Monday, February 26, 2024

The Ukraine

The Ukraine / Artem Chapeye
trans. from the Ukrainian by Zenia Tompkins
NY: Seven Stories Press, c2024.
272 p.

This is a recent translation, a collection of fiction and non-fiction by Artem Chapeye. Zenia Tompkins of the translation agency TAULT is focusing on writing by those involved in the war this year, and this is one of those works. 

Chapeye is fairly well known as a journalist, but the title short story The Ukraine is one that was published previously in the New Yorker (in 2022). This fiction plays with "The", an article that is contentious in English -- he refers to "The" Ukraine as something shallow, surface; Ukraine as seen by outsiders, in stereotypical ways. It's a strong story, which finishes this collection. 

This book is made up of 26 short pieces, many of which mix the idea of fiction/non-fiction. Some of them are reportage, of Chapeye's many trips around regions of Ukraine on his motorbike. They all engage with the idea of Ukraine, with expectations, regional differences and the idea of one country. It's a really good read. 

The only thing I found a little difficult was the mix of fiction & non-fiction, from one piece to another. I would have like to see the non-fiction first, followed by stories. However, since some are a mix of each, perhaps that was too complicated. In any case, even if it isn't clearly indicated which is which, I did find that it was fairly easy to figure out as each began. And all of them were interesting and well worth reading. 

The new intro to this collection was written by Chapeye on his phone, while on the front lines. It's a perfect intro to his works on the idea of Ukraine, on the essence of Ukrainians. Recommended. 


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