Between Home and Host Cultures: Twentieth-Century East European Writers in Exile
- John Neubauer (University of Amsterdam) and
- Borbála Zsuzsanna Török (Pasts, Inc. Institute of Historical Studies/CEU)
The project has been initiated in Pasts, Inc. and hosted by Collegium Budapest. It consisted of a preparatory Workshop, held September 11-13, 2006 at Collegium Budapest, and a research period over the calendar year 2007, during which some participants of the project worked as Fellows at the Collegium for various lengths of time, others worked as external contributors.
We have been striving for a volume held together by means of a conceptual unity to which each individual piece would contribute in its own way. This conceptual unity is based on common methodological principles, and a delimitation of our subject matter against historically and geographically different forms of forced displacement. Taking a comparative and theoretical approach, we could repeatedly relativize absolutist political and national agendas of groups and individual writers. We also believe that large-scale sociological models of migration, worked out for the analysis of twentieth-century global phenomena, are inadequate for tackling either the local specificities and contingencies, or the multi-directional exchanges that impact on the dynamics of exile. Focusing on the spatial and temporal configuration of individual trajectories and contexts, we could not, of course, cover fully all aspect of the regions, nor could we offer an encyclopedic account of all literary authors and genres. Rather, we endeavored to establish a unity of purpose by a set of common questions and compatible approaches. Drawing on existing historical and psychosocial interpretations, we employed a flexible approach that focused on paradigmatic cases.
We have found criteria to delimit our subject matter historically and geographically. Exile in the Western tradition has usually meant forced ejection (ostracism, banishment etc), whereas in the twentieth-century exile has meant overwhelmingly self-chosen exile due to professional and existential threats. Geographically we delimited the exile of East-Central European writers against two larger forms of forced displacement in twentieth-century Europe: the émigrés that left Russia during and after the 1919 revolution, and the German exiles that fled from Hitler’s Nazi regime. In both of the last named cases, the sheer size of authors and reading public made for different conditions of exile. For practical as well as theoretical considerations we limited East-Central Europe to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and the Croatian and Serbian parts of ex-Yugoslavia, excluding thus the countries of the Baltic region and of the Balkans.
Having delimited our area of research against exile in other ages and societies, we had established internal distinctions lest we impose a straightjacket on the diverse forms of exile in East-Central Europe. In the course of our research, three such internal distinctions gradually emerged: 1) between exiles, émigrés, and expatriates 2) between ethno-cultural traditions and orientations, 3) between the major waves of exiles.
It became evident during our work that the twentieth-century affinities and trajectories were so multitudinous, unstable, and shifting that neither the nineteenth-century patterns nor any new ones emerging could serve as a transnational and enduring scheme. The writers of East-Central Europe fled not only westward but, notably those of communist persuasion, also eastward (i.e. Moscow), and those with right-wing and Nazi persuasion often all the way to South (and sometimes North) America. At crucial dates, such as 1944-45, some exiles would return, while others depart. In view of the fluctuating political conditions and the great variety of exiles we concluded that the century must be studied comprehensively: one should not study exiles fleeing from the Nazis in isolation from those that fled Communism (or, for that matter, communists in exile). Only by setting them against each other do we come to see their specificity.
Finally, a word about the reintegration and canonization of exiled writers, for this gave urgency and topicality to our project, which may seem, at first sight, a purely historical one. The political turnover in 1989 allowed the return of exiled writers and the publication of works by authors who died in exile. This “return of the repressed” has been more painful and controversial than expected. Apart from the usual jealousies and conflicts between exiles and those that stayed at home, serious conflicts arose in connection with the rehabilitation of a number of right-wing writers who became shibboleths of the nationalists in a number of countries, notably Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania. We felt that under the circumstances we have to deal with the resuscitation of such writers as the Hungarian Albert Wass, no matter how sensitive and painful the matter is.
- Bolecki, Wlodimierz, External Contributor
- Cooper, Thomas, freelancer, Budapest
- Cornis-Pope, Marcel, Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University;
- Craciun, Camelia, PhD candidate, Central European University, Budapest;
- Forgács, Éva, Professor, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena University;
- Hites, Sándor, Institute of Literary Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences;
- Jarzebski, Jerzy, Professor, Polish Academy of Sciences, Cracow University;
- Jerzak, Katarzyna, Associate Professor, University of Georgia;
- Kibédi-Varga, Sándor, Professor Emeritus, Free University,
- Klaic, Dragan, Visiting Professor, Leiden University;
- Lukic, Jasmina, Professor, Central European University Budapest;
- Neubauer, John, Professor Emeritus, University of Amsterdam;
- Papoušek, Vladimír, Professor, University of South Bohemia in ?eské Bujdejovice;
- Polouektova, Ksenia, PhD candidate, Central European University Budapest;
- Snel, Guido, Associate Professor, University of Amsterdam;
- Stewart, Neil, Assistant Professor, University of Bonn;
- Suleiman, Susan, Professor, Harvard University;
- Darko Suvin, Professor Emeritus, Mc. Gill University;
- Tihanov, Galin, Professor, Manchester University;
- Wróblewski, Boguslaw, Assistant Professor, Maria Curie-Sklodowska University.