A Dystopian Ukrainian Facebook Novel Is Being Published in English
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The Ukrainian Satirical Novel Kaharlyk Was Written on Social Media During Protests
Oleh Shynkarenko’s novel Kaharlyk features a man with no memory, a town frozen by experimental weaponry, and a journey plunging into the past. As strange as that sounds, the creation of the novel might be even stranger. In 2014, Shynkarenko began posting 100-word bulletins on Facebook from an alternate reality set in a post-apocalyptic future. Previously he’d written versions of these fictive snippets (vaguely criticizing then-Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych) as entries on his blog, but after being interrogated by Ukrainian security services, the author took to the safer webspace of Facebook. According to the novel’s translator, Steve Komarnyckyj, Shynkarenko created in addition to the text, “fragments of concrete music, mixing sounds, such as Serbian liturgical melodies, washing machines, and cows mooing, to develop a soundscape for his world.”
The novel transparently echoes the violence, corruption, and censorship at the heart of the 2013–14 Euromaidan protests in Kiev. In this way, the endless series of 100-word fragments feels especially fitting; how else can one recover the shards of a splintered world but by the knitting together of its constituent parts? Fellow Ukrainian author Andrei Kurkov called its structure “hologrammatic,” with the inner architecture of the novel consisting of, “beautifully crafted puzzles.”
Shynkarenko’s novel will be published in English by Kalyna Language Press. According to The Guardian, a first look at the English text is available via the Index on Censorship. The extract begins: “The wind blows listlessly through every cranny. Travelling to Kiev on the main highway, two identical 26-storey buildings are visible by the road in the distance. They stick out, the last two teeth in a jawbone. Thus the city’s corpse lays, its head southwards. Their sole inhabitant is a mummified 45-year-old wearing elegant spectacles.”