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Liberating the Past and Transgressing the National : [Review] Simon Lewis. Belarus – Alternative Visions: Nation, Memory and Cosmopolitanism. Routledge, New York/London, 2019 (BASEES / Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies). XI, 230 pages.

In Slavic studies abroad, research on Belarusian literature is rare, and a monograph an event. This slender book evolved from Simon Lewis’s doctoral dissertation, submitted at Cambridge University in 2014. It is a thorough study on the negotiations of nation and memory, with cosmopolitanism as a key word for the ‘alternative visions’ of the Belarus(ian) past, in which the author is interested most. The book concentrates on the second half of the 20 th century and the post-Soviet period. As the first chapter offers an overview from ca. 1800, it doubles as an excellent introduction into modern Belarusian literature in general. The book must be praised particularly in this respect for its brevity and conciseness that completely differs from the multi-volume cumulative histories of Belarusian literature published in Miensk, and from Arnold McMillin’s encyclopaedic publications over the last decades. The six chapters, as well as the endnotes that follow each of them, prove the author’s broad and thorough knowledge not only of the Belarusian classics, but also of Russian and Polish literature. Reading Belarusian, Russian, Polish, English, and German, Lewis bridges the gap between both research communities and disciplines (a good deal of his secondary literature stems from history). Experts will also appreciate his interpretation of Belarusian culture against the theoretic background of postcolonial studies.


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