Translated by Zenia H. Tompkins
A stunning debut collection of fiction and creative nonfiction— irreverent and unglorified; loving and tender; uncomfortable and inconvenient—by a Ukrainian writer currently fighting for his country in Kyiv.
Includes the celebrated title story "The Ukraine," which was published in the New Yorker in 2022.
The Ukraine is a collection of 26 pieces that deliberately blur the line between nonfiction and fiction, conjuring the essence of a beloved country through its tastes, smells, and sounds, its small towns and big cities, its people and their compassion and indifference, simplicities and complications.
- In the title story, Chapeye facetiously plays with the English misuse of the article “the” in reference to Ukraine, capturing a country as perceived from the outside, by foreigners. That pseudo-kitsch, often historically shallow, and not-quite-real Ukraine resonates because of its highly engaging and brutally candid snapshots of ordinary lives and typical places.
- In “One Soul per Home” an elderly woman laments that the men are dying and the young are leaving for the cities, changing the face of her small town;
- In “The Unscrupulous Spirit of the Provinces,” a couple of unspecified gender get stoned and go to church; and in “False Premises,” a man romanticizes his younger years working for a Soviet fishing fleet only to reconstruct his nostalgia in the face of Putin’s Russia.
The Ukraine conveys to readers a place that Chapeye and his countrymen are currently fighting for with their lives. The book will feature a preface by the author, which he is writing on his phone from the front lines.