As if spinning a prayer wheel, this year’s Best European Fiction anthology once again gets rolling via a discussion of A. The Decay of Literary Culture, B. America’s Culpability In This, and C. The Scourge Of Consumerism (cf. B and A, in turn). “Back in 1984, when I visited America for the first time,” Slovenian novelist/playwright/essayist Drago Jancar writes in his preface, “on my very first day I noticed to my surprise that, try as I might, I wasn’t going to find a section labeled Culture in any of the newspapers.” Instead, “exhibits, plays, even literary readings were all listed under Entertainment.” America’s priapic obsession with being entertained has infected Europe, Jancar goes on to say, a development that is especially unfortunate in places like the Former Yugoslavia where, once safe from capitalism’s ineluctable decline into consumerism, people actually used to care deeply for words like culture and literature.
It’s true that the Americanization of everywhere hasn’t exactly turned out great for everyone, writers especially. “In Eastern Europe there is no shortage of disappointment in this brave new world,” notes Jancar.
Many writers who once thought that democracy and the new, relaxed atmosphere it lent society would validate the deep longing for freedom that was present in their works and that once brought them renown, now look upon the general apathy of their societies in despair.