The field of trauma theory emerged in the 1990s out of the confluence of psychoanalysis, deconstruction and Holocaust studies. It soon consolidated into a trauma paradigm with hegemonic pretensions, which was ill-equipped to recognise traumatic experiences of non-Western and postcolonial groups or nations. It likewise tended to dismiss from trauma fiction any narratives that deviated from the aporetic model of normative trauma aesthetic. These limitations were exposed by the postcolonial turn in history and memory studies, which made it incumbent upon trauma theory to expand its focus to other literatures that bear witness to the so-far neglected, minoritarian trauma traditions. This essay introduces one such tradition, which is the recently emerged body of historical fiction about Soviet deportations, atrocities, genocide and other forms of persecution meant to subdue or eliminate entire ethnic or national groups in Eastern Europe between 1930 and the late 1950s. The genre of Bloodlands fiction, as I have called it elsewhere,1 first exploded in national literatures of Eastern Europe in the mid-1990s, after fifty years of suppression of cultural memory under the Communist regimes. About a decade later works of Bloodlands fiction became available in English, often written by diaspora authors. Starting with a challenge to the conventional definition of trauma fiction, this essay argues for a wider model that accommodates genres including Bloodlands fiction. Readings of Breaking Stalin's Nose (2013) by Russian American Eugene Yelchin, A Winter's Day in 1939 (2013) by Polish New Zealander Melinda Szymanik and Between Shades of Gray (2011) by Lithuanian American Ruta Sepetys are used to illustrate some of the key features, textual strategies and cognitive effects of Bloodlands fiction as a genre of global trauma fiction.
- Bloodlands fiction
- Historical fiction about Eastern Europe
- Holocaust literature
- Trauma fiction