Kharkiv, Ukraine, April 2022. Photo by David Peinado.
“That’s the appeal of writing: you treat the world like a potential text, using it as material, setting yourself apart, stepping out. You can write about anything, literature allows you to do so without demanding anything back. The poetry of life is identical to the poetry of death.”
Ukrainian poet and writer Serhiy Zhadan is one of East Central Europe’s most important contemporary writers. We are proud to present for the first time in English a poem translated by Ostap Kin and John Hennessy, and two prose excerpts from “The Telephone Book of the Dead,” translated by Magdalena Baran-Szołtys.
“Whatever genre he is working in—poetry, prose (including both fiction and nonfiction), or dramaturgy—he has been passionately, persistently, and systematically giving voice to the voiceless,” notes translator Ostap Kin in his introduction. As Magdalena Baran-Szołtys has written, “Serhiy Zhadan writes about realities and feelings that we all have, but which we often only become aware of in all their force through his texts.”
This is the second in our “Literature and Democracy” series. This quarterly column, curated by NER international correspondent Ellen Hinsey, presents writers’ responses to the threats to democracy around the world, beginning with a focus on Eastern Europe.