The four clocks behind the reception desk of Berlin's new budget hotel Ostel show the hour in Moscow, Berlin, Havana, and Beijing. Time, however, appears to have stopped here sometime before 1989, when communism was still entrenched in all four capitals.Rather than a nostalgic “homesickness” for better times, Ostel offers an example of what I'd call “malstalgia,” a longing for bad experiences. Malstalgia may be ironic and commodified (Grindhouse and its potential sequel Machete come to mind), but it can also be genuine.
I know the term malstalgia is etymologically redundant (it means, roughly, bad-sickness). But I like the notion anyway. And I'm not alone. Aryn Baker describes a similar phenomenon in a Time Magazine piece entitled Cashing in on Mao-stalgia. In these cases we celebrate the "bad old days" in a manner that is somehow therapeutic. I am reminded of Susan Sontag's description of Camp sensibility: "it's good because it's awful."