THE WINTER SUMMER HOLIDAY BY VLADAN DESNICA: AN ATTEMPT AT A READING FROM POSTCOLONIAL PERSPECTIVE

Author:
Boris Škvorc, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul / Filozofski fakultet Sveučilišta u Splitu
Email:
bskvorc@ffst.hr
Summary
This article deals with the possibility of establishing a frame for a postcolonial reading of Zimsko ljetovanje (The Winter Summer Holiday, 1950) by the Croatian author Vladan Desnica. It also considers the reflection of such a reading with respect to the canon of Croatian and other South Slavic literatures. The central question posed is: what could history of literature gain or lose by using the postcolonial approach in the interpretation of a well established, relatively conservative and stable canon of local academic hegemony? It is argued here that Desnica’s novel was written during a very important period of Croatian and South Slavic history (1950s) and that it represents one of the most successful attempts at undermining the official Communist politics (and poetics) of social realism. Within the traditional reading/interpretation of this novel, two dominant approaches can be detected. The first one deals with the reintroduction of the modernistic approach into Croatian literature and paves the way to liberal individualistic stance in the South Slavic, and in particular Croatian, authorial intention. The second one was introduced later, in 1990s, and it insists on reading the novel from the position of reading stereotypes and images as the most productive way of dealing with cultural issues of otherness, other language, viewing the space from the position of otherness, overlapping of cultural identities and interpreting political and political issues discussed and painted by the text. The complex issues of textual genealogy and the space of cultural clash in a post-multicultural society are agreed upon in most of the readings/interpretations within both approaches. However, the possibility of reading this novel as a counter-narrative of subaltern otherness and of the opening of ironic destabilization of the most “stable” readings has not been used to its full potential. Here the counter-reading of this paradigmatic novel is offered from the perspective close to Spivaks’ location of “native informant” and Todorovas’ location of Balkans, where both the concept of Occident and the concept of Orient are seen as the others. Before the introduction of imagology into Croatian theory, this novel was predominantly read in a structuralist key, with an emphasis on the genealogical frame, and in relation to the poetics and politics of that time. Major topics that were discussed frequently included the lack of individualisation, collectivism and a somewhat schematic construction of the novel. In contrast to this tradition, we argue here that the postcolonial reading could open new avenues not only for the reading of this novel, but also for the research of Croatian novel in the second part of the twentieth century as a whole. In this process it is important to distinguish between two possibilities which Desnica’s novel considers and which the authorial intention (Eco) has put in the centre of its stylistic and ideological potential. That is the difference between posing the logocentric and fonocentric discursive standpoint. It is the difference between writing and uttering, between stylization and using the “informants” from the realm of storytelling, as defining focal points for decoding the positions of power and empowerments of and in the text. In that respect, scholarly attention is shifting from the canon to the power games of hi/story, from evaluation to the location of cultural paradigms and from describing the hegemonic order towards establishing the frames of possible counter-hegemony that are achieved in this text, namely within its ironic layers of deconstruction of firm stereotypes. The emphasis then is on the procedures of utterance and storytelling mechanisms, rather than on the effect of what is narrated within the canon. The article suggests that further study of these mechanisms should be undertaken in order to establish the space of contact between the lingual contingencies and ideological realms. The article also focuses on the actual historical issues related to this novel, that is, on the effects this novel has had on later texts in the national and trans-national environment.
Key words
postcolonial approach; deconstructing; the modernist genealogy; subaltern voice in majority discourse; Vladan Desnica; winter vocation in summer; undermining the system and ideological stereotypes
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