The article examines how writers Miroslav Penkov, Lara Vapnyar, and Aleksandar Hemon engage and reconfigure representations of the former Eastern Bloc in US literature, including stereotypes that have been circulating in Western Europe for a long time. These texts transform prevailing Cold War discourses and highlight real or symbolic junctions between postsocialist European and US spaces, thus constituting new publics and developing new frames of interpretation. The three authors relate the socialist past and its immediate aftermath to the United States: Penkov addresses connections between Bulgaria and the United States, Vapnyar develops deterritorialized memories about the Soviet past, and Hemon articulates relational forms of (reverse) mirroring between the United States and the former Yugoslavia. Their texts do not serve as transparent windows, forms of cultural brokerage, or instances of the postcommunist exotic; nor do they present only harsh critiques of US national imaginaries. Instead, the texts function as convex mirrors for multiple encounters and exchanges in ways that render them both object and method for rethinking real and imaginary intersections between the former socialist Europe and the United States.
Postsocialist Fiction and Frameworks: Miroslav Penkov, Lara Vapnyar, and Aleksandar Hemon
Ioana Luca is associate professor in the Department of English at National Taiwan Normal University. She has published on life writing, exiles’ literature, and connections between the United States and Eastern Europe in Social Text, Biography, Journal of American Studies, and other journals. She received the Academia Sinica Young Scholar Award in 2015 and served as editor of Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies (2015–17).
Ioana Luca; Postsocialist Fiction and Frameworks: Miroslav Penkov, Lara Vapnyar, and Aleksandar Hemon. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 March 2019; 65 (1-2): 43–70. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-7378806
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