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REEEC/EUC - George Gasyna, Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures: "Andrzej Stasiuk and the Myth of the Literary Gastarbejter"

Event Type
Russian, East European and Eurasian Center; European Union Center
101 International Studies Building, 910 S. 5th St., Champaign
Nov 12, 2013   12:00 pm  
George Gasyna, Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Free and open to the public
Originating Calendar
School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics Calendar

Professor Gasyna reads Andrzej Stasiuk’s autobiographical quasi-travelogue Dojczland (2007) in the context of the modalities and mythologies of Polish migrations to Western Europe, particularly Germany, in the late-communist and post-communist periods. In this provocative yet melancholy text Stasiuk delineates for himself, as well for other “migrants” who work in the cultural field, broadly conceived, and who might follow in his footsteps, a subject-position of the other – a willful quasi-barbarian from the east arriving in the garden of the civilized west. Referring to himself as a literary “gastarbajter,” a self-affixed tag which he seeks to reinforce through a discourse of Slavic-Germanic incommensurability, Stasiuk – possibly Poland’s foremost literary voice today, and a fairly well-known author in Germany – situates Poland’s neighbor to the west as a place suitable principally for labor, whatever form it may take, but not for meaningful cultural interchange. For Stasiuk, in the (invariably mythologized) lived experience which trumps the integrationist initiatives and various other “marketing” ventures of EU expansion, Germany remains unknown and unknowable in its essence. Indeed what the Pole in Germany – or another marginal migrant to Germany – can hope for, at best, is an experience precisely of a “Dojczland”: an intermediary imagined entity, comprised half of desire and half of prejudice, and ruled over by a foreign semiotic system. In this work Stasiuk seems to be suggesting that by Polonizing the name of the host nation, the migrant may strategically obtain a certain comfort of re-territorialization, but by the same token, in so doing, s/he can never access the lived reality of the other.

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