Some of the top recent reads from Ukraine are: 1. Five exceptional books from Ukraine in the past few months 2. The top five most notable books from Ukraine in recent times 3. A selection of five outstanding books from Ukraine that have been released recently 4. Five of the most highly praised books from Ukraine in the recent past 5. A roundup of the top five must-read books from Ukraine that have been published recently
Why should we read Ukrainian poets or poets translated from other languages?” asked poet Ilya Kaminsky in March 2022, following Russia’s increased aggression towards Ukraine. “If we don’t read translated poetry, we are constantly just looking at ourselves.”
These recently translated works by Ukrainian poets and novelists contemplate domestic life, language, economics, culture and violence in the country. Though many were written before 2022, all reach forward into the present, offering resonant snapshots of a country beset by war.
Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets, translated by Eugene Ostashevsky
Belorusets’s collection of absurd stories about Ukrainian women is filled with elements of magic, witchcraft, and astrology. From a midwife casting a curse on her neighborhood to a woman transforming a teapot into a fan, the tales are infused with otherworldly elements. In one story, a group takes shelter underground and relies on daily horoscopes to determine when it is safe to venture outside.
The headline is sarcastic: despite what the title suggests, women in Belarus are not experiencing any fortunate circumstances. They often feel disillusioned and have to move between different places with very limited economic prospects. In certain cases, their existence is abruptly erased – for example, a florist vanishes without a trace, her shop is transformed into a storage room for propaganda materials, her home is destroyed, and her loyal customers have long since left Donetsk. Through brief anecdotes that span only a few pages, Belorusets shares the experiences of these women who live on the fringes of society.
The Ukraine by Artem Chapeye, translated by Zenia Tompkins
Chapeye combines personal experiences and fictional elements in this diverse examination of Ukrainian life. Written over the course of eight years, the narratives provide honest and humorous insights on a variety of subjects, including household conflicts, rural living, and criminal activity.
Chapeye’s passion for traveling and the insights it brings to light are clearly evident. In the main story, a couple on a journey share a laugh over the incorrect use of the definite article when referring to Ukraine, and begin to point out various things, individuals, and occurrences that they deem to represent the “true” Ukraine. One such instance is what Chapeye describes as the “charm of deterioration”: half-built concrete structures, weathered statues of Soviet Pioneers, and a deserted Pioneers camp with rusty swings.
The translated book “How Fire Descends” by Serhiy Zhadan was translated by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps.
Besides his written works, Zhadan is the lead singer of a ska group called Zhadan and the Dogs. He also plays a role in coordinating the distribution of humanitarian assistance in Kharkiv, a city that has faced relentless attacks since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion two years ago.
The latest volume of poetry by this author centers on the concept of gaps: in language, between individuals, and between the living and the deceased. This emptiness, referred to as “silence” throughout the collection, is depicted as a character in its own right, personified as “Silence warm like a lamb in your arms.” The first poem in the collection, written on September 11, 2022 – the day a Russian attack caused power outages in Kharkiv – reads like a declaration of intent: “Remember everything that disappears like a traveler descending / a hill. / Speaking it aloud will dispel the silence and keep trouble at bay.”
The book “Mondegreen: Songs About Death and Love” was written by Volodymyr Rafeyenko and translated by Mark Andryczyk.
Rafeyenko was born and raised in Donetsk, where he primarily wrote in Russian. However, he relocated to Kyiv in 2014 after pro-Russian rebels took control of his hometown. He was deeply disturbed by Russia’s justification of protecting Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine and made a promise to himself to learn Ukrainian and write his next novel in the language. This resulted in the creation of Mondegreen.
The book centers around Haba Habriel Habinsky, a refugee who, similar to Rafayenko, relocates to Kyiv in order to flee his war-torn hometown, known as “city Z”. The plot – titled after a misunderstood line from a song – delves into the connections between memory, language, and one’s sense of self.
Your Ad Could Go Here by Oksana Zabuzhko, translated by Halyna Hryn, Askold Melnyczuk, Nina Murray, Marco Carynnyk and Marta Horban
In this collection of stories, Zabuzhko explores the inner lives of women in times of war, revolution, and under Soviet rule. The first story, entitled Oh Sister, My Sister, follows Natalia and her daughter Darka as they face a KGB raid on their home. In order to protect Darka, Natalia makes the decision to have an abortion for her second child (“she would not be able to shield the both of you”). Later, Darka begins to hear a voice and sees visions of a “fair-haired head of fluffy curls lit up by sunshine”. She even lies to her classmates, telling them she has a little sister.