The White Chalk of Days: The Contemporary Ukrainian Literature Series Anthology

The White Chalk of Days: The Contemporary Ukrainian Literature Series Anthology

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Compiled and edited by Mark Andryczyk

Series: Ukrainian Studies & Kennan Institute/Harriman Institute Contemporary Ukrainian Literature Series
ISBN: 9781618116611 (cloth) / 9781618118622 (paper)
Pages: 336 pp.; 15 illus. 
Publication Date: December 2017

Honorable Mention, 2018 American Association for Ukrainian Studies Translation Prize

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The publication of The White Chalk of Days: The Contemporary Ukrainian Literature Series Anthology commemorates the tenth year of the Contemporary Ukrainian Literature Series. Co-sponsored by the Ukrainian Studies Program at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University and the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Series has recurrently organized readings in the US for Ukraine’s leading writers since 2008.  The anthology presents translations of literary works by Series guests that imaginatively engage pivotal issues in today’s Ukraine and express its tribulations and jubilations. Featuring poetry, fiction, and essays by fifteen Ukrainian writers, the anthology offers English-language readers a wide array of the most beguiling literature written in Ukraine in the past fifty years.

Since 2007 Mark Andryczyk has been teaching Ukrainian literature at Columbia University and administering the Ukrainian Studies Program at its Harriman Institute. He is author of the monograph The Intellectual as Hero in 1990s Ukrainian Fiction (University of Toronto Press, 2012) - Ukrainian edition (Piramida, 2014) - and a translator of Ukrainian literature into English.


Explore The White Chalk of Days further on its dedicated interactive webpage. Read the editor's introduction, select poems, prose, novel excerpts, and biographies. Check back regularly as ASP continues to add further exclusive content.  



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Table of Contents

The Kennan Institute/Harriman Institute Contemporary Ukrainian Literature Series


A Note On Transliteration 

From Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv

The Woman
and ever so slowly looms . . . 
The Corridor with Eye-Sized Doors
When your lips are but a half a breath away . . . 
From Maria
Light and Confession 


Books We’ve Never Read
From A Short History of Dance
Easter Jazz
For Yann Tiersen
Boston, April 2007
Baghdad Night
In This City
Who, Marlene, Who?
Some woman . . . 
Organs of Sense
My beloved sun . . . 

From Genesis of the Flying Head
Monologue from a Canine Pretext
A Drum-Tympanum (a sonnet uttered by the Flying Head) 
She (rap performance by the Kids of the Queenie) Part 3
An Itty Bitty Ditty ‘bout Mr. Bazio (sung by Viktor Morozov) 
Green sounds echo . . . 
The Writer
The Poet 

Slavic Gods
The Men of My Country
Just Don’t Push Me Away
Robbie Williams
St. Nick No. 628
The Roman Alphabet

The Star Absinthe: Notes on a Bitter Anniversary

Selections from FM Galicia

Chinese Cooking
Hotel Business
Children’s Train
The Inner Color of Eyes
. . . not to wake her up . . . 
The Lord Sympathizes with Outsiders
The Smallest Girl in Chinatown
Owner of the Best Gay Bar
The Percentage of Suicides among Clowns 

Stand up and look . . . 
bird’s elegy
happiness . . . 
futile people
The Village Teacher’s Lesson
Nothing is right here, you see: . . . 
An Evening with Great-Grandma
The black parachute of anxiety grows . . . 
There is much—I know—sadness . . . 
The Man
The Music That Walked Away
At Home
I gaze at my mountains . . . 
Tonight . . . 
an evening (goose) pastoral
A Message for T. 

The High Water
A Story About One Dollar
Five Short Stories for Natalie—The Fifth Story—The Last One—The Lover 

The Flowerbed in the Kilim
Pea Soup
From Spring Games in Summer Gardens
The Pilgrim’s Dance, Part One
Malva Landa, Part One
Pears à la Crêpe 

Out of Great Love
The Lunch of a Man of Letters
In a State of Siege 

An Out-of-tune-Piano, an Accordion 

Apricots of the Donbas
   The Face of Coal
   The Slag Piles of Breasts
   Apricots in Hard Hats
   My Grandmother’s Fairy Tale
   The Book of Angels

the eye of the slag heap
I have a crisis for you
false friends and beloved
such people are called naked

About The Editor 


Both Words for War and The White Chalk of Days, each in its own unique way, aim to provide English-speaking readers with the best examples of contemporary Ukrainian literature, while at the same time promoting it as diverse, inclusive, vibrant, and simply too riveting to be unknown or ignored. Andryczyk’s anthology presents a more sweeping picture of that literature by virtue of the wider thematic range and more extensive timespan of the featured selections. It has all the trappings of a classic companion to contemporary Ukrainian literature and an indispensable textbook for teachers and students engaged in that subject.
— Maria G. Rewakowicz, University of Washington, Slavic Review, Vol. 77, No. 4
[The White Chalk of Days] feature[s] abundant treatments of the traditional lyrical themes of nature and love, with orchards, birds, moons and rivers galore. But the most memorable poems ... are those that wrestle with questions of identity, beyond simple patriotism, in the era of globalization, and those that deal with the current war.
— Sophie Pinkham, The Times Literary Supplement
The White Chalk of Days is notably concentrated. A generous introduction by series organizer and editor Mark Andryczyk helps situate works in recent Ukrainian literary history, and fresh translations add to the high caliber of this book. ... This book stands as a notable contribution to appreciating major currents in Ukrainian literature of the last generation—an appreciation that, for most of us, is notably overdue.
— Andrew Singer, World Literature Today
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, Mark 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 Lyuba 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.
— Polina Barskova, Associate Professor of Russian Literature, Hampshire College
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.
— Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, 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 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.
— Serhy Yekelchyk, Professor of Slavic Studies, University of Victoria, and the author of The Conflict in Ukraine (2015)
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.
— Jill McDonough, Professor in the MFA program, UMass Boston, and the author of Reaper (2017)
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.
— Tom Sleigh, Distinguished Professor, Hunter College MFA Program, City University of New York
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.
— Sibelan Forrester, Professor of Modern and Classical Languages and Russian, Swarthmore College, and the author of A Companion to Marina Cvetaeva (2016)
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.
— Marian Schwartz, Translator of Andrei Gelasimov's Into the Thickening Fog (2017) and Polina Dashkova's Madness Treads Lightly (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.
— Blair A. Ruble, Vice President for Programs, Woodrow Wilson Center
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.
— Maxim Tarnawsky, Professor of Ukrainian Literature, University of Toronto, and the editor of Ukrainian Literature: A Journal of Translations
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.
— Lloyd Schwartz, Poet and Pulitzer Prize-winning critic
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.
— Ellen Elias-Bursać, Literary translator, most recently of The Judgment of Richard Richter by Igor Štiks
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.
— Maryna Romanets, Associate Professor in the Department of English and Women’s and Gender Studies Program, University of Northern British Columbia, Canada
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.
— Alex Zucker, Translator of Czech authors Jáchym Topol and Petra Hůlová, former co-chair of the PEN America Translation Committee
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.
— Stuart Dischell, Professor in English Creative Writing, MFA Program, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the author of Standing on Z (2016)