Check out Ukraine’s best books

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June 21, 2006, 10:02 p.m. | About Kyiv — by Alexandra Matoshko

Alexandra Matoshko

Kyiv Post Guide Editor

Korrespondent magazine presents the winners of the “Best Ukrainian Book” contest the weekly magazine Korrespondent, is finally over and its seven winners were chosen and already awarded money prizes: Hr 5,000 for first place and Hr 1,500 for those who took second and third. Helping popularize Ukrainian books in general, “The Best Ukrainian Book” fulfilled another important task: it showed us which Ukrainian books warrant our attention – unless of course you don’t read any of the languages the books are written or translated in.

The contest was held in May 2006, with all Korrespondent readers being invited to take part in the voting and to express their views as to the best Ukrainian books published in 2005 and 2006. However, the 350 readers who responded didn’t have the final say. Of all the books mentioned by them, the editorial team at the magazine composed top-5 lists in two categories: “Nonfiction” and “Fiction,” which were then offered to experts – a jury that consisted of editors, critics and famous Ukrainians, namely the philologist and Taras Shevchenko prize winner Vera Ageyeva; literary critics Serhiy Vasilyev Jr. and Lesya Ganzha; “Knyzhnyk-Revue” (Book Revue) magazine editor-in-chief Konstantin Rodyk; “Chas” (Time) weekly editor-in-chief Yuriy Chekan; cameraman and film director Oles Sanin; and Okean Elzy frontman Svyatoslav Vakarchuk.

Finally, as a result of this expert panel’s decision, the first place in “Fiction” was given to Taras Prohasko for his book of collected stories and essays, “Z Tsyoho Mozhna Zrobyty Kilka Opovidan” (You Can Make a Few Stories Out of It), the second and third places were given to Serhiy Zhadan for “Anarchy in the Ukr” and Lyubko Deresh for “Arkhe” respectively. In “Nonfiction” Oksana Zabuzhko and her book “Let My People Go” was named the winner, while Danylo Yanevsky took second place with his “Khroniky “Pomaranchevoyi” Revolyutsiyi” (“Orange” Revolution Chronicles); and Serhiy Kuzin with his book “Donteskaya mafia. Antologiya” (Donetsk Mafia. Anthology) and Kostyantyn Stogniy with “Kriminal” shared third place.

The top-winning fiction writer according to Korrespondent – Taras Prohasko of Ivano-Frankivsk – doesn’t like to be called a writer, as it’s not his main occupation and he doesn’t do it to earn a living. He wrote his first story at the suggestion of the Lviv magazine “Chetver” (Thursday). More stories followed and were published in the magazine, and as a result Prohasko released his first book of collected stories, “Anna’s Other Days,” in 1998, which was highly acclaimed by critics. The initial idea of “You Can Make a Few stories Out of It” was to write a casual, chaotic and even brutal book, and according to Prohasko, he reached his goal.

The writer from Kharkiv, Serhiy Zhadan, famous for his informal and even rebellious attitude, has written quite a number of books of collected poems and four fiction books: “Big Mak,” “Depesh Mod,” “Democratic Youth Anthem” and “Anarchy in the Ukr” which won him second place. “Anarchy” was a result of his journey to the places where the famous Ukrainian revolutionary, Nestor Makhno, did battle. The text was written in Warsaw and stylized to resemble Soviet journalism, and according to one of Korrespondent experts the book popularizes anarchy and totalitarianism, while Zhadan himself claims he’s not trying to advocate any ideologies.

The youngest contest winner, Lyubko Deresh, is just 21 and had written his first novel “Worshipping the Lizard” at the age of 15. But his official literary debut came two years later with the novel “Cult.” Presently total circulation of his books in Ukraine has already exceeded 50 thousand. Moreover “Cult” is also to be published in Germany and Poland, and “Arkhe” – the book that brought him third place – is also being translated into Polish.

Oksana Zabuzhko is known as the first Ukrainian writer who managed to live on her book royalties alone. What’s more, her works were the first Ukrainian books to breakthrough to the international scene and be published not only in Western Europe, but also in the U.S.. Zabuzhko started her writing career as a poet, having published her first collection “May Rime” in 1985; however, she jumped to fame with the book “Field Research on Ukrainian Sex ” published in 1996. Her latest book that won the Korrespondent contest “Let My People Go: 15 Texts About Ukrainian Revolution” represents her memoirs of last year’s famous events in Ukraine through essays and articles published in the Ukrainian and foreign press. When Zabuzhko learned that the book was to cost over Hr 20 per copy to pay for itself, Zabuzhko agreed to lower the price at the expense of her royalties.

The famous TV host and news anchor, presently working at Channel 5, Danylo Yanevsky debuted as a writer in 2003 with a monograph “Political systems of Ukraine of 1917-1920. Attempts to Create and Causes of Defeat.” It was named one of the best books of the year. One of his latest works, “Orange” Revolution Chronicles,” not only took second place in the Korrespondent contest but also received a Grand-Prix from the International book festival “Book World.”

Serhiy Kuzin and Konstantyn Stogniy shared third place in the documentary nomination. In his work “Donetsk Mafia. The Anthology” the Donetsk-born journalist Serhiy Kuzin explored the formation of Donetsk’s regional elite and quite successfully brought to light some secrets that surround the activity and the past of Rinat Akhmetov and his close associates. Kuzin gained instant popularity – his book has sold well in Ukraine while publishers from France have already offered to purchase the rights for it.

The former criminal investigator, presently a TV journalist and Ministry of Internal Affairs advisor Konstyantyn Stogniy based his book “Criminal”on the experiences he had during his investigations mainly connected with the criminal world. According to Stogniy, because of the specifics of television news broadcasting, he often failed to show and tell everything the way he saw it, so he put it all in the book.


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