Ukrainian writer Tanya Maliarchuk: “I’ve never felt so far from my books” – Culture

Mrs. Maliarchuk, you are a well-known writer. However, in times of war, you are likely to be more specific by your origins. How did the war in Ukraine affect your life and work?
As early as 2014, during the European field, the German-speaking media introduced me to my origins. And now, during the war of aggression against my homeland, this measure was multiplied again in several dimensions. My life and my work are hostage to this war. In my private life I constantly worry about my parents and friends, I answer questions daily or write scripts for the media professionally.

In her novel “The Blue Whale of Memory” she tells the history of Ukraine through the person of Vyacheslav Lipinsky, the fighter for the country’s independence. The conflict with Russia has been with your country since the beginning. Is the current war a logical result of this development?
War cannot and should not be a logical consequence of anything. Few believed that Russia was attacking Ukraine, including me. But you are right, the origins of this war lie in the past, and I wouldn’t even dare describe it in more precise terms. 17th century? Or maybe until the 12th century when Kyiv was first destroyed by Moscow Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky?

You tell yourself that Vyacheslav Lipinsky is a relatively unknown figure in Ukraine. how did you find it?
When she immigrated to Vienna in 2011, she began researching Ukrainian antiquities in Vienna. It was astonishing how many historical figures stayed here in the 1920s, and how many Ukrainian language newspapers and publishing houses. I got to know Wjatscheslaw Lypynskyi very quickly, and so my fascination with him and his writing began. He was one of many forced into exile from the Bolsheviks in 1919 and never returned. For me, Lypynskyi is a symbol of European Ukraine, which was criminally replaced by the Soviet.

In the first reviews after your novel was published, its wonderful language was praised above all else. Does your book read differently today?
Because of the war, the novel received more attention and thus reached a wider audience of readers. Of course, we should ask readers how to read. Personally, I experienced this war myself, I have never been as far from my books as I am now. A lot of things don’t interest me or are no longer important to me in light of the mass killings in Ukraine.

The sentence in your book is: “But can you name a country that kills its own country?”
This sentence from the book refers to Ukraine, not Russia. Polish or Soviet, it was still the home of my family, my grandparents, my great-grandfathers, and they were killed. I did not intend to write in this book about Russia – but about ourselves, the Ukrainians, and our responsibility for the failure of state building after World War I.

Lypynskyj was a fierce critic of the Ukrainian leadership at the time, focusing on the shortcomings and weaknesses of the young Ukrainian nation, not Russia or Poland. The role of Russia or Poland in the history of Ukraine at that time was quite clear: aggression, conquest, engulfment. Why can’t Ukraine survive this aggression? Lypynskyi gave answers that weren’t pleasant.

Is that why he’s not a Ukrainian hero today?
Yes, who wants to accept such self-criticism. In 2016, it seemed to me important to deal with such hot topics and write about people like Lypynskyi. He was a loser, but for me he is a hero.

In an interview I gave to MDR in 2019, I said, referring to the situation at the beginning of the 20th century: “Western Europe did not really believe in the possibility of an independent European state between Poland and Russia.” Same error again?
After Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war of aggression in the Donbass, Western Europe carelessly continued to deal with Russia. Even in the early days of the war, on February 24 and 25 of this year, the West hesitated to help because no one believed Ukraine would be able to fight. I myself was very afraid that history could repeat itself once and very soon Kyiv would fall, and official pro-Russian puppet republics would appear, as it did a hundred years ago.

Ukraine failed at that time because of lack of self-confidence and internal hesitation on the one hand, and on the other because the aggressor was much stronger; But also because Ukraine was not seen as a subject of European politics and therefore was not supported. Now the aggressor is still very powerful, but the self-confidence of the Ukrainians and their willingness to respond is also enormous. So Western support could be crucial in this war.

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Her novel is read primarily as a historical treatise. How do you see it?
This novel is also a novel about fear that my hero and I inherited from their ancestors who were always oppressed and subjugated. It is a tale of trauma that is passed down through generations and takes you hostage. A novel about the victim and a beginning to reflect on it and a search for painful answers and a way out.

How is the book received in your country?
mixed feelings. On the other hand, I received the prestigious BBC Ukraine Book of the Year award for the novel, and at the same time, the book “Sabuttya” (the original title of the novel) was named the worst book of the year by the Internet portal of Ukrainian literature. critics. This is how ambivalent I feel about the novel myself.

Are you currently writing a new book? Is this even possible in the current situation?
I spent two years searching for a new novel. I will not be able to write this text about the Holocaust in Ukraine, because the war against Ukraine, prepared by the absurd accusations of the Russian Nazi leadership, threw all the historical context out of the hinges. We are facing a new tragedy. I don’t know what effect all this has on me as a writer.

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