Friday, October 4, 2013

Ukrainian Reading List

Something that has always and will continue to be important to me is encouraging Cava, as he grows up, to remember his Ukrainian heritage. It is a country with a wealth of history and culture that he should learn about. One area that I will be most excited to introduce him to is Ukrainian literature. Some of my favorite authors were born in Ukraine.

The first of those is the novelist and playwright, Mikhail Bulgakov. His The Master & Margarita is one of my all time favorite novels so I was thrilled to find out that he was born in Kiev. The novel is considered one of the 100 greatest of the 20th century. Rockers such as The Rolling Stones, Patti Smith, Franz Ferdinand, and Pearl Jam have all written and recorded songs inspired by this satirical novel about the devil coming to Moscow.

For anyone who's followed this blog knows, I dragged my family in the snow down Andrew's Descent so that I could sit by the statue of the "Master" and have my picture taken.

The long, yellow home that was immortalized as the home of the Turbin family in Bulgakov's novel White Guard. This home is where he wrote the novel and it is now a museum. 

The first floor of the house is the Bulgakov Museum where one can see many of the author's belongings, such as the desk where he wrote.

On the exterior, one can see not only see Bulgakov's likeness in bronze:

But there's also one of Behemoth, the large cat made famous by The Master and Margarita:

Another of my favorite writers who was born in Sorochyntsi, Ukraine was Nikolai Gogol. Gogol wrote the great novel Dead Souls, as well as numerous short stories (the most famous being "The Overcoat" and "Diary of a Madman"), along with plays. Nikolai Gogol had a huge influence on Bulgakov, who counted Gogol as one of his favorite writers.

There's even a statue to him in Kharkov, the second largest city in Ukraine:

Like Cava, the author Isaak Babel was born in the Odessa Region, though Babel was born in the Moldavanka section. Babel is best known for his "Odessa Tales" and "Red Calvary" stories, both of which are considered masterpieces of Russian literature. Unfortunately, Babel fell victim to Stalin's Great Purge. He was arrested at night by the NKVD, where he was tortured into confessing being a Trostkyist terrorist, and was executed for being a foreign spy. 

There is the Odessa State Literary Museum that has Babel as a part of it and where one can see many of his belongings:

Odessa even erected a monument to their native son:

Like Isaak Babel, the poetess Anna Akhmatova was born in Odessa on the Black Sea. She is one of the most acclaimed poets in the Russian canon. Akhmatova wrote everything from short lyrical poems to intricately structured cycles like Requiem. Under Stalinism, Akhmatova's work was condemned and censored. 

Here's one of her poems:

Along the hard crust of deep snows,
To the secret, white house of yours,
So gentle and quiet – we both
Are walking, in silence half-lost.
And sweeter than all songs, sung ever,
Are this dream, becoming the truth,
Entwined twigs’ a-nodding with favor,
The light ring of your silver spurs... 

Her memorial in Odessa. 

When Cava's older, I hope to introduce him to the amazing and great works of literature by these Ukrainian authors, as well as take him back to Ukraine so that he can see and experience the beauty of his heritage first-hand. He's always amazed when I show him a copy of a book and tell him, "This writer is from Ukraine." The day my copy of The Complete Works of Isaak Babel came, I told him how Babel was from where he was born. At first I didn't think that made any impression on him, but when Danelle got home later, Cava ran and got the book to show her and proudly told his Mom, "He's from Ukraine, like me."

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