June 29, 2016
A novel written on Facebook during the Euromaidan protests will be published in English
by Kait Howard
As in the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011, much has been made of the role that social media played in a different set of protests, in Ukraine in 2013–14. And like the uprisings in the Middle East, the Euromaidan standoff is also associated with an outpouring of politically motivated artistic expression.
It hardly comes as a surprise, then, that one Ukrainain writer—Oleh Shynkarenko—has constructed a novel from a series of Facebook posts he wrote in 2014, after he’d been interrogated by security forces for speaking out against then-president Viktor Yanukovych on his blog.
Now, the Guardian’s Alison Flood reports, the novel has been translated into English by Steve Komarnyckyj, and will be published in September by Kalyna Language Press. Called Kaharlyk, it’s a dystopian tale set in a world “in which Russia has conquered Ukraine,” telling the story of man whose brain is co-opted by the Russians to control their satellites. Praised by the Ukrainian writer (and Melville House author) Andrey Kurkov for its “hologrammatic” structure, it’s composed of edited versions of 100-word fragments the writer began posting on Facebook, believing his blog was being monitored by the government. Kurkov describes these as “beautifully crafted puzzles,” and one extract of the English translation published by Index on Censorship did show kind of deliberately wrought concision.
It’s impossible to make comparisons without seeing more; still, this does make us think of the clipped understatement of another novel dealing with the Soviet legacy in Ukraine by Alexei Nikitin.
Regardless, Kaharlyk is being touted as an important example of dissident art enabled by modern technologies. Flood quotes Index on Censorship editor Rachel Jolley on Shynkarenko’s method: “Facebook was a freer space, less open to the vagaries of the authorities… the dark world he has created is undoubtedly drawn from Oleh’s fears about the future for his country where he sees restrictions on freedom being drawn more and more tightly.”
Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.