Police Aesthetics: Literature, Film, and the Secret Police in Soviet Times
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The documents emerging from the secret police archives of the former Soviet bloc have caused scandal after scandal, compromising revered cultural figures and abruptly ending political careers. "Police Aesthetics" offers a revealing and responsible approach to such materials. Taking advantage of the partial opening of the secret police archives in Russia and Romania, Vatulescu focuses on their most infamous holdings--the personal files--as well as on movies the police sponsored, scripted, or authored. Through the archives, she gains new insights into the writing of literature and raises new questions about the ethics of reading. She shows how police files and films influenced literature and cinema, from autobiographies to novels, from high-culture classics to avant-garde experiments and popular blockbusters. In so doing, she opens a fresh chapter in the heated debate about the relationship between culture and politics in twentieth-century police states.
obssessive “mă pierd” (I am getting lost; I lose my cool; I lose myself) comes as close as words can to capturing the moment when the subject’s world and “his image of himself within that world are exploded.” As the Kubark notes, its interrogation techniques were often shared by Literary Theory and the Secret Police Soviet interrogators.100 Contemporary CIA and Department of Defense studies on Soviet investigation techniques similarly detail the same basic steps of the interrogation
the hodgepodge of informer reports, confiscated manuscripts, denunciations, intercepted letters, and wiretap logs molded into a conclusive case presented by the prosecution to a judge? What endows this story with authority and persuasiveness? How does this story then culminate in one judicial sentence—to death, to a labor camp, to exile? The secret police has its own ways of doing things with words. The first challenge of this study is to identify the poetics of the personal file, its narrative
identified as a shared Soviet and Nazi propaganda strategy to manipulate “one of the chief characteristics of the modern masses. They do not believe in anything visible, in the reality of their own experience; they do not trust their eyes and ears but only their imaginations, which may be caught by anything that is at once universal and consistent in itself.”122 The Party Card masterfully taps into this suspicion, but it does not take it for granted. Instead, the film goes all out to inculcate
and welcomed in fascist Italy, the film provoked a scandal in France, which famously led to the break between the surrealists and the French Communist Party.52 The film was immediately bought by twenty-six countries, and it is still featured as a vintage treat in present-day art theaters. Road to Life is the story of the reeducation of homeless juvenile delinquents in a labor colony run by the secret police. Following the Revolution and the civil war, millions of children became homeless in the
object”—the human body—is shaken up to the point where it is permanently “withdrawn from the domain of life.” The human body parts are thrown into a strikingly new configuration. While pathetically trying to restore the old order of things, the soldiers only top the horror by assembling an incongruous human collage. The officer’s laughter at the horror of the dismembered body is proof that the ultimate end of artistic estrangement, the alteration of habitual perception, has also been outdone.