The Underside of Politics: Global Fictions in the Fog of the Cold War

The Underside of Politics: Global Fictions in the Fog of the Cold War

The Underside of Politics: Global Fictions in the Fog of the Cold War

The Underside of Politics: Global Fictions in the Fog of the Cold War


This book argues that, during the Cold War, modern political imagination was held captive by the split between two visions of universality--freedom in the West versus social justice in the East--and by a culture of secrecy that tied national identity to national security. Examining post-1945 American and Eastern European interpretive novels in dialogue with each other and with post-foundational democratic theory, The Underside of Politics brings to light the ideas, forces, and circumstances that shattered modernity's promises (such as secularization, autonomy, and rights) on both sides of the Iron Curtain. In this context, literary fictions by Kundera and Roth, Popescu and Coover, Kis and DeLillo become global as they reveal the trials of popular sovereignty in the "fog of the Cold War" and trace the elements around which its world discourse or global picture is constructed: the atom bomb, Stalinist show trials, anticommunist propaganda, totalitarian terror, secret military operations, and political targeting.


Thought itself arises out of incidents of living experience and must remain
bound to them as the only guideposts by which to take its bearings

—HANNAH arendt, Between Past and Future

The Fog of the Cold War

Can literature and art mediate our relation to the historical present? If we want to be contemporary, we cannot avoid this question. At the end of the twentieth century, we witnessed an “epochal threshold”: a picture of the world ended and a new one (the end of History) timidly emerged, only to be violently replaced by new representations of the global era, dominated by ever more expansive networks—military, technological, financial. At the same time, we discovered the return of the repressed: unruly politics without public discourse; deceptive myths of social and economic opportunity; religious fanaticism; and the near free fall of the open markets. Presented in these terms, our age looks at least gloomy and obscure! Yet this is why we must strive to be contemporary, in the sense given to this term by Giorgio Agamben: “The contemporary is he who holds his gaze on his own time so as to perceive not its light, but rather its darkness. All eras, for those who experience contemporariness, are obscure. the contemporary is precisely the person who knows how to see this obscurity, who is able to write by dipping his pen in the obscurity of the present.”

Let us consider, in view of our initial question, two statements made by Don DeLillo, the fiction writer who is most faithfully devoted to understanding the dilemma of his own present, in that the invisible force of large historical events has, under the guise of the Cold War, allured his imagination. in Mao ii (1991), a novel about media culture, mass . . .

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