Challenging the prevailing use of the term postsocialism as merely another designation for former Second World spaces, “Perverse Tongues, Postsocialist Translations” works toward articulating it instead as a critical and analytical lens on the current global condition. The “postsocialist” here marks modes of personhood and locution that are perverse with respect to the reproductive aims of the post-1989 order. Deriving from the socialist past but not reducible either to its official doctrines or to its official dissident cultures, these modes persist in the present and disable, however momentarily, the apparently closed language of neoliberal freedom and progress. The essay turns to figurations of Eastern Europe’s contemporary predicament found in Michał Witkowski’s novel Lovetown (2004), which tracks an aging queer community for whom the transition to capitalism and liberal democracy brought not emancipation but the threat of catastrophe; and in Szabolcs Hajdu’s magical-realist film Bibliothèque Pascal (2010), which tells the story of a woman who returns from working in an elite brothel in the UK. What makes these texts apt reflections on the effects of the neoliberal order and indices of a more general global condition is not merely the social and economic marginality of these subjects. As they resist both the liberal dream of common humanity that might be achieved through recognition and the neoliberal dream of prosperity that is indifferent to the human as such, the novel and the film call for practices of reading and spectatorship that would be attentive to subjective and temporal fractures within the putatively unified global present.

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