Rajžaliteratur – A Journey Across the Shifting Words of Traumatic Narratives

Carpenter, Aaron. Rajžaliteratur: A Journey Across the Shifting Words of Traumatic Narratives. University of Washington, Ph.D. dissertation. 2024. Print.

The authors in this dissertation all write against a national narrative in their respective countries that exposes where their communities’ experiences are left out or disregarded. They do so by using various strategies and this dissertation will focus on their use of loanwords to fight against nationalistic impulses. As a foreign element within society, loanwords can be an explosive force that represents different perspectives on issues where multiple groups do not see concerns or events the same way. The explosive force of these loanwords also leads them to create profane narratives, which counter national narratives that can take on an almost theological quality. Maja Haderlap activates this force most directly with Rajža and the history of how her grandmother, like other oppressed or resented ethnic Slovenes in Carinthia, was sent to a concentration camp by Austrian authorities under the Nazi government, a role Austria long denied playing. Saša Stanišić also disrupts nationalist narratives, specifically of former Yugoslavia, in his writing for an audience in Germany where he explains how describing inter-ethnic relations is not as simple as either love or hate between the different groups. Marica Bodrožić critiques a trend in now-independent Croatia to remove loanwords from the language, arguing that the resulting language is artificial and does not help the speaker communicate effectively. The project of Nicol Ljubić's protagonist, Robert, begins when he does not understand the meaning of the loanword bonaca, which his girlfriend, the Bosnian-Serb Ana teaches him. He must translate and deconstruct its German equivalent, Meeresstille, to understand how she is still affected by the trauma of the war.

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