Traumatic Histories: Representations of (Post-)Communist Czechoslovakia in Sylvie Germain, Daniela Hodrová, and Jean-Gaspard Páleníček
Horackova, Clare Frances
Date: 3 November 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in French
Through a study of the work of three important writers, this thesis engages with the traumatic memories of the second half of the twentieth century in Czechoslovakia in order to highlight the value of literature in widening critical understandings of the continuing legacy of this complex era, which was dominated by totalitarian regimes ...
Through a study of the work of three important writers, this thesis engages with the traumatic memories of the second half of the twentieth century in Czechoslovakia in order to highlight the value of literature in widening critical understandings of the continuing legacy of this complex era, which was dominated by totalitarian regimes under the Communist governments which gained control after the upheaval of the Second World War. Whilst these years were not unilaterally traumatic, many lives were dramatically affected by border closures and by the experience of living under a regime that maintained control through methods including confiscation of property, surveillance, arbitrary imprisonment, show trials, and executions. Many of the stories of this era could not be published openly because of censorship, and the persecution of intellectuals led to a wave of emigration, during which a number of writers moved to France. Using theories of trauma, exile, illness, and of self and other, this thesis opens up a dialogue between the work of three writers who engage, albeit from very different perspectives, with this little-explored intersection between Czech and French. The first chapter explores Daniela Hodrová’s translated Prague trilogy as a first-hand witness to her nation’s dispossession and as a form of resistance to the deletion of memory. The second chapter considers the painful transgenerational legacy of the era as it plays out in the work of bilingual writer Jean-Gaspard Páleníček. Chapter Three considers the ways in which the Prague novels of established French author Sylvie Germain negotiate the fine line between an appropriation of the stories of the other and a moral responsibility to bear witness. By bringing these authors together for the first time and locating their work within French Studies, my work foregrounds the need for Western criticism to pay attention to other valuable voices who can contribute to our understandings of the traumatic experience that has shaped modern history.
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