Troubled Identity and the Modern World by Leonidas Donskis (auth.)

By Leonidas Donskis (auth.)

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At this point, Kundera goes so far as to exclude Russia from Europe, a move that was not endorsed by Joseph Brodsky, Czeslaw Milosz, and Timothy Garton Ash, among others (see Kundera, 1984, 33–38; Ash, 1999, 166). In the philosophical implications of Kundera’s literature, history appears as a meaningful and silent moral alternative to the brutality of geopolitics and power politics carried out by the powerful. The memory becomes a tool of the small and weak, while forgetting best serves the interests of the big and mighty.

Such an effort does not signify the repression of our memory or the arrival of a mental self-censorship. Contrary to a widespread opinion, the politics of forgetting does not necessarily imply the destructiveness of modern life with totalitarian regimes, devaluation of life, insensitivity, and social constructivism. Sometimes, forgetting lends itself to forgiveness, liberating us from the burden of worn-out concepts and arguments. Like remembering, forgetting is at its best when it comes as an existential and moral choice.

Yet utopias and dystopias would never have been born without the conservative trajectory of this form of imagination and without the conservative sensibility that lurks in the modern moral imagination. Zamyatin’s We, Orwell’s 1984, and Huxley’s Brave New World depict a memory-free world deprived of public historical archives and the humanities in general, as Mercier’s The Year 2440 presents the world of the future where no room exists for history. The study and teaching of history is abandoned in twenty-fifth-century France since to study a series of human follies and irrational actions is a disgrace.

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