Ukrainian Authors and Literature – A Review

As the Ukrainian nation is today United, as the external influences acting on it were various, and the dominance of other peoples in this country was massive. The famous Russian writer Gogol confessed one day in a letter to a friend that he did not know whether he was Russian or Ukrainian. And he wasn’t the only one feeling it, but most of the writers also who suffered foreign domination and come from different ethnic groups. Indeed, Ukraine is a country which has always been separated East and West, and the Ukrainians, Russians, Poles, Germans, and Jews consider their homeland.

 

Every beginning is difficult

In the early days of the Kievan Rus, scholars used the Slavonic language, a lingua franca like latin in Europe. Is in that language than the first Chronicles of the Rus’ were written, above all the Chronicle of Nestor (in Russian, Povest vremennych let,’ in French, 1113-1118 years) make a place of founding legend not only for the identity of Ukrainians but also for that of the Belarusians and Russians.

Said of the campaign of Igor, written in 1187, (in Ukrainian ‘Slovo o polku Ihorevim’), which was rediscovered only in 1795 in a monastery in Yaroslavl in Russia, also part of the basis of the national consciousness. Today, the text has a place in the canon of literature to school in Ukraine. He said the failure of the campaign of war that the Russian prince Igor Sviatoslavitch in 1185 against the Polovtsians, a Turkish people. We can’t always not the author of this text, but its degree of popularity is very high, so Rainer Maria Rilke translated in German and Mikhail Bulgakov in English.

Apart from these legacies of the middle ages, there is little preserved writings or importance until the period of the enlightenment. The Slavonic remained until the 18th century in official institutions and the Church, the language of scholars and under Russian hegemony. For a long time, it was frowned upon to write in Ukrainian, where the impossibility of a Ukrainian written language is born.

Is with the philosopher Grigoriy Skovoroda (1722-1794) that appeared the first texts which also used in addition to the Russian Ukrainian and played with the differences between the two languages. Skovoroda spent the second half of his life as a wandering philosopher and is known for his epitaph “everyone pursued me, but never managed to catch me”, and going on to the Russian Socrates today still.

The poet Ivan Kotlyarevski (1769-1838) of the city in central Ukraine, Poltava, put in place the beginning of a written language in its own right with its version of the burlesque of the Aeneid in 1798, in which, relying on the original of Virgil, it offers the reader a vision of history, how to live, and the thought of that time in South-West of the Russian Empire.

Another person who tried to prepare the way for the Ukrainian literary language suffered much of the negative attitude, the poet Tarass Chevtchenko (1814-1861). Although his poems in Ukrainian route much interest, the Russian nobility was of the view that these verses were losing their beauty because of the “rural dialect” used.

Ukrainians for the name of Shevchenko is synonymous with freedom. Until today he is hailed, and not only for his influence in the Ukrainian language. Indeed, he was born as a deer and constantly fighting his rights of literary freedom; he kept to his ideals of democracy and parity until his death. Although the tsar himself sent Shevchenko in exile and forbidden her to draw and write, writer succeeded anyway with the help of friends to continue to publish texts, as his book of poems “Kobsar” which is still popular today.

In the 19th century, Nicolas Gogol (1809-1852) wrote similarly in Ukrainian and in Russian and became famous above all in Russia. Born in Veliki Sorochintsy near the city of Poltava, a friend of Pourchkine, under his pen saw the day of works such as “the reviewer” or “Dead Souls”.

Writers came from outside the country. In 1848 – 49 Honoré Balzac (1799-1850) spent the winter at the Verkhovina near Berdichev to heal himself a severe illness. The following summer he married just before his death his long-time partner date, Evelina Hanska, a Ukrainian noble.Alexandre Pouchkine (1799-1837), one of the greatest Russian poets, stayed between 1820 and 1824 in Odessa and Kamianka. This last was a secret Center of the Decembrists, to which the young poet felt attached by ideas. During his stay, he worked some of these most important works, including the cycle of worms Eugène Onéguine, where in Chapter 10 is described the city. The poet stopped after his banishment for a time in the city of Odessa where despite his exile and through regular contact with overseas he said breathe throughout Europe.

For Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), Ukraine was a kind of port of salvation. Chekhov family rented since late 1889 already a property in Sumy in the North of the current Ukraine, where the author was able to work for a while. Once young reached Chekhov of tuberculosis sought refuge from his illness in Crimea. On the advice of his doctors, he bought a small property where he settled in 1899 at Yalta. Although this quiet land was not quite hectic for this artist used to live in Moscow and St. Petersburg, he wrote here two best-known works: “The Cherry Orchard” and “Three Sisters.”

New literary lights

In 1863 Russia banned the Ukrainian language under the premier Russian Valuev, who tried to completely deny its existence. With the Decree of Ems in 1876, which banned the use of the Ukrainian language in the writings under penalty of law, the publication of writings was made almost impossible after the era of Shevchenko.

This provoked the creation of centers of creative literature outside of the Russian Empire and the growing interest of the theme of national consciousness. Ivano Franko (1856-1916) was the leading man of letters of the 19th century who approached this theme after Shevchenko. Poet, playwright, the prose of literary realism, he pronounced with sociopsychological and sociocritiques works such as “Stolen happiness” the national vein of Ukrainians and opened the doors to the modern Ukrainian literature.

With the ban on the Ukrainian language literature of other nationalities flourished, including the literary Center concentrated especially in the port city of Odessa. It is the hometown of the famous Jew became an author in Russia Isaac Babel (1894-1940) and has long been the place of residence of the Israeli national poet of Volyn Haim Nahman Bialik (1873-1934), which gave its name to one of the awards the best-known literary: the Bialik Prize.

These days, Chernivtsi is also a bastion of creative writing in Western Ukraine. The city, which before being taken by the Habsbourger dynasty has long belonged to the Moldavian Principality, has since still not only Ukrainians but also Poles, Germans, Jews and Romanians, all very connected to their homeland and who took their literature beyond the borders of the country. One of the writers born in this city was Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889). He spent certainly throughout his schooling, as short as it is because it interrupted him at 14 to join a travelling theatre company, in a German school, but he was inspired by the Romanian language from an early age. He was influenced by German literature and follower of Schopenhauer, inspired poems and prose of writers and philosophers of German language for his own works he translated in Romanian. His poems form the basis of the modern Romanian language.

Sicilian Gregor von Rezzori (1914-1998) is another transmitter of Romanian literature. With his book published in 1953 “stories from the country of the sun setting”, a fun utopia that reminds the morals of the deep Balkans on part sketches of scoundrels and of thugs, the author, who was married three times, acquired a reputation as an author of Entertainment, reputation that he couldn’t dispose despite the publication of more serious novels such as “The death of my brother Abel” or “Kain, the last manuscript”.

Michal Czajkowski (1804-1886), Polish literary man born in Volhynia, also include active authors in the western part of Ukraine. The time of romanticism, he idéalisa the joint Polish-Ukrainian history, and he is known for his national literature on the Cossacks.

A fact that remains unknown to many of his readers on one of the greatest English writers of the 19th and 20th century, Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), is that it also comes from Ukraine, the city Berdichev. However, Conrad spent most of his life in Britain which he adopted the nationality and where he wrote works such as “the heart of darkness” in English, a language that he began to learn from his 21 years.

Another writer, born at Brody, denied his career as a man of letters in German and is often very little associated with Ukraine, he is the journalist and Jewish writer Joseph Roth (1894-1939). Marked by the early loss of his parents, this very committed author politically devoted himself to the arrondissement of socio-political themes of his time and looking for an inner truth that builds strongly to his religion. His works play most of the time in his hometown. Especially in his work “The Leviathan” and “Wrong measures” he uses the reason for his city as a literary landscape to describe the life of merchants, soldiers, customs officers, and Jewish smugglers at this time. In his essay “Wandering Jews,” Roth trace an image so close to the reality of the border town Ukrainian as one might think to walk in the footsteps of the era of yesteryear.

The 20th century in the Ukraine multicultural memory

With the entrance into the 20th century, the Russian regime left a little more nimble and literature raised the issue of new issues on its claims and its function. The tone of the language becomes more and more critical of society, more revolutionary, more sociological, more political and dramatic. The Ukrainian poetess Lessia Ukrainka (1871-1913) played a leading role in these changes. Influenced by great thinkers like Marx and Engels, she devoted herself to his works to national oppression and social injustice.

Olha Kobylianska (1863-1942), writing also in Ukrainian, was a very good friend of Lessia Ukrainka. Moved by the works of great men of German, Russian and Scandinavian letters, as well as the philosophy of F. Nietzsche, she made his first attempts to write in Polish and German, but found no culmination. Inspired by the great writers of his time such as Shevchenko and Ivan Franko, she turned to the Ukrainian language and then found recognition in the literary world. His best-known novel, “Earth,” was even made into a movie in 1954.

Similarly, the writer Mikhaylo Kotsyubinsky (1864-1913) experienced the desire to devote himself to literature, especially after his intensive studies on Shevchenko, who inspired him a lot. Born in Vinitsa, he spent most of his life in Chernihiv, where today there still a national museum dedicated to him. Follower of Marxism, it made famous by his work “Mirage,” which relies on the revolutions of 1905 to 1907 and described the conflicts and the ordinary life of Ukraine.

Later, the works of Kotsyubinsky were rewritten during Soviet and published in the sense of Soviet realism. His work “the shadows of ancestors forgotten,” which is known in France under the title of “The horses of fire,” has been adapted to film by Director Sergueiy Paradjanov. Embedded in a love drama, history is significant primarily for the representation mystified the life and traditions of the Hutsul people primitive Carpathianrusyn. 100 years ago, they lived in complete isolation, cut off from the rest of the population they managed to keep their traditions and customs. Thus, we can still find a lot of Hutsul region who sell their traditional in bazaars as merchandise in the city of Kosiv for example.

If you are interested more in the traditions and myths of the Hutsul, take with you the work “We the high uplands” of Stanislaw Vincenz (1888-1971). Polish writer grew up in this area and found himself, as he explains himself, in the middle of 14 different cultures. Today, it is mainly to be a connoisseur of this people of rusyn shepherds are the Hutsul.

Since the founding of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian language literature went up in power in half of the 1920s and several currents as Futurism and Impressionism emerged. Under the aegis of the Soviet regime, several associations of writers who introduced the ideology of socialist realism in literature. However, this literary society split into two groups. If it was a defender of the party and that they followed their line, so it was considered as a “Comrade” and could in peace devote themselves to writing works predefined by the party. However, if we were opposing or if deviant positions, so we were threatened with exile and worse. This leads to what many men of letters published abroad or went into exile. However, it is precisely the literature of the 1920s with its features of social criticism which is crucial today in the trial of national identity and the memory of the Ukrainian people.

During the Stalin era and the waves of repressions that followed, the pressure went up in large swathes of the Ukrainian literary scene. Bans, arbitrary imprisonment, torture and sent to the gulag for years and executions were the order of the day. More than 300 Ukrainian writers were victims of the repression. Furthermore, russification policy again and a ban on publication in the Ukrainian language was proclaimed. Many Ukrainians felt threatened in their identity. The suite was a great wave of immigration during the second world war.

The fate of the young Jewish girl Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger (1924-1942) of Boukovine Chernivtsi is part of one of the tragedies of this war among millions. At a younger age, the German language poetess was enthusiastic for poetry and succeeds even after his deportation in the German camp Michailovka to continue to write. 57 extremely touching poems could be saved after his death at the age of 18 years. She described his insatiable desire for life in the face of death that the threat.

Literature of the Jewish population was before all marked by the desire to pass its traditions and belief, as well as to rework the traumatic experience caused by pogroms. Thus, in the books of Paul Celan (1920-1970) German writer found through his work the pattern recurring about the tragic loss of his parents and his feeling of guilt related, that he sought to address in his poems such as “Fugue of death”. However, he is unable to overcome her suffering, and he chose in the end to end his days. His friend, Moses Rosenkranz (1904-2003), came out of the atrocities of the war, and despite the many dead, to which he had to face during the occupation, lived very long.

Rose Ausländer (1901-1988) poet was also a friend of Paul Celan, whom he met in the ghetto of Chernivtsi and that he influenced very strongly in his writing style with a later meeting in Paris. His career started by immigration to the United States, where she published her first works at the age of 20 years. However, she returned several times to his homeland because of the illness of her mother, until she was deported in 1941. She narrowly survived. Is that 20 years after the war that she managed to become famous as a poet with his collection of poems “summer blind.” Unlike Rose Ausländer, the writer Joseph Burg (1912-2009) managed to flee from the nazis. He is among the last men of letters writing in Yiddish and wrote twenty novels despite a creative break of 40 years.

The Polish Jewish author Stanislaw Lem (1921-2006) is old of Lviv. His studies of medicine and physician experience were later suspended and prevented so that he eventually devote himself entirely to writing. He fled the Soviet occupation and wrote mostly fiction, which made him so famous that his works were translated into 60 languages in Austria and Poland.

Bruno Schulz (1892-1942) was yet another author and Jewish literary critic of Polish origin, who grew up in Drohobych and spent his life apart from a few scattered travels. This is what he started her career first engaged in the art and illustration and taught drawing. This is that later that he discovered his talent for writing in corresponding with his wife, and that is how he managed to make themselves known at the age of 40 years. Had that little bit of time to live his literary passion. Although his death is often explained by his escape from the ghetto, his death occurred in a way even more tragic. As a serf of Commander Felix Landau, he was on a vendetta when he ordered one-day execution of many Jews in the street in the ghetto, who had made opposition. Although this executionnel commando was not Bruno Schulz himself, was found in the dead another Jew under the tutelage of the SS Commander Karl Günther. To compensate for his loss and revenge cruelly, it demanded following this event the execution of the serf of Felix Landau, which meant the end of Bruno Schulz.

Writers Karl Emil Franzos (1848-1904) and Samuel Joseph Agnon (1888-1970) saw particularly to mediation and the preservation of culture and Jewish tradition. Educated according to the Hasidic traditions of Judaism from the East, Joseph Agnon went early enough in Palestine and did not return the following years during his travels between Berlin and Jerusalem that rarely in his native region, Galicia, who had been a victim of pogroms massifs. It has been during her life to save Jewish cultures and is often used in his works a strong bond with his belief, which earned him the Bialik Prize in 1950. The writer and journalist born in Podolie Karl Emil Franzos, him, under the influence of germano-juives tensions, carried his attention primarily on communication between Germans and Jews, what he was able to do thanks to translations in both respective languages.

The Jewish writer Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005), born in Galicia in 1908 has also been to clear up the aftermath of the war and made State of the horrors committed during the Holocaust. He managed to survive 12 concentration camps which allowed him in the post-war years, not only to describe his experience as a witness of the time but also to help to a large extent the search for war criminals.

The path to freedom

It is only after Stalin’s death that began slowly thaw under Chrouchtchev in the 50s and 60 period and borders of the official socialist realism is softening somewhat. Finally, 30 years after his death in 1940, could be published the work of Mikhail Bulgakov, born in Kiev. The Soviet public still had access to the great work of “Master and Margarita,” in which the author described the Moscow life of 20 years in a satirical-fantastic form. However, it was still half of the 1980s and the Gorbachev reform policy to make it possible to edit freely in Ukraine. Now only appear works of literary exiles in their own country, the classical authors of the 19th century can be read. The literature had lost its links, but also its protection with a State in which exemplary behavior was honored by material privileges.

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