Hungarian Cultural Studies

"This monograph is an encyclopedic yet well-structured and insightful account of one of the most surprising last kicks of the Gutenberg era (that is, of the by now foregone, relatively brief period of history when exchange of thoughts via paper-based mechanical multiplication had a crucial effect on culture and politics). Kind-Kovács' subject is the international communication technology of dissident intellectuals and movements in the Soviet Union and the Soviet-dominated Central-European countries in the last decades before the collapse of these regimes and their pervasive censorship systems. She examines the ways dissident writers had their manuscripts smuggled through the Iron Curtain and published in the West, acquire global attention or at least that of their Western colleagues, and finally get both printed copies and the news of their work smuggled back into their countries. These activities bore the name tamizdat, an ironic under-statement abbreviation that in Russian sounds like one of the names of authorized Soviet publishing houses but which literally means "published over there." Tamizdat departed from the samizdat clandestine manuscripts and home-made publications in its persistence upon print publications that remained of course unauthorized and even retaliated, but which still transformed this underground literature into a kind of institutionalized cultural product(ion). Kind-Kovács' account is far from a political-history handbook alone, as its author is likewise a sensitive observer of the ways in which literary canons have changed in communist Eastern-Europe because of tamizdat's revolt against the Soviet-modeled writer unions. She also accounts for tamizdat's influence on Western literary canons by forcing them to keep an open eye on what goes on behind the Iron Curtain, as Tamizdat was the main source of the West's revelation that there was a true and exciting underground production of literature beyond the Iron Curtain."
Reviewed book: 
Friederike Kind-Kovács
$121.00 / €111.00 / £95.00