From Ostalgie to Odium. The Anticommunist Novel in post-1989 East-Central Europe

Cosmin Borza's picture
Call for Papers
November 20, 2019
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Literature, Cultural History / Studies, Eastern Europe History / Studies, Intellectual History, Political History / Studies

Call for Contributions Central Europe (Special Issue/ 2021)


From Ostalgie to Odium. The Anticommunist Novel in post-1989 East-Central Europe


The debate concerning the anticommunist novel has focused on its huge popularity in the Western postwar culture, enhanced by the Cold War Manichean mythology, but has blatantly overlooked the post-communist afterlife of the genre. In fact, it was precisely after 1989 that the anticommunist novel emerged as a distinct, legitimate genre in East-Central European literatures, capitalizing upon the unofficial “literature of dissent” and the “anti-political” mindset (G. Konrád) assumed by intellectuals during communism. Overtly reframed as anticommunism after 1989, the resurgence of an even stronger - though now object-less - “dissent” is evidenced by highly praised novels written by influential writers like Andreï Makine, Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Herta Müller, Daniela Kapitáňová, Ivan Klíma, Mircea Cărtărescu, Fatos Kongoli or Rustam Ibragimbekov. However, this productive literary trend has been bypassed, either because criticism has favoured the East-Central European ostalgie (see D. Boyer and S. Boym), which mirrored the Westernized image of a backwards-looking East, or because of a widely accepted, monochrome version of postcommunism, whose transition-to-capitalism scenario still makes anticommunism seem a “natural”, undebatable stance (as in studies by B. Buden, A. C. Janos, M. D. Kennedy or M. Todorova).

Addressing this double-fold lapse, which is both ideological and critical, our thematic issue inquires the conditions and the consequences of the anticommunist novels written after the demise of the Soviet bloc. We welcome contributions which may include, but are not limited to the following topics concerning the post-1989 anticommunist novel: the filiation with genre landmarks authored by Arthur Koestler, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, George Orwell, Boris Pasternak, or Milan Kundera; the aftermath of the Cold War pop culture (mapped by R. Végső); the stylistic range of the genre, between the obsolete traditional realism and the in-vogue postmodern metafiction; the target public and the demands of various literary markets, as well as the uneven spread of the genre across the region; the local political narratives that reinforce the anticommunist imaginary even after the fall of totalitarian regimes.

This approach is meant to de-naturalize the anticommunist stance that anchors some of the best-known East-Central European fiction, thus challenging the customary version of postcommunism which still deems the ghosts of the past guilty for the flawed transition to Western-type capitalism. Against the many readings of these literatures as instances of ostalgie, which is a narrower and rather diminishing point of view, we shift focus to what might be called ostodium, a farther-reaching tendency that pervades not just literary and meta-literary texts, but also several strands of East-Central European public narratives.



Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia, New York, Basic Books, 2001

Boris Buden, Zone des Übergangs: Vom Ende des Postkommunismus (Zone of Transition. On the End of Postcommunism), Frankfurt/Main, Suhrkamp, 2009

Michael D. Kennedy, Cultural Formations of Postcommunism. Emancipation, Transition, Nation, and War, Minneapolis and London, University of Minnesota Press, 2002

Andrew C. Janos, East Central Europe in the Modern World: The Politics of the Borderlands from Pre- to Postcommunism, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2000

Maria Todorova and Zsuzsa Gille, eds., Post-communist Nostalgia, New York and Oxford, Berghahn Books, 2010

Roland Végső, The Naked Communist. Cold War Modernism and the Politics of Popular Culture, New York, Fordham University Press, 2013

Andrew Baruch Wachtel, Remaining Relevant after Communism. The Role of the Writer in Eastern Europe, Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press, 2006

David Williams, Writing Postcommunism. Towards a Literature of the East European Ruins, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013


The deadline for submitting abstracts (600 words maximum) is November 20, 2019. Full articles (up to 7000 words) are expected in June 15, 2020. Abstracts and Queries should be sent to guest editors Adriana Stan and Cosmin Borza