Joaquim Ruyra: Jacobé & Fineta

The latest addition to my website is Joaquim Ruyra‘s Jacobé & Fineta This collection consists of two short stories but very well worth reading . Jacobé tells of a girl who looks after a young boy, Minguet when young but he notices that as she gets older she seems to be deteriorating and even going insane. the local doctor puts it down to the fact that her father and grandfather died of alcoholism and the disease has passed to her even though she is not an alcoholic. The denouement, as the two again meet, takes place on a stormy cliff. Fineta is shorter and tells of a young woman waiting for her brother and father to return from sardine fishing but who is assaulted by a mysterious character while waiting. Both are excellent stories.

Vladimir Sorokin: Сердца Четырех (Their Four Hearts)

The latest addition to my website is Vladimir Sorokin‘s Сердца Четырех (Their Four Hearts). This is the first of apparently eight Sorokin novels that will come out in English translation over the the next couple of years or so. This is the most brutal and transgressive, written by Sorokin as the Soviet Union was breaking up and his ultimate nail in the coffin to the Soviet Union. He takes a standard Soviet trope – four “typical” Soviet people (Stakhanovite worker, war victim, female Olympic athlete, teenage boy) and instead of showing them as model Soviets, we see then as depraved, brutal cruel and violent. They engage in a series of brutal activities (such as murdering the parents of two of the group) and also a series of, to us, incomprehensible rituals. Sorokin spares no-one as he shows, in massive exaggeration, the dark side of the Soviet Union. But beware! It is not for the squeamish.

Patrick McCabe:

The latest addition to my website is Patrick McCabe‘s Poguemahone. The title is the Irish for kiss my arse. Our main characters are Una and Dan Fogarty Now (2019) Una has dementia and is in a care home in southern England, where she causes a certain amount of disruption while Dan takes care of her. However, the basis of the story, told in blank verse format and owing a lot to the the traditional Irish song, is the Mahavishnu Anarchist Temple, in London in the 1970s, where Una, Dan and a lot of others live, with plenty of drugs, drink sex and 70s music. The IRA, various ghosts, raucous activities, with complaints by the neighbours and visits from the police and even suicide all feature, told in McCabe’s Irish drinking song style and inevitably ending badly. Una and Dan even visit in 2019 (it is now a motel) and find a medallion Una left behind. It went on a bit too long for me but McCabe certainly had fun writing it.

Erlend O. Nødtvedt: Vestlandet [Westland]

The latest addition to my website is Erlend O. Nødtvedt‘s Vestlandet [Westland]. This is about a road trip made by the author and his friend the painter Ingve Pedersen. In a battered Ford Camry, they set out from Bergen to the Westland region of Norway (the rainiest region of Europe) carrying the skull of Anders Lysne, a man executed some two hundred years ago by the Danes who were then occupying Norway. Our heroes plan to return it to Lysne’s home town of Lærdal. En route they meet various famous artists, writers and musicians, including Jon Fosse but also deceased ones. They get involved in the Westland Liberation Front (which may or may not exist), get stuck in a tunnel, encounter various animals, drink, break down, try to get in touch with the spirit of Westland, oppose Eastern Man, the symbol of authority and government, meet a survivalist, paint and write, listen to music and finally get to Lærdal, more or less in one piece. It is very humorous, though there is very much a serious intent behind it. Sadly, at the time of writing there is no plan to translate it into English.

Masatsugu Ono: 森のはずれで (At the Edge of the Woods)

The latest addition to my website is Masatsugu Ono‘s 森のはずれで (At the Edge of the Woods). An unnamed family – husband, pregnant wife and young son, possibly Japanese – move to a foreign country, to a house at the edge of the woods. The wife goes back to her parents to have her child, leaving father (who seems not to work) and son. The woods are strange. The trees move of their own accord, there are strange noises and, according to the local farmer and postman, there are imps who steal things and people. The son finds an old woman with her tale to tell. His behaviour becomes erratic. There seems to be a refugee crisis. Two dwarfs appear at the front door. And only the dogs have names. This is an excellent novel in the Japanese ghost story tradition, where things get stranger and stranger.

Daša Drndić: Canzone di guerra

The latest addition to my website is Daša Drndić‘s Canzone di guerra. Our narrator is Tea Radan, a Croatian single mother who has emigrated to Çanada. In a series of sketches, she describes her life, bringing up a daughter as an émigré in Canada (of which she is very critical) but also a whole range of issues relating to Croatia and Yugoslavia, including the horrors of the Nazi occupation, the Holocaust, the Tito era and the post-Tito break-up of Yugoslavia. Her time in Canada is far from perfect. For Tea and other Yugoslav émigrés, many of whom are highly skilled graduates, getting an appropriate job because of language difficulties and recognition of Croatian/Yugoslav qualifications is almost impossible so they end up selling hot dogs or stuffing envelopes. She also finds that Canada has been very lax about former Nazis and carries out her own investigation. Using a mixture of wry humour, bitterness, a strong sense of what is right and wrong, a dogged persistence and a strong critical faculty, she gives is an excellent picture of the situation in her homeland and the life of an émigré.

Vladimir Sorokin: День опричника (Day of the Oprichnik)

The latest addition to my website is Vladimir Sorokin‘s День опричника (Day of the Oprichnik). This novel is set a few years in the future. Russia now has a Tsar again and, as with Ivan the Terrible, he is protected by an armed force called the Oprichniks. The story tells a day in the life of Andrei Danilovich Komiaga, the fourth highest ranking Oprichnik and an exciting and busy day it is. He and his colleagues start off by attacking the the house of a nobleman, who has run foul of the Tsar. The nobleman is hanged, his wife gang-raped and his children sent to an orphanage. While killing and other brutalities happen later, we also see bribery and corruption, book burning, flogging, drug use, alcohol and wine, special privileges, outwitting the Chinese and, I might mention, glowing genitals. We see it all through the eyes of Komiaga who is firmly committed to the cause and works hard to protect sacred Russia (yes, Russia is Christian). It is clearly an attack on both Ivan the Terrible and Putin, but an indirect one with no direct satire, sarcasm and humour and, as such, works very well.

Modern Ukrainian fiction in English

Ukrainian literature did not start with the breakup of the Soviet Union though novelists writing in Ukrainian certainly came to the fore post-the Soviet Union.

A Ukrainian novel

However before looking at the 20th-21st century Ukrainian authors, I would like to mention several Ukrainian novelists that we tend to know as Russian novelists, because they wrote in Russian and the Russians claimed them but who were, in fact Ukrainian: Nikolai Gogol, Mikhail Artsybashev, Isaac Babel, Mikhail Bulgakov, Nikolai Ostrovsky, Anna Akhmatova and
Ilf and Petrov. The French writer Irène Némirovskywas also Ukrainian. This article has more on the topic.

One of the first published writers in Ukrainian was Hryhorii Kvitka-Osnovianenko. His best-known novel Marusia was translated into English while his novel Oksana was translated into French but both are very difficult to obtain.
Iryna Vilde was one of the first twentieth century prose writers, writing in Ukrainian to receive any acclaim. None of her work has been translated into English but a short story collection has been published in German as Das grüne Tor and is available.

The first grouping here is authors who were mainly or entirely first published during the twentieth century, prior to the break-up of the Soviet Union. Note that, during the Soviet era, many/most of them would have written in Russian and that the translations into English were mainly published by Soviet presses and that the books are now quite difficult to find. All of these with English titles were published in English. Where there is a link to an author, it is to an article about him/her. Where there is a link to a title, it is to a review (however brief) of the book. Author names are in bold. If you want just the post-Soviet authors/works, go here.

Ivan Bahriany
Тигролови (The Hunters and the Hunted)

Oles Berdnyk
Bernyk was a science fiction writer who got into a lot of trouble with the Soviet authorities
Прометей (Prometheus)
черный папирус (Black Papyrus)
Apostle of Immortality (story collection)

Viktor Blyznets
Земля світлячків (In the Land of the Living Lights) (stories)

Anatoliy Dimarov)
Через місточок (Across the Bridge)

Ivan Bodnaruk
Покоління зійдуться (The Generations Will Get Together)

Oleksander Dovzhenko
Зачарована Десна (The Enchanted Desna)

Volodymyr Gzhytsky
Ніч і день (Night and Day)

Andrii Holovko
бур’яни (Weeds) (novel)
Червона хустина (The Red Kerchief) (stories)

Yevhen Hutsalo
A Prevision of Happiness and Other Stories

Igor Kaczurowskyj (Ihor Kachurovsky)
Шлях невідомого (Because Deserters Are Immortal)

Borys Kharchuk
A Measure of life and a Measure of Death (stories)

Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky
Тіні забутих предків (Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors)
Дорогою ціною (At a High Cost)
Fata Morgana (Fata Morgana)

Illia Kiriak
Сини землі (Sons of the Soil)

Olha Kobylianska
В неділю рано зілля копала (1908) (On Sunday Morning She Gathered Herbs)
But… the Lord is Silent : Selected Prose Fiction


Volodymyr Malyk
Посол Урус-шайтана (The Cossack Ambassador)

Dmytro Mishchenko
Сіверяни (The Siverianians)

Yurii Mushketyk
Жорстоке милосердя (Cruel Mercy)

Vsevolod Nestaiko
Тореадори з ВасюківкиTwo (Toreadors from Vasukovka Village)

Theodore Odrach
Вошадь (Wave of Terror)

Teodosii Osmachka
Ротонда душогубців (Red Assassins)

Valerian Pidmohylny
Місто (The City)
Невеличка драма (A Little Touch of Drama)

Mykola Ponedilok
Смішні сльозинки (Funny Tears)

Mariia Pryhara
Козак Голота (The Cossack Holota)

Rostyslav Sambuk
Ювелір з вулиці Капуцинів (The Jeweller from Capuchins Street)

Vasyl Sokil
And Then There Was Glasnost (novellas (Вікна виходять на захід (Windows Facing Westward); Така довга ніч (A Night so Long))

Mykhailo Stelmakh
Кровь людская– не водица (Let the Blood of Man Not Flow)

Hryhir Tiutiunnyk
Холодная мята (Cool Mint)

Mykola Vinhranovskyi
Літній вечір (Summer Evening)

Volodymyr Vladko
Science fiction writer
Нащадки скіфів (Descendants of the Scythians)

Volodymyr Vynnychenko
Записки кирпатого Мефістофеля (Notes of a Pug-Nosed Mephistopheles)
Чорна Пантера і Білий Медвідь (Black Panther and Polar Bear) (drama)

Yurii Yanovsky
Вершники (The Horsemen)

Pavlo Zahrebelny
Дума о бессмертном (From the Point of View of Eternity)

Vasyl Zemliak
Лебедина зграя (The Swan Flock)
Зелені млини (Green Mills)

I will also mention Oles Honchar who wrote in Russian and was a committed Soviet supporter but wrote a couple of interesting novels which I have reviewed: Людина і зброя (Man and Arms) and Собор (The Cathedral), the latter being of particular interest. Other works of his appeared in English, including Прапороносці (Standard-Bearers), Прага (Golden Prague), Тронка (Tronka), Циклон (The Cyclone), Берег любові (The Shore of Love) and Твоя зоря (Your Dawn).

Many Ukrainians as well as Russians perished in the Soviet terror. Borys Antonenko-Davydovych is one. Three of his books have appeared in English: Смерть (Death), За ширмою (Behind the Curtain) and Between the Trenches : Selected Prose Fiction.

Before the Storm : Soviet Ukrainian fiction of the 1920s is an interesting collection of stories from that era.

However, a lot has been published since the fall of the Soviet Union and that is when the most interesting Ukrainian work appears. The following is a brief introduction to some of these writers in a fairly random order, with the three most interesting (in my view) contemporary novelists who have been translated into English appearing first. As above, where there is a link to an author, it is to an article about him/her. Where there is a link to a title, it is to a review (however brief) of the book. Author names are in bold.

Andrey Kurkov is certainly one of the most interesting authors writing in Ukraine today. His books translated into English include:
Бикфордов мир (The Bickford Fuse) (review in The Guardian)
Милый друг, товарищ покойника (A Matter of Death and Life ) ( (review at the Complete Review)
мерть постороннего (Death and the Penguin) (my review)
Игра в отрезанный палец (The Case of the General’s Thumb) (review at the Complete Review)
Добрый ангел смерти (The Good Angel of Death) (review in The Guardian)
Остання любов президента (The President’s Last Love) (review in The Guardian)
Закон улитки(Penguin Lost) (review at the Complete Review)
Ночной молочник (The Milkman in the Night) (review in The Guardian)
Садовник из Очакова (The Gardener from Ochakov) (review in The Guardian)
Серые пчелы (Grey Bees) (my review)

His Twitter account is well worth following to see what is going on in Ukraine.

Yuri Andrukhovych has also had several books translated into English.
Московіада (The Moscoviad) (review at the Complete Review)
Перверзія (Perverzion) (my review)
Рекреації (Recreations) (my review)
Дванадцять обручів (Twelve Circles) (brief review at the TLS)

Serhiy Zhadan has been described as an anarchist but despite o,r because of that, several of his works have been translated into English.
Депеш Мод (Depeche Mode ) (review at the Complete Review)
Anarchy in the UKR (very brief review by Nordic voices)
Ворошиловград (Voroshilovgrad) (my review)
Mесопотамія (Mesopotamia)
Інтернат (The Orphanage (review at the Complete Review)

Other post-Soviet fiction writers

Yevgenia Belorusets
Lucky Breaks (stories – review in Washington Post)

Artem Chekh
Точка нуль (Absolute Zero) (my review)

Larysa Denysenko
Сарабанда банди Сари (The Sarabande of Sara’s Band) (summary by publisher)

Maryna and Serhiy Dyachenko have published several fantasy novels in Ukrainian/Russian/English. See Wikipedia link for more details

Marjana Gaponenko was born in Ukraine but now lives in Germany and writes in German. One (Wer ist Martha? Who is Martha?) has been translated into English

Yuriy Izdryk
Воццек & воццекургія (Wozzeck) (brief reviews on Jstor)

Markiyan Kamysh
His Оформляндія або прогулянка в Зону (Stalking the Atomic City) about his illegal wanderings in Chernobyl. Will appear in English from Pushkin Press in July 2022

Margarita Khemlin
Клоцвог (Klotsvog) (review from LA Review of Books)
Дознаватель (The Investigator) (my review)

Eugenia Kononenko
Російський сюжет (A Russian Story) (summary by publisher

Andriy Kokotiukha
Адвокат iз Личакiвської (The Lawyer from Lychakiv Street) (my review)

Sana Krasikov was born in Ukraine but lives in the US and writes in English
The Patriots (review in The Guardian)

Svetlana Lavochkina
She was born in Ukraine but lives in Germany and writes in German
Die rote Herzogin (Dam Duchess) (Review at Spears)

Andriy Lyubka
Карбід (Carbide) (review by Apofenie)

Tanya Malyarchuk
Біографія випадкового чуда (A Biography of Chance Miracle) (my review)

Maria Matios has had a few works translated into English
Солодка Даруся (Sweet Darusia) (Review at World Literature Today)
Апокаліпсис (Apocalypse) (novella)
Майже ніколи не навпаки (Hardly Ever Otherwise) (brief summary by publisher Glagoslav)
The Russky Woman (excerpt by publisher on Facebook)

Yaroslav Melnyk
Last Day (short story collection)

Yelena Moskovich
Born in Ukraine, emigrated to the US. Writes in English
A Door Behind A Door
The Natashas
Virtuoso

Alexei Nikitin
Истеми (Y.T.)

Taras Prokhasko: The UnSimple (text – Part 1; Part 2) (Summary review from Polonia) University
Necropolis (story) published in Two Lands, New Visions : Stories from Canada and Ukraine

Katja Petrowskaja
Born in Ukraine, emigrated to Germany. Writes in German.
Vielleicht Esther (Maybe Esther)

Volodymyr Rafeyenko
Мондеґрін. Пісні про смерть і любов (Mondegreen : Songs about Death and Love) (my review)

Iren Rozdobudko
Ґудзик (The Lost Button)

Oleg Sentsov: Life Went on Anyway (stories; review at Kirkus)

Valerii Shevchuk
Птахи з невидимого острова (Birds from an Invisible Island) (review from Maria Burdastykh)
На полі смиренному… (The Meek Shall Inherit) (text)
Око Прірви (Eye of the Abyss) (text: Part 1; Part 2

Vasyl Shhevchuk
Григорій Сковорода (Precursor)
Побратими (Blood Brothers)

Oleh Shynkarenko
Кагарлик (Kaharlyk) (Wikipedia review)

Natalka Sniadanko
Колекція пристрастей (Collection of Passions)

Oles Ulianenko
Stalinka (text Part 1; Part 2)

Zinaida Tulub
В степу безкраїм за Уралом (The Exile) (summary by publisher

Yuriy Vynnychuk
Танґо смерті (The Tango of Death)
The Fantastic Worlds of Yuri Vynnychuk

Volodymyr Yavorivsky
Чорнобильська Мадонна `(The Chornobyl Madonna) (brief review from East/West)

Oksana Zabuzhko has had two novels published in English.
Польові дослідження з українського сексу (Field Work in Ukrainian Sex ) (review at the Complete Review))
Музей покинутих секретів (The Museum of Abandoned Secrets) (review at Language Hat)

Note that some of her fiction and poetry have also been translated into English

Various online translated short stories can be found here and here

There are various collections of Ukrainian stories of which I would particularly recommend Herstories: An Anthology Of New Ukrainian Women Prose Writers

Translations into other languages (a few random ones I have come across; there are undoubtedly many more)

Liubko Deresh
Культ (Kult – German), Culte – French)
Поклоніння ящірці. Як нищити ангелів – Die Anbetung der Eidechse oder Wie man Engel vernichtet
Намір (Intent! oder Die Spiegel des Todes)

Dzvinka Matiyash
Історії про троянди, дощ і сіль (Histoires sur les roses, la pluie et le sel)

Oleksandr Irvanets
Рівне/Ровно (Pralinen vom roten Stern)

Links to other sites on Ukrainian literature on my Ukraine page

Ali Smith: Companion Piece

The latest addition to my website is Ali Smith‘s Companion Piece. As the title implies, this is an appendage to her brilliant Seasons tetralogy and is somewhat similar, in that we follow current events, with Smith criticising what is happening in the UK. However, we also follow the story of Sandy Gray, a not very commercially successful artist (she paints poems) and her relationship with Martina Pelf, with whom she was at university. Martina phones Sandy (after thirty years of no contact) because of something strange that happened to her while she was detained at Heathrow airport. Sandy, who is in covid lockdown and struggling with her aged and ill father, gets caught up with Martina and her family. At the same time we learn of a seventeenth century young woman and her struggles and her tangential link to Martina’s story. Above all this novel is about women telling stories, about the horrors of modern Britain, about the ill-treatment of women, about language and about how life is not always as straightforward as it seems. It confirms Smith as one of the foremost British writers of this century.

Pat Gray: The Redemption Cut

The latest addition to my website is Pat Gray‘s The Redemption Cut. In one respect this is your standard detective story – maverick cop ignores his bosses, the rules and “modern policing techniques” to solve the crime. However, it is set in Belfast in 1976 during The Troubles in Northern Ireland and the cop, McCann, has to deal with strong partisan feeling not only from the criminals but also from the police and other officials. The vast majority of the characters, police, criminals and others, are Protestant and therefore determined that Ulster remain a part of the United Kingdom and will do what it takes to ensure that happens. This makes the investigation (into a brutal murder) more difficult, not helped by the fact that it is all too easy for the police and criminals to blame the IRA for every misdeed. Gray tells his story well and shows up the horrors of that era in Ulster.

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