John Dugdale, in the Guardian, has produced an interesting list of writers born in Ukraine but not usually associated with that country . It includes the likes of Gogol, Conrad, Lem, Lispector, Bulgakov and Isaac Babel, who is not on my site as he did not write any novels but who was a brilliant writer. I would add to his list Vasily Grossman, Ilf and Petrov and Jan Potocki, well outside the period of my site but whose Saragossa Manuscript is a superb work, which was made into a superb film by Wojciech Has. Though obviously not a writer, I would also add Sergei Prokofiev. When you add the writers that we know to be Ukrainian, it does seem to show that the country was a fertile literary breeding ground.
I am going to take the opportunity to comment on the current situation in Ukraine. Whatever you, I or John Kerry may think of Viktor Yanukovych, he was the democratically elected president. I do not often agree with Putin/Medvedev, but here they are right. The democratically elected president was kicked out of office by an unruly mob, some of which were/are right-wing nuts. What would we think if Obama was driven out by a Tea Party mob or Cameron driven out by a UKIP mob or Hollande kicked out by a mob of Le Pen supporters? We would be against it. (We, meaning normal rational people and not Ted Cruz, Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen.) Something similar has been happening in Thailand and Cambodia though, so far, the democratically elected party has held onto power. Will we ever learn? No. Let us not forget Syria, Lebanon, the Iran-Iraq war, Chile, Zaire and many other examples from the past fifty years where the US, all too often backed by the pusillanimous UK government, has backed the wrong horse or failed to realise that the opponents of people we do not like are not necessarily saints but may well be just as bad as or even worse than the people we are trying to get rid off (Assad vs al-Qaida, for example). As George Santayana very wisely remarked Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Rant over. Back to real life – books.