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The Unspeakable: Narratives of Trauma

Magda Stroinska, Vikki Cecchetto and Kate Szymanski

How does a trauma survivor communicate «what can’t be said out loud» to others? In what form? How can we – readers, listeners, viewers – recognize the pain and suffering hidden behind words, pictures, or other artifacts produced by trauma survivors? This volume presents a possible response by bringing together the «expressions of the unspeakable» by trauma survivors and the interpretation of researchers in various fields, i.e. clinical psychologists, linguists, anthropologists, literary and film scholars, historians, and visual artists, some of whom are survivors of trauma. By describing or analyzing different strategies for finding a narrative form for expressing the survivor’s trauma, the contributors offer not only insights into how the survivors dealt with the pain of traumatic memories but also how they were able to find hope for healing by telling their stories, in literature, graphic novels, visual art or simply by creating a personal narrative in their own voice.
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Creating a Habitable Everyday in Estonian Women’s Diaries of the Repressions of the Stalinist Regime


Leena Kurvet-Käosaar


Based on an understanding of the diary as a practice and as a textual site par excellence for the elaboration of the mundane and the ordinary, this chapter focuses on the ways in which two Estonian women use this medium to mitigate their experience of deportation and life in the labor camp. The diaries of Erna Nagel and Lembi Saksakulm constitute unique documents of the Baltic experience of the repressions of the Stalinist regime, mediating the immediate experience of the Gulag - and deportation or forced resettlement - on a daily basis, and forming a particular constellation of the extreme and the ordinary (Todorov 1996) and “the extreme and the everyday” (Rothberg 2002). Furthermore, the (manuscript) diaries also function as important “memorial artifacts” (Hirsch and Spitzer 2006), accessible only via their complex histories and processes of framing. Central to the inquiry is the diary’s capacity to provide assurance for the author of the continued presence of a habitable everyday in the face of the extreme, making the diary a powerful coping mechanism in the face of gradual damage to both the physical well-being and mental frame of the author.

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