Нові риси інтелектуалів в українській літературі пост-радянського періоду д-р Марко Андрейчик, Колюмбійський університет

May 10, 2008

Д-р Марко Андрейчик захистив докторську працю з української літератури при Торонтонському університеті. До сфери його професійних зацікавлень належать основні тенденції сучасної української літератури після 1991 року, які доповідач окреслить під час свого виступу.

New Images of the Intellectual in Post-Soviet Ukrainian Literature
Mark Andryczyk

Марко Андрейчик

In the late 1980s, as the Soviet Union was fading from existence, a new generation of Ukrainian writers emerged to challenge inherited norms in Ukrainian culture and to explore questions of Ukrainian identity through their art. The new Ukrainian prose works that were written at this time experimented with both form and content and often featured Ukrainian intellectuals as chief protagonists. This was done deliberately because these writers designated such protagonists as sites where the post-Soviet Ukrainian identity would be explored.

The writers who focused most on the Ukrainian intellectual in their prose and who are analyzed in this talk — Volodymyr Dibrova, Yurii Izdryk, Kostiantyn Moskalets’, Oksana Zabuzhko, Yurii Andrukhovych and Yevheniia Kononenko — are among those contemporary Ukrainian cultural figures who are often identified with the term visimdesiatnyky (the 1980ers). These writers come from different corners of Ukraine, they write in various styles, and some were even born over ten years apart (the oldest of these writers was born in 1951, the youngest in 1963). The term visimdesiatnyky is not a precise designation and it has its detractors, among them, some of the abovementioned writers. However, the term has consistently been used by literary scholars and critics analysing post-Soviet Ukrainian culture and it has appeared in the titles of numerous publications covering this generation of Ukrainian intellectuals. For the purpose of my talk, I use the term in reference to those writers whose works were first published in glasnost-era Soviet, or post-Soviet, Ukraine. All of the texts examined in this talk were written and first published between 1990 and 2001. Never in the history of Ukrainian literature has the Ukrainian intellectual been given so much attention in literature as in the period under discussion here and, accordingly, among the major achievements of these writers to Ukrainian culture is their introduction of three new prototypes of the Ukrainian intellectual to Ukrainian literature — the swashbuckling performer, the ambassador to the West and the sick soul.

When using the term intellectual this evening, I am referring to creative individuals — chiefly artists — and also to those, including critics and scholars, who devote their lives to the analysis and interpretation of the creative activity of such individuals. Existing studies of intellectuals have generally focueds on relationships that intellectuals have both with the people and with the government. Scholars have offered several prototypes for the intellectual, which reflect different configurations of these relations. Among those that have been put forward are: the “philosopher-kings” — an exclusive group with a moral obligation to use their talents in the service of truth, “messianic bohemians” — members of the elite who have a vision of progress and order in a world in revolution, “court jesters,” whose position outside the social rank affords them freedom and duty to question authority, and romantic “Robin Hoods,” — individuals who rationally research suppressed sources and outwits their opponent in debate.
Throughout the different eras of Ukrainian literature leading up to the appearance of the visimdesiatnyky, the intellectual as a protagonist was depicted as having shifting relations with their fellow citizens and with the ruling authorities. Late 19th century Ukrainian literature, driving by the ideals of populism, was dominated by the image of the rural-oriented intellectual (a member of the more widely-defined intelligentsia), who worked tirelessly to educate and improve the lot of the Ukrainian peasant brutally exploited by the ruling class. Such intellectuals are best represented in the prose works of Ivan Franko and Ivan Nechui-Levyts’kyi. The early modernist writing of Ol’ha Kobylians’ka, Volodymyr Vynnychenko and Ahatanhel Kryms’kyi, among others, distinguished themselves from their predecessors by entertaining the fin de siècle idea of art-for art’s sake and by flirting with decadence in their writings — prose works which increasingly featured urban settings. These writers, however, were still largely concerned with serving the narod — the Ukrainian people — often at the expense of their personal aesthetic convictions; it was this conflict, in fact, that drove the best works of this period. 1920s Ukrainian Soviet writers (e.g. Mykola Khvyl’ovyi, Yurii Yanovs’kyi) featured highly idealistic, revolutionary intellectuals-protagonists who became increasingly disillusioned with their political surroundings, initially championed by them as they strove to create the all-encompassing art of the future. Later, the intellectual of Ukrainian socialist realism (such as in the works of Yurii Shovkoplias) was depicted as a positive hero chiefly involved in fighting the bourgeois-nationalist sabotage of the Soviet system and in vanquishing any impediments to fulfilling that system’s economic objectives. During the Khrushchev Thaw, the shestydesiatnyky (the 1960ers) benefited from the loosening of official restrains on aesthetics and by the rehabilitation of some writers of the Executed Renaissance , who became especially influential on their world-view. The underground, un-official cultural scenes of the 1970s and 1980s, which were centered in Kyiv and L’viv, proved to be very influential on the soon-to-emerge visimdesiatnyky. These intellectuals were concerned, above all else, with aesthetic freedom and focused on the exploration of the vast expanse of world culture, particularly cultural achievements banned in the Soviet Union. They maintained a largely hermetic existence and, although they were less publicly political than the shestydesiatnyky, they too were often persecuted by the Soviet system.

The Swashbuckling Performer

The final years of the Soviet Union and the initial years of Ukrainian independence were an “Era of Festivals” in Ukraine during which the underground culture of the 1970s and 1980s surfaced and led the spirit of change enkindling society at that time. Having developed a functioning, parallel, unofficial cultural movement, replete with the creation, presentation and critique of literature, visual art and music, and in possession of a grass-roots network of dissemination, these intellectuals were primed to take charge of cultural events as governing structures collapsed around them. Previously banned and/or restricted cultural developments from the West (especially rock music and sexual themes) attracted the fidgety Ukrainian youth to mass gatherings which celebrated the liberation of this contraband. Literary groups, most notable Bu-Ba-Bu, but also Propala Harmota and LuHoSad, were at the center of such grand cultural festivals.

Ukrainian prose written at this time reflected the period’s celebratory mood, often tapping into it to pilot a deconstruction of Soviet and Ukrainian national myths. And in such literary works
, the Ukrainian intellectual, as a protagonist, was often presented as an enchanting performer and a mover of masses. Such a literary hero is, undoubtedly, best materialized in the prose of Yurii Andrukhovych, particular in his third novel Perverziia (Perverzion). That novel’s chief protagonist, the Ukrainian poet Stanislav Perfets’kyi, represents Ukraine during a gathering of intellectuals at a Venice conference in the final years of the 20th century. The central cultural event of the conference is the presentation of an opera entitled Orpheus in Venice. As the Opera is being staged, Perfets’kyi transforms from being its spectator to acting as one of its performers — while trying to escape a subsequent attempt to assassinate him, the Ukrainian poet swings on a rope like a musketeer, lands on the stage during the production and assumes the (stage) role of Orpheus. Andrukhovych’s Ukrainian intellectual is charming, witty, multi-talented and quite the lothario; the author provides numerous opportunities for other characters to express their awe as they watch and/or listen to him. For example, the opera production in which Perfets’kyi had performed is later reviewed in a Venice Newspaper:

поява на сцені маловідомого новачка в ролі Орфея спершу породила серед вимогливої публіки деяке скептичне непорозуміння. Проте виняткова органічність виконавської манери останнього, виразність і вишуканість у кожному жесті чи нахилі голови, пристойні вокальні дані та висока фізична підготовленість його ж дають усі підстви стверджувати про появу нової зірки на венеційському оперовому небосхилі.

the appearance onstage of a little known novice in the role of Orpheus at first gave birth to a certain skeptical misunderstanding among the exacting audience. Then the distinct organicity of the performing method of the latter, the expressiveness and refinement in each gesture or bend of the head, the decorous vocal gifts and his top physical readiness provide all the grounds to affirm the appearance of a new star on the Venice opera horizon.

The myth of Orpheus compliments nicely the crowd-wooing artists that center Andrukhovych’s prose and the myth is often referenced by the author in his writings. In this instance, Perfets’kyi, a representative of a nation that the West is largely ignorant of, accidentally obtains an opportunity to enchant representatives of the West, once he is provided with a platform for such a performance.

In an earlier novel, Moskoviada (The Moscoviad), Andrukhovych’s protagonist Otto von F. is a Ukrainian poet studying at the Literary Institute in Moscow, surrounded by soon-to-be relics of the dysfunctional Soviet empire. Scenes in the novel show this Ukrainian intellectual acting like as a secret agent from a Hollywood thriller. He battles and outwits the empire’s evil henchmen on his way to locating the center of evil in the empire. This “swashbuckler” image for the Ukrainian intellectual, whose chief role is to perform and impress the masses, is a new one for Ukrainian literature. One that is quite different from the Ukrainian intellectual of the past who had steadfastly worked for the good of the people, sacrificing his/her personal ambitions in the process. This swashbuckling performer also works for the good of Ukraine, but by leading it through his/her talents in creativity and performance. This new prototype of the Ukrainian intellectual correlates with the “Era of Festivals,” during which the death of the Soviet Union was celebrated though cultural expression by young Ukrainian artists.

The Ambassador to the West

Accompanying the revelry of early 1990s Ukraine, was a suddenly-available access to the West. Both the burning desire to catch-up to the West and the inundation of Western pop culture in Ukraine made an imprint on the prose of the visimdesiatnyky. And, in addition to the swashbuckling performer, these writers also introduced another new prototype of the intellectual to Ukrainian literature — the “ambassador to the West.” Such Ukrainian intellectuals-protagonists were instrumental in introducing the West to their fellow countrymen and in acting as a link to the West. The visimdesiatnyky introduce the West to post-Soviet Ukraine by (1) regularly referring to artefacts from the West in their prose, (2) by sending their intellectuals-protagonists to the West and (3) by sharing these characters’ observances of the West with readers back home.

The prose works of the visimdesiatnyky under analysis in today’s talk are marked by the frequent namedropping of people, places and things that were still quite exotic to Ukraine in the 1990s. Oksana Zabuzhko’s novel Pol’ovi doslidzhennia ukrains’koho seksu (Field Research in Ukrainian Sex) is the story of a Ukrainian intellectual who is living in the United States in the capacity of a visiting scholar. Consequently, academic and cultural institutions such the Kennan Institute in Washington D.C., the Chicago Art Institute and the PEN Club are mentioned in the novel. Andrukhovych’s novels, in their frequent lists, often provide a sampler of Western cultural figures and products (e.g. singer Tom Waits, the erotic French film Emmanuelle IV) and a myriad of slang terms in various Western European languages. Yurii Izdryk’s novel Votstsek (Wozzeck) contains many references to Western, high and pop cultural phenomena, including those made to the Western rock bands King Crimson, the Velvet Underground and Queen, as well as to their Eastern European counterparts Manna and Plastic People of the Universe. One part of the novel includes a lengthy list of clichéd images associated with various places in the world:

літо в Гаваях, вечір на Бродвеї, скейтборд у Флориді, серфінґ на Багамах, фестиваль у Каннах, вікенд у Діснейланді… що там ще? Лижви в Карпатах, любов у Парижі, борделі в Амстердамі, пиво в Баварії, хокей в Канаді, реггей на Ямайці, рулетки в Монте-Карло, хмародери в Нью-Йорку, сигари на Кубі, війна в Югославії, золото на Алясці, полювання в Африці, емігранти на Брайтон-Біч, терористи в Палестині, нірвана в Індії, нафта в Еміратах, мистецтво на Монмартрі, гоген на Таїті, рок у Вудстоку, харакірі в Кіото, карнавал у Бразилії, зцілення в Люрді, джоконда в Луврі, смерть у Венеції, базар у Чернівцях, корупція в Уряді, Корида в Толєдо, чудо в Мілані, жах у Піднебессі, папа у Ватикані, вежа в Вавилоні, бомба в Хіросімі, румба в Барбадосі, караван в Пустелі, королева в Англії, сауна в Фінляндії, ленін в Мавзолеї, тіні в Раю, саркофаг у Чорнобилі, канкан у Мулен-Ружі, сир у Маслі, бузина на Городі, дядько в Києві, lucy on the Sky, острови в Океані, аліса в Задзеркаллі, fool on the Hill, істина в Вині, свято-що-завжди-з-тобою. . .

summer in Hawaii, an evening on Broadway, skateboarding in Florida, surfing in the Bahama
s, the festival in Cannes, a weekend in Disneyland… what else? skiing in the Carpathians, love in Paris, bordellos in Amsterdam, beer in Bavaria, hockey in Canada, reggae in Jamaica, roulette in Monte Carlo, skyscrapers in New York, cigars in Cuba, war in Yugoslavia, gold in Alaska, hunting in Africa, emigrants at Brighton Beach, terrorists in Palestine, nirvana in India, oil in the Emirates, art in Montmarte, gaugin in Tahiti, rock in Woodstock, hara-kiri in Kyoto, carnival in Brazil, healing in Lourdes, the gioconda at the Louvre, death in Venice, the bazaar in Chernivtsi, corruption in High Places, a bull-fight in Toledo, a miracle in Milan, an inferno in the Tower, the pope in the Vatican, the tower in Babel, the bomb in Hiroshima, the rhumba in Barbados, a caravan in the Desert, the queen in England, a sauna in Finland, lenin in the Mausoleum, shadows in Paradise, the sarcophagus in Chornobyl, can-can in the Moulin Rouge, cheese in Butter, a bird in the Hand, two in the Bush, Lucy on the sky, islands in Oceania, alice in Wonderland, the fool on the hill, in Vino veritas, the festival-that-is-always-with-you . . .

The lengthiness and repetitive rhythm of the deluge of coordinates in this list simulate the dizziness experienced by inhabitants of the post-Soviet space, who had suddenly become inundated with immense amounts of previously-restricted data. Cities, countries and nations are reduced to one, convenient and efficient image. Izdryk commingles these with figures such as Lenin and the Pope as well as with popular songs, books and phrases in order to announce the arrival of Western pop cultural sensibilities to Ukraine. It was the 1990s — the West had come to Ukraine and Ukrainians were coming to the West.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukrainian intellectuals were among the first to travel to the West. They represented Ukraine as “ambassadors” at various academic and cultural events. Zabuzhko’s protagonist in Pol’ovi doslidzhennia ukrains’koho seksu travels between US cities, telling her American counterparts about Ukraine. Kostiantyn Moskalets’’s narrator in the novel Vechirnii Med (Evening Mead) travels to Munich and is given an opportunity to witness the intellectual’s place in Western society. In Yevheniia Kononenko’s novel Imitatsiia (Imitation) we are told that its chief protagonist, Mariiana, had studied art in Western Europe. Andrukhovych’s Stanislav Perfets’kyi gives speeches about his homeland at the Venice conference to a gathering of intellectuals from the West.

Sometimes, in the prose work of the visimdesiatnyky the Ukrainian intellectual acts as a pioneer of sorts, discovering the West and describing it from the point of view of a former citizen of the USSR. For example, in Dibrova’s novel Burdyk (Burdyk), the narrator manages to smuggle his way into the United States and spends time observing the peculiarities of life there. He later offers the reader a two-page long description of an American supermarket. In several of the novels mentioned above, the Ukrainian intellectual functions as a go-between between the West and the other citizens of Ukraine. This is particularly evident in the prose of Kononenko and Zabuzhko. Both in Pol’ovi doslidzhennia ukrains’koho seksu and in Imitatsiia, the female, Ukrainian intellectuals-protagonists posses intelligence, beauty and savvy that attract Western men, some of whom are in a position to help Ukraine. They function as conduits between Ukraine and the West and this leads to a conflict in their personal lives; they face the dilemma of choosing between these men, with their strange Western values (in order to best serve their country), and Ukrainian men, who are predominantly depicted as being backward, timid and unwilling to sway from the regulations of patriarchal Ukrainian society.

One particular component of the West that is significant in the prose of the visimdesiatnyky is the presence of the Ukrainian diaspora. These émigrés offer a “half-way” point for post-Soviet Ukrainian intellectuals visiting the West because the former are simultaneously Westerners and Ukrainians. And it is often with members of the Ukrainian diaspora that these intellectuals first make contact — it is by them that they were often invited to participate in various visiting and/or exchange programs. By depicting the relationships between these two “types” of Ukrainians, the visimdesiatnyky are picking through diaspora perspectives and values, accepting some while rejecting others as they construct the post-Soviet Ukrainian identity.

Initially, depictions of members of the diaspora are quite sympathetic; these men and women are shown to be staunch patriots of Ukraine and all things Ukrainian; they devote their time and energy to the “Ukrainian cause” and they have managed to maintain a Ukrainian identity outside the motherland. In Burdyk, for example, the narrator describes a certain Liubomyr Brynchak, an émigré librarian who organizes Ukrainian sporting events and art openings in the United States. In Pol’ovi doslidzhennia ukrains’koho seksu, the protagonist’s contact point at the Pennsylvania university she is visiting is Mark, a professor of Ukrainian background, who has been successful in inviting other Ukrainian intellectuals such as herself to this university. The diaspora is represented in Andrukhovych’s novel Rekreatsii (Recreations) by Dr. Popel, a psychiatrist residing in Switzerland who arrives at the Chortopil Festival of the Resurrecting Spirit in an old Chrysler Imperial and gives two young Ukrainian poets a ride to the festival.

As theses novels progress, however, representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora take on a more negative light. Brynchak turns out to be a walking cliché of Ukrainian things ― he invites the novel’s narrator to a traditional Ukrainian Christmas meal, complete with all the requisite courses, but Christmas is months away. Brynchak is shown to be less than helpful when his personal space is infringed upon by the visiting Ukrainian in search of a place to stay — he offers him a room at the Ukrainian church instead of one in his own home. Zabuzhko make sure that the reader is made aware that Professor Mark helps bring Ukrainian intellectuals to the West because he is avoiding marital problems at home. Finally, Dr. Popel is continually ridiculed by the young poets hitching a ride with him who, in parting, refer to him as an old mudak . In fact, Popel, as we later see, turns out to be not just an old mudak but a demon who attempts to drag one of the poets into a sacrifice-ritual.

As the examples above illustrate, newfound access to the West was very influential on the first wave of post-Soviet prose. The cult of the West and its materials are both sustained and ridiculed in these works. Western things and the West itself appears in this prose and Ukrainian intellectuals assume the duty of discovering, investigating and filtering these artefacts and traits as they search for the post-Soviet Ukrainian identity. It is a search that consumes these intellectuals-protagonists and often damages them as a result.

The Sick Soul

The aura of celebration that marked the early years of Ukrainian independence and the opening up of previously inaccessible worlds that accompanied it were also quickly joined by a general disorientation for the Ukrainian intellectual as the 1990s progressed. Having led the calls for reform and having manifested this energy of change in their art, Ukrainian artists once again found themselves on the periphery of a Ukraine controlled by former Communist Party leaders freshly repackaged as national-democrats. The disillusionment of the Ukrainian intellectual stemming from this is expressed in the prose of the visimdesiatnyky where the Ukrainian intellectual-protagonist is frequently depicted as being different, abn
ormal and sick.

Zabuzhko’s Pol’ovi doslidzhennia ukrains’koho seksu, in many ways, is an extended rant exposing the various ills infecting all of Ukraine, more specifically — the Ukrainian woman, and even more specifically — the Ukrainian female intellectual. Incapable of coming to terms with her nation’s cruel history and ignoring its present maladies, she becomes infected with the ills of her people and suffers from this. The artist applies art to this wound in hopes of eventually curing it:

Короткий курс психоаналізу, шлях до душевного здоров’я: знайти причину, і проблема зніметься сама собою. Чому досі нікому не спало на думку, що те саме можна б проробляти й з народами: пропсихоаналізував гарненько цілу національну історію — і попустить, як рукою зніме. Література як форма національної терапії. А що, not a bad idea. Шкода, що в нас, власне, немa літератури.

A short course in psychology, the road to mental health: find the reason and the problem goes away. Why hasn’t anyone thought of doing this with nations: you neatly psychoanalyze the whole national history, and poof, you’re cured. Literature as a form of national therapy. Hmm not a bad idea. Too bad that we happen to have no literature.

Zabuzhko’s jagged, iterative style effectively portrays the raving madness overcoming a person submitting themselves to this dangerous task. In her novel, Zabuzhko attacks her nation’s problems with aggression, undertaking catharsis in order to rid it of pain. As she probes deeper and deeper in search of the roots of the evil that entangled her people, she herself becomes snarled by Russian imperial ambitions, a Ukrainian inferiority complex, and an all-encompassing, paralyzing fear that governs her people.

Izdryk’s Wozzeck is a novel in which sickness and pain figure heavily in defining one’s self. During incessant, interwoven scenes of non-action, the protagonist is shown to exist almost entirely within his mind and seems to require pain in order to make a connection with his body.

Однак повернення видавалося невідворотним. І повернення означало тільки біль. Тепер лише це. Біль тепер заміняв йому увесь світ. Цілий світ був болем, — він прислухався, — і це був не найкращий його різновид.

But return seemed inevitable. And return meant only pain. Only pain now. Pain now substituted for the whole world. The whole world was pain. He listened and found that this was not pain at its best.

Wozzeck tries to find an approach, a position through which the “whole world” would not be pain. Shifting though philosophical systems, admixed with late 20th century pop cultural artefacts, and trying them on, Wozzeck is unable to find a compatible ideal in this world and, as such, has difficulty establishing his own being.

The sickness of the Ukrainian intellectual-artists is also manifested in the prose of the visimdesiatnyky when these artists are shown to be treading a path of self-destruction, usually abetted by the consumption of alcohol. For example, in Dibrova’s Burdyk, the title character, a representative of the “lost generation” of late-Soviet, Ukrainian intellectuals, spends the last moments of his life in an intoxicated state, having drunk a fatal quantity of cognac. Self-destructive alcoholism is even more present in the prose of Andrukhovych and Moskalets’.

The reader of Rekreatsii is shown how one of the novel’s young poets-protagonists, Martofliak, had provoked his wife:

Навіть ультиматум висунув — якщо я не їду, він смертельно напивається в тому Чортополі, до всрачки, до білочки, денно і нощно, питиме все нараз, блюватиме і знову питиме, аж доки його не привезуть додому майже мертвим.

He gave me an ultimatum: if I didn’t go, he’d get dead drunk in Chortopil, shit drunk, raving drunk, drunk day and night, he would drink all he could get, throw up, and drink again until they brought him home all but dead.

Marta does end up attending the festival, but Martofliak, along with his other poet buddies, nonetheless begin drinking as soon as they meet up, an activity that constitutes much of the action in the novel. Moskoviada’s hero, Otto, also drinks throughout his jaunts around Moscow and eventually classifies the alcohol in his body by layers:

Тим часом подумки робиш поздовжній розтин себе самого. Так, вочевидь, легше зосередитися й дійти до суті. Отже, на самому споді маємо пиво. Літрів так із три-чотири жовтого каламутного напою, звареного спеціально для пролетаріату. Поверх нього теплий і червоний шар вина. Там зароджуються горотворчі процеси, це вулканні глибини. Далі йде порівняно вузький, зупинений десь на рівні середини стравоходу, шар горілки. Це дуже активний проміжок у сенсі біологічному. В певний момент він може виявитися каталізатором великих оновлювальних тенденцій. Це, власне кажучи, вибухівка. Понад горлікою, ближче до горлянки, залягає кавеен — “крєпкій віноградний напіток.” У разі виверження ти фонтануватимеш найперше ним. Він смердючий і бурий, як нафта.

Отака, в найзагальніших рисах, ця схема твоєї внутрішньої порожнечі. Про кров та все інше поки що мовчимо.

Meanwhile, you mentally conduct a lengthwise autopsy of yourself. This, it seems, will make it easier to concentrate and get to the essence. So then, at the very bottom we have beer — about three or four litres of a yellow, murky drink, brewed especially for the proletariat. Above it is a warm and red layer of wine. There, tectonic processes are initiated; these are volcanic depths. Next, there is a relatively narrow layer of vodka rising about halfway up the oesophagus. This is a very active layer, in a biological sense. At a certain moment it can become a catalyst for great innovative tendencies. It is, in other words, gunpowder. Above the vodka, closer to the throat, lies KVN — “fortified grape drink.” In the event of an eruption, this is the first thing you spew out, like a fountain. It’s smelly and brown, like petroleum.

And this, in general, is the blueprint of your inner emptiness. We won’t mention blood and everything else, for now.

Here, Andrukhovych addresses both the prominent position of alcohol in the daily life of a Soviet citizen and the toll it takes on its consumers. The omnipresence of alcohol in Andrukhovych’s prose is not surprising, given the scenes of revelry marking the “Era of Festivals” that he often depicts. However, his protagonists’ dependence on alcohol is deliberately presented in a pathetic light and usually includes self
-reflected criticism, as illustrated by the conclusion of the above fragment.

The main characters in the first part of Moskalets’’s novel Vechirnii Med constitute a small group of bohemian artists living in L’viv. These men spend their days discussing deep, philosophical topics all while trying to figure out where, and with what means, to purchase one more bottle of high-proof alcohol. In fact, we rarely see these characters presented in a sober state. Often, the scenes in which they are present are quite humorous, driven by dialogues filled with looping rhetoric.

І тут перед ними зненацька виникає або ж утворюється “Нектар”, під яким сидять дуже блідий Дем і дуже червоний Бєлов.
— Дем, здорів! — кричить Бампер. — Хочеш бухнути? Я ставлю.
Дем мовчить.
— Йому необхідно бухнути, — спокійно пояснює Бєлов. — Йому
п е р е м к н у л о і він уже три години поспіль мовчить.
— Хто поспіль піде в гастронім?! — кричить Бампер. — Ми будемо поспіль рятувати Дема чи ні, поспіль я вас?
— Бaмпер, не кричи, — тихо каже Господь Крішна. — Я сходжу, хіба не кричи.
— Малчать, я вас поспіль спрашиваю! — несамовитіє Бампер.
— Давай б а б к и, — зітхає Крішна.
Бампер дістає б а б к и і починає рахувати. Б а б о к дуже багато, виходить по три фляшки п о р т ю ш і на писок. Бєлов і навіть Троцький перезираються — це занадто, але вже пізно.

And then out of nowhere “The Nectar” bar rises up, or, maybe, is created, right in front of them; sitting by its entrance are a very pale Dem and a very red Bielov.

“Wasssup Dem, you nut!” Yells Bumper. “You wanna have a drink? I’m buying.”
Dem doesn’t say anything.
“He’s gotta have a drink,” calmly explains Bielov. “He’s f l i p p e d
o u t and hasn’t said a word for three hours in a row .”
“Who in a row is gonna go to the store?!” Shouts Bumper. “Are we going to in a row save Dem or not, you in a row jerks?”
“Stop yelling, Bumper,” Lord Krishna says quietly. “I’ll go, just stop yelling.”
“Shut up, I in a row command you!” Says Bumper, becoming frantic.
“Give me t h e d o u g h,” Krishna sighs.
Bumper gets t h e d o u g h and starts counting it. There’s a lot of
d o u g h, it’ll come out to three bottles of s w e e t s w e e t p o r t per kisser. Bielov and Trots’kyi glance at one another — maybe that’s a bit excessive, but it’s too late.

Alcohol has consumed these artists’ lives. Today’s watering holes and stores selling beer form the topography of L’viv, alongside its 16th century churches, its 15th century fortification walls and its 14th century cobblestones streets. However it is only the bars that miraculously appear in front of these artists’ eyes and act as snares that prove to be impossible to avoid. In this novel, hangovers have been personified and, themselves, stroll the streets of L’viv. Moskalets’ is effective in presenting the severity of these men’s sickness in a scene where hallucinations have taken over one artists’ mind:

the only thing Trots’kyi feared and truly respected was the white squirrel ; the white squirrel had a puffy tail and four paws, a jittery, well-intentioned animal carrying a crystal shot glass on a silver tray. He tamed it about five years ago but still hadn’t gotten his fill of its extraordinary wisdom and companionship. It would often visit Trots’kyi in the most unexpected places — in the bathroom, in underground passages, in the streetcar, in bed; sometimes it would jump up onto the table at “The Nectar” bar, sometimes it would run along the bar in the basement of “Under the Tower”. . . Trots’kyi kept riding, napping and sleepily pondering the white squirrel’s love for the hangover until someone vigorously knocked on the streetcar window; Trots’kyi opened one eye and saw that it was Smetana; Smetana died two years ago, having poisoned himself with anti-freeze and Trots’kyi was well-aware of this but, nonetheless, became uneasy.

In this fragment, bars are once again listed together with everyday activities and places in the city and this hallucination becomes something that is “feared” but also “respected.” Mentions of death and the use of toxins, ingested in order to reach an intoxicated state, point to artists who are afflicted with a serious illness. Their self-destruction is an attempt to escape from the world around them; a world that stubbornly hangs on to its Soviet past and, perhaps, equally appallingly, steadily adopts new hyper-materialistic values which conflict with the convictions and visions of Ukraine maintained by Ukraine’s intellectuals. The “suffering artist” as a character had existed briefly in Ukrainian literature, most prominently in the early modernist prose of Volodymyr Vynnychenko and Ol’ha Kobylians’ka. Virtually non-existent in the Soviet period of Ukrainian literature, it has manifested itself as a new prototype of the Ukrainian intellectual in post-Soviet art. The presentation of such characters is crucial in expressing the self-image of the visimdesiatnyky, of their marginalization and alienated state within independent Ukraine.


These three new images of the Ukrainian intellectual in Ukrainian literature appeared during a period in the country’s history that was filled with great changes. With their protagonists and with their prose, the visimdesiatnyky captured the excitement and confusion of the 1990s. The visimdesiatnyky chose to focus on the post-Soviet Ukrainian intellectual as the site where the Ukrainian identity would be explored and created. As post-Soviet Ukraine advanced in years, these writers, with their artists-protagonists in tow, came to gradually inhabit the vacuum that had occupied the in
tellectual’s niche in society during Soviet times. The difficulty and, sometimes, futility their characters experienced as they began this learning process is reflective of the complexity and tribulations the visimdesiatnyky continue to have in establishing and filling the intellectual’s position in post-Soviet Ukraine.

Під час дискусії

Анна Процик Панство Савицьких

Boris Dubin writes that intellectuals are involved in creating symbols of individual and collective identity, and with arranging, refining, transmitting and recreating them. Throughout these prose works, these intellectuals-protagonists are shown to be juggling and manipulating a whole catalogue of components that contribute to Ukrainian identity. They have flipped through a storage bank of the traits that they acquired both from the narratives of colonizers and from Ukrainian national myths; they have also introduced new aspects to this identity. These intellectuals have sampled elements of the West — accepting some of them, while rejecting others. On the pages of their prose, the visimdesiatnyky have shown us how an intellectual-protagonist combines symbols of Ukrainian identity and how this process was reflected in the character’s own creative process. And it is through their riveting and varied literature, that nuances of the post-Soviet identity become exposed for present readers and future writers.