Will Two Solitudes Ever Merge? (Non) Romantic Relationships in Contemporary Ukrainian and Croatian Women’s Writing.

Tatiana Nazarenko, University of Manitoba


For the past decade contemporary fiction by Eastern and Southern European women writers has presented relentless interest. Not only do female writers appear to be more willing than their male peers to explore difficult and contradictory aspects of societal or private life, they often challenge their readers by rejecting stereotypes, repudiating prejudices, and breaking taboos. The fiction of today’s major Ukrainian and Serbian female authors attest to this.

The present paper investigates romantic relationships as seen by contemporary Ukrainian and Croatian female authors. The key works for the study include, but are not limited to, Oksana Zabuzhko’s Field Work in Ukrainian Sex, Evheniia Kononenko’s Betrayal, and Slavenka Darculić’s The Taste of a Man.

Contrary to a tendency to portray Eastern and Southern European works as predominantly post-colonial discourses, this paper presents a post-modern interpretation of selected texts. Such aspects of post-modern writing as off-centricity, intertextuality, or historizing the personal experience are considered in the light of postmodern and feminist theories. Thematic issues selected for closer study comprise compatibility, self-esteem, verbal and non-verbal communication and other facets of romantic relationships as represented in the chosen texts. As two of the selected novels are set mainly in the United States and one of them examines cross-national relationships, this allows us to extend the paradigm of gender interaction beyond Eastern and Southern European practices. Because all three authors employ the flashback technique, an attempt will be made to trace the dynamics of recent social changes in Eastern and South Europe and their impact on personal self-identification, perception and behavior crucial for establishing and maintaining relationships.