Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, March 10, 2023

War Diary by Yevgenia Beloruset - 2022- translated from the German by Gregg Nissan 2023

 War Diary by Yevgenia Beloruset - 2022- translated from the German by Gregg Nissan 2023

The Publisher of The War Diary, Pushkin Press, elegantly offers an explication of this deeply moving memoir of the first 41 days of Russia's attack on The Ukraine.

"The young artist and writer Yevgenia Belorusets was in her hometown of Kyiv when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on the morning of February 24, 2022. For her and millions of Ukrainians, reality changed overnight. With urgency and clarity, she set out to document the devastation and its effects on the ordinary residents of Ukraine: the relentless presence of sirens and gunfire; moments of intense connection and solidarity with strangers; the struggle to make sense of a good mood on a spring day.

Published in the German newspaper Der Spiegel and then translated and released each day online by ISOLARII with Artforum, War Diary had an immediate impact worldwide. Issued here with a new preface and later entries by the author, it is a powerfully lucid account of the surreal reality of life in a country under siege." Pushkin Press

Over the past ten years or so I have posted upon a number of authors originally from what is now known as the Ukraine. These include Gogol, Clarice Lispector and Josepth Roth as well as Yiddish Language authors. All of them left the Ukraine as soon as they could, most to escape pervasive Anti-Semitic pograms. Of course they are long since deceased. 

Early this month I posted upon my first reading of a work by a contemporary Ukrainian writer,Sweet Darusya:A Tale of Two Villages by Maria Matios -2003- 159 pages- translated from the Ukrainian by Michael M. Naylan and Tytarenko-2016.  

Prompted by the News of Russian war crimes in the Ukraine, I have begun seeking out works by contemporary Ukrainian writers. War Diary by Yevgenia Beloruset reminded me somehow of Elizabeth Bowen's memoirs of London during the Blitz as well as Irene Némirovsky works on Paris during the war. Kyiv like London and Paris is an ancient near holy city to those who love it. I saw how through the Reflections of Yevgenia Beloruset that the deliberate destruction of buildings 100s of years old, with no military utility, was on a par with the destruction of ancient statues of the Budda by Isis, a crime against humanity.

I will just remark on some of the things that deeply reverberated with me. The author saw as her mission to photograph the destruction in the Ukraine. To do this she had to leave her apartment and walk through the streets with her camera. People talked to each other, often wondering why others were staying. Some took care of handicapped family who could not easily be moved. One Woman had six cats she refused to abandon. Others stayed to help their neighbours or just had no where to which to evacuate. Some food store owners stayed open giving away food to those without money. One wonderful lady made it her job to feed abandoned pets.

 Young Russian soldiers broke into apartments looking for liquor to steal. Children and old people were shot for sport. Everyday the death toll builds up. A numbness develops in some.

Some of the people the author encounters are highly educated, elegantly dressed others are poor pensioners. Many just refused to leave the Ukraine. Wherever she walks she begins to see bodies. She tells us what it was like living in an apartment house, with blackout curtains, wondering if you should seek shelter in a basement.  

Of course the war still persists long after War Diary ends.

"Yevgenia Belorusets is a Ukrainian artist, writer, and photographer born in Kyiv in 1980. In her works, she calls attention to the most vulnerable sections of Ukrainian society.

Yevgenia is co-founder of the journal Prostory, member of the interdisciplinary curatorial collective Hudrada, author of the photo series Victories of the Defeated and books Lucky Breaks (International Literature Award by Haus der Kulturen der Welt in 2020), Series of Lectures on the Modern Life of Animals and Anfang des Krieges (Horst Bingel Prize for Literature 2022). Twice her work was presented in the Ukrainian program at the Venice Biennale — in 2015 with Victories of the Defeated and in 2022 with A Wartime Diary. 

Her works meet at the intersection of visual art, literature, journalism, and activism making a solid connection between document and artistic language. The most recent work is a multidisciplinary exhibition Nebenan / Close by taking place in German Bundestag" from  

a very informative interview with the author

Mel Ulm

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