Sometimes a culture’s literature must be an underground stream silently flowing under fields and cities alike, only rarely seeing the light of day. Such was the literature of Ukraine during the era of the Soviet hegemony. With this anthology, you hold in your hands something altogether different. Sometimes it feels like a surge of white-water leaping in the air, roaring downhill with a pure kinetic energy. At other times it is deeply reflective, pooling in wonder and perplexity. Both kinds of writing come with the knowledge that the imagination is to a significant extent freer than it was in an earlier era. Here are writers for whom nothing is simply sacred, but everything—including self, soul, and society—is worth probing to its idiosyncratic and sometimes frightening core. Regardless of the findings, it is that freely probing mind that this anthology of contemporary Ukrainian literature celebrates.
Founder of The Poetry Center, Suffolk University, and author of Said Not Said (2017)
The White Chalk Of Days is a bit like a dzyga, a spinning top. And no wonder. Many of the
writers in this superb anthology are connected to the DYZGA Art Collective Café. Presenting
visual arts, poetry, performance and all manner of creative activity, DYZGA makes for a hot
ticket and a good time in downtown Lviv/Lvow/Lemberg, that multicultural city of lions.
The artists aim for a “revolt against mass uniformity and conformism, against marginal
kitsch, stereotypes and passiveness, against indifference and vulgarity.”
Within this volume you will find a souvenir and sampling of the cutting edge writers of late-
and post-Soviet Ukraine. You will find the best of the Orange Revolution and the spirit of
the Maidan. You will find an exciting selection of contemporary Ukrainian writing that is
political and apolitical, traditional and experimental. You will find the best expression of a
rich literary culture.
Founding director of Creative Writing at Adelphi University and the author of The Kangaroo Girl
Some of the liveliest and most moving literature in the world is also some of the least known in English. So blessings on editor and translator Mark Andryczyk and the team of expert and eloquent translators he has assembled for bringing us this abundant new anthology of poetry and fiction from Ukraine of the Soviet and post-Soviet periods. It’s a great public service to enlarge our acquaintance with this indispensable work, an act of moral generosity. But what the reader will be most grateful for is the sheer pleasure of it.
Poet and Pulitzer Prize-winning critic
There are anthologies that are exhaustive in their attempt to be representative, and there are anthologies that attempt to suggest the sensibility of a generation. The White Chalk of Days is the latter in its attempt to straddle the Soviet/post-Soviet era in Ukraine. What emerges from these pages is a generation that is wised up to the dangers of the Great Idea, the Grand Scheme, and the World Historical. These are local intelligences trying to keep a sense of perspective that is personal without being parochial, skeptical without succumbing to cynicism. Among the many fine writers represented, Askold Melnyczuk’s translations of Marjana Savka’s poems—lyrical, exuberant, but underwritten by a tough-minded skepticism—and the satiric fierceness of Yuri Andrukhovych’s prose seem to me to sum up this middle generation’s difficult and lasting achievement.
Distinguished Professor, Hunter College MFA Program, City University of New York
The White Chalk of Days, an anthology of contemporary Ukrainian writers, is the harvest of a new flowering of one of the world’s great literatures. These excellent translations into English remind us how consequential the resonances of poetry and prose can be. The White Chalk of Days is a celebration of the triumph of the imagination and the human spirit. It is an invaluable gift to literature.
Professor in English Creative Writing, MFA Program, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the author of Standing on Z (2016)
The White Chalk of Days will serve as an indispensable, near-comprehensive introduction to contemporary Ukrainian literature. The topics, styles, and unique voices of the fifteen modern Ukrainian authors create a rich mosaic reflective of that nation’s diverse and vibrant culture. The anthology brings together the authors who entered the literary scene in the 1970s and those born in the 1980s, thus covering the entire period of the Soviet collapse and Ukrainian independence. Mark Andryczyk’s in-depth introduction and commentary help to make sense of the political and cultural context behind this creative exuberance.
Professor of Slavic Studies at the University of Victoria and the author of The Conflict in Ukraine (2015)
This anthology, like any good buffet, overwhelms the consumer with its variety and abundance. The master chef, Mark Andryczyk, and his collaborators have prepared a marvellous spread of treats that reflect the extraordinary richness and diversity of contemporary Ukrainian writing. The meat-eater, the vegetarian, the gourmand, and the dieter will all find irresistible temptation in the selection. The hungry reader will not run out of tasty morsels, and the dilettante will have trouble putting down the volume. Ukrainian literature has much to offer, and is very well represented in these very capable translations. The White Chalk of Days, unlike the geese in a poem by Ivan Malkovych, will not disperse at sundown.
Professor of Ukrainian Literature, University of Toronto, and the editor of Ukrainian Literature: A Journal of Translations
The White Chalk of Days is an inspiring effort by Mark Andryczyk—who served as its editor, wrote an extensive introduction, and translated what seems like the lion’s share of the pieces—to establish a body of reference for contemporary Ukrainian literature. The general introduction and valuable author introductions speak forcefully to the need to explain Ukraine’s journey, especially since the Soviet Union’s collapse, and many of the texts engage the country’s post-Soviet history and politics, and the authors’ geographical spread pointedly reflects Ukraine’s cultural multi-valency. Sharing space with established names like Andrey Kurkov and Serhiy Zhadan are appealing new-to-me names like Taras Prokhasko and Sophia Andrukhovych.
Translator of Andrei Gelasimov's Into the Thickening Fog and Polina Dashkova's Madness Treads Lightly (both – 2017)
As the attentive reader will discover in the acknowledgements, the animating spirit for this volume took flight on a gentle evening when the Director of the Harriman Institute (the indomitable Catharine Nepomnyashchy), the editor of this volume (Mark Andryczyk), and the Director of the Kennan Institute (me) lamented the failure of scholarship to capture the depth, complexity, diversity, and fluidity of contemporary Ukraine. The astonishing works collected by Andryczyk for this volume – and the seminars and literary readings which supported this project – reveal how today’s Ukraine sustains one of our era’s most interestingly innovative literary landscapes.
Vice President for Programs, Woodrow Wilson Center
When it comes to writing, freedom is often assumed to mean the freedom to write on political themes without fear of state reprisal. In the formerly Communist countries of Europe, however, the freedom not to write on political themes can be just as meaningful. These fifteen authors bring us stirring reflections on nature, hilarious morning-after surprises, touching spiritual insights, rich family histories, computers and snowy mountains and gay bars and slag heaps. In short, the sheer variety of experience on display will be exhilarating for anyone, but especially for the English-speaking reader coming to Ukrainian literature for the first time.
Translator of Czech authors Jáchym Topol and Petra Hůlová, former co-chair of the PEN America Translation Committee
The White Chalk of Days is a rich and dramatic anthology that covers predominantly the
post-independence period of Ukrainian literature, bringing together writers from a host of
generations and genres. From authors whose work has become synonymous with
Ukraine’s modern-day cultural revival—such as Yuri Andrukhovych, Victor Neborak,
and Yuri Vynnychuk—to an array of new voices representing the emerging literary
vanguard, this masterfully translated, lucid, and engaging selection showcases the
extraordinary power, vitality, and diversity of writing in contemporary Ukraine.
Associate Professor in the Department of English and Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of Northern British Columbia, Canada
The White Chalk of Days: The Contemporary Ukrainian Literature Series Anthology is a remarkable accomplishment, bringing together selections by fifteen writers to provide sharp and necessary insight for English-speaking readers. Some of the treasures here include Serhiy Zhadan with ‘the starlight that falls into our chimneys / and the emerald green of the garlic leaves / that grow on our soccer fields’; Ivan Malkovych's three-year old niece predicting that in her absence ‘you will bathe in tears’; and Sophia Andrukhovych giving us trash as ‘a white shimmer like giant flowers of a cosmic-sized apricot tree,’ while Lyuba Yakimchuk lets us see ‘a tiny birthmark on my neck hidden by my hair / a large mole on my left breast / covered by the cut of my dress.’ These translations give attention to sound as well as sense, allowing us inside these fresh perspectives, a world away.
Professor in the MFA program at UMass Boston and the author of Reaper (2017)
The White Chalk of Days is an impressive collection: translations of recent Ukrainian prose and poetry. It brings together work reflecting the past, be it historic or sordid, and the vibrant present, collective or idiosyncratic individual experiences, often humorous or deeply moving. Bravo to the gifted writers whose series of visits to New York and Washington sparked this volume—and bravo to editor Mark Andryczyk and his sixteen fellow translators.
Professor of Modern and Classical Languages and Russian, Swarthmore College and the author of A Companion to Marina Cvetaeva (2016)
A lively collection of poems interlaced with dominoes, sunken ships, extraterrestrials, weightless angels, a gypsy melody playing on a stolen cell phone, and pithy stories that jump from secret maps to the Roman alphabet, hotel rooms, and a tribute to Jimi Hendrix’s hand. The twelve men and three women anthologized here through the efforts of seventeen translators bring us playful, wistful humor infused with tragedy, irony, caprice, and wisdom.
Literary translator, most recently of The Judgment of Richard Richter by Igor Štiks
The White Chalk of Days invites us to enter the world of contemporary Ukrainian literature as it grapples with its past and designs its future. In these poems and stories, the present is a palimpsest of national history and identity. The translations in this anthology succeed in awakening readers to the sensuous and musical world of a literary history that deserves to blossom and be known to all.
Professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts, University of Massachusetts Boston, and the author of Personal Science (2017)
The White Chalk of Days comes out at a time of acute urgency for discovery of Ukraine's rich culture – and it answers this challenge by presenting contemporary Ukrainian literature in its diverse, changing, and becoming nature. The anthology's editor, Marko Andryczyk, accomplished a difficult yet exciting task: not to present a transparent hierarchy of a literature deserving of our attention, or to attempt a rendering of a canon, but instead to offer a glimpse into a literature where established authors (such as Oleh Lysheha, Serhiy Zhadan, Yuri Andrukhovych) participate in a conversation with emerging voices (such as Luba Yakimchuk, Sophia Andrukhovych, Marjana Savka, Andriy Bondar and others). For both the curious reader and the interested scholar, this anthology presents the unique opportunity of observing the literary momentum in its making and of enjoying a radical and exciting variety of genres, thematic approaches, and political and aesthetic positions.
Associate Professor of Russian Literature, Hampshire College