Creating a Habitable Everyday in Estonian Women’s Diaries of the Repressions of the Stalinist Regime
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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