The Novel Snowman by David Albahari. A Socio-Anthropological Reading

  • Marija Brujić Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade
Keywords:
literary anthropology, migrations, Snowman, David Albahari, developmental model of intercultural sensitivity

Abstract

In this paper ideas of literary anthropology that legitimize research of fiction work in socio-cultural anthropology are combined with the theories and methodologies of migration studies. Novels can be used as a source for understanding and interpreting certain phenomena from our socio-cultural reality and be an object of research. Therefore, this paper analyzes the novel Snowman (1996) by David Albahari from his so-called “Canadian Trilogy”. It is his first novel after his emigration to Canada from Serbia in 1994. This paper aims to draw attention to the possibilities and potentials of anthropological analysis of Serbian literature that originated in Canada as one of the possible strands of literary anthropology. Is a prerequisite for successful integration of the first generation of immigrants good competence in the foreign language, a prestigious and well-paid job, and higher education? The answer to this question can contribute to a better understanding of the fictional representation of migrants and be useful in anthropological studies of contemporary migrations. To test this hypothesis, we have juxtaposed the novel “Snowman” with Albahari’s collection of essays “Diaspora and other things” on the life of immigrants in Canada based on the author's personal experiences and experiences of his co-nationals in Canada, and working biography of the author. Furthermore, we test Robert Park’s concept of the “marginal man”. While researching American Jews, Park concluded that they are “men on the margin of the two cultures” and that “marginal men personality” is a “cultural hybrid”, developed as a reaction to life in new surroundings. Finally, in the analysis section Milton Bennett’s method “developmental model of intercultural sensitivity” is used. Bennett’s model consists of six stages: denial, defense, minimization (first stage) and acculturation, adaptation, integration (second stage) and can be applied for the purpose of interpreting immigrants’ experiences in a foreign society. The main character of the novel “Snowman” is a writer from a small European country which is at war. He got a job at a university in a faraway northern non-European country and speaks their language fluently. However, he is nostalgic and homesick, feels misunderstood among his new colleagues and his new life seems to him hopeless. Finally, overburdened with all these emotions, he succumbs to heavy snowfall. Previous research of working migrants suggests that incompetence in the language of the country of residence, a low paid and unskilled job and low level of education are the main factors for their low level of integration. On the other hand, using the example of the educated main character from the novel, this paper shows that adaptation, integration, and positive emotions, such are pleasure and happiness, do not have to correlate with the level of education, language competence, and prestigious employment in a foreign country. In other words, the protagonist of the “Snowman” did not want to develop intercultural sensitivity. Therefore, we propose that migration studies should research not only what migrants do and how they behave but how they feel in their new surroundings. In this respect, migration literature with biographical elements may serve as an important source for this kind of research. 

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Published
2020-04-18
How to Cite
Brujić, Marija. 2020. “The Novel Snowman by David Albahari. A Socio-Anthropological Reading”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 15 (1), 129–153. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v15i1.5.