Sleepwalking the Revolution. An Exercise in Historical Logic
Between 1939 and 1956, East Central Europe experienced a period of radical social upheaval. In Poland, most Jews were murdered during German occupation, and the landed aristocracy was crushed under the socialist order imposed after 1945. Taken together, Andrzej Leder argues, this constituted a full-fledged revolution. Combining historical interpretation with psychoanalysis, he demonstrates how the effects of that revolution can still be felt today.
Andrzej Leder shows how agency in what he calls the Polish Revolution was systematically blurred. Poles’ own role in this revolution was contradictory: given the fact of German and Soviet rule, their participation in it was neither self-determined nor self-organized. Directly faced with the violence of occupation, all Polish residents were forced to confront it one way or another. Many perished, but others inadvertently benefited from the revolution. Analyzing this process, Leder argues, is a precondition for Polish society to awaken from its long-lasting sleepwalking condition. Unsurprisingly, Leder’s book has provoked a fierce debate in Poland.
Andrzej Leder, born 1960, is a philosopher of culture. He is the author of several monographs and essay collections on psychoanalysis and 20th century culture. His book Prześniona rewolucja (Sleepwalking the Revolution) has been nominated for several book prizes. The German edition came out earlier this year and was sold out within weeks.
Agnieszka Wierzcholska, PhD, is a research fellow at the Institute of East European Studies (History Department) at the Free University of Berlin.
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