Home » Books published » Cristina Văţulescu, Cultură şi poliţie secretă în comunism. Iași: Polirom, 2018.

Cristina Văţulescu, Cultură şi poliţie secretă în comunism. Iași: Polirom, 2018.

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, Vătulescu 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.

What people are saying about it:

“Vatulescu insightfully draws upon archival material from both Russia and Romania to shed valuable light on the way the secret police informed—or in formed on, as the case may be—artists of the era . . . Although her subject matter lies in a shadowy, politicized realm located somewhere between ‘subversion and complicity,’ Vatulescu provides her readers with much needed illumination of that murky penumbral realm.” (Tim Harte, Slavic Review)

“In this fascinating and ambitious study, Cristina Vatulescu examines secret-police files, surveillance methods, and interrogation techniques in the Soviet era, and the impact of resulting ”police aesthetics” on writers and films directors. Like a good mystery novelist, Vatulescu draws us into rooms forbidden to the average reader – courtrooms, interrogation rooms, and secret police archives – creating and image of Soviet culture that is at odds, as herself asserts, with easy binary oppositions. Instead, she presents us with a complex network of imagery and associations that underlies texts from the Soviet period, ranging from police files to underground novels.” (Eric Laursen, Slavic and East European Journal)

“Police Aesthetics most deservedly received the Barbara Heldt Prize in 2011: Vatulescu opens up new lines of investigation (to stay within the police jargon) for a reading of the relationship between fact and fiction in Stalinist culture.” (Birgit Beumers, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema)

“Vatulescu’s outstanding book focuses on the fate of the unregimented creative intelligentsia in Stalin’s Russia and Stalinized Romania, the interplay between artistic creation and police supervision, coercion, and persecution. Drawing from secret police archives in Russia and Romania, this superbly researched and original book captures the tragic destinies of major artists caught at what Lionel Trilling called the bloody crossroads where politics and literature meet.” (Vladimir Tismăneanu, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History)

“This is a very important, groundbreaking book, one of the most original and illuminating works I have seen in recent years in comparative Slavic studies. Police Aesthetics will unquestionably position Cristina Vatulescu as one of the foremost scholars of Soviet culture.” (Catharine Nepomnyashchy, Columbia University)

“Rarely have I encountered a book that managed to incorporate original archival research (and what findings!), new work in history, literary, and film theory, and close analysis in such a clear and compelling way.” (John MacKay, Yale University)

“Sunt trei domenii, deci, convocate, pentru a intra, în sumă, cumva „prin la­te­ral“ într-o tematică deloc demodată (chiar dacă, aparent, ea aparține, istoric, mai degrabă de secolul trecut): literatura, filmul și narațiunile despre poliția secretă. Urmarea acestei atât de fecunde intersecții e un studiu și o carte așa cum, pentru mi­ne, nu e niciun dubiu, nu avem în ro­mâ­nește. Mai precis: nu aveam până la acest volum.” (Cristian Patrasconiu, 22)

“Volumul – impresionat și ca efort de documentare, și în privința liniilor de discurs atins, și ca ipoteze de cercetare propuse (și foarte bine argumentate) – sta la umbra unui citat oarecum misterios și, în orice caz, intrigant din ”Vorbește, memorie” a lui Vl. Nabokov … Foarte pe scurt: nu aveam un studiu pe această tematică de asemenea finețe, anvergură și cuprindeere. De acum îl avem – și este foarte bine că e așa. (Cristian Patrasconiu, Banatul Azi)