Arguments against "The Executed Renaissance"
What is it about?
The aim of this paper is a critical review of the most important topics of the anthology, which has founded the paradigm of the "executed renaissance" era. The work revolves around four issues: a) biographical and historical factors and conditions underlying the anthology and the discourse of the "executed renaissance," b) the issue of criteria for the selection of works, which was the basis of the anthology, as well as a canon and anti-canon of literature of the period, c) heuristic usefulness of the "executed renaissance" metaphor, conceptualization of literary phenomena with constituent figures proposed by Lavrinenko in the title of the anthology ("execution" and "renaissance" figures) d) the impact of the closing essay in the anthology – Literature of vitaism (1917-1933) by I. Lavrinenko on ideological and theoretical-literary image of this period.
Why is it important?
In 1959, the most important anthology of twentieth century Ukrainian literature was published – Rozstriliane vidrodzhennia [The Executed Renaissance], edited by Iurii Lavrinenko (1959). This book, both special and controversial at the same time, has left an incredible mark on the post-war Ukrainian humanities in exile (Hryn 2004-2005: 67-70); moreover, its impact on the broader discourse of the history of literature and art from the period of 1917-1934 is still felt to this day (Haleta 2015: 229-248). The Executed Renaissance – created at the initiative of Jerzy Giedroyc, the editor of “Kultura,” the most important magazine of the post-war Polish immigrant community – though not a dissertation, monographic study, or critical summary of the described phenomenon, has nevertheless enjoyed a stunning and surprising career with regards to historical, literary, and culturological research (Berdychowska 2004b: 38-42). Firstly, this book for decades defined the perception of the 1920s, one of the most important stages in the formation of modern Ukrainian literature and art. Secondly, The Executed Renaissance significantly influenced the development of the historical and literary narrative of this phenomenon. The anthology introduced the following basic terminology: it defined both the name of the literary generation and period (“executed renaissance”) and the set of literary trends and phenomena (“literature of vitaism,” “clarinetism”) that have firmly established themselves in the literature. Thirdly, Lavrinenko’s anthology has formulated a kind of literary canon of the 20s. Finally, the anthology has created a superior category which marks the entirety of the complex changes in cultural life (including in literature, theater, art, cinema) of the 1917 to 1934 period, a category that was the foundation of the entire paradigm known as the “executed renaissance” (Hryn 2004-2005: 67-96). Lavrinenko’s work was met with unprecedented acclaim and popularity, chiefly among Ukrainians in exile – the anthology has received more than 50 positive reviews in various scientific émigré publications (Odarchenko 1988: 23-24) – and later in independent Ukraine – evidenced not just by the subsequent re-editions of the book (Lavrinenko’s anthology has had eight re-editions: twice published by Vydavnychyi Tsentr “Prosvita” and six times by Smoloskyp), but also by the publishing series initiated by the Smoloskyp (Seriia 2014) and BAO Donetsk (Rozstriliane 2014) publishing houses titled nomen omen, The Executed Renaissance, which restored until recently forbidden and forgotten works of the 20s. In this regard, the anthology published by “Kultura” deserves special attention and the distinction of the most important anthology of Ukrainian literature of the twentieth century (Haleta 2012: 58). At the same time, it is a book that distorts the image of the era and has not gone through a thorough critique: a book that weighs heavily on the literature of the 20s, reinforces a false historical and literary view (repeated over and over again for years), and promotes assessments and characteristics of the era that have little to do with reality. Iaroslav Polishchuk writes about the phenomenal success of Lavrinenko’s anthology, which although outdated and anachronistic in its comments on the presented literature and biographies of writers, enjoys enduring appeal, and was published and widely advertised at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Instead of modernizing the literary canon of the 20s by publishing new anthologies with works from that period that would compete with Lavrinenko's anthology, this book dating back more than half a century was published instead (Polishchuk 2008: 242).
The following have contributed to this page: Dr Paweł Krupa