"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Quest for a Usable Past

We are living in a time when questions of memory, memorialization, and forgetting are perhaps more prevalent and more controverted than ever. I have for several years been examining these questions, and continue to do so in a variety of venues and with regard to a number of incidents and periods in particular, as readers of this blog will know.

This month will see another volume join the discussion: Claudia Florentina-Dobre and Cristian Emilian Ghita, eds., The Quest for a Suitable Past: Myths and Memory in Central and Eastern Europe (Central European University Press, 2017), 164pp.

About this book, the publisher tells us:
The past may be approached from a variety of directions. A myth reunites people around certain values and projects and pushes them in one direction or another. The present volume brings together a range of case studies of myth making and myth breaking in east Europe from the nineteenth century to the present day. In particular, it focuses on the complex process through which memories are transformed into myths. This problematic interplay between memory and myth-making is analyzed in conjunction with the role of myths in the political and social life of the region. The essays include cases of forging myths about national pre-history, about the endorsement of nation building by means of historiography, and above all, about communist and post-communist mythologies. The studies shed new light on the creation of local and national identities, as well as the legitimization of ideologies through myth-making. Together, the contributions show that myths were often instrumental in the vast projects of social and political mobilization during a period which has witnessed, among others, two world wars and the harsh oppression of the communist regimes.

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