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Kyiv, 1997

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 The dissimilarity of the causes does not change the results: even unpublished works can at times become manifestations of the literary process without, however, developing qualitatively into national-scale events.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.

Serhiy Kvit

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.
The works of Yuriy Andrukhovych may be formally divided into two main streams: poetry and prose. His poetical debut took place in the first half of the 1980’s, culminating with the publication of his collection Nebo i ploshchi (Heaven and Squares) in 1985. His second collection of poetry – Seredmistya (Downtown, 1989)has more of an “elegiac-classical” character. In contrast, his third collection – Ekzotychni ptakhy i roslyny (Exotic Birds and Flora, 1991) may be regarded totally in the manner of a “show-booth at a fair.”
A cycle of short stories Zliva, de sertse (From the Left, Where the Heart Is) was the first of Yuriy Andrukhovych’s prose works to be published (1989), and is almost a documentary of the author’s military service. His novels Rekreatsiyi (Recreations, 1992), Moskovyada (1993) and Perverziya (Perversion, 1996) may be regarded as a trilogy: the hero (anti-hero?) of each one is a poet-bohemian who finds himself in the very epicenter of fatal transformations of “physics into metaphysics” and vice versa. All the novels are quite a perceptible amalgam of genre and stylistics (confession, “black realism,” thriller, Gothic, satire), the time for the development of the action in them is very limited and condensed: one night in Recreations, one day in Moskovyada, five days and nights in Perversion.

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):
I saw a lizard
I loved mary
I lived in alien cities
Today Hudz is working on a novel NE-MY (NOT-US) and a book of apparitions and disappearances Obirvani gudzyky (Torn-off Buttons). He was awarded the third prize for the translation into Italian of a selection of his poetry (1994).
After completing university he worked as a teacher of history and geography in village schools in the Zhytomyr and Kyiv oblasts, as a night security guard in the cardiological sanatorium “Vorzel,” as a researcher at the Museum of National Architecture and Customs of the UkrSSR, as the literary editor at the journals Avzhezh! (Zhytomyr) and Slovo i chas (Word and Time, Kyiv)...It was then that his story Skazhy nam pro lyubov (Tell Us About Love) was written and subsequently published in the journal Dnipro (nos. 4-6, 1993).
Yuriy Hudz’s first collection of poetry Malenky kontsert dlya samotnoho
Khronopa (A Diminutive Concert for the Lonely Khronop) appeared in 1991, and his second collection Znaky biloyi krovi (Signs of White Blood) was published two years later.

Tamara Hundorova (17.07.55). Born and raised in Poltava oblast. Completed the philological faculty at the Kyiv University of Taras Shevchenko.
She did her post-graduate studies at the Institute of Literature of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. There she wrote and in 1981 defended her dissertation for the candidate degree on the subject of Ivan Franko’s prose, in which the author was particularly concerned with the clash of double meanings. She stayed to work at the Institute. If truth be told, she sometimes felt as if though she was losing her own self in those halls of “Soviet literary scholarship.”
In the 1990’s something changed. There was a desire to take on something different, something which was not “Soviet literary studies.” Neither educational rhetoric, nor flirtations with the national mentality, nor the discovery of “white spots” sufficed. In contrast, Tamara Hundorova was impressed by some higher mathematics within literary criticism. She felt a need to write about Ukrainian literature in such a way that it would be interesting not only because of its sacrifices, but in and of itself.
She gets satisfaction from working with students, although at times her lectures are not so much for them as for herself. She wants to write a book Nietzsche in Ukrainian Literature not only because Nietzsche is one of the central figures in postmodernism but also because his role as change agent in modern Ukrainian culture is particularly poignant.
She spent some time visiting at the Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and at the Harriman Institute of the University of Columbia in New York. In 1996, she defended her doctoral dissertation in which she proposed a postmodernist and poststructuralist interpretation of early Ukrainian modernism.

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.
His principal field of inquiry is all of literature, both as art and as eternity. He regards the interpretation of a work of literature, if not as a particular form of art, then at least as a genre which is moving in that direction. Therefore, interpretation has to be based upon organic subjective thinking, which emanates from the world of one’s native language and speech, does not shut itself up within any terms and concepts, which in their turn are a special form of humor, dedicated to the creation of a specific atmosphere of literary life and a corresponding aesthetic hierarchy.

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.
Today he works as an economic journalist.
His desire to write was born who-knows-when – perhaps during those long autumn nights when it would rain for a week straight and the loft would be filled with fresh hay. Or, maybe, it happened some early fall, when everything resembles a meditating monk. His first serious publication of verse appeared in the newspaper Moloda hvardia. He has been published in many Ukrainian and foreign publications. Two books of poetry are being prepared for publication: Spohlyadannya dereva and Frahmenty sadu. He is vice-president of the “New Literature” Association.

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.
He’s been a student, a teacher, a shipper, a night ambulance attendant, an ideological worker, a wandering reciter of his own texts, producer of poetic-symphonic-rock happenings, conceptualizer of several festivals and events, Attorney-General of Bu-Ba-Bu, a position he holds for life.
He is one of the Dogs of Saint George.
He recognizes and is repaying an unrepayable debt to Ukrainian literature. That is why he is engaged in hopeless literary scholarship – both oral and on paper.
He loves God’s creations. He pities human fabrications.
His vocation is to reveal the infinite dimensionality of the world in everyday life.
He considers art to be the most accessible method to realize that calling.

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.
From his “Antibiography”
“To write an autobiography: it’s the same as taking back that which has long ago been given to one’s heroes, to recall: did such a thing really happen, or did the author again confuse, fabricate, – beyond the time past is the former you, demagnetized from manuscripts, thrust back to an unapproachable boundary, able only to remember some dates, – and, even if one should mumble out from I, that time, fading away after a certain number of pages, will force one to respond from you, from the anonymity of speech, from the unaging grief of old age, a freely-piercing light of memory, oneself as a child, a lad, a youth, bent over a birth certificate while enrolling somewhere, with a premonition of expulsion; born in 1962, a very small station, two walnut trees and a field opposite the window, following every train the rattling of the window-pane, breaks out like a glance into the distance, onto the misty dirt road, when at sunrise, with two fishing-rods on his shoulder, he walked to the pond and there was an aroma of biscuits in his pocket; dreams of hunting with grandfather, in the role of beater, wide, lilac tracks of home-made skis on the snow with the sun about to set, grandma’s quiet tales of troubled times and expulsion, treks with father into the fields for chaff, autumn of 1976, the first excursion to the city with mother, to buy some foot-wear for winter, a wild terror of city life, still unspeakable, incomprehensible then, like a just-read-out sentence for the one, who will be imprisoned with hard labor; 1979 – an attempt to enrol at a faculty related to astronomy, studies at an industrial technical college, employment as an assembler on construction, mining for a short time, subway transit construction, road repair work, shipper at various warehouses, military service, enrolment at a teachers’ college, manuscript of the first novel, the Chornobyl April of 1986, the itinerant freedom of earning a living by taking orders for photo enlargements, the whole South of Russia, Bashkiria, the Urals, the Caucasus; closer to 1991: brief visits to Kyiv, when time itself, like a hedgehog turned inside-out, shrinking from convulsions and piercing itself all the deeper, pulsed with the accelerated, painful heart of the country – and, since then, several more manuscripts, hunting and fishing in Polissya, at home”.

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.
Debuting in 1980 with the short story Mytsyo i Vovchur in the Lviv journal Zhovten, he was published several more times in various periodicals, submitted the manuscript of a book of short stories to Molod Publishers. The collection Kryslachi was published in 1983. He was offered long-term employment by that publisher and afterwards studied for two years in Moscow at the Higher Courses for screen directors and scriptwriters. Since then he’s been working in cinematography. His screenplays have been filmed in “Melankholiyny vals” (Melancholy Waltz), “Vyshnevi nochi” (Crimson Nights), “Nam dzvony ne hraly, koly my vmyraly” (Bells Did Not Toll for Us When We Were Dying), “Atentat” (Coup), documentary “Chyya pravda, chyya kryvda” (Whose Truth, Whose Falsehood) and numerous shorts.
During the last few years he has published several short stories and excerpts from screenplays (which have not yet been produced) in collective anthologies and periodical literature.

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 Gazette).
To date, Vasyl Vrublevsky has authored two books of prose: Zamakh na henseka (Attempt on the Life of the Secretary-General, 1992) and Sim istoriy (Seven Stories, 1993), a collection of poetry Svyato ostannoyi nochi (The Feast of the Last Night, 1993), compiler and author of the introduction to the anthology Proklyatoho viku struna (The String of a Damned Age, 1992). He also appears as a literary critic (some twenty articles in various periodicals) and as a researcher of Ukrainian literature of the first quarter of the 20th century.

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 University.
It is hard for her to endure a permanent place of residence, which is why she never misses an opportuity to travel somewhere. Precisely because of this passion, the writer Yuriy Andrukhovych is a very kindred spirit. Her favorite reminiscence of recent “wanderings” is the research fiesta at Urbana-Champagne with Tamara Hundorova, Serhiy Kvit and Bohdan Rubchak.
The most difficult and most tragic writer about whom she has ever had to write was Todos Osmachka. He infected her with a passion for the color black.
She dreams about completing her doctoral dissertation “Stylistic Dynamics of Ukrainian Postmodernism,” about publishing a series of literary portraits of Vyacheslav Medvid, Yevhen Pashkovsky, Oles Ulyanenko, Volodymyr Tsybulko, Yuriy Andrukhovych, Oksana Zabuzhko, and also about making a round-the-world trip with them (first with the gloomiest, and then with the most cheerful of them).
Her favorite form of relaxation remains, invariably, fishing at home, in the Cherkasy region. Her favorite “anti-alcoholic” entertainment: beer and a huge fish with a group of friends who do not like fish.

Translated by Yuriy Weretelnyk