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The Museum of Abandoned Secrets

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Spanning sixty tumultuous years of Ukrainian history, this multigenerational saga weaves a dramatic and intricate web of love, sex, friendship, and death. At its center: three women linked by the abandoned secrets of the past—secrets that refuse to remain hidden.

While researching a story, journalist Daryna unearths a worn photograph of Olena Dovgan, a member of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army killed in 1947 by Stalin’s secret police. Intrigued, Daryna sets out to make a documentary about the extraordinary woman—and unwittingly opens a door to the past that will change the course of the future. For even as she delves into the secrets of Olena’s life, Daryna grapples with the suspicious death of a painter who just may be the latest victim of a corrupt political power play.

From the dim days of World War II to the eve of Orange Revolution, The Museum of Abandoned Secrets is an “epic of enlightening force” that explores the enduring power of the dead over the living.

756 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Oksana Zabuzhko

69 books348 followers
Oksana Zabuzhko is a contemporary Ukrainian writer, poet and essayist.

Born in Lutsk, Ukraine, Zabuzhko studied philosophy at the Kyiv University, where she also obtained her doctorate in aesthetics in 1987. In 1992 she taught at Penn State University as a visiting writer. Zabuzhko won a Fulbright scholarship in 1994 and taught Ukrainian literature at Harvard and University of Pittsburgh. Currently Zabuzhko works at the Hryhori Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Zabuzhko is known both for her literary works and criticism. Her controversial bestselling novel Field Work in Ukrainian Sex was translated in eight languages. In her writing Zabuzhko draws a lot of attention to the questions of Ukrainian self-identification, post-colonial issues and feminism. Her book Let My People Go won the Korrespondent magazine Best Ukrainian documentary book award in June 2006, and The Museum of Abandoned Secrets, Best Ukrainian Book 2010.

For Ukrainian language profile see Оксана Забужко

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 152 reviews
Profile Image for nastya .
419 reviews257 followers
June 14, 2022
Secret was a game played by Ukrainian girls who put flowers and other treasures under the glass and then buried them in the earth.

Secret is when women of the house in the times of collectivisation buried icons somewhere on the property.

Secret is the story of the building of Palats Ukraina, that exceeded budget and tuned out to be a gorgeous example of architecture, so beautiful that party comrade from Moscow said it was more impressive than the one for communist party in Moscow, so obviously everything had to be stripped down and made ugly, and also communists tried to find someone to blame for this blunder; the leading architect declined to be a scapegoat and committed suicide.

Secret are thousands of Ukrainian UPA resistance fighters who died waiting for help from the West against Stalin after the end of the ww2 and were betrayed by Yalta, their history erased by soviets for decades (and it’s late now because most of them died).

Secret is soviets destroying Babi Yar and building a dam there and the resulting Kurenivka mudslide that officially killed 145 people according to soviets but really it’s estimates the death toll is around 1500.

Secret is the Chernobyl catastrophe.

Secret files of Ukraine, some were evacuated by the KGB to Moscow in 1990 and then additional were burned in 1991.

Secret is Ukrainian history and the histories of millions of Ukrainians.

And there are a few secrets in this book.

In this ambitious sprawling through the ages novel, Zabuzhko took on the task to connect the Ukrainian past with the present (start of the 2000s), its recent partisan history with the corrupt, greedy, cynical pre-Orange revolution Ukraine. She did it through supernatural connections between generations.

In the past timeline there’s a resistance fighter Adrian and his sweetheart Gelya, who both went underground and were killed in 1947 in the Soviet's raid.

The present is about Adrian, the talented ex-physicist who had to change profession to the seller of antiquities because there’s no money in science in Ukraine (true); whose whole family suffered deportation and discrimination because his grandmother’s sister was in the resistance; and then there’s Daryna, a famous tv journalist whose father was put into mental institution because he worked on the before mentioned Palatz Ukraina project and tried to prove to the soviet government their innocence; Daryna finds the old photo of five resistance members that beguiles her and starts the whole story, leads her to meeting Adrian and connects both of them to the two of the people from the photo through magical shared dreams.

This book is huge and complex. There’s so much in it. She exposes cyclical problems, recurring temptations, ambitions, betrayals. Sexism in contemporary Ukraine and tall poppy syndrome. But then there’s also hope of change and reclaiming Ukraine for Ukrainians. Of a bright future, of the end of the wars, of peace and prosperity.

There’s so many threads Zabuzhko weaves in here and she manages to gather and resolve them by the end. Very impressive.

Zabuzhko is an indulgent writer in her prose. It can feel too much at times but even then I was always drawn into the story even when her enthusiasm was a bit much for me.

Also here she's a more mature and masterful writer here, this novel is much more controlled than her Fieldwork in Ukrainian sex.

My only other criticism is that her characters’ voices were sometimes a bit too similar and a bit like Zabuzhko herself.

And as with every story that has two timelines there’s a chance that one will be more interesting than the other and I must admit, I was much more into the past one.

All in all, this book masterfully blends Ukrainian history and fiction. It was a fascinating and educational read for me but I’m curious to know what outsiders think about it. This book doesn’t slow down and explains who's who in contemporary Ukrainian politics: who’s Kuchma, Yushchenko and Gongadze; where's Palats Ukraina, Pechersk and Maidan; who’s Kyi.

But with all its imperfections and indulgences, a 800 pages book that, firstly, I didn’t bailed on (the odds are always high) and, secondly, kept me feeling this interested on the page 700 deserves all my praise.
Profile Image for Lillian.
88 reviews3 followers
January 14, 2019
With all that's going on in Ukraine right now I wanted to read something that would help me understand the conflict. This novel was on a list created for that purpose. It was really long (760 p.), really wonderful, and one I can’t get out of my head. The plot revolves around 3 women: a contemporary tv journalist, Daryna, who becomes obsessed with finding out the story of a striking woman in a photo of 5 partisans taken during WWII; Vlada, Daryna’s artist friend who dies suspiciously in a car accident; and Olena, the woman in the photo, a member of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army who was killed in 1947 by Stalin’s secret police.

But it’s also about this:

I have come to think that a person’s life is not so much, or rather is not just, the dramatically arched story with a handful of characters (parents, children, lovers, friends, and colleagues –anyone else?) that we pass on more or less in one piece to our descendants. It’s only from the outside that life looks like a narrative, or when viewed backwards through a pair of mental binoculars we put on when we have to fit ourselves into the small oculars of resumes, late-night kitchen confessions, and home-spun myths, trimming and shaping life into orderly eyefuls. When seen from the inside, life is an enormous, bottomless suitcase, stuffed with precisely such indeterminate bits and pieces, utterly useless for anyone other than its owner. A suitcase carried, irredeemably and forever, to the grave. Maybe a handful of odds and ends fall out along the way … so whenever I stumbled into one of those lost, disowned scraps I was filled with a vague but insistent shame of my inadequacy, as if this piece, this accidental survivor, contained the key – the lost secret code to the deep, subterranean core of the other person’s life – and now I have it, but I don’t know which door it unlocks or if such a door even exists. Pg. 20

That’s important because early on in the novel Daryna finds a note -- actually just a word -- in the margin of one of her father’s books that appears to be the key to understanding him, a man whose long and seemingly pointless “struggle against the system” eventually cost his family any kind of normalcy and him his life. He dies a broken forgotten man in his mid 40’s after years spent defending himself against the Soviet authorities false claims ... and after enforced time in a psychiatric clinic with a falsified diagnosis. But then Daryna comes upon that page in one her father's books with an underlined phrase: “Hamlet’s hesitation to act decisively in sight of triumphing evilness” ... with this!!! handwritten in the margin.

this!!!---a scribble in the margins, a bauble that slipped out of the suitcase---turned the binoculars for me. For an instant, as if a flash of lightning cut through the darkness, I saw a living soul and the strange thing was that it was the same father about whom I, against my best instincts, continued to feel ashamed ... to see him from the inside and recognize, in that flash, what it was that had driven him to the end, that had not permitted him to back off and make the single required concession that white was really black; his indomitable abhorrence of his own fear, the physiological mandate from his very healthy and apparently very proud soul ... to reject this fear that had been implanted in him against his will, like viral DNA ... I could be proud of him. Pg.32

I loved Zabuzhko's writing and, long as this novel was, it was truly a delight to be inside her head. When I hear news from Ukraine now it comes to me at a higher decibel because of the time spent with these characters. Really liked it.
Profile Image for Viv JM.
692 reviews153 followers
March 27, 2019
I lost count of the number of times I contemplated giving up on this book - even at 500 pages through I was tempted to call it a day! But it seemed like always, just as I was about to give up, there would be an astonishing passage that drew me back in and I do feel a sense of great accomplishment at finally having made it through the 700+ pages :-).

The Museum of Abandoned Secrets is not easy to summarise - the sprawling plot takes in a modern day journalist, the death of her artist friend, the loves and lives of a small group of resistance fighters in 1940s Ukraine. And it is told through a sometimes disorientating mixture of stream-of-consciousness prose with whole chunks of history told in dreams.

I am glad I read it, and it has certainly sparked an interest in Ukrainian history, but I would hesitate to know who to recommend it to - those looking for a challenging read and with plenty of time to set aside to do so, perhaps.
Profile Image for Bjorn.
799 reviews148 followers
August 4, 2015
People often forget the evil they've done unto others, but retain forever the antipathy toward those they've wronged - reasons for this are found and fit into the puzzle later, retroactively.

Don't ask me to write a fair review of this. I can't. Yes, that's a standard cop-out and all, but in this case it also happens to be true; partly because I'm just bowled over by it, but also because it's the kind of novel (I could say Joyce, Morrison, Cartarescu, etc) that's so steeped in language, history and experiences I can only learn of, but not know. I feel like a fraud talking too much about it, being so overwhelmed by it.

She is lucky: she is "insane", and it's hereditary.

Then again, that's part of the story, too. Which is deliciously simple on the surface, to give Zabuzhko the chance to dig into all the complexities underneath. The TV journalist Daryna Goshchynska, the daughter of a dissident who died in a a mental hospital and now living in early-00s Ukraine, wants to make a documentary on a woman who fought in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the late 40s (you thought WWII ended in 1945, didn't you?), and just happens to be her boyfriend's great aunt. So when she starts digging in the story, he starts dreaming of it... except the dreams get more vivid with every night, and both Adrian and Daryna find themselves . And so we get a story set both in the newly-independent Ukraine, with its growing corruption (or inherited, if it makes a difference) where dollars can buy anything, no ideas but blind nationalism carry any weight, and TV channels air So You Think You Can Become A Pornstar; and in 1940s Ukraine, amid guerilla warfare and Stalinist purges, where people who went missing get to tell their story. There are so many secrets buried in the Ukraine, so many mass graves, so many things that have never been spoken about, so many records that have been burnt. Zabuzhko nests stories within stories within stories, to uncover all the layers of history that have been hidden, unpersoned, both to the characters and to the readers.

And we comforted ourselves with "manuscripts don't burn."

Oh, but they do burn. And cannot be restored.

Our entire culture is built on faulty foundations. The history we are taught is nothing but the clamor-increasingly deafening and difficult to disentangle-of voices out-yelling each other: I am! I am! I am! I, so and so, did this and that-and so on, ad infinitum. But the voices resound over burnt-out voids-over the silence of those who've been robbed of their chance to cry out, I am! Over those who had their mouths gagged, their throats slashed, their manuscripts burned. We don't know how to hear their silence; we live as if they never existed. But they did. And their silence, too, is the stuff of which our lives are made.

Goodbye, Daddy. Forgive me, Daddy.

I won't claim to love it unreservedly, there are things in it that make me want to argue with it, much like I do with Dostoevsky; the romanticized view of the nationalist uprising (which isn't surprising since it's told from their perspective), even if it's contrasted with, well, Stalin, isn't entirely unproblematic even if its modern version gets examined a lot more closely. The translation, while mostly good, is occasionally a bit too americanized (I might be wrong, but I don't think "drank the purple Kool-Aid" is a Ukrainian expression). But fuck that. Really. Zabuzhko is so completely in control of this uncontrollable story that just grows with every chapter, with every new narrator or perspective introduced, unravelling all the ways history - whether mandated by the government, muttered by drunk uncles, or written in the blood of someone who never knew their biological parents - echo in everything, from official or inofficial power structures to a lover's touch, in all the justifications we learn by rote and repeat until we actually believe they constitute reality.

What if this is the elemental essence of love: Having a person who shares your life but remembers everything differently? Like a constant source of wonder: world not just there, but given to you anew every minute-all you have to do is take her hand. Sometimes, even often, the same idea occurs to both of us at once, and we finish each other's sentences-"that's just it, exactly, that's what I just thought"-thrilling us as if we'd just found a secret door in a shared home, but I bet had we tried to write out our individual trains of thought, separately, and then compared notes, we'd see we weren't thinking the same thing at all-only about the same thing.

I just want to quote this book forever, if nothing else to show that it's not as dry and analytical as the "history of power bla bla". Quite the contrary; it's a book shot through by love stories, some unrequited and buried and forgotten for decades, some very much alive. Genetic material is history too, chosen families are blood too. Language - Ukrainian resurrected in competition with Russian, only for both to be supplanted by English - the words you choose to use; while she doesn't try to be Joyce in any way, Zabuzhko has that same perfect ear for language, making every character voice echo their history and hint at their future. Which, despite it all, there is one. All of this has to lead somewhere.

You can't keep raping reality with impunity; sooner or later it will take its revenge, and the later it comes, the more terrifying it will be.

Hello, then. Who are you?
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,431 reviews2,511 followers
February 28, 2022
The publisher's blurb makes this sound like a past/present romantic family saga of the kind written by Kate Morton, Rachel Hore et al. which is unfortunate as this is a committed and ambitious literary work which seems to take its influences more from writers like James Joyce and Proust. Zabuzhko has a PhD in philosophy and has taught at Penn State and Harvard - and she draws on both feminist and postcolonial theory in this book which is an intelligent engagement with Ukrainian history and identity through the Soviet period and into contemporary independence.

This is a big book and one which expects the reader's commitment, respect and time. The prose style is fresh and vivid with a strong narrative voice, especially from the sharp-tongued Daryna who is wonderfully caustic about other people's ignorance and prejudices. There are, however, what feel like slippages in the translation, especially at the start of the book, which can be jarring: women in an old photo are `adorned with the towering mousses of chignons' and bodies are `naive to' deodorant rather than innocent of it.

So this isn't in any sense an easy or throwaway read: it's bold and elaborate, politically-inscribed and very self-aware. It doesn't follow a traditional linear narrative or form, and the chapters are organised as `rooms', so if you've ever been frustrated by modernist or post-modernist texts that work through a tangle of narrative threads, this might be one to avoid.

This is the kind of book that could only have been conceived and written after the breakup of the former Soviet Union, and it's an eye-opening read to most of us in the West who are likely to be shamefully ignorant about Ukrainian history (I had to do a lot of Googling while reading this).

So I'm not sure that I'd say I enjoyed this as it's too challenging on literary, historical and theoretical levels for such a simple response - I'm glad I've read it but it was hard going at times. An important book.
Profile Image for Øleksandra Banina.
39 reviews14 followers
January 26, 2023
Може, це і взагалі є найелементарніша суть любові — людина, яка живе поруч із тобою і все запам'ятовує по-іншому. Таке постійне джерело подивування: світ не просто — є, світ щохвилини тобі д а є т ь с я — досить лише взяти її за руку.

мені соромно, що протягом багатьох років я оминала твори Оксани Стефанівни, піддаючись на тейки про їхню складність у читанні і переварюванні. але ж направду, вона пише так живо, що процес читання нагадував мені оті моменти з дитинства, коли набігаєшся на вулиці, а тоді забігаєш додому і жадібно п’єш воду з великого кухля, ніяк не можеш напитися - так тобі смачно, приємно, і хочеться розчинитися у цій воді.

з іншого боку, не знаю, чи змогла би раніше так зрезонувати на великий сімейний роман про пошуки коріння, бо саме протягом останнього року ця тема стала актуальною і важливою.

як би там не було, я щаслива, що зі мною сталася ця книга і якби могла, я би поставила усі 10 зірочок 🖤
Profile Image for Kerry.
1,448 reviews60 followers
August 11, 2017
Read this book when you are exhausted of the banal selections recommended enthusiastically by Amazon. Read this book when you can't stand another melodramatic plot, its one-dimensional characters twisting in the wind, served up with a giant side of insincerity and condescension. Read this book when you just want to cut through the noise and immerse yourself in the refreshing world of Slavic eloquence and understanding of art and life.

The Museum of Abandoned Secrets is sophisticated, complex, and moving, and it manages to embody all of these qualities while being entertaining as well. One of the themes of the book is collage, and the story itself is indeed a type of collage: one of different perspectives, points of view, time periods, visitations, and stages of growth and grief. Zabuzhko assembles the elements into a multi-layered discussion about memory, relationships, love, and historical and current events; each of the book's ideas interacts with the others to create a finished piece that will offer a different revelation to each reader and continue to give upon each subsequent reading.

Zabuzhko has written the best kind of "feminine" book: many of the themes are female in nature--female friendship, pregnancy and birth, womanly love and sex, and the observations of both men and women by the main (female) protagonist. The feminine elements of this book are elevated and celebrated. Female strength, intelligence, emotions, and desires are given a place of honor and prestige.

The Museum of Abandoned Secrets is an incomparable read when it comes to language. Full credit goes to the translator of this work for preserving Zabuzhko's play with words and phrases, her gifts with dialogue, and the ethereal quality of many of the passages. Every sentence is substantial, articulate, and expressive. Secrets is not a book to be hurried through.

Read this book if you have a span of several days and the energy to dive into an intense work of literature. Read this book if you want to be haunted by characters, scenes, and descriptions. Read this book if you love highlighting and encountering rare words and if you hate cliches. Read this book if you value and are excited by writing that makes you think and elicits a complex emotional response.
Profile Image for Roman Golubovsky.
10 reviews26 followers
May 18, 2023
Дочитав «Музей покинутих секретів» Забужко і трохи сумно (як завжди після хороших книг), що ця «найдовша» подорож закінчилась.

Цією книгою Забужко виконує колосальну задачу: на якихось восьмиста сторінках захопливого художнього тексту розповідає історію українського двадцятого століття. І якщо комусь потрібен експрес-урок на цю тему – то це краще за Вікіпедію.

Головим антагоністом книги, як не дивно, виступає та сама імперія. Кожному з трьох поколінь, про які розповідається, доводиться з нею зіштовхнутись. При цьому, якщо перше покоління гине від голоду або ж воює з імперією, а друге ніяк не навчиться жити у складі цієї імперії, то із третім поколінням – дії цієї сюжетної лінії відбуваються у 2004 році – все навіть цікавіше. Українці цього покоління, з одного боку, ще ніяк не можуть вибратись із довгої тіні імперії. З іншого боку, у повітрі вже витає дух нового наступу імперії.

Важко тут обійтись без називання Забужко провидицею. Вона про все попереджала у своїх книжках.

Ще кілька слів про стиль Забужко. На днях також прослуховував аудіокнигу «Польові дослідженя з українського сексу», згадував якісь місця – бо читав її вперше років з двадцять тому. І раптом я збагнув, що хоча тоді не розумів багато чого з написаного, ця книга суттєво вплинула на мій подальший читацький досвід. Бо після самого факту прочитання кількасторінкових забужківських речень в юності, мене пізніше вже не лякали тексти Музіля, Пруста, Джойса чи Фолкнера. Забужко для мене послугувала вхідним квитком до серйозної літератури.

А тепер, після Кафки, Манна і Рушді, приходить час знову почитати Забужко.

Бо це хороша література світового рівня. Ще й розказує нам про нас.

Profile Image for Babette Ernst.
234 reviews37 followers
August 22, 2022
„Geheimnisse“ ist der Name eines Spiels, das in der Ukraine von Mädchen gespielt wurde. Ein „Schatz“, meist bunte Scherben und glitzerndes Bonbonpapier, wurde in einer selbstgegrabenen kleinen Höhle versteckt, der Standort musste gut gemerkt und durfte keinesfalls an Jungen verraten werden. So manches Mal wurde das Geheimnis vergessen.

Das Spiel, das seinen Ursprung dem Verstecken von Ikonen vor den Bolschewiken hat, ist die Vorlage für Sabuschkos Romankonstruktion. In einem Museum werden „vergessene Geheimnisse“ präsentiert, in jedem „Saal“, der einem Kapitel entspricht, wird ein Stück ukrainischer Geschichte oder auch Gegenwärtiges, das offiziell nicht ausgesprochen wird, enthüllt. Gegenwärtiges bezieht sich auf die Entstehungszeit des Buches, das 2009 im Original erschien.

Drei Frauen sind die Hauptfiguren des Buches, Daryna, eine Fernsehjournalistin, Wlada, eine Künstlerin (Gemälde „Geheimnisse“) und Helzja, eine Partisanin im Kampf gegen die Bolschewiki, die dem Roman einen feministischen Ton verleihen. Daneben spielt Helzjas Großneffe Adrian eine wichtige Rolle. Zwischen allen Figuren gibt es Verbindungen, die in den „Sälen“ aufgedeckt werden und anhand derer ein Bild der Ukraine in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart entsteht.

Die Konstruktion des Buches hat mich weitestgehend überzeugt, der Schluss rundet das Thema wunderbar. Sprachlich bewegt sich der Roman auf hohem Niveau; der Situation angemessen, klingt sie kraftvoll, wütend, vulgär, zärtlich oder poetisch, in sprechenden Bildern oder in inneren Monologen. Manchmal hatte ich meine Zweifel an der Übersetzung, der zumindest eine Schlusskorrektur fehlte, in der Schreibfehler und unterschiedliche Abkürzungen für denselben Ausdruck bereinigt worden wären. Sabuschko hat das Buch über viele Jahre an ganz unterschiedlichen Orten geschrieben, vielleicht haben sich schon dabei kleine Fehler eingeschlichen. Letztendlich schmälern diese Dinge den hervorragenden Umgang mit Sprache nicht. So mancher gesellschaftspolitische Zusammenhang wurde in den Gesprächen klar, wie ihn kaum ein Sachbuch besser hätte erklären können.

Die mehrfache Verwendung von Träumen zur Herstellung einer Verbindung zwischen der Vergangenheit und Gegenwart konnte mich nicht ganz so begeistern, das hatte etwas Esoterisches und fügte sich für mich nicht selbstverständlich in die Handlung ein – hier hatte die Konstruktion ein schlecht sitzendes Verbindungsstück.

Ich habe viel über die Ukraine gelernt, aber an einigen Stellen wurde ich den Eindruck nicht los, dass mir ein ganz bestimmtes geschöntes Geschichtsbild vermittelt werden sollte und gerade was Juden betrifft, nur ein Teil des „Geheimnisses“ aufgedeckt wurde. Auch wenn es solche Partisanen gegeben haben mag, wäre mir etwas mehr Ambivalenz lieber gewesen.

Das klingt negativer als beabsichtigt, Oksana Sabuschko schreibt hervorragend, ihr sind gerade jetzt viele Leser*innen zu wünschen. Die augenblickliche Situation lässt sich viel besser einordnen und es wird klar, welchen Weg die Menschen der Ukraine noch vor sich haben.
Profile Image for Pascal.
172 reviews11 followers
March 29, 2022
Came for the insights into Ukrainian history, culture and life – what I got was what feels like an endlessly meandering one-person podcast about mostly mundane things with glimpses of striking clarity here and there.

Don't get me wrong – there is some VERY interesting, downright enlightening stuff in these monologues. You just need to find the gold between hundreds of lines. It's not merely a factor of value-for-time. I just didn't feel engaged by this novel at all. Which is weird.

Because the prose itself is amazing. This author knows how to create some amazing images and allegories through sentences that bite. When this novel hits you, it leaves a mark. How can it be then that the vast majority of what is written here feels monotonous as heck and seemingly goes nowhere?

One of the reasons might be that this novel feels like it is first and foremost about... well, just being an average woman first and foremost. Don't get me wrong, the world still needs way more literature about just "being a woman" (whatever that may entail). In this specific case, however, this rather mundane aspect steals far too much of the spotlight from the historical bits that the blurb on the back of the book promises. You may find the Holodomor, the Nazi occupation, the Soviet era, the Orange Revolution and so on right in here somewhere... But yes, you will need to dive in there and FIND it.
Profile Image for Ann.
165 reviews51 followers
September 5, 2017
This is one of the most beautiful, lyrical and thought provoking books I have ever read. For me it was an "epic" novel. The setting is Ukraine from the 30's to the 90's, including all the war, political repression, upheaval and change that occurred during those times. Of course there are a couple of wonderful love stories and families that prove to be move connected than originally one might think. There are past topics such as archives retained or removed by the KGB. There are current topics such as journalism and the how different people respond to losing their job or career path. This is a woman's book. Although the story comes from both the main character, who is a woman, and from her lover - the overwhelming perspective on life is that of a woman. But in addition to giving us a great story, Ms. Zabuzhko gives us a piece of art in her writing. She is also a poet, and her poetic ability is clearly visible. However, she mixes in slang and coarse words in a manner that is very real and human. Now that I have gushed about this novel, I do have to give it a large caveat for most readers. It is very long, and the descriptions go off track (wonderfully so, I thought) very often. Because of that it is not for everyone. But if you have an interest in Ukraine (including its Soviet period) and you like a long, complicated well written novel, I highly recommend this one.
Profile Image for Katia N.
585 reviews662 followers
January 9, 2014
Very complex, long and slow novel. But definitely a rewarding experience if you would dive into it. It is written in my favourite narrative way - the the stream of consciousness, mainly by the main heroin and her boyfriend. But besides it has got a plot as well. The narrative takes place in two time periods: WW II and its aftermath in Western Ukraine, and before the Orange revolution in Kiev. Two lines are constantly intervene which creates the third dimension of the novel.

It feels that the novel is written by a philosopher who is desperately trying to understand the history and destiny of her own Land. The language is sincere and very imaginative. I did not like initially the main heroin but slowly she has grown on me with all her honesty, courage and vulnerabilities.

Although I started to read in English quite soon I switched to the original. It is my first book in Ukrainian since I finished school many-many years ago. But i really enjoyed the language. So if you have an ability to read in Ukrainian you might as well do it. However I thought the English translation is quite good actually as it renders the original quite truthfully when it is possible.

Only one thing i did not like - the book is a bit biased against the Russians. There is no single character there who is the Russian and not KGB agent or oligarch. Everything bad seems to be coming from the East as if Ukrainians themselves were just passive victims through out. It feels a bit one-sided. However i can understand the anger which seems to be a partial motivation for the novel. The good thing - by far this is not the most deep and meaningful theme of the book.

It touches a lot of much more eternal ideas of love, friendship, death, metaphysics of the time, what is history, interconnectedness of everyone and everything and the role of 6th sense.

I really would recommend this book if you can cope with the volume and the style of the narrative.

A few quotes:

"I have come to think that a person's life is not so much, or rather is not just, the dramatically arched story with a handful of characters (parents, children, lovers, friends, and colleagues - anyone else?) that we pass on more or less in one piece to our descendants. It's only from the outside that life looks like a narrative, or when viewed backwards through a pair of mental binoculars we put on when we have to fit ourselves into the small oculars or resumes, late night kitchen confessions, and home-spun myths, trimming and shaping life into orderly eyefuls. When seen from the inside, life is an enormous, bottomless suitcase, stuffed with precisely such indeterminate bits and pieces, utterly useless for anyone other that its owner. A suitcase carried, irredeemably and forever… Maybe a handful of odds and ends fall out along the way and remain to roy in the minds of witnesses, so whenever I stumbled into one of those lost, disowned scraps I was filled with a vague bit insistent shame of my inadequacy, as if this piece, this accidental survivor, contained the key - the lost secret code to the deep, subterranean core of the other person's life - and now I have it but don't know which door it unlocks or if such a door even exists."

"Taking cruelly for strength is the most common mistake of youth."

"This is the reason people have children, darts through my mind, with them, you live through all this one more time, and nothing can replace it!"

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Max Sushchuk.
46 reviews45 followers
June 7, 2017
«Музей покинутих секретів» − це персональний Забужчин ��анр, який неможливо звести до діалогу з попередниками й сучасниками, вочевидь тому, що він є іншим (а отже новим?) словом в європейській літературі. Книга мене так захопила, що огляд на неї я готував більше ніж 2 місяці, і він став найдовшим з усіх моїх відео.


Мій відеоогляд на YouTube

Profile Image for Pavlina Morhacova.
11 reviews17 followers
March 22, 2017
Ohurujúce putovanie rôznymi dobami, príbehmi a spôsobmi rozprávania, ktoré sa postupne zbiehajú a hrajú ako orchester. Autorka musí byť nejaký úplne zvláštny živočíšny druh, že s absolútnou múdrosťou, citlivosťou a pritom vtipným autentickým jazykom dala dokopy drobné rodinné (najmä ženské) príbehy a otrasné momenty ukrajinských veľkých dejín aj ešte teplého ranokapitalizmu. Najprv sa to zdalo byť celé príliš hutné a komplikované a po 150 stranách akoby som správne natočila vybrúsený diamant a začal svietiť do očí a blikal a blikal až do konca po 750 stranu až zaliehalo v ušiach.
Profile Image for meowkotmarina.
53 reviews4 followers
December 6, 2022
«Музей покинутих секретів» дав мені те, що я вже давно хотіла віднайти в українській літературі. Це роман куди можна приходити як в дім, і наповнювати сенсами своє минуле і сьогодення. Відчуваю що буду повертатися до нього знову.
Певна річ, як і багатьох мене відлякував об'єм роману. Але завдяки книжковому клубу The Ukrainians і подкасту Богдани Неборак та Анастасії Євдокимової все-таки зважилась підступитись та анітрохи не жалкую!
16 reviews
July 12, 2018
I finished this last year and am astonished I never wrote a review---likely I was merely too limp with awe to take action. I started the book the week Russia invaded Ukraine (again). I wanted to know more about Ukraine, particularly from a woman's P.O.V. In its pages I found stunning, poetic, evocative language (some light as lace, some as harrowing as a prowling animal). This book is the outcome of translation and that translator (Nina Shevchuk-Murray) deserves awards IMHO. (BTW I've read a review elsewhere that decried the translation as poor; perhaps that reviewer suffered over a blunting of unrealistic expectations.) During my read I made side excursions into Google Maps to view some of the villages and streets named in the book (distances and such), and also read some additional short pieces for added historical perspective. I did in fact come away with a far better understanding of Ukraine and the national reaction to recent Russian interventions (and of the Holodomor, of which I had been embarrassingly unaware). Even without the added effort, though, it's a good read and I recommend it.
Profile Image for Анна Bilenka.
Author 1 book89 followers
September 24, 2022
Беззаперечно найкраща книга, що читала за дуже довгий час.
Така, після якої змінюється стиль в письмі, і сніться сни з голоаними героями, і запитань залишається так багато, що не відступитись.
Прекрасна робота для читання, обговорення в книжковому клубі та рекомендації закордонним друзям, які хочуть «щось про Україну». Нічого чеснішого і оголенішого я не читала.
Напишу змістовніший відгук після підготовки до книжкового клубу, а поки питання одне: чим цю спрагу тепер гасити? Що читати далі?
Profile Image for Karen.
844 reviews122 followers
Currently reading
March 20, 2022
I rarely buy books (storage capacity at home is limited), but I bought this book, which covers 60 years of Ukrainian history. I'm only on page 50, but I am enchanted by the lyricism of the prose. It's beautiful!

Usually, I am reading in a way that pushes me forward to see what happens next. The style of this book encourages me to luxuriate in each sentence, to dwell in the texture and images of the moment. I want time to stop while I am reading. It’s almost like reading poetry.

This is going to take me some time to read because I'm also reading library books on China and Ukraine. My goal is 10 pages a day, so this is going to take me more than two months to finish!
Profile Image for Maria Blindiuk.
173 reviews85 followers
February 24, 2021
це моя друга спроба, і цього разу Оксана Забужко менше лякає своєю масштабністю. є журналістка, є її чоловік і є його родичі, які були в УПА. є їхні історії, що перетинаються у спільних снах. далі – просто робота з контекстами наших нульових, майстерне замішування цього в одне та сатира на всіх.

а ще кожного разу, коли я читаю Забужко, радію, що все трошечки краще, ніж вона пророкує
36 reviews3 followers
January 15, 2021
Я читав цей роман довго - 2 місяці з перервами. Але при цьому він видався дуже захопливим. Отже, буду перечитувати кожні декілька років. 5 з плюсом!
Profile Image for Lynn Kanter.
Author 6 books18 followers
June 7, 2014
This sprawling novel takes place in modern-day Ukraine (2003) and in the Ukraine of 60 years ago. The plot hinges on the friendship between two women in modern Ukraine: a journalist who hosts a popular TV interview program, and a respected artist who is killed in a freak car accident. Their story develops with a parallel story about a woman freedom fighter during WWII, about whom the journalist is trying to make a documentary. The novel is a bit challenging to read – the plot swirls around in time and place (some of it taking place in dreams) – but well worth it for the revelations about life in Ukraine, explorations about how people absorb or fail to absorb seismic political and cultural shifts in one lifetime, and wise observations about human nature and friendship among women.
Profile Image for Clarissa Simmens.
Author 33 books94 followers
August 3, 2013
Wow! Shades of James Joyce's "Ulysses." My paternal grandmother was from the Ukraine so I already felt a connection with the space part of the continuum (and did it continue!). Devastatingly sad, hysterically funny, almost always lyrically written, the reader will need to devote lots of time and attention while reading. Definitely an immersive experience...
Profile Image for Яна.
21 reviews6 followers
January 14, 2023
Господи помилуй оце так книга.

Я, чесно кажучи, з художньою літературою від Забужко не в ладах — інколи "торкає",переважно ж неймовірно бісить беззмістовною графоманню. Однак ЦЯ цеглина довжиною в 832 сторінки мене настільки здивувала і заслужено вляглась в багаж кращих прочитаних книжок, що можу тільки поаплодувати. Читати багато, а��е мені йшло от прям дуже до душі і легко; залишила по собі ж стан ніби одночасного спустошення і наповнення твором аж до краю! Весь сюжет елегантно зібрано-скручено-сплетено навколо однієї фотографії, яку оповідачка знаходить випадково і залишається тільки встигати за поворотами долі вже десь колись накресленими.

Точно ця книгу для вас, якщо любите стиль Маркеса з довжелезними реченнями, якими він гіпнотизує читача, вводячи в магічний ритм (сам про це в інтерв'ю розповідав) і прихильні до роману "Хмарний атлас" Мітчелла з купою ниточок-павутинок між героями різних епох.

Тепер от думаю — як від такого роду потрясіння від книги мені відійти? Пропоную думати разом зі мною. Читайте цю книгу Забужко обов'язково (іншу художку її не рекомендую, якщо чесно, хіба що декілька винятків).
Profile Image for Julie.
72 reviews5 followers
January 5, 2022
Honestly, this is incredible. It's passionate. It's unique. It's chock full of information. It's prescient. It's savvy and shrewd. It's stylized, but not affected. This is a book that knows its weight and isn't pretentious about it. This is truly a work that exceeds every possible expectation. It is a masterclass.

I think this book can best be described as a lament - one that is almost akin to a funerary wail. Zabuzhko sees what has happened to her country, and what is continuing to happen - a series of events that can really only be described as the failed transition and reconstruction of a former colonial state - and she's absolutely irate. She demands that the reader follow her through these historical nooks and crannies and present day vignettes so that they can understand and appreciate her sentiment. Her analysis is succinct, and cutting, and she pulls no punches. She's almost eerily prescient. It's an incredibly emotional work. There is an almost casual brutality to what she describes that contextualizes the extent and depth of historical suffering.

The baseline narrative is really a vehicle to carry her analysis. It is complicated, not linear, and time is a loose construct; all of which makes this a challenging read -- but it's incredibly worthwhile. The amount of information and the number of perspectives that the reader encounters in this book are truly staggering. I'm not sure that it would be possible to read this book and not find yourself constantly reflecting on it. I thought about it all day. I couldn't turn it off in my head. There's just so much that Zabuzhko brings to the table. There is nothing light, airy, or even slightly bullshitty about this book. This is a book that demands attention, respect, and consideration, and it merits absolutely every one of those points.

Information aside, Daryna and Adrian, the protagonists, are my favorite literary couple to-date. They are wonderful. They're relatable and realistic; their communication is gold-star worthy; they're just fantastically fitting for this story.

I started this as an audiobook, which I think is a format that worked particularly well for this. Because it is so complicated and there are so many moving parts, and there are so many moments that will truly take your breath away, I found it helpful to listen to it through the first time. About two chapters in though, I knew this book would be a keeper, and promptly bought a physical copy. I plan on re-reading and taking notes this time. This is one of those books that will be heavily highlighted and post-it noted.

(Halfway through the book, I ordered Zabuzhko's "Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex." This is an author to keep around. I'm so excited about her!)

Truly excellent and a great way to kick of 2018!

Profile Image for Ted.
49 reviews4 followers
August 15, 2014
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 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.
Profile Image for Andrii Piasetskyi.
22 reviews3 followers
January 4, 2023
Книга десятиліття для мене. Навряд мене колись так захоплював роман із величезною кількістю розумувань героїв і авторки. Для себе жанр я визначив як гостросюжетний інтелектуальний роман.

Роман запрошує нас у подорож закапелками колективної пам'яті і колективного забуття. Подорожуючи через другу світову війну, український спротив радянській окупації сорокових-п'ятдесятих років, часи застою із КДБістським наглядом за всіма, через революцію на граніті аж до зародку помаранчевої революції. Після прочитання хочеться більше зануритись у такий самий музей своєї родини, щоб зберегти і передати пам'ять як уроки майбутнім поколінням, бо 2022 рік показав, що ми їх погано вивчили.

І як бонус отримуєте найкращі описання сексуальних сцен, які мені траплялись у сучасній українській літературі.
1,428 reviews51 followers
November 30, 2012
The Museum of Abandoned Secrets by Oksana Zabuzhko is an expertly written book which I cannot praise highly enough. Zabuzhko has created quite a lengthy tome, yet I cannot fathom what could be removed without losing the many threads that weaves together this exquisite Ukrainian book. Having spent time in the former Soviet controlled Ukraine, I was captivated from the very beginning to the last page and found myself longing to return. I highly recommend The Museum of Abandoned Secrets and hope the length of the book will not deter others; it is definitely worth the time.
Profile Image for Yaroslava Tymoshchuk.
117 reviews21 followers
May 19, 2016
Якщо вірити теорії, що який хто в роботі, такий і в любові, то Оксана Стефанівна мусить бути жінкою пристрасною - я, мабуть, довше збиралася з духом, аби прочитати книжку, ніж Забужко її писала. Жінкою, на котрій її чоловік має бути дуже зосередженим - зі всіх 800 сторінок роману враження, що тільки Забужко з тобою і говорить, байдуже вустами якого персонажа (як і Ліна Василівна у "Записках..."). І ще кумедні матюки від Оксани Стефанівни. А взагалі Забужко, звісно, крута; впізнаючи деякі свої думки у її текстах, думаю, що могла б бути її духовною дочк��ю (ото вже загнула, начитавшись :)).
Profile Image for Erica .
59 reviews53 followers
June 1, 2015
My goodness - this was pretty tough going but absolutely worth the six weeks it took me to battle through it. So many subtleties and intricacies woven together in a beautiful way. I can see myself coming back to this in years to come as I'm sure there's an awful lot that I missed!
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