New Article: Smola, Utopian Space and Time in Soviet Jewish Exodus Literature

Smola, Klavdia. “The Reinvention of the Promised Land: Utopian Space and Time in Soviet Jewish Exodus Literature.” East European Jewish Affairs 45.1 (2015): 79-108.

 

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13501674.2015.992711

 

Abstract

The Jewish underground movement in the Soviet Union in the second half of the 1960s produced literature that became a part of the counterculture of Soviet dissent. For the first time in decades, Russian Jews identified, to a significant degree, as people of the galut (Jewish Diaspora). The battle for the return to Israel and the new Jewish renaissance in the intellectual sphere of the unofficial led to the emergence of new topographical concepts, which were inspired primarily by the Jewish cultural tradition. In fact, the exodus texts written in the 1960s–1980s represented a new, late Soviet shaping of Zionist prose. They relate to the symbol of the Promised Land as a fundamental projection of aspirations. Late Soviet Zionist texts share the traditional Jewish vision of Israel as an imagined topos of the original homeland that is both retrospective (with reference to the biblical promise of the land and the seizure of Canaan) and prospective (return and redemption). The Exodus story contained in Sefer Shemot becomes a leading poetic, philosophical and at times religiously charged metaphor of liberation and reunification. The re-strengthened collective memory of tradition required biblical symbols to be imbued with new semiotic power.

This paper will show that the historical dimension of the events dealt with in the literature often has strong mystical and mythological traits and displays messianic-apocalyptic hopes of salvation. However, alternative literary space and time models represented in the aliyah literature hereby betray their rootedness in the teleology of the communist regime. The powerful Israel utopia reflects both the eschatological time of the Soviet empire and its phantasms of paradise on earth. Late Soviet Zionism and totalitarian discourse are shown to be two space-time utopias.

 

 

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