Barbara Kingsolver „Demon Koperhed“

Laguna, 2023. 

prevodilac: Marko Mladenović

Američki kutak započeo je novi ciklus književnih radionica, posvećenih istraživanju savremene američke književnosti i pozvao nas da budemo učesnici u ovom izvanrednom projektu centra. Ova sezona je počela romanom Barbare Kingsolver, Dejmon Koperhed, koji je već pronašao svoje mesto među srpskim čitaocima zahvaljujući srpskom izdanju idavačke kuće Laguna. Originalno, knjiga je objavljena 2022. godine. Roman je osvojio prestižne nagrade poput Pulicerove nagrade za fikciju, nagrade za fikciju ženskog književnog društva i nagrade Džejms Tejt Blek za memorijalnu književnost.
Dejmon Koperhed je roman inspirisan klasikom Čarlsa Dikensa Dejvid Koperfild, istražujući teme identiteta, porodičnih veza i ljudske otpornosti u suočavanju sa izazovima života u savremnom kasnokapitalističkom društvu. Kroz bogato ispričanu priču, Kingsolver nas vodi na putovanje koje nas suočava sa složenošću ljudske prirode i univerzalnim pitanjima postojanja u svetu u kojem dominiraju korporacije. Osim toga, ovaj roman može nam poslužiti u razmatranju književnih tehnika u percepciji književnih dela u savremenim književnim studijama.


U postmodernom dobu s nestrpljenjem smo očekivali da otkrijemo koji književni izraz će postati dominantan za buduće generacije. Eksistencijalizam, simbolizam – ovi moderni književni izrazi postepeno su se fragmentirali, samo da bi ponovo isplivali u postmodernom dobu kao struktura koja je prožimala sve prethodno dominantne književne epohe, stvarajući pravi galimatijas značenja i uticaja iz prethodnih književnih epoha. Možda iznenađujuće, književni stručnjaci su ostali zatečeni kada je novi milenijum doneo povratak realističkog proznog stila u igru, a autofikcija postala glavni izraz današnjice. Savremeni kritičari delovali su kao da su vratili sat unazad, okrenuvši se ka novoj istoriji ali sa postulatima prethodnih epoha, gde je fokus prešao sa šireg konteksta na individualne lične priče protagonista, uklopljene u vreme u kojem su ispričane – ali sa perspektivom vremena iz kojeg se tumače.
Na tragu Stivena Grinblata, koji je počeo da proučava renesansu i Šekspirova dela iz perspektive nove istorijske teorije, savremena proza sada se okreće istraživanju ličnih istorija kroz prizmu ljudskog postojanja u celini. Ovaj put otvara vrata obnovljenom istraživanju psiholoških pristupa, feminističkim čitanjima, političkim analizama i dubljim refleksijama o svim prethodnim epohama. Osnova tumačenja zasniva se na ideji da naše lično gledište proizlazi iz sociopolitičkog konteksta i nastavlja da se razvija kroz kontekst epoha.
U skladu s tim tonom, autorka Dejmona Koperheda koristi identičan sistem organizacije narativa kao Čarls Dikens, ali ovoga puta unutar okvira savremenog društvenog okruženja koje karakteriše dominacija multinacionalnih korporacija i struktura sveta prema merilima razvijenog kasnog kapitalizma. Ovo nam omogućava da istražimo sudbine marginalizovanih pojedinaca i posmatramo život pojedinca kroz prizmu ukupnog razvoja kapitalizma.
U tom svetlu, vreme je poremećeno u romanu, omogućavajući nam da razmišljamo o životu pojedinca u širem društvenom kontekstu, mešajući ga sa procesom lične identifikacije unutar našeg sopstvenog konteksta – naše lične istorije. Baš kao što Dejmon Koperhed nije samo priča o pojedincima, knjiga postaje odraz društva u kojem živimo, izazivajući nas da duboko razmišljamo o našoj ulozi u celokupnom tkivu postmodernog sveta.
Prvo ćemo ispitati kontekste na koje autorka organizuje radnju. Predstavljena nam je savremena Virdžinija i njeni trenutni društveni problemi. Dejmon Fields rođen je na jugozapadu Virdžinije (SAD) krajem 1980-ih; njegova majka, tinejdžerka, pripremala se za porođaj tako što je popila bocu džina, uzimala amfetamine i Vikodin. Glavni junak Dejmon je rođen prevremeno, čudom spašen od davljenja posteljicom, predodređenje da živi u marginalizovanim zajednicama siromašnih koji žive u prikolicama. Kada se njegova majka predozira, Dejmon je stavljen pod starateljstvo države, što dovodi do transformacije dečaka u robu koristeći postulate nove istorijske teorije, gde kapital postaje mera svih stvari.(naime postoje private kompanije koje se bave udomljavanjem dece bez roditeljskog staranja i u tome vide profit). Glavni junak je opsednut Marvelovim superherojima i crta svoje stripove. U petom razredu, slučajno radi u laboratoriji za proizvodnju metamfetamina. Konteksti prate zaplet Dikensovog romana, ali ovoga puta kontekst je obojen savremenim okruženjem koje ističe probleme današnjih SAD.
Poput Dikensa, Kingsolver pokušava da objasni glavnu tezu romana, kako se formira umetnička svest budućeg umetnika, kopirajući tezu prethodnih epoha da umetnost može pomoći u borbi protiv nadmoćnog neprijatelja utelovljenog u društvenoj strukturi vladajuće epohe. Intelektualno i duhovno traganje koje je u osnovi oba romana nailazi na otpor u vidu značajnih problema. Za Kingsolver, to uključuje siromaštvo, hraniteljske porodice i starateljstvo kao oblik posebnog kapitalističkog ogranka, uklanjanje dece, porodično nasilje i nasilje u hraniteljskim porodicama, nedostatke američkog javnog obrazovanja, zdravstvene zaštite i agencija za brigu o deci. Ali njen primarni cilj je ogoljavanje kompanije Purdue Pharma, u vlasništvu Saklera, koji je značajno doprineo opioidnoj krizi kroz agresivnu (i spektakularno profitabilnu) promociju OxyContin-a. Dejmonova priča o zavisnosti tako postaje neizmerno važna, koristeći postulate dikenskog realizma, kroz novohistorijski narativ, stičete utisak da dok čitate, suočavate se sa novinskim člancima sa autentičnim pričama, koje prevazilaze ne samo američku društvenu strukturu već se manifestuju i na univerzalnijem nivou.
Nakon što je povređen na školskom terenuza američki fudbal, potrebni su mu rendgenski snimci i magnetna rezonanca. Nažalost, mora da čeka tri nedelje na preglede. Recept za Lortab smatra se privremenim rešenjem. Ali jedno dovodi do drugog, gde je u centar narativa pitanje – mogu li siromašni priuštiti lečenje danas, i šta se dešava sa modernim sportom koji igrače i navijače pretvara u figure u kriminalnom i sumnjivom poslu savremenog ropstva i trgovine ljudima? On je guran u fudbal od strane svog trenera, ubeđen da uzima lekove protiv bolova od strane lekara, privučen fentanilom od strane svoje devojke, i uključen nesvesno u pljačku sa prijateljem. Opioidno izazvana zaboravnost je samo logički i depresivan vrhunac konteksta siromaštva danas.
Čitalac romana stalno se pita šta se menja kontekstualizacijom i uključivanjem teorijskih književnih pokreta u sam književni materijal. Dikensov roman počinje postavljanjem teze i naratora: Da li će se ispostaviti da sam junak svog života, ili će tu poziciju zauzeti neko drugi, ove stranice moraju to pokazati. Verzija romana Barbare Kingslover je značajno drugačija i prenesena je kroz objektiv nove istorijske teorije: Spasiti se ili biti spašen, to su pitanja – kaže Koperhed. Želiš da misliš da nije gotovo dok se ne okrene poslednja stranica. Jedan govori o volji, drugi o fatalizmu – nešto što možemo razmatrati unutar društvenog poretka različitih zemalja širom sveta danas.


Prvo ćemo ispitati tehnike koje smo primenili u postmodernizmu – to su bili postulati naratologije. Međutim, ako pokušamo da sagledamo Dejmona Koperheda unutar okvira postmodernističkog shvatanja, naići ćemo na prepreku. Na primer, njegova zavisnost predstavlja naratološku prepreku. Ona zahteva uključivanje volje – a to možemo učiniti samo kroz postulate nove istorijske teorije. Naime, on ne može prevazići prepreku dok ne prizove u sebi volju za promenom; ipak, ne može prizvati volju za promenom jer je teško oštećeni zavisnik. Neko će morati da dođe njemu u pomoć. Ovde dolazi do izražaja kontekstualizacija – jer osnova problema neće biti u rečenici kao u realizmu, već će glavni junak preko čitalaca tražiti pomoćnike ili ometajuće faktore za postizanje njegovog cilja iz konteksta društvenog okruženja, politike, okoline.
Prvo, potrebno je da primenimo psihološki pristup koji ćemo obojiti društvenim okruženjem kako bismo aktivirali te psihološke pristupe. Epizoda po epizoda, stavljamo Dejmona u okruženje koje će obojiti um tinejdžera. Dečak koji postaje toliko gladan da pojede čokoladicu nakon što je prošla kroz mašinu za pranje veša; dečak koji trpi egzistencijalno jer je ostavljen sam na ovom svetu, dečak koji postaje roba u sportu, dečak koji postaje broj u univerzumu multinacionalnih korporacija.
S druge strane, autorka je vešto uključila realističke tehnike u novoistorijski prizmu. Da bi roman bio katalizator za društvene promene danas, mora se osloniti na politički kontekst. Kroz kontekst, moramo voditi čitaoce ka mašti sposobnoj da zamisli buduće sociopolitičke kontekste koji još ne postoje. Ako bi Demon trebalo da replicira Dejvidov društveni uspon, možda bi morao postati – možda danas – zvezda reality TV-a koja postaje predsednik, prateći ideju umesto rečenice originalne priče.
Na kraju, Dejmon Koperhed se čitalačkoj publici ukazuje kao zanimljivo istraživanje savremenog realizma unutar okvira nove istorijske teorije, vešto spajajući naratološke postulate sa sociopolitičkim kontekstima. Kroz svoj narativ, roman podstiče čitaoce da razmišljaju o preseku ličnih borbi i širih društvenih sila, ističući složenost savremenog postojanja. Uključujući elemente i realizma i postmodernizma, autorka pruža nijansiran prikaz likova koji se suočavaju sa izazovima kasnog kapitalizma i društvene marginalizacije. Konačno, Dejmon Koperhed služi kao dirljiv podsetnik na moć književnosti da izazove kritičko razmišljanje o ljudskom stanju i inspiriše potencijalne puteve ka društvenim promenama.

 

Exploring Contemporary Realism through the New Historicist Lens: A Deconstruction of ‘Demon Copperhead

The American Corner has also begun a new cycle of literary workshops this year, dedicated to exploring contemporary American literature, and invited us to be participants in this excellent project of the center. This season started with the outstanding novel by Barbara Kingsolver, „Demon Copperhead,“ which has already found its place among Serbian readers thanks to Laguna’s Serbian edition. Originally, the book was published in 2022. The novel has won prestigious awards such as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

„Demon Copperhead“ is a novel inspired by Charles Dickens’ classic „David Copperfield,“ exploring themes of identity, family bonds, and human resilience in facing life’s challenges in contemporary late capitalist society. Through a lavishly told story, Kingsolver takes us on a journey that confronts us with the complexity of human nature and universal questions of existence in a world dominated by corporations. Additionally, this novel can serve us in considering literary techniques in the perception of literary works in contemporary literary studies.

In the postmodern era, we all eagerly awaited to discover which literary expression would become dominant for future generations. Existentialism, symbolism – these modern literary expressions gradually fragmented, only to re-emerge in the postmodern era as a structure that permeated all previously dominant literary epochs, creating a true mixture of meanings and influences from the preceding literary epochs. Perhaps surprisingly, literary scholars were taken aback when the new millennium brought realistic prose back into play, and autofiction became the main expression of today. Contemporary critics seemed as if we had wound the clock back, turning towards a new history but with the postulates of previous epochs, where the focus shifted from broader context to individual personal stories of protagonists, embedded in the time in which they are told but with the perspective of the time from which they are interpreted.

Following in the footsteps of Steven Greenblatt, who began to study the Renaissance and Shakespeare’s works from a New Historicist perspective, contemporary prose is now turning towards the exploration of personal histories through the lens of human existence as a whole. This time around, it opens the doors to a renewed exploration of psychological approaches, feminist readings, political analyses, and deeper reflections on all previous epochs. The foundation of interpretation is based on the idea that our personal perspective emerges from the socio-political context and continues to evolve through the context of epochs.

In keeping with that tone, the author of „Demon Copperhead“ employs an identical narrative organizational system to Charles Dickens, but this time within the framework of contemporary social environment characterized by the dominance of multinational corporations and the structure of the world according to the metrics of developed late capitalism. This allows us to explore the fates of marginalized individuals and observe the life of an individual through the lens of the overall development of capitalism.

In this light, time is disrupted in the novel, allowing us to reflect on the individual’s life within a broader social context, blending it with the process of personal identification within our own context – our personal history. Just as „Demon Copperhead“ is more than just a story about individuals, it becomes a reflection of the society in which we live, challenging us to deeply contemplate our own role in the overall fabric of the postmodern world.

Let’s first examine the contexts upon which the author organizes the plot. We are presented with contemporary Virginia and its current social problems. Damon Fields is born in southwest Virginia in the late 1980s; his mother, a teenager, prepared for childbirth by drinking a bottle of gin, taking amphetamines, and Vicodin. Born prematurely, saved from drowning by the placenta, he is destined to live in marginalized trailer park communities. When his mother overdoses, Demon is placed under state custody, leading to a transformation from a boy to a commodity using the postulates of the New Historicist approach, where capital becomes the measure of all things. He is obsessed with Marvel superheroes and draws his comics. In fifth grade, he accidentally works in a methamphetamine lab. The contexts follow the plot of Dickens’ novel, but this time the context is colored by contemporary surroundings that underline the issues of modern-day USA.

Like Dickens, Kingsolver attempts to explain the main thesis of the novel, how the artistic consciousness of the future artist is formed, copying the thesis of previous epochs that art can help you fight against a superior enemy embodied in the social structure of the ruling epoch. The intellectual and spiritual quest that is at the core of both novels encounters resistance in the form of significant issues. For Kingsolver, this includes poverty, foster families, and foster care as a form of special capitalist branch, child removal, family violence, and violence in foster care, shortcomings of American public education, health care, and child welfare agencies. But her primary target is Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sacklers, which has significantly contributed to the opioid crisis through aggressive (and spectacularly profitable) promotion of OxyContin. Damon’s story of addiction thus becomes incredibly worthy, using the postulates of Dickensian realism, through a New Historicist narrative, you get the impression that as you read, you are faced with newspaper articles with authentic stories, which surpass not only American social structure but also manifest on a more universal level.

After being injured on the field, he needs X-rays and an MRI. Unfortunately, he has to wait three weeks for appointments. The prescription for Lortab is seen as a temporary solution. But one thing leads to another, and the question arises – can the poor afford treatment today, and what is happening with modern sports that turn players and fans into pawns in the criminal and dubious business of contemporary slavery and human trafficking? He is pushed into football by his coach, persuaded to take painkillers by the doctor, lured by fentanyl by his girlfriend, and involved in a robbery with a friend through deception. Opioid-induced forgetfulness is only the logical and depressing apotheosis of the context of the poor today.

The reader of the novel constantly wonders what is altered by contextualizing and incorporating theoretical literary movements into the literary material itself. Dickens’ novel begins by posing a thesis and narrator: „Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.“ Kingsolver’s version is significantly different and transposed through a New Historicist lens: „To save or be saved, those are the questions,“ says Copperhead. „You want to think it’s not over until the last page turns.“ One speaks of will, the other of fatalism – something we can consider within the social order of different countries around the world today.

Let us first examine the techniques we employed in postmodernism – these were the postulates of narratology. However, if we attempt to view „Demon Copperhead“ within the framework of postmodernist understandings, we will encounter an obstacle. For instance, his addiction will present a narratological barrier. It requires the inclusion of will – and we can only do that through the postulates of New Historicism. Namely, he cannot overcome the obstacle until he summons the will for change; yet he cannot summon the will for change because he is a severely damaged addict. Someone will have to come to his aid. Here is where context comes into play – because the basis of the problem will not be in the sentence as in realism but will seek helpers or hinderers for achieving his goal from the context of the social environment, politics, surroundings.

Firstly, we need a psychological approach that we will color with the social environment which will activate those psychological approaches. Episode by episode, we put Damon in an environment that will color the mind of a teenager. The boy who becomes so hungry that he eats a candy bar after it has gone through the wash; the boy who trembles existentially because he is left alone in this world, the boy who becomes a commodity in sports, the boy who becomes a number in the universe of multinational corporations.

On the other hand, the author skillfully incorporated realistic techniques into the New Historicist prism. For a novel to be a catalyst for social change today, it must rely on the political context. Through context, we must lead readers to an imagination capable of envisioning future socio-political contexts that do not yet exist. If Demon were to replicate David’s social ascent, he might have to become – perhaps today – a reality TV star who becomes president, following the idea rather than the sentence of the original story.

In conclusion, „Demon Copperhead“ emerges as a compelling exploration of contemporary realism within the framework of the New Historicism, deftly blending narratological postulates with socio-political contexts. Through its narrative, the novel prompts readers to contemplate the intersection of personal struggles and broader societal forces, highlighting the complexities of modern existence. By incorporating elements of both realism and postmodernism, the author offers a nuanced portrayal of characters navigating the challenges of late capitalism and societal marginalization. Ultimately, „Demon Copperhead“ serves as a poignant reminder of the power of literature to provoke critical reflection on the human condition and inspire potential avenues for social change.

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