NORDSCI Conference proceedings 2020, Book 1

Philosophy

THE SENSE OF EXILE IN CONTEMPORARY EAST CENTRAL EUROPEAN WOMEN’S LIFE WRITING: DUBRAVKA UGREŠIČ AND MARGITA GŪTMANE

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sandra Meškova

ABSTRACT

Exile is one of the central motifs of the 20th century European culture and literature; it is closely related to the historical events throughout this century and especially those related to World War II. In the culture of East Central Europe, the phenomenon of exile has been greatly determined by the context of socialism and post-socialist transformations that caused several waves of emigration from this part of Europe to the West or other parts of the world. It is interesting to compare cultures of East Central Europe, the historical situations of which both during World War II and after the collapse of socialism were different, e.g. Latvian and ex-Yugoslavian ones. In Latvia, exile is basically related to the emigration of a great part of the population in the 1940s and the issue of their possible return to the renewed Republic of Latvia in the early 1990s, whereas the countries of the former Yugoslavia experienced a new wave of emigration as a result of the Balkan War in the 1990s.
Exile has been regarded by a great number of the 20th century philosophers, theorists, and scholars of diverse branches of studies. An important aspect of this complex phenomenon has been studied by psychoanalytical theorists. According to the French poststructuralist feminist theorist Julia Kristeva, the state of exile as a socio-cultural phenomenon reflects the inner schisms of subjectivity, particularly those of a feminine subject. Hence, exile/stranger/foreigner is an essential model of the contemporary subject and exile turns from a particular geographical and political phenomenon into a major symbol of modern European culture.
The present article regards the sense of exile as a part of the narrator’s subjective world experience in the works by the Yugoslav writer Dubravka Ugrešič (“The Museum of Unconditional Surrender”, in Croatian and English, 1996) and Latvian émigré author Margita Gūtmane (“Letters to Mother”, in Latvian, 1998). Both authors relate the sense of exile to identity problems, personal and culture memory as well as loss. The article focuses on the issues of loss and memory as essential elements of the narrative of exile revealed by the metaphors of photograph and museum. Notwithstanding the differences of their historical situations, exile as the subjective experience reveals similar features in both authors’ works. However, different artistic means are used in both authors’ texts to depict it. Hence, Dubravka Ugrešič uses irony, whereas Margita Gūtmane provides a melancholic narrative of confession; both authors use photographs to depict various aspects of memory dynamic, but Gūtmane primarily deals with private memory, while Ugrešič regards also issues of cultural memory. The sense of exile in both authors’ works appears to mark specific aspects of feminine subjectivity.

KEYWORDS

exile, subjectivity, feminine, memory, narrative

REFERENCE

NORDSCI International Conference 2020, Book 1, Conference Proceedings, ISSN 2603-4107, ISBN 978-619-7495-11-9, THE SENSE OF EXILE IN CONTEMPORARY EAST CENTRAL EUROPEAN WOMEN’S LIFE WRITING: DUBRAVKA UGREŠIČ AND MARGITA GŪTMANE, 215-223 pp, DOI paper 10.32008/NORDSCI2020/B1/V3/22