eye perceives (establishes?) the continuity and unity of that river and perceives the other to be its tributary. or checking for too long on the width of that angle. and deliberately mingles his perspective with these of Magris the author. alla confluenza. di servare troppo la confluenza delle tre acque a Passau e di verificare troppo l’ampiezza di quell’angolo. Claudio the pilgrim slowly surrenders his clear Western scientific vision. reduces the clarity of perception to a little dot and runs the risk of bringing about some nasty surprises for the traveler on the Danube. L’occhio percepisce (stabilisce?) la continuità e l’unità di quel fiume e percepisce l’altro come un suo affluente. Affidiamoci dunque alla scienza ed evitamo tutt’al più. because the eye. si vela e sdoppia le figure. forma un angolo maggiore col corso che procede. secondo la quale se due fiumi mescolano le loro acque viene considerato fiume principale quello che. grows hazy and sees double. perché l’occhio. mandando a pallino la chiarezza della percezione e rischiando di provocare brutte sorprese al viaggiatore del Danubio. le percettologia. by perceptology. a furia di fissare a lungo un punto. when it has stared too much at a certain point. Claudio’s persistent belief in the natural sciences is evident in the following soliloquy: Fortunately I am rescued by a science. Let us therefore put ourselves in the hands of science and for the sake of prudence avoid looking too long at the confluence of the three rivers at Passau. (Danube 123)* Rescued by a “science of perceptology” while watching at the point where the three rivers meet and mingle. Only * Per fortuna mi soccorre appunto la scienza. forms the larger angle with the subsequent course. per prudenza . at the point of confluence.But what would Claudio the pilgrim think of Magris’ decision to use the art of memory and the productive fictional references in order to dismiss the potentially subversive dialogue between arts and sciences? Since he did not hesitate to challenge Amedeo’s mythic enchantment with the fictitious taps. he most probably would not be at ease with Magris’ decision either. according to which if two rivers mingle their waters the one to be considered the main stream is the one which.
The new question is not where the Danube begins. does not manipulate them to the point of transcending their innate personalities. After all. who.perceptology. if one recalls the principal division of the travelers in Danube. which naturally emerges once all the separate voices are included into it. Although divided. but what was 131 . the passage just quoted does not necessary need to belong to Claudio the pilgrim.when those two merge can he come to a conclusion that can bring the Danube into existence. even if he were Magris’ double in the narrative. Outﬂow: a provisional conclusion There is one further question to ask before concluding consideration of the Danube’s sources and origins and solving the phenomenological problem about history as narrative set by Claudio Magris. But that kind of simplification of the narrative (however plausible) would betray the peculiar multiplying narrative game which is at stake here. It can just as easily be read as the continuation of Magris’ own meditations upon the conflict between universal art and particular sciences. all the fictional characters on the journey are the different aspects of Claudio Magris. it is just its appropriation into one particular fictional voice. From his perspective. as the author as well as the owner of his own Central European literary travel agency. On the contrary. and his own perceptions—without jeopardizing the purity of their realms.” than the phenomenology or literary science privileged by professor Claudio Magris himself. A science similar to. sciences. staring at the three rivers can easily be attributed to Claudio . he admits that a science rescued him -. his conclusion is not a betrayal of science. but more “empirical” or “experimental. The polyphony of Magris’ text does not assume that a single grand narrative can construct a holistic perception of reality. Strictly speaking. adding their singular views of the greater reality. into one narrative segment that presents one facet of the river’s/region’s reality.18 After all. Claudio the pilgrim has succeeded in making a peace between the arts.
if it were not for perceptology. In other words. the schizophrenic narrative web of Claudio. perceptology also rescues the Danube. In making this choice. is part of the travelogue. In his own words. Magris. he rescues himself. 132 . More importantly. located by them. perceptology rescues him from his own dilemma. So are its culture and politics. because it saves his fictional life. assembling the pieces in light of a whole. perceptology leads him to chose the latter as the dominant narrative. of its myths and utopias. as Weininger had known a century ago. Magris’ postmodern prose works differently. Each is a narrative that maps that region into a different reality. Magris’ methodology stresses the actual existence of that whole as an object or a phenomenon whose final manifestation is always already present in its parts -.parts that are always already designed to be assembled in one particular way. Unlike more traditional views which uniformly assume that a whole is derived from the sum of its parts. however. by dismissing the Inn. Amedeo. Each of their narratives intends one facet of the cultural and scientific history of Central Europe. On this level of reality as narrative. his personal deus ex machina. (Husserl). Caught between the Inn and the Danube.Claudio rescued from by taking this journey and confronting all the various appearances of the Danube in culture and history. Claudio’s rescue is a consequence of the rescue of the Danube. Claudio should still be grateful to perceptology. Instead of putting the reality puzzle together. The science of that region. Each intends the existence of the other. but rather it is circumscribed. If it were not for this rescue at the moment when Inn disappeared in the Danube. in verbis. Claudio the pilgrim would have found his own estuary in Professor Magris himself. In the same way. and Claudio Magris all point to one locus of speaking. Claudio would not be able to survive as a fictional entity. by pointing out an empirical fact about the point of confluence of three rivers. Even though he is not the first to be saved by this choice. the reality of the Danube is not the sum of all the stories written about it. constructed by the agency of a different kind of authenticity and prioritizing a particular aspect of an individual’s experience of geocultural reality. That is.
once narrated. a dreamer. His individual poet(h)ics of science would not be of any importance. Yet the Danube’s dehierachized polyphony and its synchronic plurality of voices “replace” the polyperspectivness of its author. In spite of such a narrative complexity. Claudio would easily be a figure subordinated to Magris’ broader narrative competence. to bring the question of the Danube’s origin to a resolution.The moment Claudio were to decide to view science as a narrative technique whose free play of abstractions would rescue the Danube. It is of small importance to ascertain the or133 . and Claudio could easily withdraw and sink into the discursive realm of Magris’ authorial testimonies. the readers should not fall into the trap of focusing on the small dots of their own argument for too long. inns. Claudio represents the particle of truth in an otherwise dubious master narrative. If Claudio were to disappear in this way. each isolated out of a historical polyphony of traditional representations of the Danube. a Quixotic explorer who admires myths and “pure fiction”) and Magris (a paternal figure who is in favor of a variety of perspectives. Ultimately. he would betrayed the core of the scientific picture of the world based on the principles of empiricism. A river is real because. Magris’ Central Europe is of textual origin. then Magris would not need his voice to narrate the Danube. Under these circumstances. This play of many equivalent voices make Danube real and meaningful. guest houses. Aside from being a part of a postmodern discourse. If he were to do so. he is a representative of traditional science. Such Danube certainly does not need its definite article. it still remains open to interpretations. in his own words: What is certain is that the river goes downhill. whose suggestive textual arguments liberate the river. Let us acknowledge Claudio’s survival. like him who follows it. but whose quest for order organizes his story in a linear and hierarchical way). and their utopias may be the temporary places from which a traveler can narrate his or her individual perspectives on the truth of the river. the text would revolve around a much simpler set of narrative tensions based on a polarization between Amedeo (a wanderer. Hotels.
Seen by the three narrators. also identify and define themselves as possible agents within this geographic space. This postmodern reality construct of Central Europe is. Just like Central Europe. poco importa appurare donde provengano tutte le acque che si porta dietro e che si confondono nelle sue onde. ma se dove va e come andrà a finire. Nessun albero genealogico garantisce il cento per cento di sangue blu. not from claims that the region was once or will be real in a sense removed from the official textual testimonies of power and dominance. Inn or Danube or any other at all. the Danube’s impurity and questionable sources do not jeopardize its existence. Claudio Magris points to the need for agency in regard to existing geocultural narratives. but it knows where it is going and how it will end. non sa donde proviene né quale sia il suo vero nome. The Danube’s protean being is thus a metonymy of Central Europe. La folla eterogenea che si pigia nel nostro cranio non puÿ esibire un inoppugnabile certificato di nascita. Inn o Danubio o quale altro mai.igin of all the waters it bears along.” Still. come chi lo segue. No family tree guarantees a hundred per cent of blue blood. related to an always-absent whole. (Danube 123)* As a metaphor for Central Europe. but rather confirm its heterogeneous being. He shows how each of these perspectives creates a reality/realities seen as a kind of partial truth. always available to “the eyes of humanity. the per* Quel che è certo. (Danubio 143) 134 . Magris’ fictionalized Danube includes all of its real connotations (political. scientific/geographical) which also depend on its mythical dimensions. does not know whence it comes or what is its true name. and which mingle with its ripples. the river achieves a different kind of reality located within the three parts of one intentional whole. its cradle and reflection which grounds an ambiguous reality. in a reverse way. è che il fiume scorre a valle. The motley crowd pushing and shoving in our skulls cannot show an incontrovertible birth certificate. These three varied narrative strategies for identifying the river. in Magris’ words. intellectual. historical.
manent shifts of Magris’ Danube are not polymorphously perverse. Magris’ Danubio claims that. each of them equally plausible and equally strange to the Central Europeans who are in a permanent process of individual as well as collective self-recognition. it shapes and re-shapes its landscapes whose polymorphy faithfully points out all the identities of Central Europe. their travel is not immoral. On its way to the estuary. 135 . although it may be more real in fiction. Central Europe exists and must be traveled as a region based upon diversity and made of non-dominant identities whose plurality has to be re-examined and rewritten in forms of various personal textual testimonies detached from the long-lasting hegemony external to its geography.
at any given moment. summarized in the saying. as outlined in Cratylus./ diro dell’altre cose ch’i v’ho scorte/). Parmenides. By chosing the same narrative trope. He states: The mouth which allures in that river is that of yesterday. in the selfsame infinite present of its flowing.” It states: “An object is at rest when it occupies a space equal to its own dimensions. The opening lines of La Commedia clearly define it as an intentionally confessional narrative (Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/mi retrovai per una selva oscura/ché la dirrita via era smarrita//Ah. According to Mourelatos. with the clear interpretation that “everything moves on and nothing is at rest (Cratilus. Zeno of Elea was the Presocratic philosopher whose aporiae were meant to support Parmenides’ teachings on the timeless presence and eternal rest of things. see Herman Diels. In his early twenties. 1313. for the full version of this definition). Therefore an arrow in flight is at rest” (Kirk & Raven 294-295). Another interesting relation between Magris and the Western tradition of master narratives is found in his jovial follow-up to the Christian confessional genre. to inscribe his own personal meaning into the forthcoming journey. Moreover. Magris pays a tribute to this ancient traveler whose record marks the beginnings of modern Italian literary culture. For a competent account of the Presocratics. within the intrinsic relation between the particles of the object (its essence) (see Plato. in the night of 3-4 September 1903. he committed suicide in Vienna. and we always bathe in the same river. “You cannot step into the same water twice” (Mourelatos 200). The generally-accepted interpretation of the allegory is Plato’s. Plato calls it the allegory of “existing things” in general. For Zeno. it was greatly influential throughout Central Europe./ma per trattar del ben ch’io vi trovai. and each time the water is deeper and more limpid (Danube. quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura// esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte// che nel pensier rinova la paura!// Tant’è amara che poco è più morte. Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. For further accounts of Heraclites’ paradox. As a gesture to the master narratives 2 3 4 5 136 . Theaetetus (160d). Kranz (Berlin: 1952). 147). motion is relative. by shooting himself in the heart. the existence of an object is not to be grasped empirically. two years after his suicide) reflected common assumptions about gender relations and ethnic inferiority in the early twentieth century. 402a). Augustine. W. and whose Italian counterpart is again Dante. II). see also: Plato. the canonical statement (panta rei) of this paradox originally occurs only in Simplicius (Phys. One of his best-known arguments against motion is “the flying arrow. and it is not certain that it belongs to Heraclitus. Markedly pseudo-scientific. of today. Yet Plutarch emends the saying by adding “for fresh waters are flowing on. An arrow in flight occupies.1 This alludes to Heraclites’ doctrine of flux. a space equal to its own dimensions. a guide who doubles his perspective. Otto Weininger was a young Austrian thinker whose book Sex and Character (published 1905. ed.” and ascribes it to Heraclites. but intellectually. whose founding father is St. perhaps Heraclitus is wrong.
Giroux. Sophocles. Oedipus explains to Jocasta: “I will tell you. entitled “The Architecture of the Journey: The History and Utopia of Hotels. One can’t equal many. alderman of the city of Venice.” as in Oedipus Rex. one does not necessarily need to make claims on the modernist/postmodernisn paradigm shift. R.” La sede prevista è Venezia. between the utterance and the world. . A number of institutions and organizations appear willing to underwrite it. (Danube 15) 7 This discussion. His truth. So. At the end of his search for Laius’ murderer. Fagles. clearly the scales come down on me: I am guilty” (Norton 336). based on an early “linguistic turn. he died in the same house where Beethoven died.he purported to represent. but within grammar. Patrick Creagh [New York: Farrar. Schwarzspanierstrasse 15. sulla base del proggeto allegato ci ha avanzato la proposta di organizzare un mostra sul tema “L’architettura del viaggio: storia ed utopia degli alberghi. has a different idea of truth. . Maurizio Cecconi. uses the existing English translation of Danubio (Danube. I cannot be the killer. aside from citing the original Italian text.C. Aristotle (384-322 B. 6 The invitation was signed by professors from Padova and Tübingen and read: Carissimo! L’ assessore di Venezia. 1990]). these changes will be indicated by square brackets. If it turns out that his story matches yours. such as Aristotle’s Metaphysics or De Anima. the truth of the brutal patricide. or within the coherence of the speech-act. I will intervene occasionally in Creagh’s otherwise very readable translation.singular can’t be plural. One can’t equal many -. 8 137 . has proposed that we organize an exhibition based on the enclosed prospectus. These two different modes of truth-defining can be found by contrasting classical texts. Maurizio Cecconi. with Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. The truth Oedipus is looking for does not await its confirmation within Aristotelian correspondence theory. Norton. But if he refers to one man. one alone. if he still holds to the same number. I’ve escaped the worst” (trans. (Danubio 11) Dear friend! Sig.) defines truth as a product of the concordance between the objects and intellect. If you are interested in working with us . Strauss. In order to emphasize some crucial author’s statements. although born 112 years before Aristotle. . Del finanziamento si interessebbero diverse instituzioni ed organizzazioni. Se Lei vorrà dimostrare interesse per una collaborazione . trans. In order to highlight this distinction. Oedipus sends for a shepherd whose testimony is expected to be crucial.he told you a whole band of them murdered Laius. as I do here. He points out the main reason for the second shepherd’s importance: ‘You said thieves -. between mind and world --the referential theory of truth. .” The proposed location is Venice. 336). is not expected to be found in any strict concordance between the reference and referent. sig. but rather resides strictly within the realm of the shepherd’s grammar. Explaining why he demands the second shepherd’s presence.
Gender and sexual identities are crucial in determining and detecting selves. in Italian il Danubio is masculine. 10 The term belongs to Edmund Husserl. Magris seems to be oblivious to the issue of gender in the construction of reality he is describing. Her textual presence depends on his desire to take her for a walk. Ptolemy. Using the discourse of positivistic scientism. Strabo. etc. All the female characters in the novel. die Donau is feminine. beautiful legs. some in the land of the Hyperboreans. Uncertain of its source and thus undecided about its identity. Magris elaborates on the variety of historical facts and material evidence available in order to illustrate other difficulties in determining the source of the Danube. For Descartes. he could have strengthened his arguments about his open search for the Danube’s identity. for example (Francesca. in which the material items of so-called objective reality are defined in binary opposition. 11 Magris found this version of the Danube’s source in an old woman’s tale. things either existed materially (de rem) or textually. Maddalena. 138 . I will use the pronoun she/her. with one branch flowing into the Adriatic. the Pseudo-Symcus. the Danube could have been examined through the narcissistic scope of a gender identity. Although the title lacks the definite article il. Eratosthenes. Pliny. My use of she/her thus yields to Magris’ negligence of genders and is meant to redress the absence of that constitutive element of identities. yet in German (Magris holds a full-professorship in the department of Germanic Languages at the University of Trieste). References to particular authors will logically follow their genders. he mentions Herodotus. and Maria Giuditta). a contextual reason reinforced my decision. or in the land of Hesperia. Magris overlooked some potentially interesting items that would have helped him to re-arrange the Danubian puzzle. Francesca is entirely represented through a synecdoche: her long. always young and desirable. Some of the historians and scientists he cites imagined its sources in Hercynian Forest. Caesar. Mela. 13 In re and in verbis hould be understood here as referring to the ontological distinction introduced in René Descartes’ rationalistic philosophy. Although successfully breaking many modernist codes. He also lists different conceptions of and imaginary solutions for the question of the Danube’s source. Madalena is always at Gigi’s mercy. among the Celts or the Scythians. therefore a boring and predictable male fantasy. Other sources “mention a fork in the river. Things de rem had a priority within the metaphysical hierarchy of being(s). are ridiculously objectivized. Her timeless nature is only a projection of Claudio’s desire. verbally (de dictum). 12 Later in this section. Once personified. Maria Giuditta is beyond aging.9 When speaking generally. along with divergent descriptions of the Black Sea estuaries” (Danube. This is not a willful decision on my part. 18). His historico-scientific examination of the sources continues in a description of the variety of evidence used as testimony to explain the Danube in its historical as well as its material beginnings. on Mount Abnoba. Seneca. If Magris had been more sensitive to the issues of gender.
“The Function of Fiction in Shaping Reality. Magris is more inclined to operate with the productive experiences of Pirandello and Calvino in which the doubles are not the complementary counterparts of a desired whole. 139 . Pirandello).” Man and World 12 (1979): 123-141. moraleggiare sulle presunzioni dell’esattezza scientifica (Danubio 25). none of the partial insights are equiped to claim the totality of the subject/topic. Although they often sound totalizing. Pirandello. Beckett. science. but rather liberated fictional creatures that yield to the chaotic and imperfect structure or this world. il letterato preferisce divagare. when it comes to literary production. 15 Not only here. In order to become. they do not need to form a unit with its proclaimed whole. For them (and for their authors) it is enough to be around. but throughout the novel. Jarry. As its active interpreters.) things do not need to be explained in order to be understood. 16 Poco incline all’esattezza. see: Paul Ricoeur.14 For a precise analysis of productive reference. programatic Postmodernism (Calvino) “finally” reaches Magris. 18 The tradition of doubles in Italian literature dates from its beginnings (Dante) and through the Modernism. since they are true. it is a “hinternational” ecumene for which in Prague Johannes Urzidil praised it: it is a hinterworld “beyond the nations” (Danube 29). to add their own perspective on something that cannot be fully explained. more precisely Avant Garde (Papini. Ionesco. Although in his gigantic rhetorical gestures very respective towards the bards of Italian (and European) literature. 17 The Danube is German-Magyar-Slavic-Romanic-Jewish Central Europe. they do not need to be logical and coherent. looking back (and only back) at the tradition of the twentiethcentury European literature (Gennett. polemically opposed to the Germanic Reich. etc. myth and folklore each offer a partial experience of reality.
they still follow their individual politics of identity by following the narrative politics of their immediate communities. obvious in the author’s consistency and faithfulness to the natural. As the Danubian landscape engages in a process of self-recognition. The truths embodied in the river’s geography are not implied a priori. before any conclusions are drawn about the cultural-political 141 .Chapter 3: The Poet(h)ics of the Danube: Rethinking Identities From Herr Kyselak to gospon Krleza Magris’ decision to break modernist conventions and seek a more pragmatic poetic justice for a cultural region that is itself an unstable point of reference. Consequently. any faithful cartography of Central Europe must denies ideas of singular. The ambiguous. Magris’ po-ethical method is especially sensitive toward the issues of identity and identities which emerge as Central Europe is re-inscribed on the new literary map of the world. Since all the peoples and individuals who live in the region (especially those from the eastern and south-central sections) are trapped in some historical present. or other geography/geographies of Central Europe. pre-conceived identities. but still very real identity of the Danube already contains the paradoxical manifestations of particular identities of Central Europeans. spiritual. cultural. often oblivious to the politics of the global community. political. but rather emerge in the process of writing/understanding the peculiar reality of the Danubian world.
Although the methods of colonizing the other exercised by England and France for instance differed from those practiced in Central Europe since the Romans. about whom. Magris’ poet(h)ics operates in a new kind of space -. by taking a closer look at another of Magris’ fictionalized Central Europeans. and brutal searches for both individual and collective sense of self similar to those found in African and Asian tribal wars that followed the withdrawal of their colonizers. without a continuity needed for a group to grasp a clear identity concept. Mussolini. Napoleon. Mr. nothing need be known but his name. during the Ottoman and Habsburg rule.in a postcolonial space which so far has not been seriously examined in previous treatments of Central Europe. The latter was indeed. Following the poet(h)ics of the Danube. the daily dynamics and the overall experience of oppression was virtually identical. Kyselak. it is necessary to highlight the importance of an individual’s singular quest for identity and agency in that shifting Danubian landscape. Kyselak’s own Danubian adventure. The same can be said for the reality experienced by Central Europeans after the disappearance of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Central Europeans ‘suddenly’ found themselves in a situation seemingly suitable for a free exchange of accumulated feelings of loss and displacement. In preparing to trace Mr. Such Central European postcoloniality after 1990 manifested itself in random. Hitler. The absence of master narrative that has been determining the condition of the region since the Roman Empire. has produced a regional postcolonial condition. in all its manifestations and its prac142 . for the moment. all the way to the Soviet Union’s hegemony along with various ideological identity occupations of lesser geopolitical dimensions such as the Titoist Yugoslavia. On the macrostructural level of Danubio. Strangers to themselves on their own territory that never belonged to them long enough without a rupture. superficial. and with the intrusions of The Republic of Venice. The empirical reality of global postcolonialism essentially does not differ from the empirical reality of Central European Postcommunism.consequences of that historical present. some of the planning underlining Magris’ strategies needs to be acknowledged. this chapter will begin with a slightly different journey.
Slobodan Milošević. one can look at a broad understanding of post-colonial discourse. peoples. They intervene in those ideological discourses of modernity that attempt to give a hegemonic “normality” to the uneven development and the differential. communities.”2 Bhabha writes: Postcolonial criticism bears witness to the unequal and uneven forces of cultural representation involved in the contest for political and social authority within the modern world order.tice (except for its ideological aspect). histories of nations. Instead they took part in a brief but naively ideologized national-populist dictatorships lead by nationalist entrepreneurs such as the Croatian Franjo Tuđman. state capitalism. or by national-socialist opportunists like the Serb.. small peoples gave in giving away their opportunity to seize the moment. social authority. particularly appropriate to circumscribe a region which has been in fact colonized for two millennia. north and south.) For to reconstitute the discourse of cultural difference demands not simply a change of cultural contents and symbols. often disadvantaged.1 In his essay.. as explained in Homi Bhabha’s technical definition. races. “Postcolonial Criticism. The anti-essentialist modes of signification and representation which have been attributed to Magris. a replacement within the same time frame of repre143 . They formulate their critical revisions around issues of cultural difference. and political discrimination in order to reveal the antagonistic and ambivalent moments within the “rationalizations” of modernity (. especially when used as anti-essentialist strategies of reality construction through narratives. Unready and historically disabled to face their own reality without surrendering it to new masters. To confirm the applicability of his point of departure. Postcolonial perspectives emerge from the colonial testimony of Third World countries and the discourses of “minorities” within the geopolitical divisions of east and west. allow Danubio to be interpreted (or simply described) through the lenses of current post-colonial criticism.
sentation is never adequate. social. In this context. geography. the very arbitrariness of its signifier supports the idea that “postcolonial perspec144 . even in describing the Danube. A prima vista. Central Europe’s location. ethnic and racial structures seem different from those of the traditional colonies. And contingency as the signifying time of counterhegemonic strategies is not a celebration of “lack” or “excess” or a self-perpetuating series of negative ontologies. especially in light of all the scattered identities of the Danubian lands as a cultural region that has been historically deprived of any public self-representation. According to traditional views on colonialism and postcolonialism. north and south” (437). writes. post-colonial discourse employed to “rearticulate” Central Europe may seem inappropriate. It requires a radical revision of the social temporality in which emergent histories may be written. and ideological exploitation. nothing seems to be more appropriate than postcolonial criticism.at least as Anglo. the so-called Third World represents fertile soil for economic. (Redrawing The Boundaries 437-438) According to this programmatic text. Yet it is interesting that. Homi Bhabha. carried out by the so-called First World -. as well as the battle for a new cultural space. political. the rearticulation of the “sign” in which cultural identities may be inscribed. Although Bhabha’s geopolitical matrix of colonial and postcolonial dynamics is so-called Third World. “Postcolonial perspectives emerge from the colonial testimony of Third World countries and the discourses of ‘minorities’ within the geopolitical divisions of east and west. Such “indeterminism” is the mark of the conflictual yet productive space in which the arbitrariness of the sign of cultural signification emerges within the regulated boundaries of social discourse. the main function of post-colonial criticism is to examine how historically-established hegemonies within which “new world orders” have to be investigated. economy.and Frankophone models and their attendant ideas of nationhood tacitly represent their cultural space. It announces the struggle for a more accurate representation of pre-existing hierarchies.
Bhabha asserts that their topography is simply decided by power and as such. in order to apply both colonial and postcolonial theoretical apparatus anywhere in the world. and its meaning is based solely on semantics of unrestrained power. Since the “new” postcolonial model most appropriate in re-thinking Central Europe is not necessarily focused on well-known modes of centrifugal 3 colonization. the Czech Republic. for instance. Magris’ postmodern travelogue. He is aware of the necessity of an opportune historical moment enabling colonial condition. one must first recognize dynamics and effects of various modes of colonial presence and occupation. instead of agreeing about the applicability of the term “colonization” with its traditional boundaries. Third World is an arbitrary construct whose meaning is the product of hegemony. In so doing they do not signify it positively. After all. The best characterization of Central Europe is in terms of the various centripetal colonial narratives present in the region since ancient times. He underscores the category of time instead that of space understanding time in history as a condition needed for imagined colonial topography to come into being. critics should think of it as a variety of different forms of colonial intervention within native lands. is in flux. 145 . Therefore. takes into account several forms of colonialism for which textual evidence exists in Austria. and best expressed in modern times by the Austro-Hungarian empire. political. They simply name it using a false axiological category ‘Third’ while excluding it from all the ‘new world orders’ of re-colonization. the application of this theory to some may still seem problematic. One of the applications of such a theoretical model is certainly the post-colonial reading of Central Europe’s cultural. and then compare those with the more familiar mechanisms and effects of imperialism in so-called dominant colonies. But isn’t the notion of emergence suggested in Bhabha’s essay methodologically independent of the traditional colonial topography? This displacement actually empowers its practical employment. Italy. economical and ideological strata. Slovakia. Therefore. It is superimposed onto regions of a choice as a sign of their ‘regress’ in relation to the self proclaimed First World.tives emerge” regardless of the place. social. The Third world always define and locate external ‘others’.
but also that of its inhabitants. but he does not do so in any rigid logocentric way. Unlike the older colonial testimonies. not only the identity of the region. He understands the nature of his task: even if he is in favor of modernist tradition. Slovenia. he then follows it. Magris allows the Danube to be what it is -. Appropriately cross-dressed. its signs and its semiotic space. and Croatia. for instance. as he himself states. not to provide the readers with an authoritative guide. he leaves Danube to the qualities of its own nature and appearances -. not from the security of a colonizer’s master narrative. these countries’ narratives testify to the long-term colonial presence of foreign masters. 146 . Magris’ narrative strategy thus opens a space in which individuals can rethink identities as well.4 In the course of his journey. and the sets of individual stories told by the underrepresented inhabitants of the Danubian basin. Instead of appropriating the river and its narratives.Bosnia. a non-essentialist structure rather than a holistic entity. From this perspective. aestheticizes the not-yet-aestheticized. must be seen relationally. and codifies the unknown. Although they were never on the official list of the world colonies. Inscribing desire The Lost Letters of Herr Kyselak Just as Magris offers a schema for understanding the region in a non-essentialist way. so does one of his fictionalized characters. but to behave as the river’s travel companion. Magris names the new.exposing them. as the product of the interaction of the various narratives which have defined it culturally and geopolitically from above. Magris’ Danube emerges as a groundbreaking strategic travel guide through the troubled colonial landscapes of such small nations in the permanent custody of others.a postmodern phenomenon. to his hegemonic needs in traditional terms. Since his Danube is the Danube. Magris does not aestheticize and name not-yet-aestheticized and/or signified items in order to possess them. “to the eyes of humanity” (Danube 25).
His example will hopefully shed a new. to nourish a yearning for eternity. so he began to leave his signature. a member of the “small family of (Central European) peoples. soprattutto nella zona di Loiben e fra i vigneti della Wachau. light on the tragicomic identity search still present in Central European nostalgia: It was perhaps the transience of the river that by way of contrast stimulated Herr Kyselak. (Josef) Kyselak. un’ambizione di eternità. everybody around him) is. Come tutti coloro che imbrattano le colone greche o la cima delle montagne. and a tireless walker.5 he spends plenty of time complaining how trivial everything (and more importantly. J. Kyselak aspirava a una piccola immortalità e l’ha raggiunta. la smania di opporre a quelle acque fuggitive qualcosa di stabile. assistant in the country registry of Vienna during the nineteenth century. especially in the vicinity of Loiben and among the vineyards of the Wachau. per contrappunto. in large black letters done in indelible oil paint. al signor Kyselak. and he got it. a grossi caratteri neri e con indelebile colore ad olio. (Danube 154)* Josef Kyselak was not a person whose company one would desire.” behaves in a context in which global dynamics shape individual lives. Unluckily nothing better came to mind than his own name. for example on rock-faces. Frustrated with Kyselak’s treatment of the * É stata forse la fugacità del fiume a suggerire. ad esempio su pareti di roccia. Lo scriveva sulle cose. He traced it on all sorts of things. Purtroppo non gli venne in mente niente di meglio del suo nome e così egli si mise a tracciare il suo autografo J. nel primo Ottocento. His fate allows us to see how a traditional individual. (Danubio 180) 147 . Like all those who have to sully Greek columns or the tops of the mountains. durante i suoi vagabondaggi lungo le rive del Danubio. Kyselak aspired to a little scrap of immortality. a craving to counter those fleeting waters with something stable. (Josef) Kyselak. throughout his wanderings along the banks of the Danube. more humane. assistente al registro presso la camera di corte a Vienna.Herr Kyselak. e solerte viaggiatore a piedi. In a two-volume book of travel sketches.
as opposed to the rest of the reading community who read the same book. Herr Kyselak wanted to challenge the eternal flux by asserting some mode of (individual) stability. Those masses are. stupid. Since the writer has not knowingly chosen this pattern. but kept on inscribing his name onto different objects situated on the banks of the Danube. Magris notes that this old pedestrian would be much better off if he had never written anything else. some permanence of identity (at least as an author). Recalling the provisional binarism between Heraclitus’ and Parmenides’ concepts of a river flow. to realize upon the reading. Disappointed with Kyselak’s arrogance. according to him. Kyselak actually imposes yet another kind of narrative of permanency onto the landscape and thus contradicts the unstable nature of the Danubian identity in a new way. The humiliation unintentionally imposed by Kyselak thus ends in a paradox. that only he or she is smart. Magris notes.people who are supposed to be eager readers of his book. Magris’ Kyselak exercises the mobile agency of his identity as traveler while resting “eternally” on 148 . His intention of justifying and fixing his being through a repetitive pattern of writing his name down the Danube’s banks nonetheless brings the reader back to the strategic dilemma formulated at the very beginning of our discussion: by inscribing his name on every stable and firm object along the Danube. His personal search for immortality thus confronts Magris’ two basic problems in defining the Danube -.statics versus dynamics. Kyselak’s repetitive and predictable autographs carry more meaning in the historical space of the Danube than his officially recognized opus. since his own books are available to the masses. Somehow. as a member of the group. Magris compares him to a writer whose narrative strategy is based on the humiliation of the masses—a writer whose mode of writing at least cannot harm anyone. especially for one purpose onl— for each individual. One should not expect that they would actually be able to comprehend the books’ contents. because any reader who would read a book written by an author like this would simply be reminded that s/he is smarter than anyone else. Obviously. he communicates with the masses while actually undercutting himself.
Kyselak is not simply engaged in mediating between real and fictional parts of his self. nor is he aware of the distinction between an author and a character. because he will be remembered as a fictionalized graffiti artist written in existence by Claudio Magris. Herr Kyselak’s insistence on inscribing graphic signs of his individual self in the form of wall scrawls is written by Magris into the Danube’s narrative to exemplify how a metaphor translates into a textual strategy establishing a historical identity.” of a character whose name is everywhere the Danube is. stressing the subject seen as a construct in a constructed history. Magris exploits Kyselak’s actions to show how that author/ character exemplifies Magris’ own beliefs about the nature of the Danube as a Central European river. Magris offers the reader a multiplicity of individual experiences of “Kyselak. Magris concludes that. The fact that Kyselak remains an active narrative ingredient (in spite of Magris’ pronounced critique of his Weltanschauung) leaves enough room for the readers to interpret his existence in the way(s) it pleases them. In other words. but whose essence is absent. Josef Kyselak really was a published author and an assistant in the court registry of Vienna. The subjective judgments in these new realities are not the properties of displaced subjects/individuals created by a master narrator. This individualism. almost paradoxically. Such representation of his self does not determine his identity in any fixed way. al149 .an invented identification—as a graffiti author. however. as well as the individuation of perceptions based on the author’s search for an individual. In such a context. brings a modernist world view (where an individual may be the agent of his own existence) closer to the worlds of postmodernism. as depicted in the novel. he is represented outside the space of binary oppositions: he is revealed as the agent who exposes new potentials of the reality constructs in which he is engaged. allows the subjective judgments of the readers to take the subject’s vacant place. but rather newly-emerging spaces of productive ambiguity. the absence of the master narrative of authorship in Danubio allows the reader to be the agent of the novel’s new realities. where the subject vanishes and in which its absence.
nolens -volens. Sarrebbe stato meglio se Josef Kyselak avesse scritto sulla faccia del mondo --o più modestamente. more modestly. Ma l’ assistente al registro era un continentale.. or with of those meaningless words that one repeats like a magic formula. of some beloved person. his desire to inscribe his existence onto the flux of the river would have been performed authentically if he had actually never left any sign of his presence: The flight of the waters is certainly more magnanimous than the megalomaniac’s fixity. un uomo di terraferma. . simply the lovely region of the Wachau . in spite of his excursions in the neighborhood of the Danube . o una di quelle parole senza senso che si ripetono come una formula magica: certo egli sarebbe stato più grande se fosse andato in giro a cancellare il suo nome anziché a scriverlo. Certainly he would have been a greater figure if he had gone around erasing his name instead of writing it. Magris favors erasure over inscription to describe the Danube.though Kyselak’s graffiti ultimately “mean” more than his literary work.. It would have been better if Josef Kyselak had daubed the face of the world or.with the name of someone else. * Certo la fuga delle acque è più magnanima di quella fissità megalomane. unaware of waters. (Danube 154)* Yet this playful displacement of identities is only a single step in a longer process that continuously rewrites and reduces the significance of signs’ meanings: “Certainly he would have been a greater figure if he had gone around erasing his name instead of writing it” (Danube 154). Kyselak ends up frantically searching for blank spots suitable for inscribing the same desire--his desire to become at least symbolically attached to all existing firm points of reference. nonostante le sue ecsursioni nei paraggi danubiani. or. Kyselak’s desire to inscribe his self onto a fluctuating landscape gradually emerges as a vicious circle: his intent is relativized as a performance when. della bella regione della Wachau .-un nome altrui. . quello di una persona amata. more precisely. (Danubio 180) . His desire to do so teaches Kyselak a craft of self-liberation. to enter history permanently. But the assistant in the registry was an inlander.
the victory of absence over presence is staged in a very careful manner. as a kind of religious communication with God. Magris is attracted by such examples of the unnamed.”9 This mode of communication originally was in151 . “his malady. Meaningless words offered to Josef Kyselak in this way were simply a stop in the midst of a paradigm shift. In this particular case. sought to use such so-called trans-rational language. especially as a “speaking in tongues. one particular piece of advice given to the registry assistant Josef K(yselak) on how to behave with a pencil in his hand became the underlining scheme of his existence: he should write nonsense. This command is simply another appropriation of Magris’ authorial ideology. Swedenborg. inscribe “meaningless words that one repeats like a magic formula” (Danube 154). Magris demonstrates his own awareness of centuries-old philosophical attempts to convert so-called negative categories into positive terms. trying to assert existence or permanence. E. Russian avant garde authors like Majakovskij. and the Russian avant garde. This particular solution once again speaks in favor of Magris’ cautious methodology in negotiating the spatio-temporal logic of the two kinds of narratives he is spanning (the modern and the postmodern).8 inspired by medieval mystics. as the “world” of the text moves from rationalist to post-rationalist discourse. signs and signatures. captured within the deontic7 world of his fictional creatures. and even M. In this tradition. Before he names empty places whose void is far more poet(h)ical than all the directions.shows him how he can become emancipated from his most sacred cause. the unspoken. Gorky. Krushchennyh. This recognition of the negative (absence) and its strategic equation with the positive (presence) is a pattern in western metaphysics whose presence can be traced back to Plotinus6 and. Magris’ aesthetic devotion to clearly-defined codes of modernist museums and galleries thus ultimately forces him to watch over his own footprints on the journey toward the seas of postmodern museums and catalogues. his need constantly to reconfirm his own identity” (154). to the present epoch. the absent. via Russian Medieval mystics. That Kyselak should write “meaningless words” was not meant either to silence or denounce his desire.
Formerly an officer in the King’s army. Perhaps the best example of how Magris thematizes absence as a different kind of an authentic cultural presence can be found in the section entitled “An Empty Tomb” (Una tomba vuota): In the fields and woods of Oberhausen. first grenadier of the republican army. like a guard of honor. for his bones have been moved to Paris. and subsequently in the French Revolution. Magris speaks of the unspoken or absence of the meaning of identity not only in the Kyselak episode. In the solitude of the fields it is watched over. The sarcophagus is empty. so he could introduce the absence of rational reference as a meaningful act of authorship. bought because it contains the sarcophagus of Théophile Malo Corret de Latour d’Auvergne. Operating in this gradual way. he had to be certain that all other possibilities of applied poet(h)ics are exhausted. he must be given the opportunity to inscribe some “meaningless words. a little before Neuburg. The burial place is also reserved for the Forty. but also elsewhere in the book. before Magris addressed absence in a positive way. respectful toward the past and open to the future.” words that speak from beyond existing narratives.tended to speak directly with a divine agency. commander of the sixth 152 . he finally enlisted as a private soldier in the armies of Napoleon and died in battle on the Danube. Before Kyselak could finally erase his name and thus most faithfully mark the landscape. and which exemplify his sur-real search for personal identity in the Danubian space with which both authors (Magris and Kyselak) are engaged. by a square of trees. They thus (re)introduced a language living at the borders between the rigidity of high Cartesian rationalism and what we see today as the de-hierarchized space of postmodernism as exemplified in free game of signifiers. there is a small piece of land belonging to France. but avant garde writers reconceptualized it while retaining its mystical connotations and transrational patterns. then a participant in the American Revolution.
mindless background of the sky. and it also stands for the great void that looms behind every glorious cavalcade and streaming banner. nella solitudine dei campi lo vegliano.semi-brigade of infantry. rispetto a questa tomba. Il sepolcro sarcofago è riservato anche a de Forty. Quella tomba deserta é invece la gloria e insieme la sua vanità.” After seeing this tomb. il paesaggio rinacsimentale di Neuburg. of family feuds. rides the army of men who are summoned to die. un piccolo appezzamento di terra appartiene alla Francia. an 8 de l’ère rèpublicaine. nel film della storia universale. arruolatosi infine come soldato semplice nell’esercito napoleonico e caduto sui campi di battaglia danubiani. tué le 8ième Messidor. morto lo stesso giorno. it embodies the meaning of a life that takes up arms out of faith in a new banner. quinte stilizzate e artificiali che ricreano sulle sponde del Danubio la grazia dell’arte italiana. l’armata a cavallo degli uomini chiamati a morire. case patrizie. contro il quale si staglia. anziché porsi al servizio di guerre principesche locali. e racchiude pure il grande vuoto che si profila dietro ogni cavalcata gloriosa e ogni bandiera al vento. Come appare. tu sarcofago è le 8 i sarcofago è me Messidor. outlined against which. ma il protagonista sarcofago è il soldato semplice. alberi disposti in quadrato. aristocratic mansions and noble courtyards seem like a period stage-set. (Danubio 108) 153 . an 8 de l’sarcofago è re republicaine”. palazzi. how mincing and glossy appears the Renaissance scenery of Neuburg! Churches. palaces. comandante della sesta semi-brigata di fanteria. di liti in famiglia. and at the same time the futility of it. Il sarcofago è vuoto. già ufficiale del re. artificial wings to recreate the grace of Italian art on the banks of the Danube. ovvero lo sfondo infinito e insensato del cielo. rather than putting them at the service of the wars between local princes. in the film of universal history. who died the same day. nobili cortili sembrano uno scenario teatrale storicizzante. e successivamente per quella francese. “Premier Grenadier de France. poi combattente per la rivoluzione americana. with stylized. lezioso e laccato. poco dopo. Chiese. but the real protagonist is the private soldier. on the other hand. (Danube 94)* * Fra i prati e i boschi di Oberhausen. come una guardia d’onore. or else for the infinite. il primo granatiere dell’ armata repubblicana. “Premier Grenadier de France. poco prima di Neuburg. racchiude il senso di una vita che impugna la spada per la fede in una nova bandiera. That deserted tomb. speaks of glory. le sue ossa sono state translate a Parigi. che l’ha comperato perché in esso si trova il sarcofago di Théophile Malo Corret de Latour d’ Auvergne.
The real “tomb occupant” is gone. and his absence. like many others. the “Premier Grenadier” of the republican army. one becomes convinced that Magris’ poet(h)ical approach has its correlates not only in theories about the contemporary de-centered thought. the commander of an infantry brigade. More than any other carnivalesque ceremony that could have been manufactured in Imperial headquarters. cast and directed by the historical masters of previous imperial ceremony. died for ideas and fantasies that purportedly surpassed his individual existence. speaks clearly and frankly to a void whose presence uncovers more genuine images of Danubian reality. this final void. a historical artifact superimposed on its inhabitants. The region’s discursive place on contemporary intellectual and scholarly maps is based on the benevolence and adaptability of those scholars who are able to exercise patience and. a person whose war experience equals the carefully-nurtured skills of a chess master. The real hero of the battles. is almost self explanatory. more importantly. Magris’ journey from Kyselak’s graffiti. directly depends on individuals’ ability to adjust and re-adjust to external forces of such obligatory history. this tomb enacts and celebrates the useless death of a man who. The “real” existence of such a region.The great void (il grande vuoto) in this passage speaks the most meaningful truth about a region in which every individual existence played at least several roles -. After witnessing the gradual vanishing of the traditional subject. The empty tomb whose void speaks its truth is guarded by the trees and the landscape. finally arriving 154 . The empty tomb waits for de Forty. who are willing to dismiss their own ideologies and schemes in order to listen and understand the Danubian lands in their protean survival games. but also in the very same geographical reality/realities that make Central Europe. is not even physically present there. Yet the raw material of Central European history has been removed from the tomb. which is. The grave is reserved for a post-mortem on-stage performance. the tomb within the text. Seen in the context of Danube. via his humble suggestions to the archivist to inscribe first “meaningless words” and then simply nothing. in fact. in spite of imperial arrangements.all superimposed by history.
an isolation which enabled him to believe that he was not a part of that savage mass of “semi-men. The monarchy of Kyselak’s times (the early nineteenth century) was a modern federate entity primarily based on law. Perhaps because he was a landlubber. Both metaphorically and literally. let us refer briefly to another equally important document of the times. and was willing to inscribe himself onto it. even when confronted with the shifting waters. gave him a sense of sublime isolation -. Kyselak’s lives in the central region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. more marginal perspectives on Austro-Hungarian reality are introduced. Voices from the outsikrts Miroslav Krleža: Identity as a “Servile Embodiment of Worthlessness” Being an assistant in the court registry of Vienna. For the people who lived in its center.” but rather in control of his own identity and reality. in order to elucidate the conditions that enabled Kyselak’s sense of permanence and allowed him to write 155 . aimed at those masses of “lower creatures” whose presence pollutes his clean and predictable empire of order. Josef Kyselak lived on solid ground. he is. a postmodern locator of Central European culture who can designate empty tombs as monuments to past colonial narratives. Before other. illustrates how the author’s intellectual and narrative position deals with its topic by fully respecting all the ambiguities found in it. he still believed in the firmness of his self. everything was arranged in advance. The narrative conditions guaranteeing his world of stability become obvious when the reader confronts his privileged anger. not to the heroes who died for the causes they officially represent.at the void of a vacated Grenadier’s grave reserved for others. especially in large urban environments. This privilege. at best. combined with his personality. He is not a modernist who can summon history back to life.
Each family had its fixed budget. The Austrian writer Stefan Zweig begins his autobiography10 by describing Imperial law and order: When I attempt to find a simple formula for the period in which I grew up. could confidently look up in the calendar the year when he would be advanced in grade. Everything had its norm. and every duty was exactly prescribed. for the unexpected. Everyone knew how much he possessed or what he was entitled to.himself into a history. for vacations and entertainment. 156 . the Austrian crown. or revolts. Our currency. an assurance of its immutability. estates and businesses were handed down from generation to generation. When the babe was still in its cradle. what was permitted and what forbidden. and what is more. and knew how much could be spent for rent and food. of revolutions. The rights which it granted to its citizens were duly confirmed by parliament. Everything in our almost thousand-year-old Austrian monarchy seemed based on permanency. and were he to die. for example. as a “reserve” for the future. Whoever owned a house looked upon it as a secure domicile for his children and grandchildren. on knew (or believed) another would come to take his place. He who had a fortune could accurately compute his annual interest. In this vast empire everything stood firmly and immovably in its appointed place. circulated in bright gold pieces. I hope that I convey its fullness by calling it the Golden Age of Security [all emphases added]. All that was radical. and nothing would change in the well-regulated order. its first mite was put in its little bank. invariably a small sum was carefully laid aside for sickness and the doctor’s bills. An official or an officer. the freely elected representative of the people. and the State itself was the chief guarantor of this stability. No one thought of wars. or when he would be pensioned. and at its head was the aged emperor. its definite measure and weight. or deposited in the savings bank. prior to the First World War.
Its narrative did not travel down the Danube well. Zweig is not the best source for a detailed social analysis. or very far away from it. especially the literatures from the “margins” (especially Krleža. was again reflected inward— from the provinces back to the center.his solid existence rests on ethics. Hašek. whose security is yet to be found. The question guiding further analysis of identity problems in Central Europe must also include those peoples in its discursive universe who never knew of such “predictable” things as permanency. he identifies the “Golden Age of Security” as an age of reason -. Zweig believes that the world is stable and that Good can be learned. assurance. In such a context. without any hesitation.from the southern and eastern edges of the Monarchy.all violence. His optimistic views rely on an Enlightenment concept of ethics. higher class. To understand other literatures. the perspective of outsiders. and well-regulated order. seemed impossible in an age of reason. Although such a one-dimensional document speaks from a privileged insider’s viewpoint. logic. and. Himself a member of a privileged. Zweig’s candid testimony tells a story only about the “powerful” part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”11 his account should be read primarily because of Zweig’s own personal sincerity in documenting the epoch. once launched from Vienna toward the peripheries. stability. Even if one agrees to such a model of social and psychological stability in Austro-Hungary. the Imperial rationale of the Habsburgs did not resonate far from its center. on the coherence of historical narratives. In other words. Zweig offers an insider’s insight into the center of the Dual Monarchy. and therefore unable to see the larger picture of society. and Kafka. however. it helps to articulate another perspective. speaking accurately about an Empire in which everything. for instance) one must ask: what was 157 . (The World of Yesterday 2-3) Although it is hard to trust someone whose political analysis of World War II begins and ends with the claim that it was “a war of brothers brought about by clumsy diplomats and brutal munitions manufacturers. of the peoples from the borderlands -.
the emperor -. where no one was entitled to anything. Slovenia. firm. immovable.it was a narrative directed inward rather than outward. stressing strength in diversity rather than normativity. respectively. or Slovakia. everything was forbidden. Austro-Hungary stressed individual citizen’s internalization of a model of contractual hegemony. where those Kyselak’s “stupid masses” did not have problems about where to vacation or how to entertain themselves--where everything was just a survival game? Those countries without definite measures or regulated orders. guaranteed through access to the central power.” In order to renegotiate their position in accordance with Magris’ insistence on productive ambiguity. its explanation is legitimate: “Austro-Hungary stressed 158 . spontaneous. were important parts of Central Europe whose centripetal colonial dynamics had “an aged emperor at its head.” Katherine Arens writes: Where England or France were tacitly asserting cultural and moral superiority over India and Algeria. and new regional narratives introduced. but where everybody was obliged to serve His Imperial and Royal Majesty. In a certain sense.life like in the more far-flung Habsburg lands of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. and where everything was immutable. insecure and unexpected? What was daily existence like in the lands such as Czech. but where. (“Central Europe and the Nationalist Paradigm”. Austro-Hungary continues the idea of a nation as a representative public sphere characterizing Enlightenment thought (a strategy carried by Metternich into Franz Joseph’s time from the close of the eighteen century). where almost nothing was permitted. to lend a voice to the underprivileged. where nothing was stable. In her essay “Central Europe and the Nationalist Paradigm. or Croatia. fixed and secure. new analytical methods must be drawn upon. to name their unnamed reality. in consequence. unpublished essay) Since this essay does not discuss the aforementioned “marginal” lands.
and it certainly worked best if s/he either lived in or were able to come to Vienna. despite the different modes of colonization used by the different empires (England and France versus Austro-Hungary). large parts of Central Europe remained someone else’s colonial properties. In other words. the emperor. especially for people like Svejk who could never get his discharge papers issued properly. because the pattern offered for Austro-Hungary worked only if a citizen was a citizen. and they do operate on the principles of an inwardly-directed dynamics: this is not in question. the conclusion can be applied to the remote landscapes of the small peoples who still belong to Austro-Hungary. Completing that comparison. however. It is hard to overlook the large parts of the Monarchy whose inhabitants were seen in the capital (and other less glamorous centers) only as those silenced by Kyselak—peoples de159 . this essay speaks in favor of the hypothesis that. France) colonial narrative. and. or in Zagreb were beyond assistance. one should note that this narrative is aimed elsewhere.” This produced an inward rather than the outward (England. guaranteed through access to the central power. Since the present interpretation is specifically interested in the “peoples of lesser gods” on the peripheries of that imperial center. moreover. does not mean that similar situations existing in Budapest. it adds its voice to previous statements about the lived realities in that historical space. since Austro-Hungary’s center kept changing the rules imposed on him. instead of criticizing its “one-dimensional approach. As in the previous example. and both of them are right when they say that the situation in Austro-Hungary was complicated.individual citizen’s internalization of a model of contractual hegemony. or Prague.” compare its model of the center to the situation on the cultural. Yes. The problem is how to reconcile this benevolent hegemonism with the situation on the imperial peripheral fringes. neither Arens nor Zweig claim that they are giving a complete picture of the entire Monarchy. his or her business was taken care of. This. law and order work throughout the region. That is: if a citizen knew how to do the paperwork. political and geographical margins of the Monarchy addressed here. but stable.
political and cultural groups of the Empire. We have been dying while. Krleža directly comments on the position of Croatia in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy14: The statement. fighting for foreign kings. one must assume the position of the outsider and hear the testimony of an author from one of the underrepresented national.prived of their voice and of their chances for accessing mainstream administration.12 In his book Deset krvavih godina (Ten Years Soaked in Blood). To understand the reality of those lands on the margins of Habsburg hegemony.13 and particularly in a section entitled Teze za jednu diskusiju iz godine 1935 (Theses for a Discussion from the Year 1935). peoples without their elementary right to be at least equivalent to others among the purportedly equal citizens of a large federal state based on “objective” law and order. Today when someone is repeating in the press the most banal compliments from foreigners about our local costume balls or 160 . The Croatian writer Miroslav Krleža (1893-1982) examplifies a titanic intellectual figure trapped in a small language and a provincial culture. unlike in Zweig’s safe nostalgia. “You are ‘ante murale Christianitatis’15 does not only refer to us. at the center of civilization they were feasting at drinking exactly as the Bishop Ianus Pannonius described it. where. The fact that we bled to the last drop on the ramparts of Western Civilization. It has repeatedly been said to all the miserable national catholic commoners who lived on the Danube and the Visla--to the poor devils who have been dying on the bloody frontiers of European profits. strangers to the language that bound the system together. everyone had to think of wars and revolutions and where everything was always in revolt. has always been told from the Austrian perspective (from 1527 to its defeat in 1918). Krleža’s writings illustrate the unique and difficult position of “marginal cultures” or “minor literatures” whose textual documents (such as Kafka’s and Hašek’s) cross the immediate borders of their environment and become integral parts of the mainstream history of the world narratives. social. the Croats.
O. calling me a supporter of Frank. na kome nam pamet maše repom pred stranicama ropski servilno. kao što je to opjevao Jan Panonije. anyone who wrote more variations on the subject of the suppressed awareness of the Croatian national essence. koje su ginule na krvavoj predstraži evropskih interesa. biskup pečujski. a nedavno mi je Srpski književni glasnik predbacio kroatocentrično držanje premda već godinama čeznem za svojim pandanom u Beogradskoj štampi..16 The other day. We brag about those remarks. Alas. mi se hvalisavim citiranjem tih glupih laži onog najnižeg stepena provincijalne zatucane svijesti. Da smo krvarili na braniku civilizacije zapadnoevropske. (Deset krvavih godina 120-121) 161 . Serbian journalists (chauvinists and separatists) attack me. kada se preštampavaju najbanalniji komplimenti stranaca o našim kostimiranim balovima ili o lijepim zagrebačkim gospo icama. “Serbian Literary Voice” accused me of “Croatocentrism. dok se u centru civilizacije bančilo na vlas tako. although I don’t know any other Croatian poet who would be more “popular” than I am.servilno otjelotvorenje bezvrijednosti. u bitkama za inostrane kraljeve do posljednje kapi krvi. djetinjasto nesvijesno. and childishly.* * Da smo Antermurale Christianitatis. dokazujući svojim poniženjem kako smo upravo ono sto nećemo da budemo .. proves that we are exactly what we do not want to be: a servile embodiment of worthlessness. Our mind slavishly wags its tail while confronting those pages. premda ne poznajem me u hrvatskim poetima ni jednoga koji bi bio narodniji od mene i ni jednog koji je više varirao temu o potisnutoj svijesti hrvatskog narodnog osjećaja. through self-humiliation. a danas..” when they don’t know that for years I have yearned for my “Serbocentric” counterpart to appear in Belgrade press. and that I hate Croatia and everything Croatian. and we quote these stupid lies with pride and thus sink to the rock bottom of our primitive provincial self-awareness. how many times I have heard or read about my poor self: that I am an internationalist renegade. nego i svim nacionalnim bijedama katoličkim na Dunavu i na Visli. U Beogradu me beogradski novinari (šoveni i separatisti) napadaju kao frankovca. koliko sam puta čuo i čitao o svojoj malenkosti da sam internacionalistički odrod i da mrzim hrvatstvo.beautiful ladies from Zagreb. In Belgrade. to nisu govorili samo nama.. o tome se pisalo iz austrijske perspektive sve do sloma Austrije (1527-1918).
18 as well). is conceived around several binary oppositions which. Krleža did not hesitate to address some of the most prominent oppressors of marginalized lands in general. Krleža 162 . with their interests and agendas) frames a most pronounced set of confrontations between the oppressors and the oppressed. and an object of ironic. and of Croatian people. Franz Joseph is seen as a symbol. according to the author. yet on its way to becoming urbanized). Although. Krleža’s dual position is obvious from his operative scheme. for instance. published shortly after 1924. the author states that we have been dying. colonial rule that Austria (and later. as will be shown. is usually (on the national level) recognized as a personification of the imperial.This excerpt from a larger essay17. anonymous and objectified. the members of an under-represented ethnic and cultural community (and in most cases. his rebellious Marxist and mainly socialist viewpoint helped him to grasp the implications of social strata on a larger scale. this dichotomy represents only one possible division among others that determine the Croatian version of a Central European identity. This all-encompassing division between such an internal us.” Krleža’s negative attitude toward His Imperial Majesty can be found in almost all of his writings. need to be renegotiated and possibly annihilated. one which rests on a simple division between us and them. on their frontiers. This set of problems is “most pronounced” because. Krleža has his initial limited and limiting class perspective (he is from a middle-class family with its roots in provincial Croatian plebes. exhausted. One of the greatest despots of the region. As an exponent of the absolutist militarism of the Monarchy. Austro-Hungary) exercised successfully in Krleža’s Croatia. Franz Joseph19 for instance. just as is at play in colonial narratives. sarcastic or malicious remarks. At the beginning of the text. a social one. an illustration. their emperors and/or kings. but written after the collapse of the Dual Monarchy. and an extrinsic them (their majesties. In his other texts. in particular. like Zweig. bleeding for their profits. Franz Joseph was seen as a colonial and imperial oppressor of the political and social ideas of his “citizens. Commenting on the Imperial character.
Austrian colonial presence26 in Croatia can 163 . is usually mentioned as its seventh subtitle . and in his travel writings. “Uspomeni Karla Krausa” (“Karl Kraus: In memoriam”). In his travelogue Izlet u Madžarsku (A Trip to Hungary ). he writes: “That old pharaoh was as stupid as an ordinary postman in the small provincial town of Brinje. His main sketch of the Emperor’s portrait was given in Deset krvavih godina (1924). In his essay “Eppur si muove. 120). Not only between the wars. Tri pisma iz Beča (Three Letters from Vienna) and Izlet u Madžarsku (A Trip to Hungary). Although he does not hide his disgust toward Bach’s absolutist rule.” According to his ideas.20 in the saga of the Glembay family. Franz Joseph is mentioned in the book Deset krvavih godina. Krleža also mentions Franz Joseph in the novellas from the collection Hrvatski bog Mars (The Croatian God Mars). it was nothing but a “normal and logical continuation of the four-hundred-year-long-absolutism which has not been interrupted since the sixteenth century” (14). Everything that the world between the two World Wars knew about Croatia was. In Krleža’s political writings. in his Majesty’s Ceremonial Royal Title. He also appears in some of Krleža’s essays: “Eppur si muove.21 and in his largest novel. “ (“In Extremis “ ). Zastave (Banners ).clarifies his negative and hostile feelings not only regarding the Emperor’s person and performance. or any other chicken from a customs office” (12).23 were demonized in Krleža ‘s writings. . in fact.” (“On Kranjčević’s Poetry”). Franz Joseph’s imperial attitude toward Croatia is presented with humor: “The name of the Kingdom of Croatia. such as Bach22 and Hédervary. Slavonia and Dalmatia.”24 Krleža believes that the period between 1849 and 1859 is inaccurately termed “absolutism. but also toward the institution of the Monarchy. written and interpreted from the Austrian perspective (Deset. Without any deeper analysis of his character. Not just Franz Joseph. Krleža refuses to ascribe any particular importance to this dark period. but also other representatives of that hegemony (the highest agencies that epitomize the alien them). . but also between 152725 and 1918. whose dynamics confirmed the colonial presence of the Dual Monarchy in Croatia.” “O Kranjčevićevoj lirici.
more sophisticated methods of self-humiliation. with its emphasis on a Croatian national language and on a new. Although the echoes of a new pan-Slavic movement. Austrian. “Illyrian rebirth” (Ilirski preporod). seen here as their “slavish” mentality. The Croatian mind. Italian and other tourists did in the interwar years when Krleža’s lament was written. Croatia still remained a country mastered by others. their servile manner of self-denial in front of strangers. according to Krleža. What Krleža recognizes as a self-humiliating reaction to yet another primitive provincial self-awareness in front of which ‘our mind slavishly wags its 164 . Historically devastated by almost a thousand years of oppression (from 1102 up to date). “slavishly wags its tail (. would enable them to secure their own voice within the Monarchy. social and individual identities. Tired of the centuries-old battle for their language and culture and for their right to represent themselves within the Austrian empire. Magyars.27 In addition to the imposition of an external them over their country. did emerge and eventually endanger the hegemony of Austria and Hungary. What Austrians and Hungarians used to do “officially” before World War I. Hungarian. through their humiliated political. Croatian reality had other. still encounter serious problems whenever it comes to their self-definition (whether it is an individual or collective self-recognition). Croatians believed that this contract with new Austrian allies. Croatians have thus been deprived of a meaningful language that could communicate the complexity of their situation and allow their distinctive subject positions to emerge..be divided into two main periods. broader scale of the future Yugoslavian cultural identity. proves that [they are exactly what they do not want to be]: a servile embodiment of worthlessness” (Deset 121). Exhausted in a thousand years long occupation and colonization. in 1868. Croatians still suffer from the problem of not establishing a collective identity. Objectified and denied. Croatians of today. German. before and after the Ausgleich..) and childishly. through self-humiliation. in spite of varieties of applied and historically modified opportunities for self-determinations along with seemingly benign self-occupations. The Croatian version of an equal integration under the law (Nagodba) came one year later.
we desperately look for our reflection. and. they are too much like us for us to embrace them as ours. To repeat an earlier statement. And for that reason it is hard to hope for a positive answer when asked a seemingly simple question: what does it mean 165 . in so doing. hoping for recognition.’ (17) citizens of Croatia see as a historic norm—a self-explanatory behavioral model that belongs to a ‘slavish’ mentality evident in their ways of communicating with strangers that result in self-humiliation of their individual and collective selves. instead of re-constructing our own sense of self. or again. Those others are either idealized tourists who compliment and exoticize our sense of self. usually in relation to ethnic and ideological neighbors perceived as non-I. They would not relay on bad authenticity according to which I is not defined positively but in relation to others. An objectivity and precision of such a vocabulary would enable a cultural construction of new subjectivity that could define them in positive terms. Reified and negated in a labyrinth of their own—a labyrinth of their individual and collective identities. we. just like them. slavishly wag their tail and thus remind us of each other in a distorted mirror of the Balkans? Therefore. Such new identity constructs would not depend exclusively on how do others view them.tail’ proving that we are ‘exactly what we do not want to be: a servile embodiment of worthlessness. because how can we admit that us. celebrate the fact that we are everything what our neighbors failed to become. Those others are also our neighbors whose shortcomings encourage us in our own identity search. as an object of comparison that becomes an imaginary measurement for dislocated notions of self. whether they be particles of social. we find our satisfaction in looking for our identity as a projection onto others. they represent our dislocated concept of the West as a monolith in whose mirror. externally define our identity perceiving us as self-satisfying and self-satisfied objects. political and/or cultural strata. moreover. in order to avoid yet another devastating identification. As far as the latter are concerned. Croatians are still on a mission to find an effective and precise terminology that would communicate identity politics liberated from outdated tribal emotions and Nineteenth century patriotism based on ethnic and political exclusivity.
more immanent divisions on a smaller scale also acknowledge at least two parallel groups of us and them which operate in the Austro-Hungarian space of the Danubian basin and its surroundings. from the Central Europe of Svevo. Krleža had been accused of internationalism in Croatia by some “better and bigger” Croats—by those who believe that Croatianess can and ought to be measured usually assuming that they are the proper unit for that measure. Since his relation with the idea of the “suppressed awareness of the Croatian national being” will be discussed in the following chapter. away from official and recognizable historical narratives. Other. Krleža thus has a difficult task to accomplish to establish his identity in this space. without involving others and putting them ‘in their place’ using unjustified methodology of superiority. too different to be accepted by the majority of those colonized minds. He had been called a renegade who hates Croatia and everything Croatian. Kundera. Not only conservative Croats. Trapped between external centripetal influences and internal centrifugal ethnic. his identity has gone too far into flux. Krleža must first become a “minor” writer. for the moment the emphasis will remain on the multiple identities available to a subject whose historical destiny is to share the same “subcolonial” space with others whose otherness does not always come from the outside. intellectual. and others. but also nationalist Serbs (the Serbian critics whom Krleža calls chauvinists and separatists) will attack the writer whose cosmopolitan views sound too dangerous. Speaking in terms of this analysis. In order to represent the underrepresented and communicate his preferred social messages. This tragic historical and cultural deprivation Krleža sees as the result of the imposed colonial politics producing an existential condition which he calls “morally subcolonial” (122). he first has to establish his own identity. thinker. Joyce. Musil.to be Croatian. regardless of their relation with the Imperial and other imagined centers. cultural and ideological divisions in this way. Viewed from the outside. too progressive. His identity was multiple. in 166 . as a writer. and exposed public figure whose omnipresent persona is marked in the annals of twentieth-century European literature.
like Magris and Kundera. but also a writer with his own authority.”28 For Croatian and Yugoslavian cultures.Deleuze’s and Guattari’s meaning of the term -. for instance. whose presence he considered potentially dangerous to his personal vision of the “independent” development of Croatian literature in process of asserting its own identity at the margins of Europe and Central Europe. and (perhaps the most difficult task) from the hostile political and cultural environment created by those Croatian and Serbian literary critics who would have remained anonymous if their paths had not crossed Krleža’s. from the anonymity of his culture(s) within the larger body of dominant Central European cultural puzzle. that same imperial order. Krleža had to fight to emancipate his name from its individual anonymity. s/he hears nothing more than Krleža’s name.an articulated voice from the periphery of Central Europe. a deleted history reflecting the remains of a writer’s singular desire to be engraved in the collective memory of Central Europe. Unlike Kyselak. Krleža became an intellectual with agency. who could himself silenced many other potential voices from his immediate environment. He promoted and actually even fabricated Croatian and Yugoslavian realities to the extent that. Or perhaps he simply has to take on the role of some new and more articulated Kyselak whose letters were literary and therefore “the only tool that has remained in the defense of our human pride. the voices of those fellow writers. and his voice did partial167 . in those small circles where one in fact receives a response whenever Croatia or Yugoslavia are mentioned. a phantasmal space of absence. however. then. Behind Kyselak lay the firmly-centered imperial order of Austro-Hungary. Krleža actually became the kind of monument that Magris’ Kyselak wanted to become: a member of a hegemony who created a history for the peripheral cultures of Europe. nowadays. in Krleža’s case. led his world of the periphery into chaos rather than into stability. Yet behind Kyselak’s name there is already a void. which in many cases stands for the entirety of Croatian literature known to the West and the East. a rebel and a provincial “institution” from the utmost southern edges of the Danubian landscapes. In spite of his geocultural and historical limitations.
Yet bearing in mind the extreme complexity of the situation. can tell more stories about lost identities that Magris’ could. some of those silent voices came into being after Krleža introduced them to the readers and to cultural analysts.a world that. and one that can explain its marginal existence within the remnants of the Monarchy. Unfortunately. In fact. once entered. Behind Krleža’s name still lies buried an entire silent. we must now turn to examine directly Krleža’s crucial role in shaping the landscapes of southern and eastern Central Europe from his “subcolonial” position as non-dominant within a non-dominant sphere of culture and history. many of them were silenced by his intrinsic master narrative. 168 .ly resemble voices of those Central European postcolonial cultural critics from more visible historical margins. well-hidden world -.
the distinction between ontic and deontic refers to two different “possible” worlds. This terminology is meant to facilitate the discussion about the existence of fictional characters. whose dynamics are aimed from the center to the outside. political and ideological space as Western. because of their nature. For more on positive treatment of so-called negative categories see: Plotinus. as well as my appropriation of other of Bhabha’s writings. Linguistique et colonialisme. speaking in tongues) attracted Russian avant-garde artists who desired to escape their turbulent reality and to introduce a language from the beyond. and (as representative of his many works) E. To secure the modal existence of the fictional characters. or in Russian. I will introduce the term centrifugal colonization. Louis-Jean Calvet. from the provinces back to the emperor. my application of postcolonialism. Orientalism. I will call centripetal: their colonial discourse was aimed inward. Using the same arrogant style that he attributes to Kyselak. The Conquest of America. 1992] 437-465). jazikogovorenije. Magris dismisses these writings.1 For the opening argument of this chapter. Enneades. For more on the relation between semiology or semantics and colonial conquest. because his treatment of truth theories of fiction does not insist on referential understandings of truthfulness. especially as it relates to Central European cultural. does not limit itself to the arguments quoted in the introduction. My further analysis offers different understandings of colonial discourse. I am using Bhabha’s essay “Postcolonial Criticism” (in Redrawing the Boundaries. they were 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 169 . As he argues: although the characters do not exist in the traditional. As explained by Lubomir Dolezel. but is organized on the principles of inner plausibility. Dolezel suggests the terminology in which term ontic deals with the “real” world (the one which traditional literary theory and philosophy of literature calls “extraliterary. proclaiming them worthless. however. and Roberto Retamar. For the traditional model of colonizing the other (Anglo-or Frankophone methods). like for example one employed by the Habsburgs in Central Europe. Edward Said. Greenblatt and Gunn (New York: MLA. “Postcolonial Criticism. eds. The real Josef Kyselak wrote two books of travel sketches describing his Danubian journeys. Homi Bhabha. Càliban.” in Redrawing the Boundaries. The idea of trans-rational discourse (glossolalia. 1992) 437-465. and Concerning Hell. Of Things Heard and Seen. extratextual world” see especially Russian Formalists and Prague Linguists) and deontic with the world of fiction. Greenblatt and Gunn [New York: MLA. referential sense. The truth value (the existence) of such a world is not based upon its referential relation to something outside the text. Dolezel’s contribution in arguing modes of fictional existence is important. Other modes. they are (in their own world). Swedenborg’s Concerning Heaven and its Wonders. eds. see particularly Tzvetan Todorov.
calls it “a one-dimensional oversimplification” (The World of Yesterday ix). Mark Anderson (New York: Schocken Books. so-called “retarded mentalities” in Croatian reality. and his understanding of history.a state whose main criterion is a nationhood defined with ethnicity seen in a mythical. Since after that initiative the book naturally disappeared from the market. Aside from the effective linguistic experiments which added creative flavor to the new theoretical achievements of Russian Formalism and Prague Linguistic School. his analysis of the important cultural and political figures and events written in very hard times for modern Croatian. these poets also offered a sharp critique of the totalitarian and ideologically-charged language of the pre-Revolutionary and the Revolutionary epochs. introduced by the Russian Medieval mystics whose original inspiration is found in the holy scriptures and Kabbalah. Harry Zohn. Yugoslavian and European history. The World of Yesterday (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. Due to some connections Krleža had among people in the legal system in that First Yugoslavia.led to “recycle” an old national mystical tradition to achieve this end. anachronistic and exclusivistic context. ed. detectives managed to destroy only a hundred copies of his book. 10 Stefan Zweig. Its “new” title was Deset krvavih godina i drugi politički eseji (Ten Years Soaked in Blood And Other Political Essays). In his book. Serbo-Croatian relations. 12 The term “minor literature” is used in the sense established in their essay “What is a Minor Literature” in: Reading Kafka. the book was immediately confiscated by the State Court (The Royal Court of The Kingdom of the Serbs. Krleža’s publisher had to arrange alternative plans. 11 This sentence is taken from the introduction to the Bison Book Edition of Zweig’s autobiography. Krleža understood that it is impossible to constitute a nation state in the Balkans-. Krleža treated the national question as a matter of a state organization (not only among the Croats. and (very important) his understanding of a national question as a social one. Deset krvavih godina is a summation of Krleža’s political ideas. he writes of the problems that interested him in his lifetime: all the aspects of the Croatian national and political questions. Croats And the Slovenes). 13 A book of essays published in Zagreb in 1937. He also examined the possibilities of taking action in history. seventeen years latter (in 1957). 1989) 80-94. the question of the identity of the Southern Slavs. A slightly different (expanded) version of the book was planned for the fall of 1940 but was only published in the Second Yugoslavia. 9 This linguistic manner started as a language from the beyond. 170 . The author. but also among the other groups who inhabit the Southern Slavic lands and the Balkans). 1964). Although almost all the essays had previously been published in periodicals Književna Republika (Literary Republic) and Književnik (The Author) between 1924 and 1928.
Such absolutism (known as Bach’s absolutism) insisted on a pronounced and often brutal Germanization of the Slavic peoples. 15 “The bulwark of Christianity”: term used by the Christian sacral hegemony which included predominantly Croatian territories.His book (either celebrated or condemned) is probably one of the most controversial books in Croatian political literature. all translations from Croatian are my own. Croats and Hungarians signed a political contract known as Hrvatsko-Ugarska nagodba. Franz Joseph proclaimed the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy. 14 The extract quoted is drawn from the section entitled “O malogradjanskoj ljubavi spram hrvatstva” (“On petit-bourgeois love for Croationhood”). d. originally published in periodicals between 1924 and 1928 under the so-called Kingdom of Yugoslavia. After defeats in the Austro-Italian and Austro-Prussian wars 1866. On his insistence. after the collapse of the uprising in Vienna. A. Franjo Josip I. After the Ausgleich/Compromise in 1867. Vienna. Franz Joseph was crowned the Hungaro-Croatian king. 17 If not otherwise indicated. this book in its final version contained all the important events that took place between the two World Wars. Austrian emperor. since The Turkish invasion (Sixteenth century). just like one writes on green tables of the tribunals. Franz Joseph managed to defeat the Hungarian revolutionaries (1849) and in 1851 proclaimed a centralist and absolutist regime conducted by the Austrian minister of the Interior Affairs. With the assistance of imperial troops. This section is a part of a larger essay. but without consent of the Croatian parliament. and later as a segment of the book Deset krvavih godina (Zagreb: DMK BNP. as he said. “Nekoliko riječi o malogra anskom historizmu uopće” (“A Few Words on a petit bourgeois Historicism in General”). in 1868. he became the emperor in December 1848. 08/18/1830. A member of the Habsburg-Lothringen dynasty (b. whose legacy after its decline and physical disappearance (1918) remained very vividly present in former imperial lands. Krleža wrote about the topics “in a serious manner. in times of Yugoslavian Socialist Realism. announced in Budim. Although Croatia was promised local 171 . 18 Here I will be looking predominantly at Krleža’s early writings (most of them written between the two World Wars). 11/21/1916). Vienna. In closing arguments written in 1953. 1937). From 1867 emperor and the king of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Bach.” The questions he raises and the analysis he undertakes will remain the main reference points in any future approach to the national. historical or social destiny of the citizens of Croatia. whose fictional and factional focus is on the most oppressed layers of the society: society on the margins of the Habsburg Monarchy. among them the Croats. 16 Josip Frank: the Croatian ultra-nationalist whose popular and militant movement from the beginning of the century represented the most conservative and exclusivistic politics from the Croatian right. Initially meant to cover “only” the period between 1914 and 1924. 19 In Croatian.
part two. Gavrilo Princip) in 1914. Književnik (1929. Gregor Meet the Devil for the First Time”). 172 . 1927 (12). Pantheon.” in SKG (1928: 5-6). “Ivan Križovec. “Ljubav Marcela Faber-Fabriczyja za gospo icu Lauru Warroniggowu” (“Marcel’s Fabriczy’s Love for Miss Laura Warronig”): part one in Savremenik (1928. “U magli” (“In the Mist”). 1929. “Kako je doktor Gregor prvi put u životu susreo nečastivoga” (“How Did Dr.W. As a complete collection that contains all the fourteen narratives. part two in Savremenik (1928. “O Glembajevima. His very last writings on the Glembays have been published at the time when Krleža was already working on his novel Povratak Filipa Latinovicza (The Return of Filip Latinovicz) (1930-1932). The aforementioned narratives had originally been published in other forms Gospoda Glembajevi (The Glembays) (Zagreb: 1928).I). approximately two years before the final Austro-Hungarian defeat. with its ally Germany. 11 (1929).self-rule and cultural autonomy. “Pod maskom” (“Behind the Mask”) Savremenik. (Srpski književni glasnik) 1 (1930). which had focused on the isolated individuals and their encounters with various manifestations of Nothingness (originally collected in the book Hiljadu i jedna smrt. As a book it appeared in Belgrade in 1931. and U Agoniji are the theater plays. 11). U Agoniji (In The Agony) (Zagreb: Hrvatska revija. 1001 Death). In fact. Savremenik. Further listings: Književnik (1929: 5) “Sprovod u Teresienburgu” (“A Funeral in Teresienburg”). the Glembay narrative is the axis of Krleža’s work completed after he finished all of his novellas. 21 Krleža ‘s saga of the Glembay family is a monumental testimony to modern Croatian history. Savremenik (1931: 12-13. Gospoda Glembajevi. 4-5). Leda . Leda was published in fragments in the following periodicals: Književnik.” part one in Književna republika (1926. 1). SKG. 9). and “Klanfar na Varadijevu. After the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo (organized by the Serbian terrorist organization “Black Hand” and executed by its member. and Književnik (1929: 5). “Barunica Leinbachova” (“Countess Leinbach”). (1929. Savremenik (1927. 1). “Svadba velikog župana Klanfara” (“The Marriage of the Grand Parish Klanfar”). 2). Croatia simply traded masters: what used to be Austrian subsequently became Hungarian. 20 In the novella “Smrt Florijana Kranjèeca” (The Death of Florian Kranjèec). Savremenik (1928).” Književnik (1930.). 1-2). As a whole. and this Magyar dominance determined Croatia’s social and political development (or underdevelopment) for the following 50 years. declared war on Serbia (the beginning of the W. Glembajevi (The Glembays) is a large literary corpus (3 plays and 11 novellas -. this contract turned out to be a devastating one for Croatian reality. 19028. Glembajevi appeared in two volumes in 1945 (Glembajevi I. 2-3. The texts were written and first published in the famous “Minerva” edition in Zagreb between 1926 and 1930.Krleža usually refers to the latter as “the fragments”). the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 12). Glembajevi II [ Zagreb: Suvremena Naklada]). Franz Joseph died in 1916.
These three plays are very much written under the influence of Ibsen and Strindberg. or Galsworthy’s Forsythes. Aside from this polyphony. Evropa danas (My War Poetry. 05/23/1849 . Vol. seen by the oppressors an a backward land of primitive peasants. His new focal points were carefully distributed among the groups of individuals with different perspectives. 02/16/1918). Seen in the context of the author’s intentions. Krleža speaks of him as a: “Hungarian Count who always spoke of Croatians as a hungry.” (Sources: Moja ratna lirika. as a scum that needs to be treated like all the mule-drivers” (EK 454). whose characteristics (in terms of the author’s modes of interpretation) stress the important historical existential dimension. Krleža discusses the correlation between the seeds of the industrial society in Croatia (early twentieth century). 173 . in Krleža’s narratives. and so instead stressed the importance of a collective conscience. Writing on the Glembays. the game that philosophically and aesthetically (at least for a while) has replaced Realism with the open modes of the Modernist Symbolism. 13. Glembajevi is thus a crucial cultural document which speaks of the influence of European Naturalism and fin de sičcle Secessionism on Croatian literature (more precisely. Glembays may be compared to Mann’s Buddenbrooks. Born during Hédervary’s rule. Budapest. their positioning as provincial capitalists in a society without any kind of infra-structure makes them look ridiculous compared to the aforementioned fictional dynasties. which tried to establish itself upon the archaic basis of the late feudal and “subcolonial” (a term often used by Krleža. Like Zola and Galsworthy. which Glembays. Krleža offers what we call today : “The Era of Tyranny. Their illusion of wholeness is just a part of the contemporary game between perception the fantasy. the Glembays live as representatives of unfulfilled. on Krleža’s own shaping of mainstream culture and aesthetic taste).” 23 Khuen Hédervary. unrealized potentials. Krleža manufactured a fictitious family. 22 The time under Bach’s cruel regime. Freudenthal. vulgar sub-species.Krleža’s narrative technique in the Glembay saga departed from the individual focal points that belonged to a singular character. Krleža characterizes Hédervary’s autocracy as “a clear attempt to colonize Croatia. A very powerful family from Zagreb (Agram) undergoes a set of tragedies which are the combination of their inherited vital energy and social power whose rise and fall is described in Krleža’s opus. However. the Glembays were governed by their global ideology (a provincial magnates who cannot overcome his almost innate petite bourgeois viewpoints). Like in these three theater plays. which will be discussed in the following chapter) ideologies of the Habsburg and post-Habsburg era. the Viceroy of Croatian provinces of Slavonia and Dalmatia between 1883 and 1903.” He clearly states that all the Croats of the time were “in prison. 1956] and 99 varijacija [99 Variations] [Beograd: 1972]). Europe Today ) [Zagreb: SDMKZ. His presence in Croatia symbolizes the epoch of Hungarian repression. narrative functions and personal goals demonstrated within the large body of such a fictional discourse. Károly (b.d.
1993). after the election in the Croatian Parliament. Robert A. Sugar. Charles and Barbara Jelavich. 6. 1526-1918: A History of East Central Europe. Central and Eastern Europe: The Challenge of Transition (Oxford: Oxford UP. (Seattle and London: U of Washington P. Stjepan Gabriel Mestrovic. Vol. Inc. but it is the only tool left in the defense of our human pride” (3). Ralph Bogert. Southeastern Europe Under Ottoman Rule. 1804-1920: A History of East Central Europe. 27 (Zagreb: SDMKZ. Piotr S. The Writer as Naysayer: Miroslav Krleža and the Aesthetic of Interwar Central Europe (Columbus. The Uses of Adversity: Essays on the Fate of Central Europe (New York: Vintage Books. Kann. 1990). The Making of Central and Eastern Europe (London: The Polish Research Centre. The Peoples of the Eastern Habsburg Lands. 1949). History. Wandycz. 8. 9. 1977). 1902-03 and Other Writings) Vol. 1994). Joseph Rothschild. 8. i drugi zapisi (Childhood. Kaplan. and Zdenek V. David. (Seattle and London: U of Washington P. Vol. Francis Dvornik. and then in the dual monarchy 1867-1918) will be discussed in chapter four. 27 For more complete account on Southern Central Europe’s history in English see: Timothy Garton Ash. Peter Stirk. 1993). (Seattle and London: U of Washington P. Vol. Regina Cowen Karp. Martin Press. Peter F. 1991). 1984). 25 When. a Habsburg monarch had been elected to rule Croatian provinces for the first time. . Krleža writes: “A box of letters: it’s not much. 1974).24 In: Djetinjstvo 1902-03. Vol. Robert D. 28 In his novel Banket u Blitvi (A Banquet in Blitva) (Zagreb: 1938). Mitteleuropa: History and Perspectives (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP. (Seattle and London: U of Washington P. The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins. The Price of Freedom: A History of East Central Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present (London and New York: Routledge. 1992). The Bakanization of the West: The Confluence of Postmodernism and Postcommunism (London and New York: Routledge.. 1993). Ivo Banac. Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History (New York: St. 1972). The Establishment of the Balkan National States. 1354-1804: A History of East Central Europe. 1984). 1977). East Central Europe Between the Two World Wars: A History of East Central Europe. OH: Slavica Publishers. 26 Hungarian rule over Croatian territories (from 1102 after signing the Pacta Conventa between the Croatian noble families and the Hungarian royalty represented in an autocratic and powerful figure of their king Koloman to 1527. Politics (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP.
and is permanently passively resistant toward everything that represents any form of organized foreign rule. or ordinarius..) That hatred erupts again like the hatred of a declasse proletarian -. he feels. or rector magnificus— and helplessly hates Hungarian mailboxes (.. hostile. and it resembles the voice of that proletarian who. started to curse the Hungarian soldiers on their way to the Serbian front. barely exists in the morally subcolonial circumstances of a man who travels third class on the Hungarian State Railway.of a poor peasant. coincides with suppressed national awareness and.Chapter 4: Miroslav Krleža’s Colonial Motifs That familiar feeling of defeatism while secretly hoping for the collapse of everything that exists in the form of foreign rule. It is a kind of non-conformist 175 . not too high. in front of the university. That feeling has nothing to do with reality! It floats above reality. with Hungarian tax stamps and with its administration which is constantly. transforming itself into the moral monsters of upper-level bank officials—usually referred to as: most esteemed. It is a hatred aimed toward foreign flags. and Hungarian march battalions. in the Hungarian State Machine. That feeling kneels slavishly in other people’s anterooms. foreign Styrian. as in some kind of delirium. in 1914. as such. Tyrolian.
bankosavjetničkih karijera. tuđinskih štajerskih.feeling for everything that came to this country by crossing its borders! (Ten Years Soaked in Blood 518)* In his vignette1. koje se onda zovu presvijetli ili ordinarius ili rector magnificus. and. Osjećaj taj ropski se klanja po tuđinskim predsobljima. taj defetistički osjećaj. kada je pred sveučilištem. koji se kreću na srbijansko ratište. The Habsburgs mastered the art of national manipulation by leaving the ethnicities alone in their individual relationships with * Priželjkujući trajno slomove svega što postoji kao tuđinska vlast. Such a political move. pretvarajući se u moralne nakaze viših. in which each and every ethnicity has its place under the Emperor’s throne. protiv tuđinskih barjaka. kao glas onoga proletera godine 1914. but rather undermines the possibility of unilateral national explosions by playing out a game of equality. životari u moralno supkolonijalnim prilikama. was yet another proof of the Habsburgs’ art of hegemony--the art of a political dominance which does not annihilate the ethnic diversity of the empire. seljačkog siromaha. koji putuje trećim razredom madžarske državne željeznice.. madžarskog državnog stroja. The Compromise created the Dual Monarchy. in which Austria and Hungary united as partners in ruling over Central Europe. as Claudio Magris sees it from his mainstream Central European perspective. opanka.) taj osjećaj provaljuje kao mržnja deklasiranog proletera. kao u deliriju.” Miroslav Krleža depicts the so-called “sub-colonial conditions” that determined the reality of Croatia after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise (Ausgleich) of 1867. The Compromise enabled the Hungarians to practice their rebellious and nationalist sentiments within the limits of law. s madžarskim biljezima i administracijom. remedied the most serious of Austrian wounds in the late Nineteenth century: it staved off the Hungarian Separatist movement. za koju osjeća svakodnevno da mu je neprijateljska. počeo da psuje majku madžarskim vojnicima.. Taj osjećaj nije vezan za stvarnost! On lebdi iznad stvarnosti na ne pretjerano velikoj visini i on je trajno pasivno rezistentan spram svega što predstavlja bilo kakvu formu organizirane tuđinske vlasti nonkonformizam spram svega što je doputovalo u ovu zemlju preko granice! (Deset 518 Kolonijalni motivi) 176 . koji se podudara s potisnutom nacionalnom sviješću. tirolskih i madžarskih maršbataljona. converting a potentially serious Austrian enemy into a powerful ally. ili bespomoćno mrzi madžarske kutije za pisma (. i ondje vegetira u svijesti čovjeka. “Colonial Motives.
who not only brought plunder but also the culture of Islam.the Viennese Court and. which runs with heroic and ferocious fury all through Hungarian History. Turks and Germans are superimposed and deposited one upon another in layer after layer. the nations under the Austrian crown had a respectable degree of independence in their mutual interactions. The protean status of Franz Joseph presents the best performance imitating a ruler. In describing the melting pot of the Dual Monarchy after the Compromise with its newly canonized Hungarian patriotic feelings. Jazigs and Pechenegs. Janus Pannonius. They were organized in a colonial model in which all the aggression and subversive dynamics of repressed were aimed at complicating the interactions among the colonized tribes. while at the same time directing all of their differences against each other. the secret roots of every nationalism and its obsession with ethnic purity. the tulip which Kossuth’s followers wore 177 . learnt it when he was thirty-four. The symbol of the irredentist protest against the Habsburgs. Although all the reins of power were ultimately in the emperor’s hands. by respecting their sovereign status. as in the legend of the Hunnish origin of the Hungarians. which fathered heroes and poets of the Hungarian “epic. as was the aristocratic family of the Zríny. to some extent. was of Croatian origin. a great patriot and father of the cultural conscience of the nation. the Monarchy. Huns and Avars. like the Turks. while Count Szécheny. could not speak Hungarian. the fifteenth-century poet and humanist. the Magyar national poet. Claudio Magris writes. They produce mixtures. Slavs and Magyars. The nationalistic passion of the Magyars. but also civilization. The migrations of peoples bring devastation. instead of being focused against the oppressor. is born from a land in which wave after wave of invasions and immigrations. a role he plays in the spectacle of governing the equally protean Central European region.” The mother of Petöfi. Tartars and Kumans.
Hungary. (Danube 285)* The seemingly horizontal dynamics of a geographic redistribution of hegemony in the Austro-Hungarian Compromisewere. ased upon the sophisticated principles of a vertical colonial dominance. easier objects of further colonization.in their buttonholes. non sapeva l’ungherese e il conte Széchenyi. ma anche civilizzano-come i turchi. * La passione nazionale magiara. di diventare ardenti patrioti ungheresi . La passione nazionale è l’imperiosa esigenza non solo di essere. come la famiglia aristocratica degly Zriínyi. Janus Pannonius. turci e tedeschi. By virtue of the Ausgleich. a desire to assuage their wounded feeling of equality shifted the attention of the inferior Hungarians away from their superior Austrian partners. il poeta nazionale magiaro. ma. grande patriota e padre della coscienza culturale della nazione. but-as in Mór Jókai’s novel The New Squire. nasce da una terra nella quale si sono stratificate. il simbolo della protesta irredentista contro gli Absburgo. jazigi e peceneghi. slavi e magiari. tartari e cumani. dalla quale escono eroi e cantori dell’epopea ungherese. le matrici segrete di ogni nazionalismo e delle sue ossessioni di purezza etnica. come la leggenda dell’origine unna degli ungheresi. in which a potentially strong subaltern opponent of the Austrians. come nel romanzo Fascino magiaro di Mór Jókai. in fact. l’umanista e poeta del XV secolo. Le migrazioni di popoli devastano. è d’origine croata. il tulipano infilato all’ochiello dai seguaci di Kossuth. and turned them against the smaller peoples. and in spite of the nominal recognition of the Hungarian element within the dual Monarchy. è il fiore portato dai dominatori ottomani e celebrato nella loro poesia quale emblema della civilità turca. che portano non soltanto spogliazioni ma anche la cultura islamica-e producono promiscuitç e mescolanza. lo impara a 34 anni. mescolate e depositate ondate di invasioni e di stirpi diverse. The national “passion” is the imperious necessity not simply to be. unni e avari. (Danubio 285) 178 . la madre di Petöfi. che percorre con eroico e feroce furore la storia ungharese. is the flower brought by the Ottoman dominators and celebrated in their national poetry as an emblem of Turkish civilization. a metê del secolo scorso. written in the mid-nineteenth century-also to become ardent Hungarian patriots. was made their ally and set over southern Habsburg colonies.
which after World War II was successfuly adopted by Russian Communism in yet another colonization of Central Europe. because. it acquired its new position. Such an identity loss can be seen as a diagnostic of the Croatian sub-colonial situation. Yet since 1521. as Krleža calls him. such a Croatian proletarian. the uncertainty of their own position and relevance in their colonial context allows for the transformations of feelings and for the conversion of individual realities at the level of regional politics. subordinated to the Magyars. in fact. Croatian reality was already a part of the Austrian colonial narrative. as a member of a small ethnic family of Croatians. that proletarian could easily join the present objects of his pan-Slavic frustration. Colonized Hungary. His anger is yet another expression of the indeterminacy of causes of enslavement in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Colonized and removed from his identity. twice subordinated to His Imperial Majesty. newly admitted within the range of equals to the court. a modified self-hatred. by hat179 . so by adding Hungary to the list of its masters after 1867. Croatia was facing fin the siècle in the role of a twice-colonized dominion. the Hungarians. successfully manipulated by the Habsburgs in their distribution of colonial presence. manifested itself in the reactions of the proletarian described in Krleža’s vignette as he cursed the Hungarian soldiers on their way to the Serbian front. which Krleža calls “sub-colonial. now became the main nation in charge of already-colonized Croatia. on their way to the front lines. In Svejk’s version.” Seen as an Austrian colony in transition. With their individual histories always subordinated to Other. The “divide and rule” principle of the Habsburgs. cannot recognize the colonial mechanisms of the multi-layered foreign dominance imposed on him through a new “obligatory history” carried out by the Empire on its way to the World War I. This Croatian proletarian cannot see that.The Croatian situation was typical of the Habsburg-generated colonial dynamics of divide and conquer. the sense of loss and historical meaningless of their own existence inhabits the reality of every smaller tribe ruled by the Habsburgs. This self-less feeling demonstrated in the proletarian anti-Hungarian and pro-Slavic sentiments is.
he reacts to the colonial past. Croatia was recognized as a political entity with autonomy in internal affairs. now seconded to their deputies. and the real Croatian situation in res was large. The discrepancy between the pact in verbis. the Hungarians and he does not even have a clear picture why he is on the Serbian side. He is a second-hand property of the Austrian Court. Unable to imagine any kind of post-colonial future for the time being. education.2 its consequences were devastating for a possible Croatian decolonization. the aftermath of the Compromise was a pact (Hrvatsko-Ugarska Nagodba) signed between the representatives of Croatia and Hungary in 1868. . Since all he can do is curse. he— more than anything else—hates himself. His “pan-Slavic feeling” does not reflect an articulated optimal projection for future coexistence of the Southern Central European colonies. based on equality and liberty for all. it is more the embodiment of passive resistance aimed against everything that stands for a foreign presence within the Croatian borders. Hrvatsko-Ugarska Nagodba is one of the most frequently discussed events in his political essays. This state of Croatian semi-autonomy. in fact. He believes that this purported autonomy played an important role in preserving some elements of the Croatian state and national specificities. mainly with Hungary. In his Theses for a Discussion from 1935 (Teze za jednu diskusiju iz godine 1935). the autonomy resulting from the Nagodba is described as a link of the Habsburg colonial chain. religious practices and the legal system. This pact became the constitution which regulated the relations between the two countries. Although the Nagodba has its logic in the history of Croatia. his sub-colonial enslavement. Seen in the light of the earlier Compromise between Austria and Hungary.ing the Hungarians. Croatia was never granted the financial autonomy crucial for real independence. Aside from the personal feelings epitomized in the reaction of a proletarian described in Krleža’s narrative. on a sub-conscious level.3 Krleža characterizes the newly-achieved Croatian autonomy of 1868 in a slightly more optimistic tone. however. Miroslav Krleža comments on it on many occasions. The Croatian language too was recognized as an official language in internal affairs as well as in “international” contacts.
Krleža calls the Nagodba a “political contract between the Croatian noblemen and the Hungarian Counts” (Hrvatski bog Mars 439) and proclaims it a fraud. Hungary actually just perpetuated the same colonial pattern of real subordination. This particular outcome of the Austrian imperial presence is again part of what Krleža calls “subcolonial conditions. Another aspect of the Nagodba. in which Croatia remained deprived of its fi181 . He also believes that the 1868 pact introduced a new epoch in Croatia’s Austro-Hungarian enslavement. In an already-existing colonial distribution of power. caught in the icy Habsburg moonlight”(19) (“državnopravna fantastika jedne polukolonijalne Hrvatske na ledenoj habsburškoj mjesečini “ (19). allowing the Magyars at least to feel equal with the newly-instituted Compromise.4 entitled: Tumač domobranskih i stranih riječi i pojmova (A dictionary of Domobran and foreign words and terms). Krleža defines it as a contract between the Hungarian aristocracy and the “state regulative and political phantasmagoria of a semi-colonial Croatia. and nationalist feelings. after the Habsburgs have pacified the strong Hungarian state-organizing.Krleža calls “the Croatian negation of the Hungarian self-negation of their desire to be a state-constructing political entity” (Teze 12). not only to Krleža. the Nagodba. a consequence of the numerous absolutist violations. The mechanics of such an enslavement were historically clear. and decrees dictated by the mighty foreign owners of Croatia based on cheap political tricks. Examining the Nagodba from a closer perspective. now hidden behind administrative proclamations of equality. published for the first time in the periodical Plamen in 1919. but to the witnesses of the late nineteenth-century Central European history. In other words.” In the appendix to his collection of novellas Hrvatski bog Mars. imposed constitutions. nation-dominating. is highlighted in Krleža’s essay Eppur si muove.5 His particular insight is of critical importance for understanding the Croato-Hungarian pact in the broader context of the nineteenth-century European politics: Krleža sees both the Austro-Hungarian Compromise and the Nagodba as two examples of a European politics of compromise meant to “heal their political wounds” (Eppur si muove 21).
The excessive poverty resulting from the Compromise destroyed the already weak Croatian infrastructure. but rather a consequence of its centuries-old colonization. 182 .6 often infuriated by Croatia’s sub-colonial situation. Africa. Krleža’s anti-Habsburg criticism is strong and clearly pronounced. Alhought there is overall improvement of the region’s substructure. However. Krleža’s observations regarding the Nagodba predominantly date from his early phase. The main agency to blame for the renewed colonial role of Croatia the Viennese Court. therefore. one can observe similarity between the demographic consequences of the better-known modes of colonization. Making a pact with the Hungarian Crown. a patriot opposed to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. but in spite of its contextual adequacy. in a positive meaning of the term. Since the aforementioned weak cultural infrastructure was not an intrinsic limitation of Croatian culture and economy. the Austrians allowed their “ally” to exploit Croatia with unlimited colonial politics. and India. Extending an analysis of the Nagodba beyond Krleža’s.nancial autonomy within the Dual Monarchy. Unlike the more privileged national poets of Hungary and Austria. can be interpreted as one-dimensional and unjust. Then. the situation on the outskirts was slightly different than was the case at the Monarchy’s centers. shortly after 1868. thousands of Croatians had to emigrate looking for alternative means of survival. simultaneously at stake in Ireland. his feelings are justified despite the multinational structure of the Dual Monarchy and the Emperor’s more modern outlook on the multiethnic coexistence of the Central European peoples. Croatia’s marginality was a composite of the country’s comparatively insufficient cultural infrastructure and its subordinated status within the Monarchy. further impoverished Croatia’s chances for securing its position within the world order on the eve of European decolonization. Krleža’s reality was determined by Croatia’s marginal position within the Empire. before and during the World War I. he was a Croatian nationalist. more positive aspects of Habsburg hegemony over Central Europe. since they focus on Austrian negative politics rather than on other. his anti-imperial feelings seen from the dominant Central European perspective.
he became very close to Tito. In spite of Tito’s eagerness to be close to such a monumetnal intellectual figure and thus further justify his 183 . he was captured by the Ustashi regime. It had that additional and often necessary passion that usually belongs to the underprivileged and underrepresented. as he liked to say. he could not see the benefits of the Monarchy. especially of those movements that perished after the victory of the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union. but was not killed. created in 1918 after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. although he was strongly opposed to the Nationalist Ustashi puppet regime of Ante Pavelić’s Nezavisna Država Hrvatska (The Independent State of Croatia). Disappointed with the idea of a Yugoslavia in which the former Austrian and Hungarian colonial dominance was replaced by a Serbian hegemony unwilling to recognize a Croatian national essence. Danubian) koiné on the eve of World War II. because the only reality Croatia had to offer was the reality of imperial servants. Always proud of his Croatian roots and his cultural Central European (or. [His attitude toward World War I will be discussed at length in the following analysis of his novella Bitka kod Bistrice Lesne (The Battle of Bistrica Lesna)].9 As a member of the Anti-Fascist movement. He became a Yugoslav patriot. again angry with the reactionary Greater Serbian regime which dominated the so-called First Yugoslavia. Krleža refused to join Tito’s Partisans. whom he saw as enslaved and humiliated individuals whose main function in the Austro-Hungary was to fill out Franz Joseph’s battalions of foot soldiers on their ways to different fronts. he recast himself as a supporter of Communist internationalism. written after their death and dedicated to them. Krleža’s political thought took a different turn. The evidence of his admiration for revolutionaries such as Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht is found in his essays and poems. who understood Krleža’s importance for the culturo-political stratum of post-war Yugoslavia. After World War II.8 During World War II.Krleža’s loud and angry gesture was typical of a young poet who found his early aesthetic voice in European Expressionism. From his perspective.7 After the First World War. Krleža soon enriched his modern Croatian patriotism by embracing the Marxist internationalism of interwar Europe.
The Croatian God Mars Bitka kod Bistrice Lesne was first published in 1923 in Književna Republika11 (The Literary Republic) as a fragment of a larger collection entitled Hrvatski bog Mars (The Croatian God Mars). The heroes are seven everymen drafted by the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army and sent to the battlefield of Bistrica Lesna. That same mud that ridiculed the fictitious Croatian bourgeoisie depicted in The Glembays. a region where individuals confront the uncertainty and complexity of their identity. After the final version of the novella collection appeared in 1946. was also the grave of the Croatian infantrymen whose destiny is described in Bitka kod Bistrice Lesne.vision of Socialims. the mud that destroyed the talented artist and intellectual Filip Latinovicz. The atmosphere of the short story is grotesque. As a novella that belongs to Krleža’s early phase (1914 to 1924)10 Bitka kod Bistrice Lesne offers a peripheral view of the general situation in the Dual Monarchy engaged in World War I. the multi-cultural region and a hinter-national part of the Danubian basin. essays. The geographical center of Krleža’s opus is Pannonia. distance necessary for an intellectual to preserve an independent position. and its beginning is an inverted version of a classical invocation to the gods. the protagonists of this short story are depicted as poor peas184 . diaries. Krleža’s version of the Danubian basin complements the more dominant Central European perspective of Magris’ Danube. The notion of “Pannonian mud” characterizes the destiny of Krleža’s characters in his multivolumed opus on the Glembays. Unlike the arms and the deeds of epic classical heroes. Krleža always managed to keep a distance from Titoism and state-organized power centers. as well as Povratak Filipa Latinovicza (The Return of Filip Latinovicz). his epic novel Zastave (Banners). an unknown locality. his short stories. somewhere in the Pannonia-like mud of the Russian front. Bitka kod Bistrice Lesne was anthologized in Croatian and Yugoslavian literature.
another soldier. Loborec Štef. producing a humorous effect based on the discrepancy between the official language employed in the description of the unfortunate events and the tragi-comic and grotesque reality of seven dying peasants dressed up as soldiers on the occasion of an imperial conflict. The tone Krleža uses is elevated and purposely pompous. When he asked who would be in charge of his children while he was in the army. is a soldier drafted from his village. Such an elevated tone. a collective death deprived of any of the glory or courage usually attached to the famous battlefields of world history. where he had left two children behind without having any idea who would take care of them. The subtitle suggests that it is a “history” of the battle. in order to create an official ambiance of glorifying the Imperial soldiers’ deaths. because he threw 185 . during the battle for hill #313 on the Russian Front.ants who are definitively unskilled in using the old and rusty rifles and knives assigned by the army. Their mother had died. but. Krleža’s story is not a mere description of the collective destiny of the privates. in fact.12 In the novella. Each and every encounter between Trdak Vid and the Austro-Hungarian clerks was infused with a similar surreal feeling of delusion and betrayal. Each of his characters is an individual representative of the collective body of Croatian peasantry. for instance. In spite of his illness. is contained within the title itself) and their lieutenant. but also an account of the sub-colonial position of that Croatian peasantry under Austro-Hungarian rule. but still he had to go and fight for His Imperial Majesty. as captured in the details of their senseless deaths. Kafkaesque way. the administrative official in Zagreb answered in a disinterested and detached. had to leave his new bride and go to the front line. ridiculed by Krleža in his “invocation” was used repeatedly by the Austro-Hungarian press during the World War I. given the Croatian sub-colonial position within the Dual Monarchy. Trdak Vid. Krleža describes the last moments of the seven Croatian Domobrans (a term for a Croatian soldier which translates approximately to “Croatian Home Guardsman” and whose irony. the battle itself is completely insignificant. and the narrator refers to a single detail only--the death of the six infantrymen and their commander.
a junior army officer, who had refused to assign him a new pair of boots, into a barrel full of hot coffee. Before he dies in a creek during the battle, he puts his hand on the humid soil, just to feel how fertile it is. This gesture uncovers the real potential of his scattered identity. It signals his unrealized peasant self, tormented as he remembers the natural conditions of his survival. The collective destiny of the others in this group is communicated through the gaze of a coroner who finds their documents and private letters in their uniforms and bags while their corpses were being stored in the military mortuary. The humiliation of these selfless beings did not end with their death. The cold and distant, often arrogant, behavior of the coroner prolongs their degradation and makes their shame survive them, reminding the readers how little they counted in the Austro-Hungarian war machine. Bitka kod Bistrice Lesne divides into four segments, according to the focus of narration and the thematic fragments which dominate within the entire narrative. A general voice, which informs readers of the broader social and geopolitical contexts of the battle dominates the first narrative segment of the story; this voice is externally focalized and omniscient as such. With a mixture of pathos and irony, it describes the general wartime conditions of Southern Central Europe in general, and of Croatia in particular. Its feigned documentary tone prepares the ground for the second part of the narrative, in which the seven dead domobrans are introduced. Between the second and third part, the difference in tone is much more pronounced than between the first two parts. The narrator’s focus shifts from the all-encompassing external focalization to a precise highlighting of the two masters of the upcoming military action, an Austrian and a Russian general. It ends with the description of the deaths of our heroes. The fourth and the last part is narrated through the coroner’s gaze: in distanced and cold retrospection, it relates the tragic destiny of the rest of the platoon. Continuing detailed analysis of the novella, several issues emerge which clearly indicate colonial elements within the narrative and shed new light on Krleža’s early opus, usually characterized as an aesthetic mixture of “harmonic, disperse, and ecstatic nar186
rative structures, followed by the manner of simplification contained in the author’s transparent discourse with a clear pragmatic function” (Lasić, Mladi Krleža 18). All existing analyses of Krleža’s early opus emphasize his treatment of the underrepresented and humiliated characters as a part of his growing social awareness, related to his emotional and programmatic connections with socialism and with initial stages of Communism. These discussions have made no connection between his depiction of Croatian social and geopolitical strata and the discourse of colonialism. Not only Krleža’s novellas from Hrvatski bog Mars, but also his essays, poems, novels, and other narratives of the epoch, speak to his awareness of precisely such a colonial position for Croatia, linking this early twentieth-century Central European text to the global tradition of colonial narratives. The inverted classical invocation in the beginning of the novella undermines the official discourse of Austro-Hungarian press, whose pompous style was meant to glorify the heroic deeds of the imperial soldiers scattered all over the European front lines. The high tone employed by the state-sponsored journalists inappropriately describes the horrors of war, in the reality of which soldiers were falling dead, deprived of any glory and dignity, and very often completely unaware of why and where they were fighting. One of the best illustrations of such an individual’s sense of loss in His Imperial Majesty’s army is found in another of Krleža’s novellas, a part of the same collection. The very beginning of Kraljevska Ugarska Domobranska novela (The Royal Hungarian Domobran Novella)13 describes two encounters of a cavalry officer with his subordinates: A domobran was so immersed in his weird thoughts that he could hardly hear the captain approach on his horse, Mica. When he saw him emerge from the mist, the domobran opened his eyes wide in horror. He started to stutter and mumble something. - To which company do you belong, you stupid ox? That’s what I’m asking you!
- Captain, Sir, I humbly report, I don’t know! (Croatian God Mars 49)* After the captain finished raging and screaming at the soldier, he identified the domonbran’s superior, and continued the aborted conversation with him: - I am the commander of the third platoon, sir, Corporal Bubnjić... - Well, well! So, you are Bubnjić! Of course, Bubnjić. Somehow I am not surprised. Bubnjić. Man! There is a troublemaker in your platoon who does not know to which company he belongs! Do you know what that means? This irresponsibility can cause very serious consequences. Such an indolence is unheard of! This is horrible! These people do not know their duties! - Where is the enemy? What are the coordinates of your attack? - The captain decided to ask another soldier, the one that carried his rifle upside down on his shoulder, like a hunter. The man just stood there stiff and stared. - Well? Why are you staring at me!? Haven’t you seen me before? Whom is your company attacking? Is this the way to carry a rifle in formation? Are you a forest ranger, you swine? Speak, for god’s sake: what is the direction of your company’s attack? - I do not know, I humbly beg your forgiveness! (49)**
* Domobran, koji gotovo nije ni čuo kako je došao gospodin satnik, tako je bio zaokupljen svojim čudnim mislima, da se sav lecnuo i zabezeknuo od čuda, otkuda se najednom gospodin satnik na Mici iz magle stvorio ovdje, te je počeo nešto da zbunjeno muca i blebeće. - Vole! Koji si ti roj. To te pitam! - Gospodin satnik, pokorno javljam, ne znam! (Hrvatski bog Mars 49) ** - Ja sam zapovjednik trećheg voda, gospodine satniče, pokorno javljam! Kadet-aspirant Bubnjić... - Aha! To ste vi! Bubnjić! No naravno! Nije ni čudo! Bubnjić! Čovječe! U vašem vodu imade jedan čarkar, koji ne zna, kojem rodu pripada! Znadete li vi što to
These humble reports and pleas for forgiveness are deprived of the explicit irony so familiar to readers of The Good Soldier Svejk, whose adventures ridiculed this all-encompassing reality of the Monarchy. Unlike Svejk, Krleža’s unfortunate men were on the absolute outskirts of Austro-Hungary, and so their ignorance seems to be a logical consequence of the absurdity which followed the war. Their disorientation not only signals the sense of defeatism among those involuntarily drafted by the Imperial Army, but also describes the reality of the Croatian soldiers in a war into which they were pushed to fill out the mainly Hungarian-lead battalions. Krleža did not always chose such a documentary approach to the topic. In Bitka kod Bistrice Lesne, the narrator’s tone moves one step further than simply depicting the reality in its seemingly intact dimensions. Positioning his voice between the pompous tone of the Austro-Hungarian press and the grim reality of the platoon, Krleža begins this story: This history of a detail of the Battle of Bistrica Lesna is written in honor of the late gentleman and Commander Pesek Mato and of six dead Croatian Home Guardsmen (domobrans) of the second company, namely: Trdak Vid, Blažek Franjo, Loborec Štef, Lovrek Štef, Pecak Imbra i Križ Matija who fell during the heroic attack on the hill #313 thus spilling their royal Hungarian Croatian Home Guardsman blood for the glory of The Thousand-Year-Old Kingdom of Saint Stephen, according to the provisions of
znači ? To može da povuče za sobom najteže posljedice. To je nečuvena indolencija! To je strašno! Tu ljudi ne znaju svoju udjelbu! - Kamo navaljujete! - okrenuo se gospodin satnik spram nekog drugog čovjeka što je objesio pušku preko ramena protupropisno kao lovac. - Čovjek se ukočio i gleda. - No! Što me gledaš! Zar me još nikada nisi vidio. Kamo navaljuje satnija. Pa zar se tako nosi puška u rojnoj pruzi. Zar si ti lugar, ti svinjo. Govori, sto ti bogova, kamo navaljuje satnija. - Ne znam, pokorno prosim! (49)
the Austro-Hungarian 1868 Compromise. May they rest in peace! (9)* The language employed to celebrate the death of the Hungarian Croatian Home Guardsmen who “spilled their royal blood for the glory of the Thousand-Year-Old Kingdom of Saint Isthvan, according to the Austro-Hungarian 1868 Compromise” directly ironizes the sub-colonial position of the Croatian people. Except for this “invocation,” Krleža’s irony abstains from further humorous effects, because the situation in World War I Croatia for him was not a “laughing matter.” Like his critique of the Habsburgs which was, according to Magris and other prominent interpreters of his work, often exaggerated, one-sided and imbued with the tendency to ridicule the emperor and criticize his eagerness to control all the colonized lands, Krleža’s writing style also was determined by his “marginal” position within the Monarchy. Krleža does not exhaust himself simply in bitter expressionist criticism of everything existing; his language is more relaxed and sometimes even closer to Hasek’s in Good Soldier Svejk. As an modernist intellectual who understood himself as a voice of public dusturbance, and felt a duty to produce fictionalized social and political comentaries, young Krleža had to take a role of spokesperson for the underrepresented and utter some bitter truths from the Southern periphery of Central Europe. Hasek’s Svejk may be regarded as a comedy; yet Kundera, in spite of his humorous novels and short stories, sees Central Europe as a tragedy. For Krleža, at least in his earliest phase, Central Europe seems to be best represented in the epic genre. The first part of this epic episode describes a detail of a battle which was anything but heroic, characterizing the so-called “subco* Ova historija jednoga detalja bitke kod Bistrice Lesne napisana je u počast pokojnoga gospodina i desetnika Peseka Mate i šestorice mrtvih domobrana drugoga bataljona druge satnije, i to:Trdaka Vida, Blažeka Franje, Loborca Štefa, Lovreka Štefa, Pecaka Imbre i Križa Matije, koji su svi pali kod junačke navale na kotu broj trista trinaest, prolivši tako svoju kraljevsku ugarsku domobransku krv u slavu hiljadugodišnjeg kraljevstva Sent Ištvana, u smislu Madžarsko-hrvatske nagodbe od godine 1868. Počivali u miru! (9)
In his early phase. kada se ne osjeća teret svagdanji u križama.g. Contextualizing the characters of the forthcoming battle in his novella. Their grandfathers and great-grandfathers lived the same way. Croatian Rhapsody. Krleža still believed in a mixture of Western cosmopolitanism and barbarogenius. in their beginning. when peasants do not feel the weight of everyday life on their backs. 1921) he praised the Slavic element as a moment of salvation for the modern history of Croatia under Hungarian dominion. the life equal to the lives of millions of our people who century after century suffer in our mud. a thought that he later abandoned. Instead. dva svijetla dana. Hrvatska rapsodija. but throughout its history. već 191 .the two bright days in the year. svi su oni živjeli u početku tihim i gorkim životom.14 and in some of his narratives (e. te ga svakog proljeća i jeseni preoravaju. Krleža laments upon the poverty and enslavement of the Croatian people. hoping to get a fistful or two of grain so that they can have a piece of corn bread for Easter and Christmas -. they only feed livestock and smoke and drink in front of churches until noon. along with the six heroes of our story. da bi iz njega izvukli šaku-dvije zrnja i pojeli režanj pšenične gibanice na Uskrs i na Božić.15 Following the romanticized idea that something good and progressive may come to Central Europe as a consequence of The Red October. all of our heroes felt their lives were like something created in the times of our Lord himself. kojim žive milijuni naših ljudi. not only in World War I. so what can one say or do about it? (9-10)* * Gospodin pričuvni desetnik Pesek Mato i šest junaka ove naše pripovijesti. and which was covering our village like a sad veil.lonial” condition of Croatia. In a centuries-old-mist of slavery and hard labor. and peasantry. in this feudal fog which was still very thick in the year 1914 under the government of Franz Joseph I. all lived the same quiet and bitter life. što se već stoljećima pate na našem blatu. beatings. the author briefly recapitulates Croatian history: The gentleman and corporal Pesek Mato. and every spring and every autumn they plough.
it did not overshadow his achievements and was not an obstacle in developing his own personality. illustrates this order. fond of long stories. Even though the narrator neither praises nor romanticizes that uninterrupted time before the Colonization depicted in a violent arrival of Christianity. for instance. The personal story of Okonkwo. between the tribe members and soil. before and after the arrival of the British missionaries in the village Umofia. Although his father’s stigma may have affected Okonkwo on the level of tribal gossip. Family history existed more as an active memory. symbolic order. u onoj feudalnoj magli. strong bonds between the humans. Chinua Achebe’s postcolonial narrative Things Fall Apart (1958) is. and mother earth determine their identities. the relationship between the natives and earth. koja se još godine devet stotina i četrnaeste pod vladom Franje Josipa Prvoga povijala nad našim selom kao žalosno velo. The first two-thirds of the book speak of the old tribal ways. His father Unoka was an artistic drunk.In traditional colonial narratives. with a strong emphasis on one’s own worth judged as a composite of all the skills involved in tribal survival and individual self-realization. Within the tribe. the main character of the novel. One’s personal identity was a mixture of his individual deeds and his family history. their religion. Aware se samo napaja blago po štalama i puši i pijucka pred crkvom cijelo dopodne. He was a brave. divided into two main parts. svi naši junaci osjećali su taj svoj život kao neku stvar još od Gospodina Boga stvorenu. is usually ascribed to an idyllic pastoral period before the fall. traditional and trustworthy man and heroic warrior whose fame was well known “throughout nine villages and beyond” (Things Fall Apart 7) and was based on personal achievements in war and peace. a narrative whose purpose was to keep generations interconnected as well as connected with their gods. those times seem self-contained and self-explanatory. U vjekovonoj magli tlake i rabote. dimnice i kmetstva i batina. i njihov djed i pradjed živjeli su tako. were he was regarded as lazy. pak što tu ima da se misli i što se tu može ? (9-10) 192 . music and wine—a man whose skills would better fit on streets of Paris than in the village of Umofia. improvident and incapable of thinking. tradition.
Any wonder then that his son Okonkwo was ashamed of him? Fortunately. exists because God made it this way. this option is not available to the domobrans in Croatia. makes one wonder what happened to those same categories in Krleža’s novella? Instead of nostalgia. Okonkwo was clearly cut out for great things. as well as Okonkwo’s position as an individual in possession of his identity. Krleža’s narrative is imbued with a strong sense of fatalism. In the minds of his characters. Thinking in Kafka’s terms and recalling his belief that time in Central Europe has to be regained and that eminent Central European stories have to be narrated once again—this time not through the gaze of the oppressor but through the set of individual optics of the various oppressed peoples and groups. representative of classical postcolonial prose.of his father’s hypothetically damaging legacy. who have no past pastoral narrative to which they can return. Unfortunately. everything that exists. He was still young but he had won fame as the greatest wrestler in the nine villages. 193 . the tribe members have managed to preserve their collective and individual memory. Although the colonization dismembered their present. and is rearticulated in the various postcolonial narratives in which those underrepresented and objectified struggle to regain their language and relate stories to the reader. their tribal original past has stayed remembered. brings one closer to a comparison of the treatment of time in Achebe’s and Krleža’s prose. Even after they were colonized by the British missionaries. The nature of time. among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father. the narrator explains Okonkwo’s position within the tribe: When Unoka died he had taken no title at all and he was heavily in debt. the vivid presence of before and after in Achebe’s novel. (11) Time and history in Achebe’s novel. the idyllic and natural world of yesterday is seen apart from the aggressive and unnatural colonial intervention. has as its direction and contents the narratives which usually divide worlds.
Krleža’s heroes do not remember better days. Unlike Achebe’s characters. or to remain faithful to their tribal gods. Godless in this sense. the native people had a choice either to accept Jesus Christ. they are caught in a machine that prepares them for war. Men and women are poor because that is God’s will. because it is written in all the public documents. There is no better past for them. in the initial phase of colonization that Achebe describes. Peasants are simply there to be exploited. because at the very end of Croatian Rhapsody he is mentioned only by a phantasmic and utopian character named the Croatian Genius and by the narrator himself in free indirect speech. In terms of Croatian history. They have lived for centuries in the same Pannonian mud. In contrast. Pan. Although the sun-god that Krleža invoked in his vision of innocence that he hoped to be reenacted as the fulfillment of yet another dream (the one of the Red Dawn coming from the young Soviet Union) was an old Slavic god. And it is this way because the mighty say so. Krleža’s heroes had no such indigenous gods to turn to outside the control of the colonizers. the past has no significant period of freedom no time characterized by an indigenous symbolic order independent of the influence of the superpowers. Also. after the British colonizers entered Umofia and built their church. in laws. then. It is for that colonial appropriation of the ancient Great Chain of Beings that in his novella Krleža aludes to feudal fog. and practiced in courthouses all over the country.All is eternal and resides outside historical circumstances. Krleža’s characters have no dream of their past. but rather as a utopian symbol whose role was to connect the mythic tranquillity of a tribal creation with the final realization of the global dream of Social Revolution. Their God (or the Emperor) created a world in which strict rules and regulations stand for the natural order of things in this world. on the contrary. Allegorically speaking.16 a “cousin” of the Greek Orpheus. Pan is not available to the everymen of Croatia. On the eve of European decolonization. that god was not represented as a nostalgic memory. imitating the useless deeds of their ancestors. they are being collected to fill out the military 194 . Their role in the global battle is not active.
statistics of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. They sit in front of their cabins, dwell upon their lives, recapitulating individual pasts whose borders with the present cannot possibly be traced. Their present is eternal and its eternity replaces the historicity of the present available to the tribe members in Achebe’s Umofia. Although they feel a strong and long-suppressed vital energy, when they think about their lives, they think in the following way: Clerks and policemen, army barracks and townships, counties, paperwork, offices. To our heroes, it all seemed like a machine made up by doctors for one purpose only: to palpate an artery of poor peasants’ lives and to use its rhythm to count the peasants’ bags full of grain, pigs, and mares. All that high-class, doctoral, triple-imperial engine with all of its official decisions humiliated that powerful and invincible life within them. And whenever our heroes thought about themselves and their lives, it went approximately like this: here is my cabin whose roof is steep so that rain can pour off to the left and to the right, instead of on my head. This is a great invention. Prevents water from dripping on my head. That was passed on to me by my late grandfather. My warm, sooty roof. I will give it on to my son, because this is a good thing to have: a roof above your head. (A man would be an animal without a roof over his head.) Here I am, sitting beneath that mushroom of mine, watching smoke coming out of my chimney. The heavenly waters flow, soaking the fields, and this is good. My wife spins her skein like spiders do. There is a potato boiling in my pot, and there must be some greasy smoked ribs up in the attic. And that is all I really need. Life is good! (11-12)*
* I činovnici i žandari, kasarne i oblasti, općine, spisi, uredi, sve je to našim junacima izgledalo kao stroj, koji je po gospodi doktorima samo zato izmišljen, da bi se bogečkom životu napipala žila i da bi se prebrojale seljačke vreće i svinje i kobilad ali sav taj gospodski, doktorski, kraljevskotrojedni stroj i sve te kraljevske uredbe tog činovničkog stroja omalovažavale su onaj silni i nesavladljivi život u njima, i kad su ti naši junaci razmišljali o sebi i o svome životu, to
Such a tone of complete resignation marks the atmosphere of Krleža’s peasantry. Their fatalistic relation to everyday life is timeless. Signs of absolute poverty and the humiliation imposed on the peasants by the agency of historical obligations that are embodied as various clerks, policemen, army officers, doctors and noblemen are passed from generation to generation, creating an atemporal abyss of the historical present. Such social stratification is a consequence of Croatia’s geopolitical situation on the outskirts of two dominant civilizations, Austrian and Russian, experiencing its reality in a centuries-old feudal dream. There is no sense of past nor future among these peasants. Although they respond to the numerous calls of history, they are its active ingredients. Although Krleža ascribes to them an invincible life and vital energy that is suppressed within their self-less beings, those peasants have been convinced throughout the history that living a life equals avoiding death. Deprived of an active position within the community, whenever they dream of better times, they see their dreams as ahistorical and timeless as their daily lives. Therefore, their utopias are also outside history. It is no surprise that the only projection that Krleža’s peasantry has is a naive utopian narrative which describes their preferred imagined communities and resembles early colonial narratives whose purpose was to arouse the European mind by depicting the earthly heavens of native tribes in far-away lands. On their way to the army barracks, our heroes walk the streets of the Croatian capital. This walk temporarily dislocates them and provokes their imagination. They feel completely alienated from their already non existent selves, and on their way to “the Habsburgs’ war” (12), which they see as a “noblemen’s thing, their war”
je onda otprilike izgledalo ovako: ovo je moja koliba, kojoj je krov strm, i kišica se slijeva lijjevo i desno i ne curi mi tako na glavu. To je dobar izum da mi voda ne curi na glavu, i to mi je dao djed moj pokojni u baštinu, taj moj ča avi topli krov, a ja ću ga ostaviti sinu, jer je to mudra stvar: krov nad glavom. ( Čovjek bi bio marvinče da nema krova.) Sjedim ja pod tom svojom gljivom i gledam kako dim kulja, voda nebeska teče i natapa oranicu i to je dobro. Žena mi liže povjesmo kao pauk, u loncu mi se kotrlja krompir, a našlo bi se i koje masno rebarce u dimu na tavanu. To je sve. Više mi zapravo i ne treba. Dobro je živjeti! (11-12)
(13), the soldiers-to-be dream of a land they have heard about. Its name is Slarafija, and it is the land of leisure and wealth:17 They have heard stories about a wonderland called Šlarafija. There, fried ducks and chickens fly straight into one’s mouth. Fields are full of grazing pigs and sucklings on spits. Silver watches and chains hang from the trees. Their first days in the city seemed to be like those in Šlarafija. They saw only the shops filled with dried meat. Thighs, smoked hams, legs and ribs, red bacon. The bacon’s deadly wounds have been previously burned by dark carbon. Long nails protrude from the holes. Blood sausages hang in the windows. In a bowl made of porcelain cracklings smell wonderfully. All that dry meat! A city full of dried meat! Hams hang like flags! (14)* The soldiers’ displacement had activated their imagination, and they compare Zagreb with a utopia. The imagery of dried meat and blood sausages in Krleža’s narrative in fact inverts utopia and represents the domobrans’ mythical imagination of the only optimal projection of their lives. The products of their farm labor, after they left the countryside and found their place in city shops where they are awaiting to be consumed by the rich, now laugh at their makers. These items that represent the peasants’ ultimate dream of luxury. All the utopias known to the Western reader, from Plato’s Atlantis, through the writings of Thomas More, Tomas Campanella, Franjo Petrich, Voltaire, and Swift, contain such elaborate descriptions of imagined perfect societies. Regardless of their purpose (Plato’s mo* Čuli su oni govoriti o jednoj čudnoj zemlji Šlarafiji, gdje pečene race i pilići lete u usta čovjeku, po livadama pasu prasci i odojci na ražnju, a srebrne ure i lanci vise po drveću i ta život u gradu pričinio im se u prve gradske dane takvom Šlarafijom. Sve sami zelheraji sa suhomesnatom robom! Sve same butine i rebra i crvena slanina debelih svinja, pak su smrtonosne rane zapečene lijepo masnom crnom ča om, a kroz krvave rupe prodrli čavli, te vise naduvena crijeva i cijede se trule kobasice i mirišu čvarci po zdjelama porculanskim opletenim drotom, da se ne raspadnu. Samo suho meso! Pun grad suhog mesa! Šunke vise kao zastave! (14)
del for exercising the ideal government, or Voltaire’s exaggerated critique of Europe’s bloodthirsty and arrogant colonial attitude, as depicted in Candide), each ou-topos exceeds basic human needs and offers a clear detailed description of the ideal government and the structure of a healthy society. Krleža’s heroes’ minds do not function on that level. Historically, they are so accustomed to belonging to foreign agencies that the idea of a just society does not exist in their colonized minds. Although the future heroes of the Battle of Bistrica Lesna may believe that a roof above their head distinguishes them from animals, their dreams and desires are still animalistic. Their imaginations are lead by hunger and despair, and the ultimate pleasure they can capture is food. For them, outside the Agency of history, there is no other description of Šlarafija, except as a land where nobody is hungry. The reduced existence of the Croatian peasantry is thus epitomized in Krleža’s description of city stores, because in the same way that dried meat was hanging in front their eyes, their own flesh, wounded, dirty and dismembered, would soon cover the trenches and mud of His Imperial Majesty’s chessboard on the Russian front. The absence of a body politics for these Croatian foot soldiers, necessary in a community for its members to feel and perform as citizens, is correlated with hams and banners, not with human will. For our heroes, there is no difference between the public sphere of politics as symbolized in the form of flags and the bare survival symbolized in their own food—taken away from them and hung publicly in the city shops, awaiting costumers from another, better world. In their universe, however, due to the historical circumstances, hams are the banners. In terms of a narrative structure, this fragment which ends the first part of the novella may be seen as a prologue in a Greek tragedy, in which our heroes, although unaware of it, foresee their own disaster. The difference between them and Greek epic heroes is that their personal tragedy is not a sudden fall from happiness into a disaster, but a narrative inscribed in their destiny a long time ago, in the timeless space of ancestors whose roofs for centuries covered their heads, convincing them that life was good. In a region outside of official history, the tragedy of our heroes began with their birth.
Multiple voices I
Trdak Vid’s Long March through the Institutions The second segment of Bitka kod Bistrice Lesne begins with individual protagonists’ flashbacks which foreground their fictional existence. This timeless approach to Southern Central European history has its counterpart in Krleža’s narrative treatment of time as well. There is no future in this story. Everything is either narrated in the eternal present or represented through techniques of reminiscence. Like the timeless space of rural Croatia, the moment before the battle reflects the loss of time imposed on the characters by the seemingly timeless obligatory history (“In a centuries-old-mist of slavery and hard labor, torture and peasantry, in this feudal fog which was still very thick in the year 1914 under the government of Franz Joseph I, and which covered our village like a sad curtain, all of our heroes felt their lives like something created in the times of our Lord himself”10). Unaware that they have been betrayed by Our Lord, our heroes are sitting in trenches on the morning of the battle, and each of them “revisits” his home. The destiny of Trdak Vid is described in detail. Trdak Vid dreamed of his children, whom he had to leave behind. The day before he had to appear in Zagreb to report to military headquarters, he had buried his wife. Not knowing what to do with his two small children, he decided to ask the government to take care of them. In his simple sense of fairness, that was what the Monarchy was supposed to do--to return a favor and thus reciprocate for their demands. After a Kafkaesque tour through Austro Hungarian bureaucracy, Trdak Vid ended by talking to the same clerk who, earlier in the morning, had sent him around to others. This imperial notary refused to take responsibility for the children and suggested that Vid finds a solution on his own. Nonetheless, before he decided to dismiss him once and for all, the clerk had to document everything and write it down in a protocol. This sense of omnipresence of the emperor’s persona in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy is here incorporated in an official protocol, which gives the fake impression that Franz Joseph really cared
my dear man! .A house too! .your honor! What do I do with a protocol? I don’t know where to put my kids! . police and train stations. he left its gates as empty as he was when he entered them. .One acre! .Well. did in Prague. doctor . Everything is fine old man! I’ve heard it all. where do you expect me to put your child? We have no room for your children! We can write a protocol.So.for his people. God help them! The oldest one is seven! How can they stay alone? . A well-construed. In its centripetal colonial dynamics. Franz Joseph constantly invited his peoples to look for help in the various administrative places carefully erected throughout the monarchy. The total theater of the emperor’s administration is depicted in the following dialogue which took place in the government palace on Marko’s Square in Zagreb: . Following the emperor’s advice. my good man. Trdak Vid in Zagreb experienced the same dismal journey that Josef K. you are currently receiving monthly financial support! Give it to someone in the village.But dear doctor.See here. and they can take care of your children. with all due respect. sir.How about a house? . identically designed and organized set of offices.Then give your children to your relatives! You have relatives. don’t you? 200 . theater buildings.OK. my dear! Yes! But.What kind of piss-poor aid is that? Nobody wants to work for peanuts! .or should we say . that sameness was only a smoke screen for colonial exploitation.How much land do you have? . After a long walk through the institution. In fact. why couldn’t the children stay at home? . and coffee houses made the Monarchy look uniform.
gospon doktor . . and everything will be just fine! (16-18)* * .Vidite kume. understand? ..No! Pa zašto ne bi deca ostala na kući? . vi dobivate mjesečnu potporu! Pa dajte kome u selu potporu! . my friend! To the district and to the county.Yes I do.A koliko grunta imate? . there is nothing we can do for you.Old timer. . doctor. if we take them.Dva rala! . kume! Čuo sam ja već to sve. gospon doktor! Bog budi žnjimi! Ali sedem let je stareši star! Kaj to more ostati sam? . We are not going to take your children and move them into the city. Damned relatives. We shall demand an increase in your financial support.Well. . Is that OK? And now we shall put together a nice protocol.. sir? We are all poor!.Oh. voda ga poplavila!.We’ll write to the village priest! . sign it together.We’ll find something my man! We shall write a nice memorandum to the district office! .Imam ga.Je.. proletarians! They will become poor.Je! Prosim ih. Because. imam al bi bolše bilo da ga nemam! Kakšni je to vražji rod? Da bog da.. 201 . our priest .Pa dajte rodu! Imate valjda roda ? .The district notary is a thief and criminal! . It is against our principles. dragi moj kume! ..I beg you sir.Da! Dobro je. we’ll write to everybody! To everybody.. give them to some good people! . dragi moj! Da! Ali kamo da vam smjestim ja vaše dijete? Mi nemamo tu mjesta za vašu djecu! Mi možemo da uzmemo s vama zapisnik! I tako. It would be better if I didn’t have them. . where are those good people?.Am I not poor.bumo rekli-poglaviti! A kaj meni zapisnik bu? Ja ne znam kam bi z decom! .A kuću? . please.. they can all go to hell. they will become criminals...Trdak Vid waved his hand in despair. ta pišliva potpora? Zato nigdo niš neče! .A kaj je to..I kuću! ...Well.
In spite of such real doubts. da vam se povisi potpora! Sada će i onako biti povišene potpore. gospon doktor? Em smo si mi bokčija!. kume! I na kotar i na županiju! Urgirat ćemo.Ah. Hungary then further exercised their own national aggression to subordinate peoples of “lesser gods. . In the case of Trdak Vid.Bilježnik je tat i lopov! . in. kume. Although. . reenacted in the Compromise which formally created the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. pak će sve biti dobro! (16-18) 202 . kume! Mi ćemo lijepo pisati dopis na općinu! . it is still easy to distinguish between him and his oppressors. A kaj ja nis bogec. On a subconscious level. but that objects of their anger were implanted in their daily life in rather dislocated ways.mahnuo je Trdak Vid rukom.One of the main principles guideing the Austrians in their occupation of Central Europe was the old Roman practice of divide et impera.Mi ćemo pisati župniku! . Proletarizirat će vam se djeca! Budu bokčija postali. djeca će vam se protepsti.Pa pisat ćemo mi već svima! Svima. prosim ih! Naš velečasni . the divide and rule practice created the Dual Monarchy when they adopted the potentially dangerous Hungarians within the framework of Austrian power.Kume! Dajte ih nekud dobrim ljudima! ..Već će se nešto naći. his unreflected anger is directed at the wrong target. On a larger scale. Trdak Vid and other peasants do not direct their anger toward the fictitious agencies of Austro-Hungarian power.Ah. Eto! Sada ćemo lijepo zapisnik sastaviti s vama..Je! A šta vam mi možemo kume? Mi djecu principijelno u grad uzeti ne ćemo! Jer ako ih uzmemo. initiated a snowball effect of further colonization of the smaller peoples of Central Europe..Je. prosim ih. Not only that those smaller peoples had to fight wars among each other. .. and that the clerks who write them barely exist as real political entities. the Croatian peasant feels that all those protocols are mere lies. razmete? . a gdje jesu ti dobri ljudi?. the agencies and targets of his hatred are harder for him to recognize. Krleža’s proletarian cursing the Hungarian soldiers on their way to the Serbian front is a clear example of how such a dislocated target of hatred resulted from the Austrian’s divide et impera mechanism of conquest. That seemingly horizontal redistribution of power.” such as Croatians. in the case of Krleža’s proletarian.
due to the feudal circumstances. by resolving the status of his children. he thinks to himself how crazy it is that the “doctor” cannot see that he is going to war (“Ta za boga miloga! On putuje sutra na frontu! Kako to ovomu ‘doktoru’ tu nije jasno. he can achieve his civil rights as an equal. da on sutra putuje na frontu?”(18) “For God’s sake! He is going to go to the front tomorrow! Is it possible that this ‘doctor’ here cannot understand that he is on his way to the front-lines?”) (18) he cannot utter this statement alloud. these alien powers have succeeded in colonizing the minds of the native population to the extent that they could not distinguish a serious enemy from a made-up one. it remains the exclusive property of his humiliated self. The consequences of that colonial dynamics of atomizing reality in Trdak’s case 203 .stead. Such a partitioning of reality is a captivating and manipulative gesture employed in Krleža’s narrative technique. Instead. he is oblivious to the fact that solving the problem of the draft as his possible point of departure may actually solve the problem of his children’s custody. a self which. local notaries and priests. a particle in the large machinery of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. poverty and tragedy. they could not even single out a real reason for their fear. but he still imagines that. Moreover. His colonized mind cannot see even the first step of the colonial hierarchy. With individual interests partitioned as consequences of the imperial presence in Croatia. it is practically nonexistent. but. in front of the clerk. he treats him as an omnipotent agency of timeless oppression. The only thing that counts and that ultimately defines Trdak Vid as a reified subject. Privately. is his public impersonation of a soldier. Although in the course of the conversation in the government building. In his public performance. Since Trdak’s private sphere exists only in the depths of his wounded consciousness and does not know how to communicate with the external world. neighbors. in his public performance. cannot be defined in positive terms. Trdak Vid sees the government clerk as a near-sighted fool who smokes a cheap tobacco. they vent their hate against their closest relatives. Trdak Vid is aware that his real problem is going into a battle which is a part of “their” war.
described. Through an act of administrative fiction. officially partitioned (Trdak’s right to life has been atomized and the problem of his children’s custody singled out). That protocol was meant to calm Trdak Vid. expect to solve a problem that even His Imperial Majesty cannot? Trapped in such an existential enigma. And since there was nobody to blame (in spite of his bitter inner feeling that he is being betrayed by the system as embodied in that near-sight204 . his sense of despair grew even larger. Trdak Vid loses all hope that his individual life had a meaning. the specificities of Austrian totalitarianism were contained within the liminal space of the prescribed and the proscribed. To negotiate the proscribed (his right to life. Trdak’s potential anger is pacified. happiness and personal future). the proscribed has been codified. but after he walked out of the building. For little people like Trdak. named. criticizing priests. he felt absolutely insignificant. Such a moment in the history of a people in which everybody is perceived as a victim and a villain at the same time is usually regarded as a totalitarianism. This sophisticated game based on polarized categories was coordinated by imperial headquarters. and relatives. That “centuries-old feudal mist” about which Krleža speaks reemerged once again convincing our hero that all the nonexistent good and omnipresent evil comes straight from God. a poor peasant. implicitly blaming them for his tragedy. and written down. After his departure from the government building. he had to go through the channels of the prescribed.manifest themselves in a kind of helpless siding with the oppressor. Trdak Vid has the same sense of hopelessness he had upon his entrance. after he received official proof that there was nothing that could be done to right the wrongs of this world. How could he. and Trdak Vid’s useless trip to the capital speaks to the absolute control imposed by the imperial law and order. neighbors. despite the fact that his despair now acquired an official name nailed down in a protocol signed by a notary and stamped with the Imperial-Royal seal. This double syndrome of limitations left deep scars in lives of Croatian peasantry. It became so because. After the aforementioned agency of law and order accomplished the “proper” treatment of the prescribed (after a clerk composed a protocol). where all the rigid rules were authorized.
demanding their rights. The dislocated agencies of oppression controlled and exercised by the Austrian Court. there is no difference between clemency and punishment. After his arrival at the barracks. Like Trdak. has a right to enjoy his wife and start their life together. himself included. another draftee who was just in charge of footwear. A psychological transference similar to Trdak’s took place. everyone. and Loborec directed all of his anger toward a supply sergeant. Twice deprived of his sacred right to rejoin his wife. Loborec fell into apathy. Aware that he would have to go to the Galician mud wearing his torn shoes. suffering from typhus. and he was not given a needed pair of boots. the Croatian Home Guardsman Loborec Štef. A newly-married man. domobran Loborec decided to pay a visit to the commissariat-officer. Loborec’s sacred right was given back to him by Habsburg officialdom in the form of a sick leave. In such a totalitarian context where choice is nonexistent. in its vertical distribution of colonial rule. according to that mythic. Šmit: 205 . a newly-wed when called up to join the army as a part of his regular military service. he was absent when other soldiers were assigned a new kit and equipment. while he was still in the hospital preparing to return home. after he spent several weeks in the military hospital. and so going to war seems a natural thing to do. have deprived people of their elementary feelings about belonging to a certain group. and even recognizing the sources of their tragedy. together with thirty-eight others. to the front. Ironically. sacred law. has to be either forgiven or punished. another set of army doctors arrived and redirected him. he felt deep inside that the system was taking a sacred right away from him.ed clerk). Multiple voices II A Supply Sergeant in the Barrel: The Displaced Anger of Loborec Štef The consequences of colonization for an individual are seen also in the tragicomic destiny of Trdak Vid’s companion. Unfortunately.
Soaked through by the boiling coffee. slap a soldier who is going into the battle for the third time in his military career. enough of those Hungarian swindlers. stole something. Šmit screamed at him: . and now he was counting goods and making a new inventory. 206 . my shoes. Loborec could not grasp how an ordinary warehouse-man. They were sucking the sergeant’s blood all day at headquarters because of some missing 27 crowns and 16 philirs. just to rid himself of all that nuisance.Sergeant. Possessed by madness and with his warrior’s pride wounded. He was searching for forgotten or misplaced expenses when Loborec came and messed up all of the sergeant’s calculations. among the plucked chestnut trees. And he slapped Loborec Štef hard and loud across his face. a “flea-market thief. sir. disarmed by the guards. you thief from Zagorje! You are all thieves! . but. but it’s you who has stolen my rights! In fact. Right at that moment. So he exploded: . He was infuriated by the unbelievable arrogance of an ordinary domobran scum who interrupted him. playing that same tune and calling him a thief..He was standing right in front of Šmit and clicked his heels according to the rules to leave a good impression.. Šmit. Šmit did not hear what Loborec said. hoping to find a mistake.Go to hell! Leave me alone! . I humbly beg you. Loborec grabbed the sergeant and threw him into the barrel of coffee. In the shadows.Get the hell out of here. the cooks were crossing the yard carrying a barrel full of hot coffee. insisting that he. cutting deep into his flesh.” could slap him.. Šmit drew his sword and hit Loborec in his left shoulder.. Like he didn’t have enough of his superiors this morning. nor did he have any idea what the soldier wanted. next to the empty barrel of black coffee.I am not a thief.
pak mu je Loborec izmiješao sve kombinacije. kome su čitav dan na diviziji pili krv radi nekih dvadeset i sedam kruna i šesnaest filira u jednoj protunamiri. da ga jedan prosti domobran zaustavlja i da mu jedan prosti domobran veli da je krao. razoružan od straže. (22)* The domobran’s predictions were right. (22) 207 . sračunavao je partije robe i problematične svote i tražio zaboravljene izdatke.soldiers.Gospodin narednik pokorno molim. me ju očupanim kestenovima. the domobran Loborec Štef sensed that everything that just happened was not good for him. i tako je planuo. da se riješi već svega toga do vraga. Like Trdak Vid. Loborec’s superior was also uncertain of his identity. zahvatio Loborca u lijevo rame. Caught in the military machine. da njega.Marš. nego je Šmita razbjesnila ta nečuvena drskost.. because the same night. ali se Šmit uzrujano iskesio. Unlike the near-sighted clerk from Kaptol. osjetio je domobran Loborec Štef.. priprave i kuhara. zasjekao ga duboko u meso i tamo u polutmini. I Loborec. da sve to što se dogodilo nije bilo dobro. glasno. u bunilu bjesomučnom. ti tat zagorski! Svi ste vi tati! . kraj prolivenoga kotla crne kave. The entire situation between a domobran and a sup* Stajao je pred Šmitom i još lijepo štram kvrcnuo petama. I tako je ćušio Loborca Štefa. tu na rajonu ćuška jedan magaziner – “jedan tat kramarski”.Nisam ja tat. da stvar što bolje ispadne. . and afraid that he might end up being executed for his horrible crime. and cooks. His search for identity in a colonized context went wrong. iz sve snage.Idi k vragu! Daj mi mira! . skočio je na narednika. Gospodin narednik. ali moje cipele. pograbio ga i bacio u kotao crne kave. u povrije enoj frontaškoj časti. kada su mu cijelo prijepodne na diviziji svirali to isto madžarski švindleri. frightened by some army laws alien to him. Loborec agreed to a compromise: he went to the front lines in spite of his serious wound. In this dialogue there are both similarities with and differences from the encounter between Trdak Vid and a government clerk. nego ste vi meni moje pravo ukrali! Šmit zapravo nije ni čuo što ovaj tu želi i što on tu govori. our hero suffered the same consequences as his colleague in Zagreb. koji sutra putuje treći put na frontu. Loborec Štef had been deprived of his sense of self and thus became unable to find a firm standpoint in the confrontation with his superior. Šmit je povukao sablju. Baš u taj tren prolazili su preko dvorišta kuhari s velikim kotlom vruće crne kave. Okupan u kipućoj kavi. . however.
Unable to direct his anger toward the real agency of his oppression. Such confused dialogues. Both the “attacker” and the “attacked” are unable to define themselves in the hierarchical situation of their encounter. Throughout the story. In this case. He has been infuriated by the Hungarian superiors who accused him of stealing goods from the army warehouse. Loborec Štef. Such a made-up reality is a substitute for a nonexistent one. Unable to recognize his immediate reality. the sergeant attacks an available and weaker party. Although he can feel the aggression.ply sergeant thus resembles a comedy of errors. the sergeant has to make one up and then pretend to be in control of it. but their selves are also partitioned off from their consciences to the extent that neither can single out the causes for frustration. not even knowing who the man is or why he has approached him. the sergeant cannot connect the soldier’s scattered utterances and accusations in a coherent narrative. scum. are clear examples of the divide et impera principle in action. an ordinary piece of domobran scum. but rather as a thief from Zagorje. the one that had vanished as a consequence of physical and mental colonization whose victims were captured in a vicious circle of mutual languishing and elimination. The sergeant jumps on Loborec. and he expresses his despair. on the other hand. is accused of “stealing a sacred right from Loborec” and 208 . in which two Croatians fight for trivial reasons. a reader can follow many such displacements of anger as a consequence of depriving potentially fulfilled selves of their real nature. In such a set of transferences. not only are two members of the same group successfully divided and their interests brought to the point of a physical showdown. further deprived them of their “real” selves. instead of defining the two people. Loborec Štef senses that his sacred rights have been taken away from him. Loborec Štef is not seen as a person. Each moment of their interaction as objects of colonialism produced a confused and confusing mosaic of experiences of reality whose particles. the only way he can defend himself is to transfer his damaged sense of self (a self attacked by his superiors) onto his public military function. therefore. The sergeant. or a nobody who performed the utterly inappropriate gesture of intimidating a superior.
our hero managed to find a reason to die. In a train station on the way to the front. At that moment. He finds the emptiness of his tomb as he throws his own body into it. Loborec tried to motivate himself for the forthcoming action in battle. That moment was crucial for Štef to recognize that. The death of Loborec Štef is described in detail in the third narrative segment of the novella. the made-up reality of the sergeant and the domobran seemed more real than the one they lost in the centuries-old colonial pattern of foreign presence within the country. For men caught in this kind of a bureaucratic machine. is never accomplished. In the train that transported soldiers closer to Bistrica Lesna. he witnessed a fight among the soldiers and saw an army officer killing a private. His identity search. but are convenient labels superimposed by their imperial owners— a logical product of the “feudal mist” that has covered Croatia for at least four hundred years.again a nobody with no right to interfere with a brave warrior. The triumph of such a reified and objectified reality over human lives is evident in further development of Loborec’s selfless self. his right to live. Forced to “chose” between execution and being sent to the front. He is shot in the battle and dies before any ghost of his sacred rights had a chance to appear before his eyes. however. out of his control. the domobran feels the same anger and helpless rage already familiar to him. to tease out that hidden layer of his sacred rights that had been taken away once and for all from him and his peers. another man had been deprived of his sacred rights. Loborec Štef decided to go to the battle. The symbolism of his death parallels the set of unanswered questions that made up his life without a sense of self. At the moment of his death. in the death of an innocent soldier. It remaines unfulfilled because it istrapped between the poles of the proscribed and the prescribed of the bureaucratic empire.of being a “flea-market thief”-. imposed on him as part of his historical obligations. in another senseless homicide. They simply do not remember what it ever meant to be Croatian by means of freely inhabiting their own land. Although he grasped the fact that he would not be able to single out those who 209 . None of these characterizations actually correspond with the reality of the people to whom they are attached.
he feared the cannon-balls and bullets coming in his direction. zaklonjen nečijom lešinom. bloody and angry.. Like a tamed animal. into the mud. Njegove puške nije bilo nigdje..domislio se Loborec i posegnuo za svojom puškom. they stole his shoes. ona je ostala u jarku. the bloody bastard. (38-39)* * . to grab a rifle and start shooting at those criminals back in the rear-. koji je mutno osjećao da mu je učinjeno krivo i da bi bilo poštenije. into nothing! What harm had he done to anyone? They took away his six-week leave and pushed his own wife away from him with a rifle-butt.had deprived him of his rights in his hopeless struggle against the phantoms. dragging his body from hospital to hospital. Do onog časa on je još uvijek bio čovjek.at everybody. and now. Loborec died confused and unable even to direct his anger toward his killers: . without his gun. lying covered by someone’s corpse. Is he going to put up with this any more? Is he going to permit everybody to do whatever they please to hurt him? He traveled full speed in a stream engine of the battle. da se obori na one fakine i peke. i on je tu. thought Loborec reaching for his rifle. Up to this moment. His rifle was nowhere to be found. mater mu krvavu. and he was here.To netko baš po meni strelja.. convinced that somebody is tying to shoot him. he had still been a man who intuitively felt that an injustice has been done to him. on top of everything. ležao bez puške. liferante i kadraše 210 . from the general to the battalion shoemaker. smugglers and swindlers. It was left behind in a trench. . He felt that it would be fair if he were to attack those hooligans and thieves. into raspberry bushes. next to an army-barrack fence! They almost mutilated him. they are still shooting at him? Let us see what Štef Loborec is capable of. he grabbed the rifle he found and started to shoot into the mist..Somebody is shooting at me. With his face thrust under an unknown Hungarian’s overcoat.
and that there is “something” out there. Loborec keeps cursing at an unknown but omnipresent IT.. i sada još po njemu strijelja? Da vidimo Štefa Loborca. (38-39) 211 . u blato. into raspberry bushes. aiming at him. Also. instead it threw him into the recovery ward” (19). hoće li on dugo da trpi. before he “realized” that somebody was shooting.. ready to get him and punish him for some nonexistent crime.” (19) /”[he] got typhus. Kao pitomo blašče on se bojao te vatre. Krleža mentions that mysterious IT which always appears to be crucial in shaping the heroes’ lives. That impersonal IT was švindlere. a performative important in understanding Krleža’s treatment of the specifics of the Habsburg colonial paradigm. u ništa! Komu je on što skrivio? Njemu su oteli njegov šestonedjeljni dopust. 38).. Confused and infuriated. da baš svi po njemu lupaju?. In the excerpt quoted.. Loborec reflects upon the inhumane conditions invoking IT. in the midst of yet another transfer (“[he] started to shoot into the mist. ali zarivši sada njušku pod zelenu kabanicu nepoznatog madžarskog mrtvaca. a bullet or a piece of shrapnel hit the shovel he held in his hands and threw into the air. he addressed it in an impersonal form: (“[on] se razbolio od tifusa. into the mud. po špitalima su ga povlačili. an impersonal entity. from the space outside of his world—governing his destiny. ukrali su mu cipele. In order to single out the agency which manipulated his life and his daily routine. raskrvavljen i razdražen u dubokom osvjedočenju. into nothing!”). an entity that speaks from the beyond. In the novella. but he did not die. Looking at the shovel ejected from his hands and flying away from him. On je putovao na parostroju bitke punim tempom.The objectified reality and imposed obligations that circumscribe the space of our hero’s existence are summarized by an impersonal pronoun IT. During his stay in the military hospital. da to netko upravo po njemu puca. Loborec senses that he is being shoot at. was dying for a long time. Loborec commented: “it took it away” (odnijelo je. nego ga bacilo u oporavni odio. u kupine. da uzme pušku i da počme streljati sve one lopove u pozadini od generala do bataljonskog šustera. dugo umirao i nije umro. i ženu su mu ro enu odbili od njega kundakom kod plota kasarnskoga! Razmrcvarili su ga. on je pograbio pušku i stao da strelja u maglu.
Good Friday 1919. In Memory of Karl Liebknecht O.the Croatian god Mars. 212 . Big Headless Something. The ill-fated bird of darkness. Big Headless Something. cursed be your name. the blind owl-bird. Krleža wrote one of his best-known and most frequently interpreted poems. IT. forever and ever! Bloody nails again fester on a human hand.. It directly shapes Croatian reality for individuals removed into that irresistible space of history. representing a category of alienation and of an omnipotent and omnipresent entity. “It” a world seen from beyond and above The usage of an impersonal IT is constant throughout Krleža’s writing. The author was an admirer of Karl Liebknecht.. forever and ever! . Four days after Liebknecht’s assassination. the poem also speaks of Croatia’s subcolonial historical condition uncovering the transcendent nature of the centuries-old oppression of the region. In the bloody slavish light of a red police lamp. the irresistible power of the distant empire that made war and turned all the domobrans into non-beings. on January 9. O. entitled: “Good Friday 1919. and the ill-fated bird of darkness sings a deadly song. what is there left for a Croat to do? He swallows Croatian tears. Perhaps the best examples of IT are to be found in Krleža’s early poetry. 1919.” Aside from addressing the impersonal IT. cursed be your name.
..Veliko Bezglavo Nešto.18 Written in blank verse. prokleto ime tvoje u sve vijeke vjekova! . veliko Bezglavo Nešto. the poem belongs * Veliki Petak 1919 Karlu Liebknechtu u spomen O.salty and bitter salt. slanu i gorku sol.. a zloguka ptica tmine mrtvačku pjesan poje. što može hrvatski čovjek? On hrvatske guta suze. razapet biti dovijek? U krvavom uzničkom svijetlu crvene pandurske lampe.. It is quoted here to parallel the novella Bitka kod Bistrice Lesne.either as the unknown “something. what can a Croat do on a European Good Friday? ( Poetry 106-107)* The central motifs of the poem speak of the marginal position of Croatia in the European constellation and illuminate Krleža’s concept of its sub-colonial structure. This mysterious entity familiar to his protagonists appears in Krleža’s opus in two basic forms -. (Poezija 106-107) 213 . naked and humiliated the Ideal.” Such a “someone” also appears in another Krleža’s poem “Jesenja pjesma “ (“The Autumn Poem”). u sve vijeke vjekova! Krvavi čavli opet čovječju ruku gnoje. or as an unknown “someone.” an IT. što može hrvatski čovjek. and in part because of the ispronounced presence of IT. gol. O. White and hated. Ideal hoće li bijeli prezren i popljuvan. U krvavom uzničkom svijetlu crvene pandurske lampe. Zloguka ptica tmine. slijepa ptica sova. prokleto ime tvoje. that entity whose importance Krleža underscores by naming it Veliko Bezglavo Nešto (The Big Headless Something). will it stay crucified forever? In the bloody slavish light of a red police lamp. na Evropski Veliki Petak.
to Krleža’s war poems and describes a subject’s personal visions of the fall. Under a heavy artillery attack. Loborec experiences a sensation that he compares to experiencing snow. The motif of an unknown someone. from above. The first perspective. 35). The distribution of these two mysterious categories of unknown agency in The Battle of Bistrica Lesna gives the narrative that final touch of totalitarianism. like the foreign presence within Croatia. Loborec is covered with soil and sand: “Zemlja se sipa kao da je netko lopatom baca. and all that smoke and that mud.” “The soil flies around and seeps as if someone were throwing it around with a shovel. IT. Pesek Mato. The second one. An Unknown Someone brought the Autumn into the Northern Room ). Using personification as his main strategy. i sav taj dim i to blato. and from the beyond. The IT that Loborec Štef constantly in pursues finally appeares in the shape of a “someone” similar to the “someone” who brought the autumn in the northern room in Krleža’s poem. The distribution of Krleža’s IT as an alien agency merges the last two parts of the novella into a single semantic unit whose discursive space is delimited by these three parallel manifestations of IT. speaks from three different perspectives: from beneath. Such extreme situations narrate the existential. highlights the secretive atmosphere of uncertainty underlying his sense of self and of the world (Nepoznat Netko donio je Jesen u Sjevernu Sobu. The person 214 . Krleža introduces the feeling of uncertainty and indeterminacy involved in his own understanding of the world. and they are usually characterized as motivated by that unknown but natural force of IT. hierarchical and strategic edge of character’s life. from above. from below. belongs to those in charge of the foot soldiers’ destinies.his platoon leader. the loci of IT on the broader narrative map of the battle inform the readers about the colonial mechanisms of Habsburg history depicted by the author. it is all so deaf-mute and quiet” (Hrvatski bog Mars. sve je to tako gluhonijemo i tiho.. More precisely. employed as the constitutive lyric element of the poem.. belongs to the voices of the domobrans already familiar to us. in the last two sections of the story. Witnessing the death of another Croatian Home Guardsman -.
was a synecdoche for World War I.” an “absolute beginner. the conflict between these two military men could easily have resembled a game of chess. For our heroes. a colonel in the headquarters of His Imperial Majesty. The entire conflict. an episode in which these masters of ceremony. had equal interests in another pencil line running across hill # 313. detached from the real protagonists of the slaughter. He was the officer in charge of an army formation of Croatians who. a desolate peak with a small chapel on its top. Such a superimposed IT that speaks from above is not immediately available to the perspective of our soldiers. Their argument seemed to be of a personal nature. having been reduced to a cartographic representation. and were it not for the lives of our heroes involved. injured and destroyed infantrymen finds its false targets on the horizontal hierarchical plane of their immediate environment. make their moves oblivious to the destinies of individual pawns who had been drawn into the global conflict.who decided the destiny of our heroes in the novella was Rikard Weisersheimb. but they both knew that there would be another opportunity for them to play a new round in this war game. Von Frederiks thinks of Weisersheimb in equivalent terms. Even the ability to look above themselves is outside of their symbolic order. IT materialized itself in its final form as death. they rejoined the soil and once again became one with nature. the timeless mud of which their lives were made. These soldiers were perceived as pas215 . as well as for the lives of millions of others. His double. The Battle of Bistrica Lesna ended badly for Rikard Weisersheimb because he loses. Killed on the battlefield. All the aggression released on behalf of the humiliated. the commander-in-chief of the Russians. Baron von Frederiks. Franz Joseph. exist only as a faint red line drawn in pencil. Ritter von Reichlin-Meldegg und Hochenthurm. because the IT that concerned them and guiding their pencils was not the same IT that oppressed our heroes. in contrast. The reason these “superiors” gave for their argument and battle was their mutual disrespect. from Krleža’s perspective.” and “ignorant” (30). Baron von Frederiks was not such an idiot after all. Weisersheimb deeply believes that Baron von Frederiks is an “idiot. closer than ever to their Pannonian mud.
a mirror. vaccinated. a country strangled by the feudal mist of centuries. Men. dvadeset i četiri krune. are treated as specimens. ostalo iza njega u prilogu: dva pisma. with the earth. Križ Matija. or their remains. * Ro en. Franz Joseph’s missionary in charge of the military situation in the southern provinces of the empire. This particular IT seems to speak literally from the beyond. (39)* The end of the collective journey of those seven domobrans is a logical consequence of their lives. The third and final impersonal IT of the last two sections of the story is personified once more as the coroner Palčić. pao. whose protocols are written in the military mortuary. džepni nož.sive colonized objects by the superimposed IT incorporated in Rikard Weisersheimb. as tidy elements of the paper-work that needs to be done to confirm and to document the continuity of the foreign hegemony whose impact defines the reality of one of the South Central European colonies. ogledalo. and their memories canonized. and unable to define their own realm of culture which would enable them as subjects to postulate their own identity. twenty four crowns. the statistics and the administrative language of the Empire’s prescribed literally have the final word. The collective death of the seven domobrans in Krleža’s novella thus stands for the ultimate defeat of Croatia. (39) 216 . telling the post-mortem histories of the domobrans. is described in following terms: Born. in the liminal space between the proscribed and the prescribed. The death of a third soldier. a pocket-knife. from another separated reality from where the deeds of all the dead can finally be codified. They were unified with their natural environment. cijepljen. killed. Governed and approved by endless protocols composed by numerous clerks (the emperor’s missionaries) their deaths and lives find record in a box on yet another form attached to still another “official” protocol. This time. still very alive and real in the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. his belongings available in the supplement: two letters.
Finally. the coroner’s narrative once and for all places Križ Matija and his dead comrades into the formulaic taxonomy of his books of the dead. deprived of their own language and voices. The seemingly calm and precise Austro-Hungarian administration had finally managed to produce a set of formulaic testimonies about “reasonable expectations” imposed on their soldiers that might convince contemporary observers that all its affairs are handled in a proper and dignified way. In contrast.The letters sent by Križ Matija’s two lovers from his village illustrate the level of illiteracy among the commoners and reaffirm the poor state of Croatian reality at the beginning of the twentieth century. promises the future. but our intimations of exceeding the barrier or boundary--the very act of going beyond --are unknowable. they are granted the eternal peace. a post-mortem space in which all the particles of their scattered selves were named and codified. seven domobrans. but not from a beyond that could allow for oppressed groups to transcend their immediate conditions and step out of the boundaries of their underrepresentation within the empire. The last IT in the novella thus speaks from the beyond. For Homi Bhabha. Although individuals belong to the present. Even though they are nominally in a better position be217 . “’beyond’ signifies spatial distance. Their quotidian selves remained covered with numerous layers of fulfilled and unfulfilled expectations. the “we” in Bhabha’s narrative behaves the same way Krleža’s domobrans do. summarized in the totalitarian syndrome of the prescribed. marks progress. without a return to the ‘present’ which. The reader is thus brought to see that the official reports on the deceased are no different from their daily struggles. at the cost of the silence that followed their lives. becomes disjunct and displaced” (The Location of Culture 4). In spite of the existence of such a theater in which the “actors” may claim their sacred rights to earned sick leave or a decent pair of military boots. entered yet another reality. The category of “the beyond” is very important for any individual who seeks to transcend the limitations of the self under the conditions in which this same self is circumscribed by authorities who impose their language on that individual. unrepresentable. in the process of repetition.
cause they have the “present” to count on, to perform in, and to define themselves against its qualities, the step toward the realm of the beyond, toward a utopia, a new version of life, does not seem to be easy. And this step is a necessary move, one which would enable an equal discussion between the colonial other and its oppressors. Although Bhabha may have thought of a different geopolitical scheme in addressing the necessity of speaking from “beyond” empirical reality, the imperial presence within Croatian borders in the times of our dead heroes calls for such a move directed toward a “beyond,” toward a reality that could transcend the situation and liberate the discursive and performative space that would facilitate a process of self-recognition for the people trapped in the Pannonian mud. Unfortunately, that “beyond” for Krleža’s heroes was available only as a definite retrospective, narrated post-mortem, from a different ontic space. Those silent and silenced die without even having a chance to feel that crucial realm of the “beyond,” a space which would have allowed them to transcend their immediate reality. Such a transcendent step may be possible in the Post-Communist condition–in the post-colonial situation, in today’s Central Europe and its possibilities will be outlined in the concluding chapter. However, in Krleža’s times, the recognition of its necessity was the exclusive property of a few Croatian intellectuals, whose horizons, like Krleža’s, were broad enough to encompass many facets of the long-lasting oppression. Aware of the gravity of the sub-colonial reality of his people, Krleža ends his novella on a very pessimistic note: The obituaries are falling onto the division coroner’s desk like rain, followed by letters and pleas written by the late domobrans. And all of that the pupil Palèiæ is reading and registering, everything is already over, and there is no medical or legal way to remedy that. Nothing can be changed or revoked any more. Not only did Trdak Vid end up here with his unfinished protocol, on which he forgot to write URGENT MATTER, but also his six friends from the Second Division of the Second Company. Brigades and divisions of
the dead walked through these crossword puzzles written by the coroner. And they are still marching toward infinity, mute, bowed down, miserable and, although innocent, sentenced to death. They are walking in quadruple military formations in a deaf stampede of endless nocturnal convoys, their equipment, their guns, shovels and knives, all banging. One can hear how they pull their shoes from the mud. The division coroner stopped adding and subtracting for a moment, pricked up his ears like a dog, and caught his breath when some horrifying clarity appeared before his eyes. There, outside, the miners from Zagorje are marching. The miners who have been swallowing charcoal and disgusting smells, poisonous gases, all having climbed out of their collective grave, lit their oil lamps, and now they are silently walking lined up in a double file, going into another cave, this time without a way back. The wine-growers from Podravina, and peasants from Stubica, the grandchildren of Matija Gubec,19 they are all marching outside in the darkness, and they will all return back here to his coroner’s desk. And he will read their love letters and petitions, he will look at those horrible barbarous snapshots, search through the documents, and there will never be an end to it. (43-44)*
* Padaju smrtovnice na stol divizijskog mrtvozornika kao kiša, a sa smrtovnicama pisma i molbenice pokojnih domobrana, i sve to ak Palčić čita, registrira, i sve je to svršeno i svemu tome nema više ni medicinskog ni pravnog lijeka, ni utoka ni priziva. Nije samo tu ostao Trdak Vid sa šest svojih pajdaša iz drugoga voda druge satnije, sa svojom molbenicom, na koju je zaboravio napisati da moli brzo uredovanje, brigade i divizije mrtvaca prošetale su se kroz ove skrižaljke i stupaju dalje u beskonačnost, nijeme, pognute, jadne, nevino osu ene na smrt. Idu u četvororedovima, u gluhom topotu beskrajnih noćnih kolona, tucka im oprema, manliherice, lopate, noževi, čuje se kako izvlače bakandže iz blata, pak je divizijski mrtvozornik zastao na čas u zbrajanju, naćulio uši kao pas i zaustavio dah od stravične neke jasnoće. Eto, vani stupaju zagorski rudari, što su čitav svoj život gutali ča u i smrad i otrovne plinove, ustali su iz jednoga groba, zapalili svoje uljenice i idu tiho u
The battle that our heroes had to fight was lost in advance. As pawns in the chess-game between the two imperial missionaries, the Austrian Weisersheimb and the Russian von Fredericks, 20 invisible from their heights, our domobrans ended their tragi-comic lives defeated by the paper phantoms of the construed reality imposed on them by the global geo-political mechanics of kingdoms whose paths crossed on the intersection between the East and the West. Since they never had a chance to become individuals, their lack of individuation as personae (as well as literary characters) is described at the very end of the novella, when a collective hero, built up of a plenitude of layers of centuries-old oppression, marches toward infinity. The collective entity that epitomizes the entirety of Croatia is affected by the same historical destiny whose paths inevitably lead toward a tragic outcome, toward a collective death. The final march of the dead, as described in the novella, has a clear pragmatic function. It signals Krleža’s own vision of Croatia’s future, a temporal category otherwise absent from the narrative. Depicting Croatia and its colonial history as a waste land, Krleža laments its subhuman and subcolonial conditions in the early twentieth century as an unfortunate historical strata in disagreement with the global geopolitical strategies whose dynamics after 1918 were otherwise marked by a new era of decolonization. Instead of finding the Danube, an artery that could lead out of their timeless circle, many a marginal Central European group will remain in the Pannonian mud long after the death of Krleža’s domobrans took place.
dvoredu u drugu jamu i u nepovrat. I vinogradari podravski i težaci stubički, unuci Matije Gubca, svi oni stupaju vani u tmini i svi će se oni vratiti natrag ovamo na njegov mrtvozornički stol. I on će čitati njihova ljubavna pisma, molbenice, gledati one strašne barbarske fotografije, listati dokumentima, i nikada tome neće biti kraja. (Hrvatski bog Mars 44)
A colonial perspective from below
Krleža as Central European Other Aside from its role in the corpus of modern Croatian literature, Hrvatski bog Mars also has its distinctive position within the broader space of Central European literature. To this point the focus has been on Krleža’s narrative and its importance in revealing the colonial situation of Croatia within the Dual Monarchy as a historical and psychological phenomenon. There are, however, two specific additional problems that arise from Krleža’s own understanding of Central Europe, as well as from his practical treatment of the colonial metaphor, largely exploited in his description of the Croatian sub-colonial agony. Despite his all-encompassing role in twentieth-century Croatian literature, Miroslav Krleža demonstrates some curious limitations in understanding his place on the European as well as the global literary map. His first problem was determining his own identity as an author and articulating a free system of signs for establishing a bilateral communication with the world. To a great extent, his difficulty was due to the marginal position of his native culture. Even writers from comparatively richer cultural and literary traditions, such as the Czech Milan Kundera, struggled to define their Central Europeanness against the double colonial dynamics imposed by the West and the East. Unlike Krleža, Kundera has at least been admitted to Central Europe as a cosmopolitan citizen. In spite of his exclusion from the mainstream corpus of Central European literary scene, however, Central Europe remained the dominant part of Krleža’s intellectual engagement and, as such, one of the most frequently discussed issues in his opus. Although he himself is an organic part of the Central European cultural strata, regardless of his lack of wider recognition by the “mainstream” European and World audience, Krleža’s outlook on the region contains specific characteristics of a writer whose homeland is marginalized and whose cultural and literary horizons can be defined as those of a “minor literature.”
Meditating upon Central European culture, Krleža prefers to define it with reference to himself as a writer, and usually refers to it as a “Central European Literary Complex.” In general terms, he considers this complex of literatures in various languages as an aggregate of a philosophy of life, or more precisely, Weltanschauung, a set of aesthetic ideas and lifestyles typical for the region. Adding his voice from the 1970s to the cacophony of intellectual wanderers who a decade later strove to define Central Europe, Krleža considers as Central European all the countries where German is spoken (Germany and Austria), as well as those populated by non-German peoples of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Sometimes he also includes the Poles and the people from the Baltic states as members of the Central European ethno-cultural community, and he is not opposed to viewing some Northern Italian regions as Central European entities (Trieste, Furlania, Veneto). The latter brings him very close to Magris’ map of the region. Krleža’s Central Europe can be divided into three partially separated aspects. First, in his work, Central Europe exists as a geographic reality and culturo-historical region. Its geography as well as the contents of its rich past and tradition, still present in the social reality of the region, retain privileged places in Krleža’s narratives. Moreover, they form almost the exclusive frame of his prose, from his earliest novellas to his last five-volume novel of epic dimensions, Zastave (The Banners, 1967-77). Second, Central Europe appears as a culturo-geographical term repeatedly present in Krleža’s essays, which are usually written with a pronounced awareness of Karl Kraus’s style. Krleža viewed Kraus as a unique figure in early 20th century European cultural life and respected his brave style and sharp humor. Very often, Krleža saw Kraus as an embodiment of the term “literature of engagement.”21 Third, every analysis of Krleža’s complete opus (an ambitious project that could only be accomplished by a team of competent writers, critics, historians, journalists, linguists, literary theoreticians, philosophers, biographers, bibliographers, and lexicographers) could not escape noticing the profound interconnections between the cultural, aesthetic and geopolitical codes of Central Europe and Krleža’s own aestheticized
and other larger Croatian cities followed the urban and architectural styles of Vienna from the epoch of so-called Ringstrassenčra. disappointment and failure. it is interesting to stress that this Central European environment feels natural to Krleža’s characters. vogue and aesthetic outlooks in those peripheral urban centers were strongly shaped according to the mainstream code dictated in Vienna and Budapest. followed by unsuccessful social revolutions and fallen fascist regimes. Even at the Empire’s peripheries.23 Still. Croatia. Krleža’s spontaneously embraced the image of Central Europe as the focus of his professional and personal interests.24 223 . in which Germany and Austro-Hungary—after being united in the common front of Axis Powers—also shared the consequences of the defeat of their ideology. and the architecture of Zagreb. cultural and political life in Vienna and Budapest. incorporated in his variety of narrative strategies which attempt to undercut the narratives imposed upon his region. Furthermore. Rijeka. belonged to Central Europe. Croatia. In spite of loud and aggressive disagreements with the political ideas and aesthetic standards so typical of cultural life in Zagreb. As an integral part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its educational system was based on use of the German language. Croatia’s overall orientation was aimed toward Vienna. and the Monarchy alike (disagreements which he never hesitated to express in his public activities). unless the fictional reality of his narratives is absolutely fictitious and located in a utopia. culturally and geopolitically.symbolic order. At the time of Krleža’s birth as well as throughout his early adolescence.22 the textual map of his books is situated in Central European cities and landscapes. The illusion of Central European cultural and political unity was further reinforced by World War I and its aftermath. Krleža’s formative years passed in such a social and cultural environment. creating the illusion of a continuity of imperial cultural and geopolitical space. The collapse of the Monarchy and its military debacle. lifestyle. His essays speak to his high level of familiarity with the social. Osijek. have driven those countries further away from Western Europe into a liminal space of the Occident. while their every trip further to the West ends in a disillusion.
Krleža’s move can also be seen as an expression of his opportunism. Krleža employed several new markers whose role was to promote the new nation’s multicultural identity based on a legacy of socialist revolution: so. and the standing tomb-stones of the Bogumils—an original Bosnian religious sect whose doctrine was unique and did not correspond with the traditional dogmas of Roman Catholicism. he began to advocate the idea of a Yugoslavian cultural autonomy. The tokens symbolizing these newly-emerging values were material: gold treasures from the old Croatian town of Zadar. while its earlier position in his fiction remained intact. Krleža decided to distance himself from his earlier take on Central Europe. and every sign of appreciation for the now-proscribed region was considered a sign of decadent imperial nostalgia rather than a look toward a new political future. Krleža publicly dismissed the importance of Central Europe and tried to introduce and affirm the specific values of a new multiethnic and cross-cultural geopolitical entity. Instead of pursuing his earlier fascination with Central Europe. Krleža did not want to take the chance of opposing Tito’s official politics regarding the cultural status of the young nation in statu nascendi. Serbo-Macedonian frescos found in the numerous monasteries in South Serbia and Macedonia. His decision was to a large extent governed by the official Yugo-Communist rejection of Central Europe. Krleža’s reevaluation of Central Europe took place mainly in his essays and political writings. According to the new rulers. Since to speak of Central Europe in postwar times was considered anti-Yugoslavian propaganda.After World War II and the victory of Tito’s partisans who introduced into the region the values of yet another (this time state-capitalist) dictatorship. In spite of his powerful stature and charisma. a celebration of the “world of yesterday” and evidence of nostalgia for a time in which the newly-emerging nation of the Yugoslavs was brutally exploited by an earlier imperial hegemony. Greek Orthodoxy or Islam. In Krleža’s symbolic order. these items occupied the vacant places pre224 . benevolently called Socialism. Yugoslavia. there was no difference between Mitteleuropa and Central Europe. for example. As the director of the Yugoslav Institute for Lexicography and the founding father of Encyclopedia Yugoslavica.
when both the empires. however. He even goes that far to claim that engagement cannot be found in Kafka’s. (3) finally. Krleža repeats his negative feelings toward Central Europe. reserved for the “bigger” names such as Kraus. Kafka. his personal sense of exclusion from mainstream Central European literature. according to the Croatian author. In the conversations with Predrag Matvejević. His post-World-War II verbatim negation of a Central European cultural complex and its autonomy should not. were in inevitable agony” (Stari i novi razgovori s Krležom. which was partially due to his suppressed belief in the World Revolution and partially a sliver of a collective feeling of Tito’s totalitarian presence within the country whose official values were not to be disputed. and. on his new (or alternative) cultural map. Musil. and Herman Broch. discourage Krleža’s interpreters and critics from taking the cultural logic of Central Europe as the point of departure for their analysis of his opus. in his pronounced engagement—in a distinct quality to which he claims the exclusive property in relation to these other authors. better imperialistic/czarist/slogan from 1915. He calls Mitteleuropa the “pan-Germanic political or. they became the spiritual as well as cultural foundation for Krleža’s own justification of his place in new Yugoslavia. Further.viously reserved for Central Europe. 25 Krleža goes so far as to equate Central Europe with the war aspirations of the Axis Powers in World War I. Robert Musil. In his late phase. Musil’s. Krleža’s post-World-War-II denial of Central Europe. in spite of their battles. and Broch’s writings. Not only is his work analogous to the mainstream dynamics of Central Euro225 . he negates his earlier idea about the aesthetic and morphological specificities of Central European literature and insists that a line needs to be drawn between him and his personal aesthetics and the dominant artistic codes of Franz Kafka. (2) his anger toward the centuries-old colonization of Croatia described in the analysis of Bitka kod Bistrice Lesne. The difference between Krleža and his Central European colleagues is. [Old and New Conversations with Krleža] (117)). and Broch. is thus most probably a composite of several factors among which the most pronounced are three: (1) his fairly opportunistic but not defeatist public performance in Tito’s Yugoslavia.
From the perspective of Russian and Western European writers. as well as readiness to successfully replace it by a cultural strata characterize not only Krleža. a well-known structure among the Central European writers. in Krleža’s opus. Banket u Blitvi (1938-64). poems. 226 . and theater plays. but all the writers mentioned in this study. The discrepancy between his desire to define and explain Central Europe driven by his thirst for canonizing the permanently escaping nature of this protean landscape. the similarities between his anti-utopian Blitva and Musil’s Kakania. His treatment of World War I. and his obvious willingness to resign his analytic aspirations followed by his adoration of Central European geopolitical indeterminacy. as seen in Bitka kod Bistrice Lesne. his everymen in Bitka kod Bistrice Lesne resembling an existentially reduced epic modification of Hasek’s good soldier Svejk. He also shows a strong longing for an “absolute” and a search for firm categories to define the turbulent reality of the region. prose. especially Karl Kraus’ Last Days of Mankind. Krleža’s future attains almost the dimensions of a later socialist utopia. Krleža also shares with his Central European colleagues the same rich philosophical background. Regardless of these mainstream European literary dynamics. and his theater plays heavily influenced by works of Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg—Scandinavians whose aesthetics shaped the artistic taste and literary atmosphere of Central Europe up to date). and the frequent employment of relevant and trendy philosophical insights in his essays. Aside from these thematic similarities. including Magris. who turned the geographical Danube into a multiple text of history. regardless of their political orientation—from Zionism through Radical Constructivism. contain a variety of scenes which take place between 1914 and 1918. a pronounced tendency toward intellectualizing. and Zastave (1967-77). too parallels the apocalyptic visions so familiar from other Central European narratives. World War I lost its status as a constituent literary material much faster than in Central Europe.pean literature of the twentieth century (for example. Even his latest novels. World War I remained a central topic long after it was considered exhausted by Western writers. his poetic visions of World War I corresponding with Georg Trakl’s.
French and Dutch. Napoleon’s army. representing the imagined reality of the Orient in order to escape the European frame. Both are paternalistic and uttered from above. illustrate Krleža’s limitations in understanding the consequences of global scale colonization. a state of affairs that Krleža associates with the turbulent regional past. in which the author uses colonial language to describe the situation in his country while actually reenacting it. Krleža is a central marginal figure from the region’s southern borders. His first perspective sounds benevolent and somewhat romantic. his position also limited his perspective on his frequent use of colonial metaphor. non-European loci. Several examples. seems only to have contextual meaning for his work. Although the author demonstrates great precision in criticizing the Habsburgs as well as their predecessors (The Ottoman Empire. Krleža recognized the importance of employing colonial terminology in order to communicate the subhuman conditions experienced in Croatia. Unfortunatelly. Deeply concerned by the collective tragedy of his people. he is oblivious to the danger of perpetuating the same colonial metaphors used to depict Croatian reality. Such obliviousness caused him to produce and reproduce stereotypes in comparing his country with other. a gigantic intellectual whose position as a hegemon in a small but rich culture with an impressive literacy enabled him to define Croatian culture. His recognition of Croatia’s subcolonial conditions. Yet the employment of these metaphors is just another way for the author to escape the essentially utopian cultural strata of Central Europe by creating different. and limited his possible exploration of other modes of introducing authentic historical narratives of Croatia. What is outrageous for Croatia as part of Europe (its sub-colonial reality) seems to be normal for some African and Asian localities. due to the centuries-old colonial treatment of his country by the superpowers. even the Romans) for their long-standing colonization of South Central Europe. His perspectives regarding colonial metaphors can be divided in two. more exotic 227 .Despite his uncertainties regarding Central Europe. a country in the heart of Europe whose destiny in many ways paralleled that of the more remote lands colonized by the British.
more benevolent symptoms of Krleža’s Occidentalism are found in his widely-read and highly-acclaimed novella Cvrčak pod vodopadom26 (The Cricket Beneath the Waterfall). In this monologue. where one can hear from behind the wall a broken water tank of an adjoining toilet. the Egyptian moonlights. here there is nothing but the stench of wet rubbers and melted snow. as tempting as the most expensive candies. he suffers the horrifying visions of the mutilated war victims. like some distant waterfall. are addressing themselves to me. however. Trying to escape from his deceased friends who. To spend Christmas in Aswan does not seem so bad. recapitulates his life in an inner monologue. He dreams of an escapes: Why in the world should I care whether “there is such a thing as literature without political commitment?” The travel agencies on the other hand. The first. with their colorful brochures.. And the twenty thousand drugs. a disillusioned intellectual.modernist introspective narrative in which the main character. halcyon skies. thus detaching it from Europe.. hospitalized in a mental institution. he is convinced. women.. Here. Thematically and structurally different from his early war prose.cruise ships. inviting me most hospitably to spend Easter in Florence or Christmas in Egypt. in this stuffy waiting room. wrapped in their silvery foil and cellophane. detached from the realities of their worlds on the fantastic principles of leisure similar to Magris’ utopias of travel and hotels. It actually undermines his credibility in writing about Croatia as an Austro-Hungarian colony. pills-they all prefigure a relief 228 . recorded by his doctor. follow him. holy wafers.. The second perspective is more explicitly subversive for Krleža. the motif of a cricket and a closing scene which takes place in a toilet are new naturalist moments in the author’s narrative evolution.27 The story itself is a high. he hallucinates communicating with the dead. Random and arbitrary statements about the so-called Third world are used to illustrate the backwardness and historical displacement of Croatia on the global geopolitical map.utopias.
interested in aesthetics. (The Cricket Beneath the Waterfall 36) Since he could not travel geographically while retaining nominal possession of an identity as a Croatian intellectual. Once again. Such faked individuation is. the usual pattern of developing cultural identities—in a context where a nation is superimposed over a culture and in which the necessary strategic space of the beyond is still non-existent— depends on individuals like Krleža’s character to provide their “essential” images and to connect the inhabitants of the region by defining themselves against other. rather than to be possessed by an emerging Yugoslav national and political construct. in this history of a South Central Europe on its way to democracy. Exiled mentally29 from the environment usually called by Krleža the “Pannonian mud. According to Krleža. however. headaches. in fact. our hero is experienced enough to recognize familiar totalitarian mechanisms within the newly-emerging Yugoslav nationalistic context. and Slovenes. this intellectual decides to take a mental trip in order to fence himself off within the borders of his temporarily lunatic creativity -. an individual is removed from the new scene of the nation-state to the ou-topos of a madhouse.”this fictional traveler represents a marginalized Croatian intelligentsia. every “I” has to place himself/herself against others -.to possess himself in a negative way. already at issue in the 1930s Serbian. Still. In consequence. surrounded by this new totalitarianism. in order to become an individual. the mind traveler is. and depression. and is deeply marked by the World War I wounds that decimated his generation. A negator of such a reality. too transparent and pedestrian for Krleža: he sees that. In his personal survival-game. different nations.30 their escapism individually transcends the colonial political reality of the country and negates its true dimensions as they refuse to face its facticity.from insomnia. from bad digestion.dominated Kingdom of Serbs. privileging art over daily politics.either as allies (if they belong to the same group) or as enemies (if they are on the opposite sides of the 229 . Croats. Krleža’s character decided to browse through his own private mental travel agency.
a model which obviously worked (and still works) for the imaginative mapping of Central Europe on the national and cultural level -. this Central European still uses a colonial metaphor in order to write about his own displacement out of the geopolitical order. Politically and mentally excommunicated from an environment which never belonged to itself. It is so. he is defining him230 . His journey to the Orient is as determining of his Occidental identity as any of the colonial fantasies of Western Europe. either as an ethnic or political entity. He is aware that such an essentialist process is innapropriate for a real individuation to take place.World-War-I Yugoslavia. Being trapped within such a false hinter .nationalist game of individuation in post. the Croatian elite) on the individual level. This vicious circle of colonial metaphor does not allow him to see any further. he chose to define himself through otherness. In his case this process seems comparatively harmless. women. and relies on a frantic search for better (that is. his imagination may be re-colonized by the new owners of his immediate empirical reality. for an individual to have an identity. the voice in his hallucination uses a distinctly colonial model of mental excavation to define his desired geography. Still. more exotic) spaces. but only to alien agencies from the Roman to the Soviet Empire (Central Europe). He simply dreams of going to Aswan. as well. Krleža’s character believes that. holy wafers). From the repertoire of his exotic dream (the Egyptian moonlights. s/he has to perform the same kind of act as the nation does. Krleža’s character decided to look for another. new purposes. except that he becomes temporarily insane when he “goes” there.. cruise ships.fence). whose images are mixed with the halucinatory ones of halcyon skies. better place to activate his new and (he hoped) contextually-inappropriate self. because this process is a product of a particular environment in which. he (like Krleža at the time of writing the novella) does not want to appropriate the country for his own. In his immediate empirical reality..worked for Central Europeans (in this case. it is clear that the same colonial model -. unless he exiles himself voluntarily. unable to give up essentialist concepts. Yet on his way to his own peace. Unlike his immediate environment.
consequentially. but rather through comparing themselves with their cultural and ethnic neighbors. abstract. A colonialist (or Occidentalist) reference to Aswan allows Krleža’s character to create a fictitious self. As an application of such a circular strategy. When language renames such models instead of transcending them. was the class. generated and conducted by a powerful minority in control of the state(s).self in terms of the essentialist concepts of identity still alive within his empirical reality. but. Everything forbidden under communism is allowed in neo-nationalism and vice versa. Such a simple substitution and renaming of the values allows the continuity of terror. They can follow the paradigm shift (the end of the Cold War for instance) only by renaming the already existing models. since it is trapped in a solipsistic viewpoint. Because of Central Europeans’ intrinsic inability to overcome that negative search for identity. In nationalism. reborn nationalisms take the empty space of communism while perpetuating the same model of oppression. Krleža’s 1930 narrative surpasses its immediate time-frame and offers a diagnosis relevant for the contemporary and ongoing identity crisis in Central Europe. nor can they properly address the resurgence of nationalism in post-communist condition marked by the (re)emergence of seemingly new nations. trapped in the realm of language. then. In this sense. detailing via negationis. that renaming remains static. In communism the sacred entity. On the theoretical level. what did their neighbors fail to accomplish and. regardless how poetic the intended meanings may seem. Krleža’s character’s purportedly liberating colonial dream merely perpetuates the cycle. it merely perpetuates the limits of their concepts. these essentialist concepts of a “true” Central Europe cannot solve the problem of colonial subordination in the times of the foreign presence. manifested through defining people not in terms of who they are. it does not provide either him or others with a reality or historical reference that they can either consume or share. who did they fail to become (each of them individually and all as a group). In such a process. it is the nation. 231 . that ifviolated becomes the blueprint for repression and physical elimination.
kineske glorijete nad tihim ogledalom jezerca. and there: the worst imaginable misery. Here a library dressed in bronze and marble with several hundreds of thousand volumes. forgotten somewhere far away on the Turkish border. again underline the danger of using a language not to communicate and create a new discursive reality— qualitatively different and more progressive that the present one—but to rename already existing models and thus perpetuate their conceptual limitations. (Ten Years Soaked in Blood 125-26)* * U centru ulice asfaltirane. When in his book Deset krvavih godina (Ten Years Soaked in Blood). nego kući u bilo kakvom. in shacks much closer to those found in the Congo than to a house.Other examples. Azija i tifus: najbanalnija provincija zaostale. provincial and backward peasant land lying in a swamp. pak i najskromnijem civiliziranom smislu. močvarne seljačke zemlje. Chinese temples reflected in the quiet mirror of the pond. tu polijevanje pločnika elektromobilima. even in the lowest civilized sense possible. In the center of the city. in some God-forsaken place. People cry in open wagons. u ga enja dostojnim straćarama od dasaka i nakatranjene hartije. greenhouses with tropical flowers. streets are asphalted: here city lights. the Botanical Garden with Alpine flora. and maps. tu biblioteka sva u bronci i u mramoru sa nekoliko stotina hiljada svezaka. a sto metara od te biblioteke žabokrečina. u barakama koje su mnogo bliže Kongu. incunabula. But only a hundred meters away. kada je naš 232 . “electromobiles” wash the roads. pond-scum. ljudi jadikuju u otvorenim vagonima. when our Capital. Krleža describes Zagreb as a Central European city. together with all the other towns. Asia and typhus. U centru Botanički vrt s alpinskom florom. inkunabula i folijanata. live in disgusting cabins made of raw lumber and cardboard. just like it used to be several hundred years ago. in which Krleža’s treatment of colonial vocabulary serves the purpose of depicting poor Croatian reality. tu staklenici sa tropskim biljem. kao prije nekoliko stotina godina. a tamo: stambena bijeda najgore vrste. he writes: In the center of the city. the most banal. tu velegradska rasvjeta. was a pitiful country town.
and Antonio Gramsci— Krleža was also a cosmopolitan.is a typical colonial strategy for self-definition. Luxemburg. In his own words. the Congo and Asia became Krleža’s examples of uncivilized countries in which such conditions are normal. to a great extent. (Deset krvavih godina 125-26) 233 . they are not acceptable. to his desired Central Europeanness. historically and aesthetically immersed in his own colonial reality. parallels the paths of his fictional heroes. For Croatia. we should reject -. Although his outlook on the recognizable colonial directions (the East and South of the imagined center) does not diminish his unique observations regarding Southern Central Europe in general and Croatia in particular. used to describe the slavish feeling of passive resistance of the proletarian who directed his helpless anger toward Hungarian soldiers on their way to the front. Krleža’s sensitivity falls victim to familiar dynamics of cultural colonization. za božjim leđima. a Central European country. The belief that Asia is not us.Due to the state of his colonized mind. a colonization which he is otherwise capable of recognizing only in Croatia’s colonial history. zaboravljena daleko negdje na turskoj granici. In his essay Andre Gide o Kongu31 (Andre Gide Speaks About the Congo). His own imperial attitude toward colonies has no significant resonance in his ethnic or racial politics. because—as a life-long sympathizer of the Communist movement in its theoretically better versions as represented in the words of the “defeated” cosmopolitans such as Liebknecht. and to life on the margins of dominant cultures where an individual’s destiny. Krleža’s clumsiness in dealing with colonial iconography is also due to his Eurocentric position. and as such had no a priori hierarchy against which to evaluate the variety of races and ethnicities. however. Unfortunately. more universal distribution of the colonial metaphor. in spite of his own central position as an intellectual on the margins of Central Europe. and that what Asia has. he cannot find the needed “beyond” to transcend the boundaries of his own. Krleža’s dislocated use of colonial metaphors has little to do with the political reality of his ecumenical ideology. who was in serious Glavni Grad sa svim ostalim gradovima bio sažaljenja dostojna palanka. Krleža.
infused with strong feelings of sympathy for the oppressed. This improvised and partial global awareness is just another unfortunate consequence of the imagined cosmopolitanism of intellectuals in insular geopolitical regions where the dynamics of regional politics.aesthetic disagreement with Gide’s categories of “Order. It seems that. in which Gide managed to escape the expected reproduction of the colonial metaphor. rather than praising the “glittering equatorial dream in the moonlight” (Andre Gide o Kongu 4). Tito’s break with Stalin in 1948. frequently overshadow the broader. too. He sees Gide’s shift from his aestheticism to almost a journalist abruptness as a valid and human testimony of “the contemporary political. Such a general awareness of global politics. see that empathy only inverts the dialectic between “us” and “them” without transcending the circle and suggesting a new point of view. as well as intellectually. moral. This. in spite of dictating world history on many occasions (the Assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. This attempt to claim their regional identities before entering more global views may be inevitable for subjects who attempt to de-colonize their en234 . He does not. can be seen as a consequence of a captive Croatian and Yugoslavian reality in which intellectuals have always been obsessed with clarifying their confused immediate environment in order to regain their national as well as individual past. actually recognizes a racist hell and reports about it in very realistic terms.” embraces the style of the essay. Nehru’s and Nasser’s response to the global division into the NATO and Warsaw pact. colonial. real colonies were geographically. however. far away from Krleža. Krleža’s language has never de-colonized itself when speaking of different continents. In spite of his awareness regarding Croatia as a colony. the Yugoslav war in 1991). and imperial chaos” (8). global picture. Krleža was very pleased to see that Gide. compared to Krleža’s own use of the colonial metaphor may confuse his readers.” “Culture of Spiritual Values.” “Harmony. The suggested historical and strategic constellation still does not excuse him for his use of stereotypes. because of this obscure geopolitical gaze. the creation of the Union of the Non-Aligned countries in the early 1960s as Tito’s.
regardless of how artificial.” Regardless of the unique conditions of their own enslavement and “marginalization”. The river’s banks are appropriated according to the requirements of individual narratives of a literature to which Kafka refers when he meditates upon the time that needs to be regained and the Central European history that needs to be re-written. as Magris did. had no linguistic superstructure. gods and their own. Furthermore. 235 . past.vironment by writing testimonial personal narratives. Krleža can multiply himself into seven Croatian foot soldiers. for they had a clearer European image of who is “us” and who are”them. but he addresses them as an intellectual who never has spoken one of the dominant languages of the West. Even Kafka’s Josef K. At best. It was never measured against the language of a larger. their narratives illustrate that they had more than Pannonian mud as their source of frustartion. a supply sergeant. he cannot divide himself into the three competing master discourses of the West. colonial perspective by offering a travelogue in which a set of individual testimonies relocated the Danubian basin. more visible. and Hasek’s Svejk had better chances to escape their reality. Claudio Magris had managed to suspend the validity of historical narratives that described Central Europe from the external. which were for centuries their only sources for documenting South Central European reality. and achieve a solid critique of its narrative techniques. meant to replace the already existing colonial textual testimonies. and a coroner. to document the limits of his narrative representation rather than to co-opt scattered voices in order to transcend their and his reality. Krleža’s attempts to reach the “beyond” end in an act of mental self-colonization. less interrupted. with their own. Unlike Kafka’s “variety” of German. His ways of belonging to a “minor literature” are not the same as Kafka’s. dominant culture against which it could base its otherness. Krleža sees the same problems for the region. Krleža’s language of underrepresentation.
Latin (lingua latina). It was published in a periodical. Krleža reacted in his diaries entitled Davni Dani (“The Old Days”). I. “Eppur si muove. Plamen (The Flame) Vol. dedicated to Karl Liebknecht. Hungarian dominance never withdrew so that Croatia could freely develop. when the Croatian noblemen for the first time chose a Habsburg monarch for their ruler. and Croatia became subordinated to the Hungarian Crown. a region where tax-free trade was meant to allow multinational business to take place. Croatia remained under the Austrian dominance until the 1867 Ausgleich. 1976). This novella is a part of Krleža’s collection: Hrvatski bog Mars (Croatian God Mars). 3 4 5 6 7 8 236 . which was first published in 1922. This Hungarian dominance remained official until 1521. 56-60).” Nova Misao 7 (1953) 3-17. Miroslav Krleža. around which trade and hegemony were organized functioned according to languages in use: Slavic (lingua sclavenica). in his book Linguistique et colonialisme: petit traité de glottophagie. the speakers of so-called Slavic had significantly lesser chance to assert their rights using their indigenous communicative system. see Ralph Bogert. The Writer As Naysayer: Miroslav Krleža and the Aesthetics of Interwar Central Europe (Columbus. as well as of his role as a Central European intellectual figure.1 2 Unless otherwise is indicated. (Good Friday 1919). In the reality constructed by the Pacta Conventa. the Hungarian king Koloman and Croatian nobles signed the Pacta Conventa. all translations from Croatian are my own. 1919. As Louis-Jean Calvet. the Hungarian king Bela IV. This was not the first time that Croatia was under a Hungarian rule. This evaluative distribution of languages is yet another proof of colonization. After Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were killed in 1918.” He also wrote a poem entitled Veliki Petak 1919. Miroslav Krleža. which appeared as a volume of Krleža’s Collected Works.” Plamen 15 (1919) 15-28. whose direct impact for the Croatians was baptized in the Nagodba. signed just one year later. whose different versions have been published from 1922 until its final edition. Hrvatski bog Mars (Croatian God Mars). The multinational corporations. For a thorough discussion of Miroslav Krleža and his relation to the Monarchy. OH: Slavica Publishers Inc. At the beginning of the twelfth century (1102). a collection of short stories about the Croatian Home Guardsmen and their misfortunes during the World War I. 1990). proclaimed Zagreb a free royal town. “Teze za jednu diskusiju iz 1935. see especially the paragraph: Le droit de nommer. (Paris: Petite bibliotheque payot. Hungarian (lingua hungarica). the right to name is a linguistic counterpart of the right to possess (for more. with Slavic on the bottom.. and German (lingua theutonica). Although in 1242. However the public use of languages was hierachized. even in the early twelfth century. (Sarajevo: Svjetlost. 1974) writes. calling the murder of the revolutionaries: “the act of criminals.
According to the legend (which up to the 1980s was considered historical fact). Kritička literatura o Miroslavu Krelži od 1914. artists and writers. (Zagreb: Globus. In fact. It is interesting to point out that the novella was first published as a book with its title in Hungarian: Magyar király honvéd novela (Zagreb. 1987). and the people. 17 The name of the utopian land is a Croatian appropriation of German Schlaraffenland. The same year. sitting beneath lime-trees. Miroslav Krleža i Nezavisna Država Hrvatska 10. The very title once again underscores Croatian sub-colonial position in the Monarchy. 14 A term that belongs to Ljubomir Micić and Branko V. it appeared in the book Pjesme I. 2-3 (1923) : 3-47. it was published in the book Poezija (Zagreb: Zora. This analysis uses this final version of the poem. and in Stanko Lasić. the Zenithists believed in the power of Slavic barbarogenius. Matija Gubec was the leader of 237 . real name Ambroz Gubec. herojsko pleme u ovu slavnu Zemlju? Kad su bijeli žreci zapjevali himnu Suncu. celebrated the god of the sun (415). 1989). seen as a constitutive part of European cultural identity. i kad je narod pod lipama slavio sunčanog boga? (415). because completely translated in English that title would sound absurd but precise: The Royal Hungarian Croatian Home Guardsman Novella. 12 Krleža’s language in this novella follows the pattern used by Karl Kraus in his Last Days of Mankind where he satanizes the tone of the official press.9 For a complete and detailed account on Krleža’s attitude toward the Independent State of Croatia see. do 1941. Kraus’ influence on Krleža’s writing is especially strong in his essays.4. 10 Its best analysis can be found in Stanko Lasić. 18 First published in the periodical Savremenik 3 (1918): 8.1941-8.. in its constructive ecumenical tradition. 1989).5. 16 Pan was very important motif for Krleža’s early poetry. Stanko Lasich. Ambroz was renamed “Matija” in 1622 in the literary testimonies about his heroic life. 1969). It is the same classical utopia “Cloud-Cuckoo-Land” of Aristophanes’ The Birds. I.. with its centers in Belgrade and Zagreb. 13 The implicit irony is in the title. Pan. 15 Gdje je ono modro praskozorje. standing on the cliff? Where is that dawn in which I brought this healthy and heroic tribe into this famous Land? When white prophets sang hymns to the Sun. Kad sam doveo zdravo. In its final version. 11 Književna Republika. Poems I (Zagreb). members of the Avant-Garde group ZENIT. Where is now that azure dawn in which I saw the South for the first time. Between the two World Wars. Pan was the title of his first published longer poem. Mladi Krleža i njegovi kritičari 1914-1924 (Zagreb: Globus. 1945 (Zagreb: Globus. (Zagreb: Naklada piščeva 1917). Poljanski. kad sam sa klisure nad morem prvi puta ugledao Jug?. 19 Matija Gubec. 1921). polemics and satiric commentaries.
in three volumes written between 1935 and 1964. (Zagreb: 1938). Krleža may have had a more personal reason to be more cautious in defining dictatorship. Matija Gubec’s presence was most pronounced in Balade Petrice Kerempuha. The novel. The Ballads of Petrica Kerempuh. the outbreak of World War II was probably the most serious obstacle for the author in articulating his prose in its final and definite form. was inspired by the Italian invasion in Ethiopia. tortured and publicly quartered (February 15. 21 For more on Kraus. takes place in the anti-utopian land of Blitva. taken to Zagreb. first published in Zagreb (1936). another “foreign” body in a senseless multinational slaughterhouse. he symbolizes the Croatian spirit of resistance.” After the Battle of Stubica (February 9. 1573). This was not the first time that Krleža announced a longer essay on an author and never finished it. The situation in the West was also troublesome (Salazar’s dictatorship in Portugal). Among other unpleasant historic episodes. Due to Krleža’s constnantly changing outlook on the problem. Eppur si muove.” Krleža leaves an impression that this is an excerpt from a larger study of Kraus. 22 For example. Gubec was simply a peasant who lived long after his official February execution in Zagreb. 1573). however.” Hrvatska Revija 11 (1929): 18-26. a fictitious landscape which resembles Musil’s Kakania from his novel A Man Without Qualities. Although World War II may have played a crucial role in interrupting the completion of the novel. In literature. it was hard for him to find a firm focal point to analyze the assigned problematics. 1932). see Miroslav Krleža. According to the historian Nada Klaić. Aside from global movements. “Karl Kraus o ratnim stvarima. Krleža used him as a metaphor of resistance in various works. and the Munich Revolution (1935-39). Although she found documents to evident her hypothesis. Among other turbulent changes in Europe. In his essay “Karl Kraus o ratnim stvarima. The same happened in the case of his advertised and never-completed study of Friederich Nietzsche. Gubec’s legacy remained very strong among the Croatians. the post-Stalinist revival of dictatorships in Eastern and Central Europe played an important role. since its central theme was understanding and denouncing the nature of totalitarianisms. in Zagreb (DMK BNP). because he 238 . he never completed the announced essay. other events in modern history further confused Krleža’s treatment of totalitarianism. whose first volume was published in 1938. He fought against the brutal ruler and representative of the Hungarian Crown. In spite of its international ideological frame. not a Russian. he was captured by Tahi’s soldiers. 20 Increasing the sense of the historic irony. and Miroslav Krleža. the novel has strong allusions to Yugoslav Royalist conditions. von Fredericks is a Baltic German. Perhaps the best example of Kraus’ influence on Krleža’s style is his book Moj obračun s njima (Zagreb: Zora. Spanish Civil War.the famous 1573 peasant uprising in the region of Croatian Zagorje. Franjo Tahi and because of his heroic deeds was proclaimed “The Peasant King. his novel Banket u Blitvi (A Banquet in Blitva).
Aside from Kamov. the main character’s nightmares take place in Paris.” Hrvatska Revija 9 (1929) 3-9. Pero Orlić escapes from Paris back to Croatia. Cvrčak pod vodopadom. 27 Some of Krleža’s critics (like Mirjana Stančić) relate the anti-aesthetics in his novella to the broader European movement that aestheticized ugly and dark side of daily life. Novele (Zagreb: DMK BNP. 26 Miroslav Krleža. (Devil’s Island) Miss Sorge attempts a suicide in Paris. 30 See: Miroslav Krleža: Deset krvavih godina (Zagreb: Zora. 1972). Krleža’s commentary on Gide’s essay Voyage au Congo in which Gide is deeply moved and horrified by the abuse of human rights in Africa. 1937). who always had a weakness for famous intellectuals and tried to convert them to his ideology. This is nonsense. 23 For instance. 1967) (The Banners) has scenes set in every Central European metropolis. Povratak Filipa Latinovicza (Zagreb: Minerva. and traces it to 1922. other representatives of a different kind of modernism in Croatia include: Mijo Radošević. Samuel Beckett. and others. because other authors in Croatian literature. in another narrative Vražji otok. 24 For example. 1910) wrote a variety of narratives based on such anti-aesthetic motifs. 31 Miroslav Krleža. 28 The Cricket Beneath the Waterfall has been translated into English by Branko Lenski (New York: The Vanguard Press. He uses the aesthetics usually ascribed to the aforementioned authors at least a decade and a half before they wrote their naratives. perhaps too close for an intellectual who wanted to preserve his independence. in his novella Hodorlahomor Veliki (Hodorlahomor the Great) the main character. and in his short story Cvrčak pod vodopadom (Cricket Beneath the Waterfall). 25 Predrag Matvejević. Janko Leskovar. “André Gide o Kongu. Tito. such as Janko Polić Kamov (d. 1971) 572-574. in the early 1960s came very close to coming to power in Yugoslavia. 239 . 1982). 1995) was mainly set in Zagreb. I quote from his translation. and Fernando Pessoa. the year of publication of Joyce’s Ulysses. invited Krleža for a cruise to Egypt and Sudan. Josip Baričević. Stari i novi razgovori s Krelžom (Zagreb: Spektar. his widely-recognized novel. Milan Begović. (Northwestern University Press 1995). 1932) (The Return of Filip Latinovicz (Chicago: Northwestern University Press. while his most ambitious novel Zastave (Zagreb: Zora. Krleža took part in the Yugoslav Socialist-Comunist spectacle and came very close to power. Henry Michaux. 29 Most probably the best account on the combination of a physical and a mental exile available to the English reading audience is Krleža’s novel The Return of Filip Latinovicz. Kamov himself introduced narratives whose style and imagery strongly announce those of James Joyce. Tito’s invitations were not subject to refusal. By joining him.himself. All these experiences made Krleža’s reconsider his early ideas of totalitarianism from the 1930s and slowed down the process of defining the novel’s fictional space. They also find the employment of motifs such as a toilet to be an innovation for Croatian literature in the 1930s.
. When people have no utopia they grow ugly and stupid. We could 241 . so much broader than that of the national state. but its singularity lies in the fact that many Central Europeans need a horizon of that kind. because of the West.Romantic patriots and decenterd matriots Beyond the Nation State Because of the East. except for arming against it. a secondary town on the frontier-indeed a front-line town. If we lack a strategy. and victims. our cities (like ourselves) will become even grayer than they are now. Without it every great city of ours will be the last stop. The romantic patriots of the nineteenth century found in the national state the limit of their dream-something standing alone. If we fail to link Central Europe together. separate but not helpless. several nations alongside one another. like a cliff above the stormy sea.. Here we live. we will be superfluous men and women... East and West are most obliged to take notice of each other in that part of the world where they touch each other-where. The Central European idea can be considered a perverse fantasy. I fear. we will all disappear from the face of the earth together if the great world powers should ever pass over us. the West cannot be sufficient unto itself. the East cannot be sufficient unto itself-even if the men who run the military blocks would like to believe than the other side doesn’t exist and doesn’t need to be bothered with.
opposes foundationalism. essentialism and absolute philosophical realisms of any sort. as represented in works from Kafka through Magris. as reflected in the literature of Claudio Magris and Miroslav Krleža. this postmodern aes242 . is an open strategy for identity-construction based on the rejection of any knowledge that claims to be the only accurate representation of reality. such postmodernism rejects more traditional historical representations of complete. as a condition as well as an intellectual concept. postmodern and postcolonial conditions. This broader postmodernism for which I have been arguing here is particularly suitable for critics and historians to redefine the postcolonial cultural status of contemporary Central Europe -.” Central Europe is rather a maternal thing.a region historically defined through colonizing empires’ “official” grand narratives that have legitimized their control. or modernism itself. It is too early to tell what will happen to Central Europe in the region’s ongoing process of decolonization and reevaluation of its historical location as a liminal space. Postmodernism. This Central European postmodernism. In a context of ethnic and cultural diversity that can hope for new avenues for emancipation and self-realization by linking its postcommunist. Instead of speaking in monolithic voices.be a little more like “matriots. epistemological and ethical canons which claim objectivity on the basis of their representation. realism. (George Konrad. one must re-examine those epochal signifiers in order to place Central Europe on a new map of the post-Cold War world. the postmodernism that interests us in rethinking Central Europe is broader than the one usually recognizes in literary history as a reaction to serious high-culture discourse of modernism. “Is the Dream Still Alive?” Cross Currents 5 : 120-121). however. the postmodernism approach to narrative that I have claimed for Central European authors introduces a multivocity of personal textual testimonies to the “powerless” historical reality of its region. unique and closed worlds narrated from above and engraved onto reality through infinite sets of master narratives—be they science. Moreover. Liberated from traditional aesthetic.
He saw that the history of his world. Franz Kafka. whenever he underscores his desire to reclaim a subjectposition in history. From the perspective of Kafka’s view of history (from the history of “minor” cultures). It becomes especially clear in his letters to Milena (1920). In order to recoup historical losses and to reintroduce Central Europe onto the geopolitical map of today’s literary and cultural history. The historical problem and the narrative approach to a solution which I have characterized as the “natural” postmodern condition of Central Europe are not a creation of late twentieth-century crises in subjectivity. since the linearity of that dominant history would force them to locate modernism at the beginning of the twentieth century. a modernist in his rejection of master naratives.thetics advocates that such multiple testimonies offer their readers the only chance they have for regaining their “lost” subjectivities (the unwritten histories of the region) and rewriting history. due to its colonial context. while postmodernism would be placed at its sixties -a formulation of aesthetic history from the dominant Western point of view. Today’s critics must agree. theorists and writers alike must connect the “post” in postmodern with the “post” in postcolonial in ways that the authors at the Lisbon conference could not. did not correspond with the dominant West’s traditional notions of historical linearity. encompassing Proust and Joyce. In so doing. then the ‘post’ in postmodern and ‘post’ in postcolonial are historical companions because they share that particular quality. the ability to question and refocalize older hierarchies in their rewritings of various historical narratives. the connection between modernism and postmodernism must be seen slightly differently in his time and 243 . as Lyotard would have agreed. but not the authors discussed here. he always demonstrates his understanding of the Central Europe’s “natural” postmodern condition. If. engaging readers in a productive dynamics. they would recognize how this strategy suits both the writing of fiction and that of national identity. the postmodern condition opens the possibility of putting an end to older authorities’ metanarratives of legitimation. in the epochal process of recapturing the plural realities of a historically-misrepresented region.
Postmodernism. as movements advocating two different treatments of reality in narrative.ours. in contrast. Kundera can still believe that. are aware of the epochal loss of the master narratives. however. as Kafka well knew early in the century. Like the Eastern European intellectuals discussed in the introduction.” postcolonial phase in Central European history. In the context proposed here. modernism would more properly be associated with the dominant and politically-stable West which appears within the region as a colonizer. Yet in his anachronistic nostalgia.. when the Russian tanks arrived. As such. As far as the literature of contemporary Central Europe is concerned. juxtaposing the dominant power blocks of Eastern and Western Europe with Central Europe representing the instability in between. Central European subjects (authors. He believes that. plurality 244 . as they pass into a postcolonial status within the West and into postmodern resistance to the East’s and West’s preferred histories. is the aesthetic representation of a world and a world-history seen through the gaze of non-dominant West. a fundamental difference emerges between Kafka and Kundera in locating Central Europe. methodical doubt. one that confirms the existence of a tradition of another sort: where Kafka saw the beginning of an “independent. It is not the case that there has been no aesthetic development within the region. in fact. Central Europe was dead. a postmodern narrative emerges as particularly able to represent the politically unstable condition of a region undergoing a process of decolonization and of the individual subjects whose daily experiences contradict the master narratives of the colonizers. At the same time. after 1968. Kundera sees its end. historians) undergoing decolonization. these Central European voices are seizing their own language of de-legitimation within traditional reality constructs. the one that Milan Kundera recognizes as a marginalized West both self-colonized and colonized from East. after the definite cultural colonization of his essentially western country by the Eastern Block. it is easy to claim that modernism and postmodernism emerged simultaneously at the beginning of this century. to stress the polyphony and polyperspectiveness within a region that has been represented monolithically. all tolerance.
had disappeared. In contrast. Kafka was already able to sense in the early decades of the century what Vaclav Havel. He was on his way to rewriting Habsburg history by reproducing its claustrophobic and totalitarian reality ad-absurdum and thus undermining its political foundations. because the institutions that governed his life were flexible enough to accommodate his “dumb show. decentered narrative technique. Although he is very suggestive in his critique of both the East and West. and personal art -.” Even though he did not rewrite the obligato245 . which. like Homi Bhabha’s concept of “the beyond. Svejk ultimately could not transcend the boundaries of colonial modernity imposed on him (its technologies of citizenship). He calls for new histories. In accepting this concept of history. In this sense Kafka’s “post.the connection that ex-Soviet molded Eastern European intellectuals still have to make. Kundera’s nostalgia still simply wants to replace one totalitarian concept for another. for new personal narratives of de-legitimation which will only be possible if he can make the connection between the post in postmodern and post in postcolonial in Central Europe -. Although postmodern in his mimetic gestures. called the power of the powerless. even now. leaving nothing but a historical abyss and epochal silence. he feels. One of the first attempts in transcending such a reality was the deontic performance of the Good Soldier Svejk. as a member of the underrepresented group of Central European Jewry. transcending the given monolithic reality by interjecting immanent testimonies to realities of experience that still need to be written or rewritten into the history of a region which he does not control.of thought. does not come “after” Kundera’s lost “past.” in his postmodern. it seems that. but as a manifestation of brotherly care and love. Kundera wants Western “metaphysics of presence” to take the place of Russian-Slavic militant hypersensitivity.” Instead. everything that has characterized the West since the Renaissance -. after the Russian invasion. has elevated emotions to the level of rationality and thus has justified the conquest of the region by representing it not as a colonization.” Kafka is postmodern because he speaks from beyond. Kundera does not see any possibility of overcoming the crisis in the region’s history.in short.
That Central Europe is contained intuitively in his adventures and in his attitudes of absolute acceptance. as well as on the undefined center whose future is seen as integral to the “old continent. Svejk’s seemingly “natural” acceptance of the region’s trans-national reality also suggests another face of Central Europe. it is by using the Svejkian legacy that Magris is able to multiply his voice and to replace the grand narratives of legitimation with his visions of local narratives of de-legitimation. psychologically. Budapest. a colonial hostage perhaps longer than any other dominant colony. it is the dependent part of Europe. thus keeping it. Magris links historic regionalism with a new sense of postmodern cosmopolitanism whose perspectives are utterly important in redefinitions of Central Europe’s existence. His escapades have definitively circumscribed Central Europe’s reality as a hinter-national culture of different underrepresented peoples whose ghostly manifestations appear daily in most common forms of individual and collective survival. as an Ita246 .ry narratives of official history through his sense of absurdity. is taken for granted or “sensed” instead of being discussed or analyzed. At the same time.” In spite of its strategic limitations. By assuming a perspective like Svejk’s consciously. but from within the sphere of his gestures. Zagreb. Svejk’s Central Europe is colonized from above. His mimetic system of avoidance nonetheless embraces the quotidian nature of Central Europe’s “soul” which. and any Habsburg-like urban entity in which the power centers of a remote empire were installed. Svejk nonetheless enabled his readers to make a step beyond the limits of the world they shared and embrace the possibilities of an era of global decolonization. whose identity is based on the West or the East. then. among people like Svejk. one at which he only hints but which he is not able to pursue because of his position within the still-colonized margins of the empire. its colonized margins and the colonizing center. Svejk’s literary performance uncovered the two faces of Central Europe. And even though the resonances of that decolonization absurdly were withheld from Central Europe. Since. as well as politically. that Central Europe appears as a real and spiritual landscape and includes Prague.
Magris can use his individual eclecticism to propose a narrative scheme that sponsors a reader’s set of searches for a genuine and plural identity in the region whose historical identities were constructed by external Others. which in the early 1920s were no more than a lament and a manifestation of a frantic need for self-recognition. he could not make the necessary step beyond his own reality to redefine himself and the region’s histories. he never belonged to the colonized west of Kundera (or. Instead of redefining his reality by using the (precisely recognized) apparatus of his own colonized reality. Croatian. His “travelogue” is thus a tribute to Kafka’s past that needs to be rewritten. where no individual within Central Europe has a public sphere needed for reconstructing identities. In such a context.” In his Danubio. whose contribution to a search for different meanings of “post” are one of the bases for my analysis: Postmodern culture is the culture in which all of the postmodernisms operate. again. or ex-Yugoslavian hegemony at ease. However. due to his own colonized position and as a dominant figure in a non-dominant milieu. uttered by one of those “powerful powerless” individuals who were systematically and repeatedly swept away from the scenes of the “official” history. And because contemporary culture is. Krleža ends by perpetuating its consequences demonstrating how the production of “Others” goes beyond the realm of master narratives imposed by colonizers and dangerously survives in everyday life as an oppressive chain reaction historically known as “divide and rule. to the colonized South of Miroslav Krleža). Claudio Magris shows how a postmodern rejection of historical exclusivity corresponds with a postcolonial rewriting of history by means of more regional narratives of authenticity.lian intellectual removed from the margins of Central Europe. as an intellectual whose narratives did not leave Central European. sometimes in competition. in 247 . Krleža could definitively be seen as a public disturbance. sometimes in synergy. The words of Kwame Anthony Appiah. and its existence proves the continued validity of Kafka’s prophetic words.
the link of the “posts” in postmodern and postcolonial that I have argued for the current epoch. some of the most marginalized Central Euro248 . and their narratives of regional liberation are constructed around the image of a more monolithic. Yet the Central European situation. and as the colonized themselves are within their region.certain senses to which I shall return. moving outward to Africa and Asia.though that does not by any means mean that it is the culture of every person in the world. versus centripetal. postmodern culture is global -. Appiah suggests trans-nationality as a global regional phenomena. transnational. Two global regions marginalized by the mighty exist in different colonial realities and experience different regional dynamics of colonization (centrifugal. may feel more natural of intellectuals within Central Europe than it does to Appiah. while itself colonial. (In My Father’s House 144) Suspicious toward a universal linking of the “posts” in postmodern and postcolonial. The colonial realities of Africa are predominantly modernist in the perspective of postcolonial intellectuals like Appiah. calling for yet another postmodern gesture—for a postcolonial space-clearing which will allow new voices to be heard. while misrepresented through “official” colonial narratives of legitimation. must also acknowledge that the West is as plural as is the East. in terms of having any claim to legitimacy beyond the narrowest of spheres. voices of those historically represented through silence. In his rejection of universal history. Not having a “native” history to define themselves against the Western Others. Constantly deprived of their “tribal memories” as spaces outside colonization. Appiah thinks of African colonial specificities. In order for any region’s world view to become cosmopolitan. inward-directed within Central Europe). colonizing West. he believes that it ought to be based on individuals’ regional feelings and on one’s comprehension of the immediate environment. In consequence. the discussed Central European writers (like their fictional heroes) had no historical chance do develop a positive and optimal modernist national(ist) narrative such as Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
nostalgic memories of their collective past. one of the most important things is to be able to forget one’s own self as traditionally defined. Krleža’s Croatians. the one which does not have recourse to a history of an Other outside the West. as is the case with Krleža’s domobrans. thus thematizing either its existence or its absence. Claudio Magris came to a similar conclusion operating with the ideas of local and global. In his postmodern treatment of Central Europe.peans. This Western postcolonial postmodernism. offer the region its only option to make a productive reality of its own.1 because one should not constantly be talking about himself or herself and the world in this way. to live the authentic experience of Central Europe. and that can be traced back as far as Kafka and Krleža. its only “solid” promise of a possibility of rewriting the “official” history and replacing it with long-awaited individual narratives whose contents will challenge the discourses of the colonial powers. but which have let its inhabitants down— personally and historically. Yet such a suggestion also begs another question: how can a contemporary intellectual expect that people whose minds have his249 . exemplified in a graphic image of dried hams hanging like flags in urban food stores. They are forced to reproduce their images of selfhood by reference to the staples of Western existence. Instead. He even goes so far as to question the very idea of Central Europe by saying that the idea of Central Europe is the biggest danger for that same Central European culture. The link of postmodernity and postcolonialism in Central Europe which intellectuals like Magris now propose. For Magris. must operate with utopian narratives that offer them no optimal projection into a future and no seemingly authentic. In bracketing his notions about different meanings of “post. questions those narratives which have been the only ones operative in the regions.” Appiah clarified his sense of postmodern transnationality by noting how: “postmodern culture is global-though that does not by any means mean that it is the culture of every person in the world” (144). these individuals have to project their non-existent (non-represented) historical selves onto disembodied images at the margins of the dominant culture.
the reality that confounded contemporary Eastern European intellectuals. temporal. according to Magris. Such redefinition of identities subverts the historical plurality of nation states in the region whose reality has typically been constructed in essentialist terms. instead of the geographical and territorial ideas of national and personal identity which have been at play on the nationalist maps of East. The transnational postmodern model of a postcolonial Central Europe is global in its structure. Instead of rebuilding the nostalgic worlds of yesterday in Central Europe as its intellectuals (Zweig. but needs to happen to restructure people’s concepts of their communities. Such essentialism. and geopolitics. should not be taken literally. and Central Europe. to be in a center thus does not mean to reside in a certain dominant geographic place. Magris believes that one has to open himself or herself to the world and its narratives: one must be simultaneously aware of the most private and intimate problems of the immediate neighborhood. as well as staying alert to the global situation. by constantly lamenting its uniqueness and celebrating its rich cultural borders and thus creating yet another provincial stereotype. a redefinition according to which the basic criterion for being in an imagined center is contained within the way an individual lives his or her cultural dimension. he realizes. West. He thus calls for redefinition of cosmopolitanism. Kundera. geostrategy.torically been colonized agree to yet another silence? Magris’ answer again links up with Appiah’s postmodern idea of global regionalism. The time we live in calls for a new. In the unclear geopolitical reality of Central Europe at the end of the millennium. For Magris. and epochal notion of global citizenship. but to be present and active when confronted with a certain cultural and political problem -. Schwarz) have been wont to do. He sees neither essential difference between centers and provinces nor does he divide them by rules of geography. and sounds almost too simple to be true. The ability to forget. evident in its narrative horizon of geopolitics and local in its diversity of geopolitical and individual subjectivities.to be at the center of one’s own world and world view. is another great danger for the historical fu250 .
in which that kind of cultural sphere would replace modernist national and ethnic concepts of divided nation-states still prevalent today. which is possible in Central Europe precisely because of its multiple historical and personal identities -. A possible narrative subversion of official history. words such as Konrad’s “matriotism” could be understood and used in newly-emerging regional and global strategies of cultural and individual self-definition. The plural Central Europe appears as a female entity in relation with the again culturally plural. That connection represents a kind of historical space-clearing gesture. and it requires the kind of connection between the “post” in the postmodern and the “post” in the postcolonial conditions of the regions. of utter importance for Central Europe of tomorrow. a militant and exclusivistic enterprise in which each and every ethnic group can suddenly appear as the Other in relation with neighboring groups. and its time regained in Kafka’s sense. its history rewritten. Such public sphere should be as controlled by a web of the regions inhabitants’ narratives of various origins.a multiplicity not reducible to a simple colonized/colonizer dichotomy. It is crucial not only because it speaks from the trans-national “beyond” of the present geopolitical map of historical identities and thus undermines authority of colonial histories of the region. through the numerous new individual narratives of authenticity written by thinkers such as Magris. The ideology and global politics of that West have been played out heretofore in a monolithic way based upon Enlightenment capital-R Reason 251 .ture of a region whose identity search has to this point been based on a badly-defined quest for authenticity. but also because it promotes Central European culture as a coherent public sphere. Such a space-clearing gesture may become possible once Central Europe is decolonized. truly is po-et(h)ical. and. and Havel. After a public sphere of Central European culture is recognized in political and cultural history and reinforced against the national(ist) criteria the dynamics of which still make the reality of the region. This study thus proposes a much-needed substitution. as such. Konrad. but still-dominant West. The future world of Central Europe is necessarily de-essentialized.
but also the peoples from the margins whose Otherness has been relied on to define the region.” Danas (Dec. 252 . see Nikola Petković. A new map should include not only Central Europe as the space between the more traditional imperial and superpower blocs. a strategy and sensibility which has always been so “essential” for the future of Central Europe in the many moments when its history and the narratives of its inhabitants’ lives needed to be rewritten. but whose voices have too often been silenced and whose gestures misconstrued. non-dominant. In so doing. “Srednja Evropa kao metafora protesta. after all. nomadic minds can sense and think various regional and global dynamics. 1988): 10-13.” tolerant. where female means multivocal.” an interview with Claudio Magris). not engendered in traditional terms. we may remap the cultural and historical narratives of Europe.(Appiah). (“Central Europe as a Metaphor of Protest. but open to the future in a trans-national “Post. Maybe. we should agree with being “a little more like Konrad’s matriots in terms of transcending the realities of a divided cultural world in which “patriotism” excludes plural existences and promotes exclusivity instead of polymorphy. powerful in its “powerlessness.European” culture in which only decolonized and de-centered. 1 For more.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.