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Transition or transitions?

The transformation of eastern central Europe 1989-2007

“Incomplete regime change”, “interrupted revolution”, “geo-political paradigm shift”… Accounts of the transition in eastern central Europe have tended to be fragmentary, with particular features emphasised to the exclusion of others. In the first section of this encyclopaedic essay, Hungarian political scientist Elemér Hankiss pieces together a mosaic of interpretations of transition. Going further, Hankiss checks contemporary Hungarian society against Victor Turner’s description of the “liminal society” – one caught between states of “normality”. While there is much in Hungary today that supports the “liminality” theory – the predominance of tricksters, the calls for restoration of order – there is also much that departs from Turner’s eulogy of change. Indeed, a “great regression” is taking place in the minds of members of transition societies, argues Hankiss, one that will take more than grand economic programmes to reverse.

Cover for: The patriarch of Muscovite conceptualism

The patriarch of Muscovite conceptualism

On the death of Russian artist Dimitri Prigov

The Russian artist and writer Dimitri Prigov is dead. Erich Klein, his friend and German translator, remembers one of the most important poets of the late and post-Soviet era.

Today, an Indian child consumes one ninetieth of the energy of her American counterpart. Such comparisons discredit the overwhelming consensus that it is the mass activity of “man” which is responsible for global warming, writes Will Barnes. Instead, the real problem is forms of consumption and the type of development that underpins it.

Critical and public discussion of foreign literature in newspapers and magazines has traditionally served as a source of information and guidance not only for a broad readership, but also for “people in the business”, for publishers and authors. When that discussion disappears, or loses its perspectives and becomes one-sided, this has consequences for the literary institution as a whole, writes Eurozine’s editor-in-chief Carl Henrik Fredriksson.

Literary perspectives: Estonia

Waiting for the Great Estonian Novel

While the Great Estonian Novel has yet to be written, writes poet and critic Märt Väljataga, the range of fiction in Estonian is sufficiently wide to serve as an indicator of the hopes and fears, anxieties and obsessions, of post-communist Estonia. From the autobiographical to the historical realist and allegorical, Estonian novelists have successfully developed a variety of styles to respond to post-Cold War experience.

Beyond abyssal thinking

From global lines to ecologies of knowledges

Modern Western thinking continues to operate along abyssal lines that divide the human from the sub-human, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos in a fundamental article. The “Western” side of this line is ruled by a dichotomy of regulation and emancipation, and the other by appropriation and violence. The only way to capture the full measure of what is going on, writes Santos, is a gigantic decentring effort. The struggle for global social justice must be a struggle for global cognitive justice as well. In order to succeed, this struggle requires a new kind of thinking, a post-abyssal thinking.

Literary perspectives: The Netherlands

"Profound Holland" and the new Dutch

The liberal, atheist era has come to end in the Netherlands and contemporary Dutch literature reflects that, writes critic Margot Dijkgraaf. The new need for security is reflected in the work of two novelists in particular: Jan Siebelink, whose fiction, free of references to contemporary life, evokes the “profound Holland” overturned in the 1960s; and Arnon Grunberg, whose representations of male disintegration blankly refuse any such reassurances. But there is a parallel strand of current Dutch literature that sidesteps such concerns: novelists and poets with migrant backgrounds introducing new styles and identities into the Dutch literary repertoire.

In Richard Florida’s “creative city” theory, the creative class dissolves the classical division between the productive bourgeoisie and the bohemian, ­thereby giving rise to a new creative subject. Jamie Peck discusses the implementation of these ideas in contemporary cities and shows how capital investments intended to attract the creative class to the city prioritize an urban middle class. “Creativity strategies have been crafted to co-exist with urban social problems, not to solve them,” writes Peck. “It should come as no surprise, then, that the creative capitals exhibit higher rates of socioeconomic inequality than other cities.”

Literary perspectives: Ukraine

Longing for the novel

In Ukraine, the demand for engagement with the immediate past has produced a series of novels that are better described as autobiographies. One such is Yuri Andrukhovych’s The Secret, which, in going to places out of bounds to the conventional autobiography, avoids the kitsch typical of the form. Another example is Irena Karpa’s Freud Would Weep, part travelogue, part novel. The rising star of Ukrainian literature reinvigorates the Ukrainian language, impoverished during the Soviet period, in brilliant ways. But, asks Timofiy Havryliv, is the autobiography equal to the task of representing recent historical experience?

Literary perspectives: Slovenia

A hollowed-out generation

Slovenian novelists are finding highly original ways to record the experience of transitional society, writes poet and critic Ales Steger. While male novelists take a hyper-realist, socially critical approach, their equally successful female counterparts are creating fictions only loosely connected to contemporary time and space. And while poetry and drama are lagging behind, there are still some notable exceptions. But first, an excursus into the Slovenian booktrade’s current fad: the self-help manual…

Literary perspectives: Northern Ireland

Shaking the hand of history

Critic Matt McGuire continues Eurozine’s Literary Perspectives series with a focus on Northern Ireland. While the Northern Irish literary tradition is closely bound up with the experience of sectarian violence, he writes, contemporary poets and prose writers defy the assumption that “the troubles” are all there is to the country’s literature. The attempt to deal in literary form with the ideological baggage of Northern Ireland’s past is combined with an exploration of identity in the twenty-first century.

“Jefferson and Kant would have been bewildered at the changes that have taken place in the Western democracies in the last two hundred years. For they did not think of equal treatment for blacks and whites, or of female suffrage, as deducible from the philosophical principles they enunciated. Their hypothetical astonishment illustrates the anti-foundationalist point that moral insight is not, like mathematics, a product of rational reflection. It is instead a matter of imagining a better future, and observing the results of attempts to bring that future into existence.” Richard Rorty, who died last month, outlines in the tenth anniversary edition of Kritika&Kontext the anti-foundationalist premise of his philosophy.

Living and loving beyond the heteronorm

A queer analysis of personal relationships in the twenty-first century

The organization of personal life and “the family” has transformed significantly over the past thirty years. Sociologists must start to decentre the family and the heterosexual couple in our intellectual imaginations. Sasha Roseneil argues for casting a queer lens on intimacy and care, demanding that sociologists study those who are not part of conventional families or couples.

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