Postcolonial Europe? Eastern European Cities in Hungarian Expatriate Literature

    • Cover Conference Prague
    • Presentation speakers
      • Ágnes Györke, Department of Literary and Cultural Studies, Károli Gáspár University, Budapest, Hungary


    The main question my paper explores is whether the tools and concepts of postcolonial studies offer a productive theoretical framework to explore the cultures of Central and Eastern Europe. Apart from rethinking the dissolution of Central and Eastern European empires and the regime change in 1989 from a postcolonial angle, my aim is to explore the peripheral visions of Central and Eastern European cities in the works of émigré writers such as Zsuzsa Bánk, Tibor Fischer and Ágota Kristóf. It is my contention that there are two major ways to approach Central and Eastern Europe as a postcolonial region: on the one hand, historical research on the Ottoman, Habsburg and Russian Empires and their legacies offer new approaches which rely on a postcolonial conceptual framework (Omer Bartov and Eric D. Weitz, 2013), while scholars working on literature, cultural studies and social policy argue for the need to rethink the postcommunist legacy of East-Central European countries from this specific angle (Natasa Kovacevic, 2008; Pucherova and Gafrik, 2015, etc). Indeed, relying on a postcolonial theoretical framework, East-Central Europe might be conceptualised as a “blind spot” of Westocentric conceptions of modernity as well as a peripheral region characterised both by an asymmetrical relationship with the West and the rise of conservative ideologies of the nation state. Relying on Sandra Ponzanesi’s recent work on the peripheries of postcolonial Europe (Postcolonial Transitions in Europe, 2017), my presentation will explore the urban memorialization of traumatic historical events in the region, primarily the Second World War, the 1956 Revolution in Hungary and the 1968 Prague Spring, in expatriate narratives such as Kristóf’s The Notebook (1986) Tibor Fischer’s Under the Frog (1992) and Bánk’s The Swimmer (2002).