The Totalitarian Experience
Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan
5.5 x 7.75 inches, 64pp November 2011
ISBN : 9780857420138
Rs 350.00 (HB)
The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as many other Communist totalitarian regimes around the world. But it would be naive to assume that this historic, symbolic event and its aftermath have completely rid the world of totalitarianism. Instead, we should ask: What is the totalitarian experience and how does it survive today?
This is the imposing question raised by acclaimed philosopher and writer Tzvetan Todorov in this compact, highly personal essay. Here, he recounts his own experiences with totalitarianism in his native Bulgaria and discusses the books he has written in the last twenty years that were devoted to examining such regimes, such as Voices from the Gulag, his influential analysis of Stalinist concentration camps. Through this retrospective investigation, Todorov offers a historical look at Communism. He brings together and distils his extensive oeuvre to reveal the essence of totalitarian ideology, the characteristics of daily life under Communism and the irony of democratic messianism.
Bringing his thoughts and insights up to the present, Todorov explores how economic ultraliberalism may be considered just another form of totalitarianism. And his conclusion leads us to ask ourselves another challenging question: Are liberal democratic societies actually totalitarian experiences in disguise?
“In this honed, finely calibrated essay, Todorov refutes the notion that good can be imposed by force. More efficient is to embody one’s values and demonstrate their worth. . . . This is a concise and eloquent defence of what makes us truly human.”—Age, on Torture and the War on Terror
Tzvetan Todorov’s many writings include The Poetics of Prose, The Conquest of America, Mikhail Bakhtin: The Dialogical Principle, Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps, On Human Diversity, Hope and Memory, Imperfect Garden: Lessons from the Twentieth Century and The New World Disorder: Reflections of a European. He is Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris and has taught widely in the English-speaking world, notably in Harvard, Yale, Columbia and University of California.
Teresa Lavender Fagan is a freelance translator who has published over 20 translations, including J. M. G. Le Clézio's The Mexican Dream (1993) and Roland Barthes' Incidents(2010). She has also translated Meur's novel House of Shadows.