ukrainian literature: 2 posts

The Rooster House Now in Stores

My book The Rooster House was published yesterday by Virago Press. It’s being released during a trying time for my country. Even though its story begins in 2014, my book explains the context in which the Russian invasion takes place. It does so by focusing on ordinary people and their voices. While the book recounts Ukrainian history through a personal story, it celebrates four generations of remarkable women who held our family together through the most trying circumstances. As The Rooster House reveals, Ukrainian history is full of tragic events, but it is also a testament to the resilience and strength of Ukrainians. My great-grandmother Asya and my grandmother Valentina possessed incredible emotional resources, which made them able to protect their family and take care of their land.

As I wrote my memoir, I sought to capture my grandmothers’ lessons in seeking beauty and deriving support from creative pursuits like embroidery or gardening. For this reason, Ukrainian culture and art form the leitmotif of The Rooster House, and I take the reader on a journey with me through descriptions of Ukrainian scents, foods, nature, and arts. My memoir is an invitation to stroll through our cherry orchard in Bereh and become more intimately familiar with the elements that make up the colorful and diverse Ukrainian identity.

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Reading Nikolai Gogol in 2017

I celebrated Nikolai Gogol’s birthday on March 31st by picking up a volume of Dead Souls. The last time I read it in its entirety was during my school days, and many scenes were so vivid in my memory that picking up the novel again felt less like re-discovering than wandering through a familiar landscape. Gogol, the Ukrainian and Russian dramatist, playwright and novelist, is unrivaled for his sharp satire and colorful language, but what struck me this time is how relevant his observations were to our present day affairs. Today everyone is re-reading Orwell’s 1984, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and I’d like to make a case for adding Dead Souls to the list.

Let’s start with one of my favorite quotes in the book. “Absolute nonsense happens in the world. Sometimes there is no plausibility at all.” Yes, a similar thought in different formulations has been coursing through my head a lot lately. Or, “You can’t imagine how stupid the whole world has grown nowadays. The things these scribblers write!” What would be Gogol’s take on our world of “post truth,” “alternative facts,” and “fake news”?

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