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Recreations Paperback – International Edition, July 10, 1998
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About the Translator
Marko Pavlyshyn is Mykola Zerov Senior Lecturer in Ukrainian Studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He is the author of Canon and Iconostasis (Kyiv, 1997) and many articles on contemporary Ukrainian literature.
About the Author
Yuri Andrukhovych was born in 1960 in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine. He began publishing in literary journals in 1982. In 1985, together with Viktor Neborak and Oleksandr Irvanets, he founded the popular literary performance group "Bu-Ba-Bu" (Burlesque-Bluster-Buffoonery). This association was a seminal part of the literary culture of the 1980s, and its members continue to be active. Andrukhovych's first book of poetry, Sky and Squares, appeared in 1985. Military service in 1983 and 1984 inspired him to write a series of seven "army stories" that were published in 1989. The life of a soldier in the "Red Army" was the subject of his screenplay for A. Donchyk's film Oxygen Starvation (1992). From 1989 to 1991 he pursued advanced studies in Moscow at the M. Gorky Literary Institute. At that time he published two more poetry books, Downtown (1989) and Exotic Birds and Plants (1991, new edition 1997). Andrukhovych's reputation as a prose writer (and, for some readers, his notoriety) was establis
Top customer reviews
An English translation of Yuri Andrukhovych's first novel, Recreations (first published in Ukrainian 1992) is a riveting look at a night in the life of a group of hard drinking poets attending a festival.
Andrukhovych is not very well known yet in North America. The only other literary work of his that has appeared in translation so far was a short story in "From Three Worlds; New Writing From Ukraine" (also available from Amazon.com) reviewed in Zdorov! magazine (Winter 1998). The writer is bound to become better known in the future (he appeared at the 19th Annual International Festival of Authors in Toronto and was interviewed in a Bravo! special aired in the spring of 1999).
The book's narrative opens in 1991 just prior to Ukraine's independence. Khomsky (Khoma), a poet, is returning to Ukraine from Leningrad to attend a revival of the long forgotten "Festival of the Resurrecting Spirit". Held in the mythical Chortopil, the novel describes the festival as commemorating a time when "Emancipated souls celebrated their renewal, Free Laughter and Untrammelled Poetry ascended to waft over the sinful earth, and the Dastardly Skeletal One retreated before the implacable blows of Human immorality."
The festival, "an orgy of popular culture, civic dysfunction, national pride, and sex," becomes a backdrop on which Andrukhovych examines the interactions of four poets, Khoma, Yurko Nemyrych, Hryts Shtundera, and Rostyslav Martofliak who contend with the cultural baggage of being Ukrainian. The festival is run by one Matsapura, (the name alludes to the scoundrel Pavlo Matsapura, a character in Ivan Kotliarevsky's Eneida).
Matsapura creates a "total festival" where even the German snake oil salesman hawking his goods in the town square is just an actor playing a role. Everything is geared to give the festival goers an experience they will never forget. Yet Matsapura, like the rest of the characters, is testing the waters of the new freedom that people are experiencing in Ukraine. How far can one go before it is too far? In the end, Matsapura goes just far enough.
Without giving too much away, things become more and more bizarre as the festival's first evening progresses. From Nemyrych's and Shtundera's first encounter with the demonic Dr. Popel ("I am not young and I am not old boys. I am eternal"), to the climactic end, the characters stumble (quite literally) from one experience to another. Although the main characters are a bunch of booze-soaked egomaniacs, the reader develops a sympathy for them.
Andrukhovych is a master at making the reader a part of his tale. As each character stumbles into increasingly surreal surroundings, the reader is transported into the scenes with them. Nemyrych and Shtundera, each in his own way, discovers a part of the past in this little village of Chortopil. It is a past that is dark, even frightening. Martofliak grapples with alcoholism and Khoma with personal loyalty.
Unlike many authors who don't seem to know how to write a good ending, Andrukhovych builds the tension in crafty increments, sustaining the readers' interest right to the end and then wallops you with a crescendo that frankly caught me completely off guard. Andrukhovych leaves you wanting more, which is just as it should be. Let's hope his other novels, Moscoviad: A Horror Novel (1993) and Perversions (1996) are translated into English as soon as possible.
Andrukhovych, born in Ivano-Frankivsk in 1960, is considered to be one of the leaders of a new generation of Ukrainian authors. With Oleksander Irvanets and Viktor Neborak, Andrukhovych is a founding member of Bu-Ba-Bu a group of poets/writers "specializing in literary happenings, scandals and provocations." Bu-Ba-Bu stands for "burlesk" (burlesque) "balahan" (farce) and "bufonada" (buffonery). The members of Bu-Ba-Bu have been stretching the boundaries of Ukrainian creativity since its founding in 1985.