'"There Were Phantoms": Spectral Shadows in Christos Tsiolkas' Dead Europe'

Liz Shek-Noble


Central to Karl Abraham and Maria Torok’s metapsychological account of the Phantom is the prima facie assumption that the dead return to haunt the living because there is a debt which must be paid to them, the corollary of which, according to Slavoj Zizek, is that ‘they were not properly buried’ (qtd. in Davis 2). In this essay, I explore the problematics surrounding the proper (re)burial of the dead in Christos Tsiolkas’ Dead Europe, whereby unearthing shameful ancestral secrets Isaac Raftis dislodges and ultimately ‘exorcises’ the Phantom which haunts his family line. In exploring how Isaac becomes a living repository of an( )other’s trauma, that is, the trauma of Elias who was killed by Isaac’s grandparents, Dead Europe exemplifies the impossibility for the living subject to divorce him/herself from the collectivity of shadows and spectres forming one’s past.


Christos Tsiolkas; psychoanalysis; mourning; abjection; death; uncanny; bloodlust; trauma; Holocaust; erotism; Karl Abraham and Maria Torok

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