Ukrainian literature

Every year at about this time I focus on books from just one country. Last year I had a country in mind and then we decided to go to Norway so I switched to Norway. Soon after starting the Norway read, Putin started his nasty illegal invasion of Ukraine so I had no doubt that Ukraine would be this year’s country. I initially worried whether I would have enough Ukrainian books but I should not have worried. As always the problem was not finding books to include but deciding what to exclude. The books I have chosen include three by authors already on this site.

Not surprisingly quite a few of the books do not show the Russians in a good light. Putin was by no means the first Russian thug to invade Ukraine and Russia is by no means the only country to have invaded it. I visited Ukraine a few years ago on a cruise of the Black Sea and Dnieper. On the cruise they showed three films on successive days of the history of Ukraine. The first day’s film was grim, the second grimmer. Hardly anyone turned up for the third.

Bohdan Khmelnytsky

In one book I shall be reviewing, a character asks if Ukraine has even been independent (this was before they obtained independence in 1991 after the break-up of the Soviet Union.) The reply was Ukraine has never been a sovereign state, except in the time of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. This was in the summer of 1657, before Byelorussia and Russia existed. There is a claim for both Kievan Rus’ and the Ukrainian People’s Republic though, overall, Ukraine has been beset by foreign invaders for much of its existence as, of course, it is now.

Last year, though I did not read as many Ukrainian novels as I would have liked, I did write an introduction to Modern Ukrainian fiction in English which will give you an idea of what is available. If you did look at it when I posted it last year, I would point out that I have made quite a few changes since then, thanks in part, to translator Yuri Tkacz. As you will see there are quite a lot of Ukrainian works available in translation, far more than I had anticipated when I started working on this.

As I mentioned in Modern Ukrainian fiction in English, Ukrainian literature did not start with independence and I have read a few from before the independence era, including one first published in 1911. However, the majority come from the post-independence era. All but one are available in English. Ukrainian literature is relatively unknown in the English-speaking world. I hope that this will help you to learn that it has a lot to offer.

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