Fiction keeps memory about the war alive: Mnemonic migration and literary representations of the war in Bosnia

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This article investigates how literary works of fiction depicting wartime
memories from Bosnia were received by groups of lay readers in
Copenhagen, Manchester and Berlin. We introduce the concept of
mnemonic migration to include both the narrative strategies employed
by migrant authors in order to represent such memories in new
mnemonic contexts, and the reception of this type of literature in
different social and cultural settings. By investigating readers’ reactions
to literature by migrants who write about topics related to own or
fictional experiences in wartime Bosnia, we explore literature as a
medium that makes memories travel and has the potential to create
prosthetic memories. Studying what happens in the encounter between
the texts and recipients within three national communities of
remembrance – Denmark, Germany, and England – we ask if the texts
are capable of representing Bosnian wartime memories in an emotionally
appealing manner that urges the reader to incorporate them into their
own stock of memories.
Based on focus group interviews in the three cities, we argue that the
agency of literature in transmitting memories into new frameworks is
limited but definitely present. We found that the literary style of memory
mediations was an important factor and many readers preferred texts
with more clarity and factuality. Nevertheless, in spite of the frustration
experienced by a significant group, most readers felt emotionally
engaged by at least parts of the texts. We observed that there were
considerable differences in how readers in the three social settings
related to the events. However, in all three countries, differences
between generational groups most obviously affected the readings.
Often, the books made readers aware of the limited role of the Bosnian
War in their respective public frameworks of memory and created a wish
for a more thorough commemoration of that event.
Translated title of the contributionFiktion holder erindringen om krigen i live: Mnemonic migration og litterariske repræsentationer of krigen i Bosnien
Original languageEnglish
JournalMemory Studies
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)918-934
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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