Memory frictions: negotiating cosmopolitanism and postcolonialism in three post-Cold War essays by Tomas Venclova

Larissa Allwork

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaper


Lithuanian poet, literary critic and essayist, Tomas Venclova was a child during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, an inhabitant of Vilnius in the period of high Stalinism and a Soviet dissident intellectual and member of the Lithuanian Helsinki group during the 1970s. Since his emigration from the Soviet Union to the West in 1979, Venclova has become a prominent diasporic thinker on the 'memory frictions' of Cold War and post-Soviet Europe and the Baltic States, particularly how the remembrance of past conflicts affects relations between Lithuanians and Jews, Lithuanians and Poles and Lithuanians and Russians. This paper will analyse four of Venclova’s literary and political essays, in particular his post-1989 works ‘Odo et Amo’ (1990) and ‘Poems Melted into Ice’ (1991) in order to explore Venclova’s response to Soviet colonialism and its aftermaths. Following Stef Craps, this analysis will suggest that through an attentiveness to Venclova’s essays, particularly in relation to language and history, a different aesthetic of bearing witness to trauma can be interpreted. This representational strategy rejects, “the modernist aesthetic of fragmentation and aporia” (Craps, Postcolonial Witnessing: Trauma Out of Bounds, 2012, p. 2) traditionally associated with a post-Caruth trauma theory orientated towards the theoretical and literary traditions of Western Europe and America. Instead, Venclova presents strategies of representation which are much more attuned to the specific post-Soviet cultural, linguistic and political experiences of the Baltic States, a specific set of experiences, which while reflecting on much discussed topics such as the Holocaust and Soviet oppression, remain nonetheless geographically marginalized in contemporary Anglophone trauma studies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2015
EventMemory Frictions: Conflict - Negotiation - Politics - University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain
Duration: 6 May 20158 May 2015


ConferenceMemory Frictions: Conflict - Negotiation - Politics
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Memory frictions: negotiating cosmopolitanism and postcolonialism in three post-Cold War essays by Tomas Venclova'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this