Literary roundup: European Disneyland and Russian literature lessons

In Eurozine, Slavenka Drakulić has a far-reaching exploration of European identity by looking at two very different forms of change taking place in Italy. On the one hand, there is the influx of refugee immigrants coming to the island of Lampedusa and the southern coastal city of Bari. It is a story of incredible privations and growing intolerance.

She makes a stark comparison between the museum at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin commemorating escape from behind the Iron Curtain and the unheralded flights of today’s refugees (and points out that there is a tiny museum created in Lampedusa by the Askavusa association).

The other form of globalization she looks at is the growing unreality of Venice, which is being emptied out of Italian residents and becoming a growing source of Chinese investment. Drakulić begins by referring to the city as a museum:

“Venetians know only too well that they are living not in a city but in a museum. And that Venice is becoming less and less a real, living city, and more and more a museum of Europe’s past, embodying all the glory, wealth, power, beauty and art of times long past.”

By the end of the article though she alters this characterization of the city to give a much direr warning:

“My neighbor says that Venice is increasingly turning not into a museum, as I romantically thought, but a Disneylandish amusement park owned by the Chinese, who alone profit from it.”

A note of optimism is rung when she describes a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute by the multicultural Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio. Altered and performed in six different languages (Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, German, English and Wolof) the opera shows the creative and invigorating influence immigrants have.

Lessons in Russian literature

In The Moscow Times John Freedman reviews a performance of Dmitry Krymov’s Gorki-10, describing it as an absurdist pastiche of celebrated Soviet playwrights such as Nikolai Pogodin, Viktor Rozov, Vsevolod Vishnevsky and Boris Vasilyev in “a portrait of a world gone disturbingly wrong.”

Lenin, his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya (who later is transformed into her husband) and Felix Dzerzhinsky all figure prominently in what doesn’t sound at all like a typical evening at the theater.

Freedman also has a piece about visiting the University of Michigan offices of poet Joseph Brodsky and publisher Carl R. Proffer, whose Ardis Publishers introduced him (and me) to much of the previously unpublished treasures of 20th century Russian literature.

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2 Comments on “Literary roundup: European Disneyland and Russian literature lessons”

  1. 21/03/2012 at 10:45 pm #

    To be honest the museum is called Museum of Migration of Lampedusa, while Askavusa is the name of the association which founded it.

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