“Eastern Europeans” and BrexLit
This article examines the representations of “Eastern European” migration in contemporary BrexLit, focusing on Adam Thorpe'sMissing Fay(2017), Amanda Craig's The Lie of the Land (2017), Carla Grauls's Occupied (2012), Andrew Muir's The Season (2015), and Agnieszka Dale's short stories.
Drawing on Paul Gilroy's work on postcolonial melancholia, and extending Kristian Shaw's “BrexLit” definition by focusing on stereotyping, it shows how the figure of the Eastern European migrant exposes unresolved anxieties around a presumed British cultural superiority, race, and empire. The arrival of Eastern Europeans and the increasing Brexodus of their “cheap labour” enables a reflection on the health of the nation - something is, indeed, rotten in post-Brexit Britain - as well as on unresolved legacies of empire that underpin the Brexit crisis. The article also analyses several promising responses from Polish British writers who interrogate the problematic staleness of these representations and take them into a much-needed new direction.