Urban Poetics in East-Central Europe, Pre- and Post-1989
The literary scholar Alfrun Kliems explores the aesthetic strategies of Eastern European underground literature, art, film and music in the decades before and after the fall of communism, ranging from the 'father' of Prague Underground, Egon Bondy, to the neo-Dada Club of Polish Losers in Berlin.
The works she considers are "underground" in the sense that they were produced illegally, or were received as subversive after the regimes had fallen. Her study challenges common notions of 'Underground' as an umbrella term for nonconformism. Rather, it depicts it as a sociopoetic reflection of modernity, intimately linked to urban settings, with tropes and aesthetic procedures related to Surrealism, Dadaism, Expressionism, and, above all, pop and counterculture.
The author discusses these commonalities and distinctions in Czech, Polish, Slovak, Ukrainian, Russian, and German authors, musicians, and filmmakers. She identifies intertextual relations across languages and generations, and situates her findings in a transatlantic context (including the Beat Generation, Susan Sontag, Neil Young) and the historical framework of Romanticism and modernity (including Baudelaire and Brecht).
Despite this wide brief, the book never loses sight of its core message: Underground is no arbitrary expression of discontent, but rather the result of a fundamental conflict at the socio-philosophical roots of modernity.
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