By Catherine Lee

Berkeley weather always confuses me, but I’m sure that people would not disagree with the idea of March being the month when spring begins. Even if it is still cold during the evening, spring is here. I’ve been noticing flowers on my ways to classes and although it is most likely that they have been there all along, they still look brighter and happier – because spring – is here, I know it!

A delightful and lovely word, “spring” is also a political term used to name periods of liberalization. We have recently witnessed the phenomenon that is the Arab Spring – and in history there have been the Prague Spring, the Croatian Spring, the Damascus Spring, the Cedar Spring, the Beijing Spring, and so on. What often takes place during these periods, quite naturally so, is the blossoming of literature, for they are moments that must be documented.

Photo courtesy of Denis Bocquet

Arab literature is flourishing, and the Arab Spring has been both anticipated and reflected in it. Translation pioneers have been diligently collecting and publishing literature that captures the revolutionary spirit, and which will serve as an invaluable resource for future generations. Take a look at the July 2011 issue of Words Without Borders, the online magazine for international literature, here, for touching poetry and fiction on Tunisia, on the Egyptian revolution, and more.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí) by the Czech writer Milan Kundera features the Prague Spring. It portrays the artistic and intellectual life of Czech society from the Prague Spring to the Soviet Union’s August 1968 invasion and its aftermath – and while most of what I can recall from the novel at the moment, rather unfortunately, is related to sex, I do remember that it was a thought-provoking read that offered a lot of insight about an important moment in history.

Then there is scar literature, or literature of the wounded, which is associated with the Beijing Spring. The late 1970’s in China was a period of greater openness and freedom in society to criticize the government. Some examples of scar literature from the period are “The Scar” by Lu Xinhua and “The Class Teacher” by Liu Xinwu.

So yes, spring is in many ways associated with the irrepressible, whether it is people’s desire for democracy and freedom or their burgeoning creativity. Here’s to spring, freedom, creativity, and literature!

For more posts on literature, click here.