London – Labyrinth, Initiation or Trap for Eastern Europeans: Reflections in Bulgarian and Latvian Prose (A. Popov and V. Lācītis)

  • Abstract:

    The integration of Westernity into the everyday lives of Eastern Europeans has a significant side-effect – the movement of people in the search of a better job and life conditions. Great Britain with its welcoming immigration policies in the early 21st century was very expedient for Eastern Europeans and thus becoming one of the main destinations for seekers of a better life. London as one of the European meccas of multiculturalism rapidly obtained Eastern European features and today can be considered an important Eastern European city as well. Although the communities at the new location are shaped based on ethnic and linguistic properties, a common mentality from socialistic past creates a wider cultural group of Eastern Europeans. The integration of Eastern Europeans in London’s both specifically British and universally multicultural milieu has found echoes in the literature of Eastern Europe, thus making it possible to a certain extent to talk about the text of e-/im-migration. The focus of this paper is a comparison of two novels from Eastern Europe – Mission London (Мисия Лондон, 2001) by Bulgarian writer Alek Popov (Алек Попов, 1966) and Under construction with a view on London (Stroika ar skatu uz Londonu, 2010) by Vilis Lācītis (real name: Aleksandrs Ruģēns, 1975). The narratives of both novels differ by focusing on different social environments. Popov describes the embassy and the life of its employees, Lācītis takes a look on the life of an immigrant from the perspective of a migrant worker. This difference is defined mostly by the personal experience of the authors. Both novels vividly portray the national temper. Disregarding the differences both these novels can be put under one practical and aesthetic paradigm of experience as lived by an Eastern European. The portrayal of the dramatic integration process involves a lot of comical discourse in both novels, thus linking both novels to the traditions of British humor. At the same time both protagonists experience trials that makes London to be conceived as a place for initiation, a labyrinth that allows to gain new and valuable experience, but for some of the figures also a trap where all the hopes shatter.