I read reviews of Oksana Zabuzhko's modern stab at a Ukrainian national epic when it was published in German in 2010 and thought it would be interesti...moreI read reviews of Oksana Zabuzhko's modern stab at a Ukrainian national epic when it was published in German in 2010 and thought it would be interesting to read but I'd rather wait til it came out in English in 2012. I think it might be eBook only in the US, but that was fine. I'm also happy I got around to reading it when I did, with Ukraine's struggle to break free of Russian domination again in the news.
Zabuzhko uses three narrators. The main character, Daryna, is a successful and admired TV journalist circa early 2004 whose signature program shines a light on the everyday heroes of her troubled country. Her seemingly perfect and younger boyfriend Adrian is the descendant of Gela, a woman who fought for the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (the Banderas!) in the years after World War II ended and the heartland of Ukrainian nationalism around Lviv was newly incorporated in the Soviet Union, and whose story fascinates Daryna. Adrian's dreams take him inside the head of another Adrian who is one of Gela's UIA compadres. As Daryna tries to uncover the details of Gela's life and death, she deals with the death of her best friend and pressure to sell out as Russian money seeks to dominate the media landscape in the months before the Orange Revolution.
The topic of the book is interesting, getting used to the prose is a little more knotty. It's about 85% internal monologue, full of digressions and details, to the point that I almost didn't buy and read the book. And this was written in Ukrainian, so this has to be one of the harder prose translations which I've read, up there with Proust - Nina Shevchuk-Murray does a good job is my supposition as someone who has only looked at the translation and lacks Ukrainian skills. But you learn to deal with these types of sentences and eventually the story hooks you.
The favored characters are a little too perfect, perhaps. The novel's moral universe largely consists of heroic Ukrainian patriots, offscreen Soviet / Russian mafia evil, and somewhat sympathetic torn and self-interested people in between, like a complex ostensibly opposition (Yuschenko party) politician and a KGB archives keeper who has a history with Daryna's family.
Overall, worth the time if you're really interested in Ukraine and its history. A key work in Ukraine's national literature perhaps, in English it's good but not great.(less)
And when in suicidal anguish The nation awaited its German guests, And the stern spirit of Byzantium Had fled from the Russian Church, When the capital by...moreAnd when in suicidal anguish The nation awaited its German guests, And the stern spirit of Byzantium Had fled from the Russian Church, When the capital by the Neva, Forgetting her greatness, Like a drunken prostitute Did not know who would take her next, A voice came to me. It called out comfortingly, It said, "Come here, Leave your deaf and sinful land, Leave Russia forever. I will wash the blood from your hands, Root out the black shame from your heart, With a new name I will conceal The pain of defeats and injuries." But calmly and indifferently, I covered my ears with my hands, So that my sorrowing spirit Would not be stained by those shameful words.