Contemporary Perspectives from Poland
Natalia Lemann: Could We Conserve Ourselves From the Past? Alternates Histories and Uchronias as Literary Apories of Politics and Historical Knowledge
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Could We Save Ourselves From the Past? Alternate Histories and Uchronias as Literary Apories of Politics and Historical Knowledge
The paper discusses the genres of alternate history and uchronias, and their subversive potential as a literary aporia of politics and of the historical knowledge. The Point of Divergence as a principium of the genre is the primary way of criticising history, understood as the past that has actually happened. Authors of alternate history reject the past, choosing plausible historical worlds instead, because the actual history is unsatisfying, traumatic and painful for them. Alternate histories are highly politically involved, as the choice of the POD uncovers the authors’ dreams about the past; for instance, by making the history of their own country or nation more successful and heroic than it actually was. It is shown that the narration about the past in the alternate history genre depends on the political and generational experiences of the authors. As an example, the editorial series “Zwrotnice historii” [“The Switching Points of History”], published by Narodowe Centrum Kultury [National Cultural Centre] in Warsaw, is analysed. The series comprises among others: M. Parowski, Burza. Ucieczka z Warszawy `40 [The Storm. Escape from Warsaw`40] and M. Wolski, Wallenrod. These novels were created by writers who experienced the times of communism and censorship. As a result, nostalgia, essentialism, nationalism and the topos of “raising spirits” prevail there, the latter known in the Polish literature during the...
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