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This report is taken from PN Review 63, Volume 15 Number 1, September - October 1988.

Ukrainian Report Kris Long
This is not a letter from Kiev, where two of the three books I refer to are certainly unobtainable, and the third, Lina Kostenko's Garden of Unmelting Sculptures, is hard to find. It has endpapers of endlessly crossed-out manuscripts. Starting as a miniaturist (the 'cabbages blue with cold' in the new book point back to that and perhaps to Doctor Zhivago), she returned as an epic poet after silence in the 1970s. The 'Ballad of Three Brothers, but not from Azov' reconstructs the past, suggesting with understatement the true heroism (one follows the other two into exile) which somehow got attached to a not very heroic incident in the surviving ballad. 'A Scythian Odyssey' is a mock epic (modern Ukrainian literature started at the end of the eighteenth century with Kotlyarevskyj's travesty of the Aeneid), which follows up some hints in Herodotus about the prehistory of the region which is now Ukrainian.

Vasil Stus (1938-1985) never managed to have a book published in Kiev. His Palimpsests again has manuscripts on its endpapers, but magnified rather than reduced, with no crossings out. Ends of poems are faintly marked, line endings follow from the metre. Some poems are revisions of earlier ones. The origin of these poems makes them difficult to write about. How can they be judged by merely literary standards? It is easier to write about Stus himself than get involved with difficult poetry. Notes written after he stopped writing poetry suggest comparison with other poets in solitary confinement. ...


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