Monday, November 16, 2015

History of victims and monuments

This month's Literary Review of Canada has the usual abundance, including a review of Charlie Angus's Children of the Broken Treaty by me. The really interesting writing turns up in the letters column.

In last months' LRC, the Toronto novelist and critic Antanas Sileika contributed an essay defending the plan for a monument in the heart of Ottawa to the victims of communism ("Why should we deny their suffering and their right to remember it?")  and attacking the anti-anti-communism he saw behind it, in which he saw anti-communism being dismissed as a "ploy to disguise the actions of Nazi collaborators."

This month the letters page has remarkable responses to his essay from three writers, Myrna Kostash, Janis Kulyk Keefer, and Erna Paris, all of whom have been deeply involved in issues of war, ethnicity, ideology, and memory in and of central and eastern Europe. All disagree fundamentally with Sileika, but on various grounds. Seleika offers a brief reply, and I found the whole exchange on a complicated question admirably argued.

Sadly, though, Sileika's assertion "no one reads history after high school" goes unchallenged throughout. Kulyk Keefer may think it's a good thing, even: only fiction really counts.

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