Serhiy Zhadan (Сергiй Жадан) is a Ukrainian poet, novelist, essayist, and translator. He was born in 1974 in Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine, and now lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Zhadan graduated from the Vasyl Karazin Kharkiv National University, and has a PhD in Ukrainian literary studies. He is the author of twelve collections of poetry, several books of prose, and translations. He translates poetry from German, English, Belarussian, and Russian. His own poems have been translated into German, English, Polish, Serbian, Croatian, Lithuanian, Belarusian, Russian and, Armenian languages. He received a diploma from the Moscow International Book Fair (2008) for the novel Anarchy in the UKR. In 2016, Zhadan was awarded with the Ukrainian Book of the Year State Prize, and donated the prize to children care centres of Lugansk region. In 2014, Zhadan’s Voroshylovhrad (Ворошиловград) was awarded Book of the Decade by the BBC Ukrainian. Voroshylovhrad (Ворошиловград) had previously won the BBC Ukrainian Book of the Year in 2010 and also received the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature in 2014.
“To get together and talk …”
“She’s fifteen, sells flowers …”
On a village street …”
“To get together and talk …”To get together and talk—let’s start with what’s most difficult. Let’s start with the madness of getting used to the night uncoiling across the sheets. The river, like a dress lifted over your head, still remembers the warmth, still replies to the heart beating closer to morning, when the poetics of exhaustion realigned. Here we are—shouted into the night, faded like ceramics under the sun. With a language like birdsquawk. With voices like animals calling to each other when fire encircles them. People from breathless borderlands get together. Butchers whose bloody fingers have stiffened as though covered with ink get together. Eternal drovers bearing the Easter spirit of the slaughterhouse get together. Books that smell of grass and milk. Icons printed on the same press as futurist manifestos. The animals smell the sweet language of dawn. They study the orthography of June fogs hiding their killers. Let’s start our march across a green emptiness, the motherland in twilight, let’s drive the sacrificial cattle through the wheat choir tuning up. Let’s start, all of us who saw how the quail of souls hide in a field, who stepped into the water to dispel its ice-cold anxiety with a sunburn. Let’s start with what’s most difficult—with singing and quenching the fires emerging from the night. Let’s start by whispering the names, let’s weave together the vocabulary of death. To stand and talk about the night. Stand and listen to the voices of shepherds in the fog incanting over every single lost soul.
“She’s fifteen, sells flowers …”She’s fifteen, sells flowers at the train station. Sun and berries sweeten the oxygen beyond the mines. Trains stop for a moment, move further on. Soldiers go to the East, soldiers go to the West. Nobody stays in her city. Nobody wants to take her with them. She thinks, standing in the morning at her spot, even this territory, it turns out, may be desirable, dear. It turns out, you don’t want to leave it for a long time, in fact, you want to hold on to it for dear life, it turns out, this old train station and an empty summer panorama is enough for love. Nobody gives her a good reason for this. Nobody brings flowers to her older brother’s grave. In a dream, you hear that the motherland forms in darkness, like the spine of a teenager living in a boarding house. Light and darkness are formed, take shape together. Summer sun flows into winter. Everything that happens today, to everyone, is called time. The main thing is understanding that all this happens to them. Her memory is being formed, consolation formed. Everyone she knows was born in this city. At night she recalls everyone who left this place. When there is no one left to remember, she falls asleep.
On a village street …”On a village street a gas pipeline has ruptured. A place of accident, a place of danger. Emergency services won’t come— no one wants to drive under shelling. When you call them—they’re silent, say nothing, as if they don’t understand you. At the store, along with day-old bread, they sell funeral wreaths. There’s no one on the street— almost everyone has gone. No lines. Neither for bread, nor for wreaths.