‘The pen is mightier than the sword’, so the saying goes. Yet as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, many Ukrainian writers have been either displaced or forced to exchange their pens for more literal weapons.
As shown by the upcoming Voices of Ukraine and Concert for Ukraine events, artistic consumption is a form of solidarity and support. For those of us observing from around the globe, literature offers a way to better empathise with those under threat. Here are some Ukrainian authors to read night now.
Oksana Lutsyshyna is a Ukrainian writer and lecturer at the University of Texas. Her poetry collection Persephone Blues was released in English in 2019 and she contributed to the anthology Words For War: New Poems from Ukraine (2017). Her novel Ivan and Phoebe (2019) won the Lviv City of Literature UNESCO Prize in 2020 as well as the Taras Shevchenko National Prize in 2021 and is due for publication in English this Spring.
Kurkov has written 19 novels as well as children’s books and screenplays. His fiction, such as the bestselling Death and the Penguin (2004), blends historical and political intrigue with satire and the surreal. An active commentator in defence of Ukraine and its culture, Kurkov’s Ukraine Diaries (2014) is highly insightful.
Novelist, essayist and poet Oksana Zabuzhko recently gave an impassioned speech to European Parliament. Her novels Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex (1996) and The Museum of Abandoned Secrets (2009) feature themes of gender and national identity.
Zhadan is a poet, essayist, novelist, and literal rock star from eastern Ukraine. His novel Voroshylovhrad (2010) won the accolades BBC Ukrainian Book of the Year and Book of the Decade. He is also co-founder of the Serhiy Zhadan Charitable Foundation.