Dear TWOL readers, I am proud to announce that a variation of an essay I’d written here, The Need for a National Writer, has been published on a Macedonian literary magazine, Blesok! http://www.blesok.com.mk entitled “The Need for a National Writer?” Check it out—-it is a lovely gem of a journal. Thanks for reading, as always, and a new post will appear soon!
By Kalina Maleska-Gegaj, PhD
We have seen that postcolonial and postcommunist literatures have certain characteristics in common. There are, on the other hand, significant differences between them as well. One of the differences certainly comes from the geographical locations – whereas the postcolonial countries in general are situated further away from the Western countries, on continents other than Europe and North America, the postcommunist countries are direct neighbours of the developed nations of the West. Therefore, Macedonians feel more as part of Europe. The geographical locations have certainly contributed to different historical contexts, so that Eastern Europe has never been colonized by the more developed Western states.
After Macedonia’s independence, what is noticeable about its literature, especially the literature produced by writers who speak English, French, German or another of the Western European languages, is a relation of acceptance of a literary expression which is a combination of Macedonia’s own culture and the culture of the Western world. This relation is very different from that which exists between the postcolonial nations and their colonizers.
In this context, it is important to emphasize that Macedonia has never been a formal colony in the sense in which India, Kenya or Nigeria have been. Therefore, there is no strong criticism and definite rejection of foreign culture in Macedonian literature or literary criticism, although there may be some exceptions. It can be said that there are more similarities with Rushdie’s procedures than with the more stringent approach of Achebe. Therefore, the response of Macedonian postcommunist literary theory and practice is quite different from the response of postcolonialism.
Although Macedonia does not display such a strong hostility towards the foreign domination, it does face certain dilemmas in trying to find its own identity. Those dilemmas are: to what extent the foreign influence can be a creative stimulation, and when it begins to represent an obstacle for the growth of one’s own literature. How much does the cultural variety from abroad enrich and how much does it deny one’s own culture? Should authors create their works following theoretical and critical Western framework or should they find their own individual expression?
The answers to these questions can be largely ambiguous. In the colonial countries, there seems to be much stronger rejection of the Western European (formerly imperial) states than in Macedonia. In the Balkan context, Macedonia is aware of the discrepancy between itself and Western European countries, which view the Balkans as a less civilized and wilder place. Thus, on the one hand, Macedonia may and partly does identify itself with the colonized states, while, on the other hand, it advocates the Western values, as it has always been geographically part of Europe. Besides, it is a fact, proven by many surveys, that its citizens in the beginning of the twenty-first century tend to be part of EU, and the Macedonian writers certainly feel as European, which is very different from the case of the postcolonial writers.
Dr. Kalina Maleska-Gegaj, Ph.D. is an Assistant in English Literature at Blaze Koneski Faculty of Philology
Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, Macedonia