The Icon Curtain: The Cold War's Quiet Border

Hardcover | February 2, 2015

byYuliya Komska

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The Iron Curtain did not exist—at least not as we usually imagine it. Rather than a stark, unbroken line dividing East and West in Cold War Europe, the Iron Curtain was instead made up of distinct landscapes, many in the grip of divergent historical and cultural forces for decades, if not centuries. This book traces a genealogy of one such landscape—the woods between Czechoslovakia and West Germany—to debunk our misconceptions about the iconic partition.

Yuliya Komska transports readers to the western edge of the Bohemian Forest, one of Europe’s oldest borderlands, where in the 1950s civilians set out to shape the so-called prayer wall. A chain of new and repurposed pilgrimage sites, lookout towers, and monuments, the prayer wall placed two long-standing German obsessions, forest and border, at the heart of the century’s most protracted conflict. Komska illustrates how civilians used the prayer wall to engage with and contribute to the new political and religious landscape. In the process, she relates West Germany’s quiet sylvan periphery to the tragic pitch prevalent along the Iron Curtain’s better-known segments.

Steeped in archival research and rooted in nuanced interpretations of wide-ranging cultural artifacts, from vandalized religious images and tourist snapshots to poems and travelogues, The Icon Curtain pushes disciplinary boundaries and opens new perspectives on the study of borders and the Cold War alike.

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The Iron Curtain did not exist—at least not as we usually imagine it. Rather than a stark, unbroken line dividing East and West in Cold War Europe, the Iron Curtain was instead made up of distinct landscapes, many in the grip of divergent historical and cultural forces for decades, if not centuries. This book traces a genealogy of one ...

Yuliya Komska is assistant professor of German studies at Dartmouth College. She lives in Plainfield, NH.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.2 inPublished:February 2, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022615419X

ISBN - 13:9780226154190

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
Introduction

Chapter 1. Conditions: Ruins of the Cold War
Chapter 2. Cornerstones: Iconoclasm and the Making of the Prayer Wall
Chapter 3. Infrastructure: Civilian Border Travel and Travelogues
Chapter 4. Uses: Visual Nostalgia at the Prayer Wall

Epilogue: Tragic Frames

Acknowledgments
List of Archives
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“A truly excellent book. The Icon Curtain is part and parcel of an expanding literature on the making of the border in Cold War Germany. But Komska’s book is distinct and highly original. Komska examines the ways in which former Sudeten Germans narrativized the border in both text and image. She analyzes, in other words, the cultural productions and practices of Sudeten Germans themselves. In so doing, she excavates a body of sources that has thus far completely eluded the attention of historians, anthropologists, or literary critics. With considerable skill and energy, Komska deploys a multiplicity of disciplinary perspectives to her multifaceted source body. What emerges from this analysis is not a series of loosely related case studies but rather a specific and quite coherent set of cultural practices and representations. Komska’s study reconstructs an imaginary world, a set of fantasies that sought to reconcile traditional attachment to an always contested homeland with the new reality of an increasingly impermeable Cold War border. This is one of the most erudite, well-written, and original analyses of the cultural history of the Cold War that I am aware of. I have no doubts that it will have a defining impact on a variety of fields.”