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This item is taken from PN Review 264, Volume 48 Number 4, March - April 2022.

Editorial
The Russian poet Ilya Kaminsky wrote about the previous war in Ukraine, in 2017:
Never (do you hear me – NEVER!) did anyone go after me for being a Russian poet and for teaching in Russian language in Ukraine. Everywhere I read my poems in RUSSIAN and never did I encounter any complications. However, tomorrow I will read my lectures in the state language – Ukrainian. This won’t be merely a lecture – it will be a protest action in solidarity with the Ukrainian state. I call for my colleagues to join me in this action. A Russian-language poet refuses to lecture in Russian as an act of solidarity with occupied Ukraine.
Ukraine has made a few significant appearances in PN Review, usually as a place in which Poles, Russians, Hungarians and others unwillingly find themselves (in both senses). As an afterword to the translation he made, with Robert Pinsky, of Czesław Miłosz’s ‘The World: a naïve poem’ (PNR 27, 1982) Robert Hass quoted from Miłosz’s The Captive Mind:
In my wanderings at the beginning of the Second World War, I happened to find myself for a very short while in the Soviet Union. I was waiting for a train at a station in one of the large cities of the Ukraine. It was a gigantic station. Its walls were hung with portraits and banners of inexpressible ugliness; a dense crowd dressed in sheepskin coats, uniforms, fur caps and woollen kerchiefs filled every available space and tracked thick mud over the tiled floor. The marble stairs were covered with sleeping beggars, their bare legs sticking out of their tatters despite the fact that it was freezing. Above them loudspeakers shouted propaganda slogans. As I was passing through the station, I suddenly stopped and looked. A peasant family – husband and wife and two children – had settled down by the wall. They were sitting on baskets and bundles. The wife was feeding the younger child; the husband who had a dark, wrinkled face and a black drooping moustache was pouring tea out of a kettle into a cup for the older boy. They were whispering to each other in Polish. I gazed at them until I felt moved to the point of tears. What had stopped my steps so suddenly and touched me so profoundly was their difference. This was a human group, an island in a crowd that lacked something proper to humble, ordinary human life. The gesture of the hand pouring tea, the careful, delicate handing of the cup to the child, the worried words I guessed from the movement of their lips, their isolation, their privacy in the midst of the crowd – that is what moved me. For a moment, then, I understood something that quickly slipped from my grasp.
Ukraine first appeared in a translation of the Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti, collaboratively rendered by George Gömöri and Clive Wilmer (PNR 4, 1978). ‘The Fifth Eclogue’ is a terrified elegy for a journalist who vanished during the Nazi occupation. The poem is a painful fragment.
My dear friend, how the cold of this poem made me shiver,
How afraid I was of words. Today too, I have fled it.
Have scribbled half-lines.
                                          I tried to write about something – about
Anything else, but in vain! This furtive night of terror
Admonishes: ‘Speak of him.’
‘More than One View of Somewhere in Central Ukraine’ by Horatio Morpurgo is a classic essay, a rolling stone that as time and history pass retains an alarming resonance, that news that stays news even as seasons, fashions and empires change. In this essay (PNR 20) he talks, among other things, about George Orwell, the brutal imposition of collectivised farming in the Ukraine and its thematic impact on Animal Farm. And he talks about the landlocked infancy of Joseph Conrad in Terekhove. Ukraine is a vivid and real place, overlaid time after time by brutalising politics, then emerging, then again submitting itself to the fate of all nations that lie at crossroads, places people move through that are seldom destinations in themselves. The Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector was born in Tetchelnick in the Ukraine in 1925 but stayed only a few weeks: her Russian-Jewish parents were emigrating to Brazil, and she occurred en route. A colourful placename, but not a place she ever returned to. About Terekhove and that other infant writer Joseph Conrad Horatio Morpurgo writes:
Back in the village where young Jozef learnt to walk, a cuckoo is calling and the caretaker scythes round a school building in the weekend quiet. A small space near its front entrance is marked off by a low fence, as if it was once a memorial garden. It is tulip time in Ukraine: this little rectangle is ablaze with scarlet, but whom or what did these blooms celebrate in tulip-times gone by?

This item is taken from PN Review 264, Volume 48 Number 4, March - April 2022.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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