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Cold War books in the "other" Europe and what came after /
by Jiřina Šmejkalová.
Leiden : Brill, c2011.
xii, 409 p. ; 25 cm.
9004187456 (Cloth), 9789004187450 (Cloth)
More Details
Leiden : Brill, c2011.
9004187456 (Cloth)
9789004187450 (Cloth)
contents note
What do we know about (totalitarian) books? -- Monitoring the 'Red model' -- The ambiguities of censorship and resistance -- Suppressing the margins -- Performing silences -- The literary establishment -- Discontinuous continuities -- Freedom in print -- The paper revolutionaries -- Instead of a conclusion.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. [375)-400) and index.
A Look Inside
Introduction or Preface
INTRODUCTIONWhy tell the story of books under the centrally controlled regimes in the Eastern part of the Cold War Europe and after their fall now, twenty years after the censors, samizdat activists, and exiled publishing enthusiasts have gone? Before even trying to answer such question, another - perhaps equally tricky one - has to be addressed: how to go about telling such a story in the first place?It seems almost an imperative to begin any narrative on this geopolitical area of the 'Other Europe', by complaining about the conceptual fogginess surrounding the study of this region. The question of how to tell the story of books in this region is one part of these conceptual difficulties, which in turn are part of the larger picture of methodology and the closely related discipline of the history of studying this area regardless of whether we refer to it as the (post)Soviet region or Central and Eastern Europe. It is the context of North American and (West) European scholarship that must be considered, as any book in English on 'totalitarian' books is likely to be read not just as another contribution to the field of book studies but also against this disciplinary background. Nevertheless, 'Eastern', 'Communist', 'Soviet', 'Bolshevik', and even 'Cold War', and 'regime', 'system', and 'totalitarian' are concepts frequently used in both academic and popular studies of the region, but individual authors rarely agree on their definition. If it is difficult to find the right conceptual apparatus for the analysis and interpretation of developments in this region under regimes routinely referred to as 'communist' and even to define it territorially and identify its particular historical periods or political establishments, this is all the more true for the upheavals of the late 1980s and the early 1990s and their aftermath the 'revolutions' in the region and the subsequent 'post-totalitarian' era. As a leading American Slavist, Michael Holquist, puts it: The biggest problem confronting the peoples of East Europe, and those in other parts of the world who are struggling to comprehend recent events there, is the question how to interpret the enormity of the disparity between what was and what now is, and the rapidity with which that fissure opened up in history. The problem, in other words, is one of how to find a story that can contain changes so great and so manifold that they beggar all traditional schemes for investing contingency with an aura of necessity.There is a consistent lack of consensus among scholars on both sides of the former Iron Curtain with regard to the concepts that have been specifically developed as the tools with which to identify and analyse the Soviet system and the countries under its influence, but on top of this, research on this geopolitical region is also faced with the constraints of what Katherine Verdery calls the entire conceptual arsenal through which Western institutions and social science disciplines have been defined in this century . This arsenal continues to shape and determine the knowledge we have of almost every part of the world, including our knowledge of the world's books. Besides this scholarship and the conceptual confusion that plagues it, there are at least two other areas that shape stories about Eastern Europe and thus determine what we accept as knowledge about this region. First, there are the sensational and dramatic media texts that wrote all about the end of the Cold War and related events ('Realm of Evil', 'Velvet Revolution'), and second, there are the emotion-filled personal memories, usually rooted in the very specific, personal experiences that the particular narrator had with the establishment ('criminal oppressive regimes' versus 'social security'; 'censorship' versus 'trash-free book culture available for everyone'). Using the discourse shaped by scholarship, the media, and personal experience becomes even more complicated when it comes to telling stories about anything that can be broadly defined as culture or, as traditional Marxists would have it, the 'non-productive' spheres, which lie more or less outside the immediate reach of the economy and politics.The question of how to construct the narratives about 'totalitarian' books during and after the Cold War era is made even more complex by the fact that the concepts specifically designed for this regional analysis lack explanatory clarity, general (Western) social-science concepts do not fit well, and journalistic and personal metaphors tend to generate preconceptions, for none of these can be separated from the disciplinary context of this field of study. While it is impossible within the limited space here to re-tell the entire story of the origins and development of the discipline of East European, Soviet and Russian studies, and it is certainly not the main purpose of this book, some basic, albeit simplified, knowledge about this academic sphere would be helpful for understanding some of the arguments raised in this book. For example, Norman Naimark, one of the leading figures in the world's largest professional organisation devoted to this area of study, the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS), noted on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the organisation's founding that the roots of the discipline are connected to the Second World War, when the United States was in desperate need of information on other parts of the world and began hiring academics capable of providing knowledge useful for the decisions being made in the war years. Mark von Hagen refers to the paradigm of the 'orientalization' of Russia and of Eastern Europe more generally in the study of this area, generated especially during the late 1940s and early 1950s, at the height of the Cold War stand off between the 'West' and Stalin and his tyranny over the 'East'. This type of scholarship, to which many émigré scholars contributed, with their new faith-anticommunism, adopted a highly essentialising approach to its treatment of Russian traditions of despotism and imperial expansionistic politics, but it was also concerned with Russia, which dominated all scholarly work on the region while other nations stood largely on the margins. There also emerged a new version of 'comparative despotism' totalitarianism which ranked Stalinist Russia alongside Hitler's Third Reich. One could even speak of a kind of 'Sovietology ghetto', which was gradually constructed in North American and to some extent also Western European academia, a ghetto carefully safeguarded, while it effectively excluded outsiders, establishing a knowledge-monopoly on issues in this region.There were various non-academic factors that facilitated this Western intellectual monopoly. It was more or less impossible to conduct field work in the region and primary sources were inaccessible because the Iron Curtain kept researchers out, few researchers were proficient in the (mostly) Slavonic languages of the region, and the funding for some educational programmes and the job market for their graduates were to some extent provided by the intelligence services and driven by their Cold War expectations and demands. In the mid-to-late 1950s and in the 1960s, things changed, at least at the level of methodology, and, as von Hagen also noted, after Stalin's death a new stage in the Cold War generated a new paradigm of 'normalising' the Soviet experience, which was now recast as a process of modernising backward Russia (and the Soviet Union) to bring it into the industrial, urban, and technological age. Som
First Chapter
The book as a potential social force both lost out and gained during the post-Cold War transformation. It lost out in the sense that it relinquished its privileged post as a key communicator of national desires and frustrations, protected from market ‘prostitution’. But it gained in other ways. If Darnton’s forbidden bestsellers of pre-revolutionary France polarised views and forced the public to take sides and see issues in radical black and white terms, the boom in the number and variety of titles available in much of post-socialist Eastern Europe, and not just in the Czech lands, seems almost to have sent the public in the opposite direction. The multiplication of genres, styles, material formats, and socio-economic meanings that the notion of a book began to embrace during the early 1990s actually contributed to the collapse of absolutistic and simplified distinctions of either/or and us or them, distinctions that the ‘Old Regime’ controlled by the Communists may not have invented but certainly reinforced.
Review Quotes
"Le livre de Jirina Smejkalova est passionnant tant son spectre est large, diversifié, tant elle relie en permanencela situation du livre, de ses lecteurs et de ses producteurs à l'ensemble de la situation sociale, avec une grande finesse, tout en nuances. Les lecteurs [...] y apprendront beaucoup." Martine Poulain, Bulletin des bibliothèques de France, Vol. 57, No. 4 (2012), pp. 84-85."[Smejkalová's] monograph is thus an interesting and thorough study, not only from the point of view of publishing, but also from the point of view of Cold War studies."Sari Autio-Sarasmo, University of Helsinki. In: Slavic Review, Vol. 71, No. 3 (Fall 2012), pp. 686-687.
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Bowker Data Service Summary
Drawing on analyses of the socio-cultural context of East and Central Europe, with a special focus on the Czech cultural dynamics of the Cold War and its aftermath, this book offers a study of the making and breaking of the centrally-controlled system of book production and reception.
Description for Reader
All those interested in cultural and intellectual history, cultural studies of the Cold War and its aftermath, the history and sociology of books, as well as East Europeanists and slavists.
Main Description
Cold War books, central control, socialism, revolution, censorship, samizdat, exile, democratization of culture, privatization
Main Description
Drawing on analyses of the socio-cultural context of East and Central Europe, with a special focus on the Czech cultural dynamics of the Cold War and its aftermath, this book offers a study of the making and breaking of the centrally-controlled system of book production and reception. It explores the social, material and symbolic reproduction of the printed text, in both official and alternative spheres, and patterns of dissemination and reading. Building on archival research, statistical data, media analyses, and in-depth interviews with the participants of the post-1989 de-centralization and privatization of the book world, it revisits the established notions of censorship and revolution in order to uncover people s performances that contributed to both the reproduction and erosion of the old regime .

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