Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226154190 Will Publish January 2015
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226154220 Published January 2015

The Icon Curtain

The Cold War's Quiet Border

Yuliya Komska

Yuliya Komska

288 pages | 32 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2015
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226154190 Will Publish January 2015
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226154220 Published January 2015
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.
Hester Vaizey, University of Cambridge, author of "Born in the GDR: Living in the Shadow of the Wall" | Times Higher Education
“Komska’s work on the part of the Iron Curtain further to the south is a welcome addition. It is not often that a forest forms the centrepiece in historical writing. The Icon Curtain is one of those instances. Komska’s research focuses on the Bohemian Forest on the border moving up and down between the western side of Czechoslovakia and the West German border. Her work not only explores a less-studied locus of Cold War tension, but it also aims to deepen our understanding of the Iron Curtain by looking at representations rather than events, and by looking at literary texts and religious artefacts rather than experiences. . . . Komska’s research persuasively shows how the character of the Iron Curtain was far from uniform throughout its length. . . . The content is enlightening and she demonstrates how using geographical, literary and visual sources can greatly enhance our understanding of this era.”

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

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

List of Archives

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