UKRAINA IRREDENTA. 13+2
Ukrainian literary life of the last few years has become much more interesting, although none the less tragic, than before. The tragedies have changed: whereas, previously, a writer could not get his work published on account of its deviation from the demands of the totalitarian system, now he can’t do it because of his own financial limitations. The publishing agility of some writers does not save the general situation. The dissimilarity of the causes does not change the results: even unpublished works can at times become manifestations of the literary process without, however, developing qualitatively into national-scale events. This allows us not to expurge the term “totalitarianism” from the contemporary dictionary of political science: in each case, the literary work does not see a wide audience.
The distinguishing feature of our present-day literary life is the phenomenon of aesthetical “democratization”, when anyone who can write automatically receives the right to call himself a writer. Criticism has become noticeably “liberalized”, awarding advances at will and organizing indiscriminate discussions of printed production in such a manner that a literary space is not only not being formed, but is becoming still more obscured. Due to an absence of truthful naming of contemporary literary phenomena, a suitable process of understanding Ukrainian classicism has not yet begun to take place. Consequently, literature is unable to play within society the role of a global reflection of the new reality, which has already taken shape as a grandiose self-parody and is beginning to seek its ideological base in the humanities. The question arises as to a “populism” of a different kind – literature culminates any philosophy whatsoever, just the same as the latter gives a human being the chance to save oneself from the stranglehold of ideology.
At the same time, the state of literature, strictly speaking, differs fundamentally from that atmosphere in which it is being created. And who can possibly know what conditions are necessary for genuine literature? The consolidation of new literary environments, the gradual gains of social positions under conditions when the pressure of totalitarian “duty” of literary consumption is no longer present, the fashions, the discussions, even the scandals – all attest to the tempestuousness and irrevocability of those processes, which do not always become generally known and significant. Ukrainian literature, just like any other literature, is indebted for its prominent position primarily to the presence of self-sufficient texts and living writers.
The aim of this particular anthology of names is to present not any single trend or grouping, but precisey those authors who produce and who directly take part in the creation of the literary process. Of course, not all of them, not the majority, but only some of them. Which part of their work will be retained by history is also a matter for discussion.
Yuriy Andrukhovych (13.03.60) – poet, prose writer, essayist,
translator. Born in Stanislaviv (today: Ivano-Frankivsk). Completed the
faculty of editing at the Ukrainian Polygraphic Institute in Lviv (1982)
and the Higher Literary Courses at the Institute of Literature in Moscow
(1991). Worked for a newspaper, served in the army, for a period headed
the poetry section of the Ivano-Frankivsk publication Pereval (1991–1995).
Presently a graduate student at the Prykarpatsky University; co-editor
of a journal of text and vision Chetver (Thursday), a non-periodical
with minimal circulation in Ivano-Frankivsk.
Vasyl Herasymyuk (18.08.56). Born in the city of Karaganda, Kazakhstan. His family returned to the Carpathians (in Ukraine) that very year. He finished highschool in Kolomiya and completed the philological faculty at the Kyiv State University. As a poet he debuted in 1972 in the journals Dnipro and Ranok (Morning) and in the almanach Vitryla (Sails). In 1982 his first collection of poetry – Smereky (Firs) – was printed. During the following decade he published three more books of verse: Potoky (Streams, 1986), Kosmatsky Uzir (The Kosmach Ornament, 1989), Dity trepety (Aspen’s Children, 1991). He has worked as an editor for the Kyiv publications Molod (Youth) and Dnipro; today he works at Ukrainian Radio. He has prepared for publication a new book of poetry – Paporot (Fern).
Yuriy Hudz (01.07. 58) – poet, prose writer, essayist, painter.
He was born, baptized, studied, got married in the village of Nemylnya
near Zvyahel, Zhytomyr oblast. But there was no opportunity of living
near the closest and dearest people. And so, he left for the capital –
Kyiv. For a long time his activity and creativity were tied to the famous
journal Avzhezh! (Indeed!) and the newspaper Slovo
(Word). The next stage in the life and creative experience of Yuriy
Hudz is summed up in a few lines from an old poem Mandry Mandrahory
(Mandragora’s Meanderings, 1980):
Tamara Hundorova (17.07.55). Born and raised in Poltava oblast.
Completed the philological faculty at the Kyiv University of Taras Shevchenko.
Serhiy Kvit (26.11.65) – critic, literary scholar. Born in Uzhhorod.
Has been living in Kyiv since 1985. Graduated from the Kyiv State University
of Taras Shevchenko. He worked for the journal Slovo i Chas, at
the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, and as editor-in-chief
of the journal Ukrainski Problemy. At present he is a lecturer
in the history of Ukrainian literature and journalism department of the
Institute of Journalism, Taras Shevchenko National University. He is a
member of the “New Literature” Association.
Serhiy Lavrenyuk (7.10.64) – poet. Born in the village of Yakymivka,
Vinnytsya oblast. Worked at a brick factory, trained to be a driver, served
in the armed forces, worked for a small-town newspaper, studied journalism
at the Kyiv State University.
Vyacheslav Medvid (22.02.51) – prose writer, essayist. Born in Kodno, Zhytomyr oblast. A librarian-bibliographer by education (Kyiv State Institute of Culture, 1972). Worked in libraries of Ukraine, as editor of the series Romany i povisti (Novels and Short Stories) at “Dnipro” Publishers. From 1988 – a professional writer. Honorary member of the “New Literature” Association. While still a student and while working in Uzhhorod he studied American literature and read the best of what the “shistdesyatnyky” (the writers of the ’60’s) had to offer. At this time he breaks with poetic creativity and surrealistic etudes and writes the first of his “Polissya” stories, published in 1981 in the book Rozmova (Conversation). His book of prose Zamanka (Enticement) was a refutation of the formal and stylistic canons of the time. In 1987 he reprints both books as the novel Tayemne svatannya (Secret Match-Making). Zbyrachi kaminnya (Gatherers of Stones, 1989) is an attempt to write a novel with a free structure. In 1993 he publishes in the journal Kyiv an erotic-philosophical novel Lokh (Cellar). In 1995 – a book of diaries Filosofiya strakhu abo zh proklyaty narod (Philosophy of fear or a damned people in the journal Ukrainski problemy), which encompasses a decade of deep reflection on art, history, culture, ethnopsychology, the private life of the human being. In 1996 he completes a multiyear work on an extensive epical novel-opera Krov po solomi (Blood on the Straw) and publishes several excerpts from it. At the same time Vyacheslav Medvid appears mainly as the author of culturological-philosophical essays, which he has collected into a serious volume entitled Pro domo sua. He has compiled and published an anthology of authors Desyat ukrainskykh prozaikiv. Desyat ukrainskykh poetiv. (Ten Ukrainian Prose Writers. Ten Ukrainian Poets. 1995) with his introductions. In the majority of his works – from expressionist short stories to complex novelistic structures – Medvid focuses on the region of Polissya, often narrowing the geography of his creative searches down to one village. Vyacheslav Medvid’s favorite aphorism: “I could be a totally different writer.”
Victor Neborak (09.05.61) – poet, prose writer, essayist. A “universal”
Ukrainian – his father is from Cherkasy oblast, his mother from lviv oblast.
He was born a little less than a month after man first orbited Earth.
From the age of two – a resident of Leopolis (Lviv). Half a year after
Chornobyl he moved to Kyiv. From 1991 (a palindromic number) he began
to move in the return direction.
Yevhen Pashkovsky (19.11.62.). Born at Razine station, Zhytomyr
oblast. Studied at an industrial technical college and at a teachers’
college. Author of five novels and numerous essays.
Vasyl Portyak (31.03.52) – prose writer, scriptwriter. Born in
Kryvopole village, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast. After finishing highschool
he worked more than two years as a lumberjack, loader, rigger – mainly
in itinerant logging operations. Attempted to make a living working for
a local newspaper. The attempt was not too successful, but it was not
discouraging – in 1972 he enrolled at the journalism faculty of the Kyiv
State University. Once there, however, the formula “word – weapon” no
longer elicited enthusiasm, and so he mastered photography and after university
worked for seven years as a photojournalist in Fastiv.
Volodymyr Tsybulko (27.05 64) – poet, translator, essayist. Born in Cherkasy oblast, Khmilna village. Studied philology at the Kyiv and Latvian Universities. Until the ´90’s he had never been farther away from his native village than Zhytomyr. Then, the geography of his travels widens significantly: Poland, Yugoslavia, North America. From a shy and repressed village boy he develops into a veritable literary master, gaining for himself ever more space in both the elite culture and subculture by his deportment and speech. His published books of verse – Piramida (Pyramid, 1993), Anhely i teksty (Angels and Texts, 1996) – and poems and essays in the press, along with artistic happenings (the most recent one at the Cinema Building, 1996) are causing the creation of a specific literary milieu. Tsybulko’s hypertextual philosophical discourse encompasses the entire extent of world cultural acquisition, as well as (with quotation or without) the aesthetical body of modern Ukrainian thinkers. In his literary style there is a harmonious coexistence between a penetratingly insightful word-observation of today’s global problems and a patois ornamentation of the psychosituation of the contemporary human being. Songs with his lyrics are in wide use among the young generation of Ukrainians; this in itself places the proscribed Ukrainian culture on the level of eastern tradition: a line of verse becomes an integral part of general cultural progress.
Taras Voznyak (7.05.57) – editor and publisher of the independent culturological journal "¯", which was published clandestinely at the end of the ’80’s and now appears legally in Lviv. Topics of recent issues of the journal: problems of European identity, Ukrainian-Russian relations, Jewish-Ukrainian relations, post-Austrian cultural-political space in Europe, ideology of Polish-Ukrainian relations. Since the ’70’s he has been translating philosophical and literary texts; author of translations of M. Heidegger, H.G. Gadamer, G. Marcel, M. Scheler, B. Schultz, W. Gombrowicz. He works in the fields of philosophical hermeneutics, political tolerance and pluralism. Author of numerous political science essays and culturological texts.
Vasyl Vrublevsky (9.04.63). Born in the village of Karvynivka,
Zhytomyr oblast. Finished the local highschool, completed philological
studies at the Zhytomyr teachers’ college. Worked for Zhytomyr newspapers,
and at Periodyka and Visnyk publishing houses. In 1989, together with
Volodymyr Danylenko and Yaroslav Zayko, he published an “underground”
literary-publicistic almanach Zhytniy rynok (Rye Market) in Zhytomyr.
In 1990 he initiated the creation of the literary-artistic journal Avzhezh!
(Indeed!), whose permanent editor he has been since the very beginning.
In 1993 he established Avzhezh! Publishers. Through the efforts of Vasyl
Vrublevsky several dozen books, mostly by young authors, have been published.
He is also the editor of the Nova literaturna hazeta (New Literary
Mykola Zakusylo (14.08.56). Born in the village of Mali Moshky, Zhytomyr oblast. Prose writer, essayist. Graduated in 1982 from Kyiv State University. Worked on editorial boards of newspapers and journals, and for publishing houses. Still in his initial creative attempts he developed the freedom of the unconstrained national word, an intonational local dialect characteristic of the inhabitants of the northern Polissya region. It is precisely here that the lexical elements, phraseological expressions and expressive utterances of “the people from the soil” (dynamics, rhythm, timbre) emerge vividly. Some of this, although not yet quite distinct, is discernible in the author’s first book of stories Prybutna voda (1987). In the novel Knyha plachiv (Book of Lamentations, 1993) the crisis of civilization, which serves in the work as a mythological background mirror, “deciphers” for the reader the big slumber of the time of the great Epoch. The theme of “life and death” was portrayed by the author in an almost documentary style in the novel of woes Hramotka skorblyachykh (Letter of the Grieving, 1995). A drama which took place in his native village emerges as the “crime of the millenium,” unseen throughout the ages of “heaven on earth.” The “traditional” writing is characterized by archaistic (patriarchal, deliberately primitive) style, full of dialecticisms. These problems are especially intensified in the novel Dusha (Soul, unpublished) and in the philosophical Traktaty pastukha (The Shepherd’s Treatises, published in periodicals 1993-96). The fact of a human being’s very life and death, synthesized in an artistic image, gives birth to an undivided epopee of death. The ideal of “pessimism” and “optimism” is engaged in the struggle. A special place in the writer’s artistic thinking belongs to the folklore and mythology of the Polissya region, to metaphors and symbolism, with plasticity and thought being dominant in his texts. Various chapters of Hramotka skorblyachykh have been translated into German.
Nila Zborovska (27.09.62). Born in Cherkasy oblast. Graduated
from the Kyiv University of Taras Shevchenko. In 1991 she defended her
candidate dissertation at the Institute of Literature and Art in Alma-Ata.
Since that same year – researcher at the Institute of Literature of the
Academy of Arts and Sciences of Ukraine. From 1996 – assistant professor
at the department of history and theory of world literature of the Linguistic
Translated by Yuriy Weretelnyk