The Zone of Freedom? Towards a Second-World Literature
Was there a distinct and coherent Soviet-bloc literature? We know it was because it is no more. This paper proposes to explore it through the transnational literary field within which it circulated, a regional rival to Pascale Casanova's more famous World Republic of Letters. After identifying the borders, structures, and principles of operation that Soviet cultural bureaucracies designed for this People's Republic of Letters in the late-Stalin period, we will examine how deftly post-Stalin-era writers and readers navigated it in the decades that followed. In particular, the sheer unevenness of censorship practices across Eastern Europe allowed Soviet readers to access material that for political, or puritanical, or genre reasons was not available in Soviet literature. Such a revisionist approach to transnational print culture not only explains some of the very unusual Soviet-bloc bestsellers among Russian audiences but also highlights the sheer agency of those audiences.