The pen is mightier than the sword



These words were first written by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu.

After the terroristic attack on Charlie Hebdo in France in January 2015, we heard them a lot.

Time to use them again now for our friends in Ukraine!


Two weeks ago I posted some of my favourite TED Talks about books.

Amongst them was also the blog project of Ann Morgan in 2012 during which she traveled around the world through 196 books.

You can follow her blog (which is still active) here and the list with recommended and read books is available here.

For those who haven't seen her talk yet:



In the meantime I became completely fascinated by the idea behind Ann Morgan's journey of discovery!

Until now I've always considered myself as someone with a broad reading taste who's open to the unknown and who likes to venture off the beaten track.

It happens regularly that I read books that have been rated or reviewed by only a few people (or even nobody).

However, just like Ann I realized that my bookshelf isn't as diverse as I always thought. Especially authors from the UK and USA fill my bookcase, whether or not in a Dutch translation.

But the world is so much bigger than those two countries and there must be a treasure of beautiful books and unknown authors out there.


So I decided to take on the challenge and to read at least one book of every country in the world!

And one of every state of the USA too.

There's absolutely no time pressure, as I see this as a long term change in my reading habits.

So if you have a tip, don't hesitate to share it with me!

The only condition is that the book has to take place in the country of origin of the author. Because only then you immerse yourself totally in another environment/culture.

Furthermore, I'm inclined to choose places that are not so obvious, because it makes this adventure all the more exciting!


This interesting exploration will be visualized through a world map which will be further coloured as I visit new countries.

For those interested to do the same, I can really recommend the (free) website MapChart.

At the moment I've read my first book and thus the blog article about my discovery of Bhutan (the very small fuchsia spot on the map) will be posted shortly.




My next stop would've been a country in South America, but then came the news of the war in Ukraine.

And I decided to change my plans and to first read a book written by a Ukrainian author.

Looking for titles which inspired me, I collected several of them.

During day 7 of the war in Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said in the news coverage:

       "Russia aims to erase Ukraine, its history and people."

A new idea arose …


What if lots of readers would deliberately read books written by Ukrainian authors?


There are many different ways to support Ukraine and its cultural heritage.

Buying and reviewing Ukrainian books is one of them.




Just think about it.

By doing so, you not only support writers financially, but you discover more about Ukrainian culture as well.
Putting these books on your bookshelves and reviewing them, helps to spread this knowledge.

That's why I decided to not read one, but several books about Ukraine.

Who wants to join me?


The first stop on my Ukrainian road trip will be a book written by Andrey Kurkov.

He wrote several novels and children's books.

Although I'm very curious about his more humoristic work, I'm beginning with 'Grey bees' as it seems the most appropriate to depict the problems Ukraine is facing right now.

But his other books are certainly waiting on my bookshelves, along with lots of books from other Ukrainian authors.


Do you need some inspiration to find your next Ukrainian book?

Just pick your choice!

And if you have other suggestions, make sure to leave a comment ;-)







Grey bees - Andrey Kurkov




49-year-old safety inspector-turned-beekeeper Sergey Sergeich, wants little more than to help his bees collect their pollen in peace.

But Sergey lives in Ukraine, where a lukewarm war of sporadic violence and constant propaganda has been dragging on for years.

His simple mission on behalf of his bees leads him through some the hottest spots of the ongoing conflict, putting him in contact with combatants and civilians on both sides of the battle lines: loyalists, separatists, Russian occupiers, and Crimean Tatars.


Grey Bees is as timely as the author's Ukraine Diaries were in 2014, but treats the unfolding crisis in a more imaginative way, with a pinch of Kurkov's signature humour. Who better than Ukraine's most famous novelist - who writes in Russian - to illuminate and present a balanced portrait of this most bewildering of modern conflicts?


Andrei Kurkov is a Ukrainian novelist and an independent thinker who writes in Russian and Ukrainian languages.

Kurkov was born in small town of Budogoszcz, Russia on April 23, 1961. When Kurkov was young, his family moved to Kyiv, Ukraine. In 1983 Kurkov graduated Kyiv Pedagogical Academy of Foreign Languages and later also completed a Japanese translation training.
About his background, he states that: “(…) there is a big difference between ‘being Russian’ and ‘being a Russian’, although many Ukrainians don’t seem to understand that. I am Russian myself, after all, an ethnically Russian citizen of Ukraine. But I am not ‘a Russian’, because I have nothing in common with Russia and its politics. I do not have Russian citizenship, and I do not want it.” (source: Ukraine Diaries, page 69)

Kurkov's most famous novels are 'Smert pingvina' (1996, translated into English in 2001 under the title 'Death and the Penguin') and 'Zakon ulitki' (2002, translated into English in 2005 under the title 'Penguin lost)'.


Other books by this author (with an English translation):

   - Ukraine Diaries

   - Death and the Penguin (Penguin #1)

   - Penguin Lost (Penguin #2) 

   - A Matter оf Death аnd Life 

   - The President's Last Love 

   - more titles are available on Goodreads in this list 



Mesopotamia - Serhiy Zhadan




A unique work of fiction from the troubled streets of Ukraine, giving invaluable testimony to the new history unfolding in the nation’s post-independence years.

This captivating book is Serhiy Zhadan’s ode to Kharkiv, the traditionally Russian-speaking city in Eastern Ukraine where he makes his home. A leader among Ukrainian postindependence authors, Zhadan employs both prose and poetry to address the disillusionment, complications, and complexities that have marked Ukrainian life in the decades following the Soviet Union’s collapse. His novel provides an extraordinary depiction of the lives of working-class Ukrainians struggling against an implacable fate: the road forward seems blocked at every turn by demagogic forces and remnants of the Russian past. Zhadan’s nine interconnected stories and accompanying poems are set in a city both representative and unusual, and his characters are simultaneously familiar and strange. Following a kind of magical-realist logic, his stories expose the grit and burden of stalled lives, the universal desire for intimacy, and a wistful realization of the off-kilter and even perverse nature of love.



Serhiy Zhadan (23 August 1974 in Starobilsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine) is a contemporary Ukrainian novelist, writer, essayist, poet, translator, musician and public figure. His biggest literary awards include:

* BBC Ukraine "Book of the Year" (2006) for the book Capital (2006) which included novels «Depeche Mode », «Anarchy in the UKR» as well as different short stories collections.

* BBC Ukraine "Book of the Year" (2010) and BBC Ukraine "Book of the Decade" (2014) for novel «Voroshilovgrad»

* «Angelus» award (2015) and President of Ukraine's award «Ukrainian book of the Year» (2016) for collection of stories and poems Mesopotamia.


Other books by this author (with an English translation):

   - Voroshilovgrad

   - Depeche Mode

   - The Orphanage

   - A New Orthography:Poems



Hardly Ever Otherwise - Maria Matios




Everything eventually reaches its appointed place in time and space. Maria Matios's dramatic family saga, Hardly Ever Otherwise, narrates the story of several western Ukrainian families during the last decades of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and expands upon the idea that "it isn't time that is important, but the human condition in time." In Matios's multi-tiered plot, the grand passions of ordinary people are illuminated under the caliginous light of an ethereal mysticism. Digressions on love, envy, transgression, together with atonement are woven into the story. Each character in this outstanding drama has an irrefutable alibi, a unique truth, and a private conflict with honor and duty. Her characters do not always act in accordance with logic and law books, as the laws of honor clash with the laws of the heart. And this is why it is hardly ever otherwise.





Maria Matios is a contemporary Ukrainian writer. Winner of the “Book of the Year 2004” and of the Taras Shevchenko National Award in 2005 (for her novel Sweet Darusia). Maria Matios bases her books on the unique experiences of her family, whose roots go back as far as 1790. She was born in the village of Roztoky in the Bukovyna region. Presently she resides in Kyiv.


Other book by this author (with an English translation):

   - Sweet Darusya



The Moscoviad - Yuri Andrukhovych





The literary dormitory at Moscow University becomes a kind of Russian Grand Hotel, serving the last supper of empire to a host of writers gathered from every corner of the continent, and beyond. Young poets from Vietnam, Mongolia, Yakutia, Uzbekistan, Russia, and Ukraine assemble to study, drink, frolic, and explore each other and the decaying city around them. When the supper turns into a bacchanal, who's surprised? "The empire betrayed its drunks. And thus doomed itself to disintegration." Part howl, part literary slapstick, part joyful dirge, charged with the brashness of youth, betraying the vision of the permanent outsider, Andrukhovych's novel suggests that literature really is news that stays news. Funny, buoyant, flamboyant, ground-breaking, and as revelatory today as when it was first published in Ukrainian, The Moscoviad remains a literary milestone. In spirit and intellectual brio Andrukhovych, whose irreverence makes Borat seem pious, is kin to the great Halldor Laxness and the venerable David Foster Wallace.




Yuri Andrukhovych (13 March 1960, Ivano-Frankivsk) — is a contemporary Ukrainian writer, essayist, poet, translator and public figure. In 2018 he received the literary award BBC Ukraine "Book of the Year" for his novel «Justicia's lovers».


Other books by this author (with an English translation):

   - Recreations

   - Perverzion

   - Twelve circles



Carbide - Andriy Lyubka



Carbide explores the underbelly of the Ukrainian smuggling industry. The protagonist, Tys, a merciless yet loving parody of Ukrainian nationalism, concocts a hairbrained scheme to dig a tunnel from the imaginary western Ukrainian city of Vedmediv to Hungary and force the European Union to grant Ukraine admission by smuggling its entire population into a member-country. Hilarity inevitably ensues, along with danger, when Tys, the would-be ‘Moses of Ukraine’, recruits a gang of local smugglers, including a latter-day Icarus determined to fly over the border and a femme fatale who traffics human organs.

This timely novel offers a funny, yet tragic take on increasingly urgent topics such as the meaning of borders, nationalism, and European identity.


Andriy Lyubka is a Ukrainian poet, essayist, and translator. He grew up in Vynohradiv, in South-Western Ukraine, and then enrolled at the Uzhhorod National University, where he studied Ukrainian Philology. His second master's degree in Balkan Studies was received from Warsaw University in 2014.



Mondegreen: Songs about Death and Love - Volodymyr Rafeyenko




Expected publication: April 19th 2022 by Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute 


Mondegreen tells the story of a refugee from Ukraine's Donbas region who has escaped to Kyiv at the onset of the Ukrainian-Russian war. Written in beautiful, experimental style, the novel shows how people--and cities--are capable of radical transformation and how this, in turn, affects their interpersonal relations and cultural identification.












Herstories. An Anthology of New Ukrainian Women Prose Writers - compiled by Michael M. Naydan




Women’s prose writing has exploded on the literary scene in Ukraine just prior to and following Ukrainian independence in 1991. Over the past two decades scores of fascinating new women authors have emerged. These authors write in a wide variety of styles and genres including short stories, novels, essays, and new journalism. In the collection you will find: realism, magical realism, surrealism, the fantastic, deeply intellectual writing, newly discovered feminist perspectives, philosophical prose, psychological mysteries, confessional prose, and much more.

You’ll find an entire gamut of these Ukrainian women writers’ experiences that range from deep spirituality to candid depictions of sexuality and interpersonal relations. You’ll find tragedy and humor and on occasion humor in the tragedy. You’ll find urban prose, edgy, caustic, and intellectual; as well as prose harkening back to village life and profound tragedies from the Soviet past that have left marks of trauma on an entire nation. This is a collection of Ukrainian women’s stories, histories that serve to tell her unique stories in English translation. Substantial excerpts from novels and translations of complete shorter works of each author will give the reader deep insight into this burgeoning phenomenon of contemporary Ukrainian women’s prose.


The volume will include 18 contemporary writers: Lina Kostenko, Emma Andijewska, Nina Bichuya, Sofia Maidanska, Ludmyla Taran, Liuko Dashvar, Maria Matios, Eugenia Kononenko, Oksana Zabuzhko, Iren Rozdobudko, Natalka Sniadanko, Larysa Denysenko, Svitlana Povaljajeva, Svitlana Pyrkalo, Dzvinka Matiash, Irena Karpa, Tanya Malyarchuk, and Sofia Andrukhovych.

The volume is compiled, edited and accompanied with a critical introduction by Michael M. Naydan, Woskob Family Professor of Ukrainian Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. Seventeen different translators from around the world have contributed translations to the volume.

Glagoslav Publications sincerely thanks Oksana Zhelisko, a talented fine artist who provided the cover art for this book. The painting “April” from the series Twelve Months-A Dozen Moods perfectly reflects the mystery of Her soul.

For those who wish to delve further into certain of the writers presented here, translations of novels by Maria Matios, Larysa Denysenko, and Iren Rozdobudko are currently available with Glagoslav.


Our Others: Stories of Ukrainian Diversity - Olesya Yaremchuk




Our Others: Stories of Ukrainian Diversity is an award-winning exploration of both the histories and personal stories of fourteen ethnic minority groups living within the boundaries of present-day Ukraine: Czechs and Slovaks, Meskhetian Turks, Swedes, Romanians, Hungarians, Roma, Jews, ‘Liptaks’, Gagauzes, Germans, Vlachs, Poles, Crimean Tatars, and Armenians. Based on a combination of academic research, fieldwork, and interviews, Olesya Yaremchuk’s literary reportages paint realistic, thoughtful, and historically informed depictions of how these various groups arrived in Ukraine and how they have fared within the country’s borders.

Accompanied by vivid photographs that bring the reportages to life, Our Others is in some respects a chronicle of the myriad voluntary and forced migrations that have rolled through Ukraine for centuries. Simultaneously, the book offers a tender―and timely―study of the little islands of cultural diversity in Ukraine that have survived the Soviet steamroller of planned linguistic, cultural, and religious unification and that deserve acknowledgement in Ukraine’s broader cultural identity.


Yaremchuk Olesya Lyubomyrivna (May 25, 1991, Lviv) is a Ukrainian journalist and writer. In 2013 she graduated from the Faculty of Journalism of Ivan Franko National University of Lviv.

Freelance journalist for The Day (Kyiv), Litakcent (Kyiv), New Eastern Europe (Krakow) and Ukrainian Magazine (Prague). Since 2015 - author and journalist of the project on national minorities in Ukraine "Our Others" in the online magazine "The Ukrainians" (Lviv). Reports from the series "Our Others" have been translated into Czech, German and English.



Your Ad Could Go Here: Stories - Oksana Zabuzhko






Oksana Zabuzhko, Ukraine’s leading public intellectual, is called upon to make sense of the unthinkable reality of our times. In this breathtaking short story collection, she turns the concept of truth over in her hands like a beautifully crafted pair of gloves. From the triumph of the Orange Revolution, which marked the start of the twenty-first century, to domestic victories in matchmaking, sibling rivalry, and even tennis, Zabuzhko manages to shock the reader by juxtaposing things as they are—inarguable, visible to the naked eye—with how things could be, weaving myth and fairy tale into pivotal moments just as we weave a satisfying narrative arc into our own personal mythologies. At once intimate and worldly, these stories resonate with Zabuzhko’s irreverent and prescient voice, echoing long after reading.





Oksana Zabuzhko is a contemporary Ukrainian writer, poet and essayist.

Born in Lutsk, Ukraine, Zabuzhko studied philosophy at the Kiev University, where she also obtained her doctorate in aesthetics in 1987. In 1992 she taught at Penn State University as a visiting writer. Zabuzhko won a Fulbright scholarship in 1994 and taught Ukrainian literature at Harvard and University of Pittsburgh. Currently she works at the Hryhori Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Zabuzhko is known both for her literary works and criticism. Her controversial bestselling novel Field Work in Ukrainian Sex was translated in eight languages. In her writing Zabuzhko draws a lot of attention to the questions of Ukrainian self-identification, post-colonial issues and feminism.


Other books by this author (with an English translation):

   - Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex

   - The Museum of Abandoned Secrets



Life went on anyway: stories - Oleh Sentsov




The stories in Ukrainian film director, writer, and dissident Oleg Sentsov’s debut collection are as much acts of dissent as they are acts of creative expression. These autobiographical stories display a Tarkovsky-esque mix of nostalgia and philosophical insight, written in a simple yet profound style looking back on a life's path that led Sentsov to become an internationally renowned dissident artist.

Sentsov's charges seemingly stem from his opposition to Russia's invasion and occupation of eastern Ukraine where he lived in the Crimea. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in August 2015 on spurious terrorism charges after he was kidnapped in his house and put through a grossly unfair trial by a Russian military court, marred by allegations of torture. Many of the stories included here were read during international campaigns by PEN International, the European Film Academy, and Amnesty International, among others, to support the case for Sentsov across the world. Sentsov's final words at his trial, "Why bring up a new generation of slaves?" have become a rallying cry for his cause. He spent 145 days on hunger strike in 2018 to urge the Russian authorities to release all Ukrainians unfairly imprisoned in Russia, an act of profound courage that contributed to the European Parliament's awarding him the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought


Sentsov remains in a prison camp in Russia. It is the publisher's hope this book, published in collaboration with PEN Ukraine, contributes to his timely release.
Edit: Thanks to Tinwara for remarking that Sentsov has been released in 2019!
More info about it can be read here (English) and here (Dutch).






Absolute Zero -  Artem Chekh






The book is a first person account of a soldier’s journey, and is based on Artem Chekh’s diary that he wrote while and after his service in the war in Donbas. One of the most important messages the book conveys is that war means pain. Chekh is not showing the reader any heroic combat, focusing instead on the quiet, mundane, and harsh soldier’s life. Chekh masterfully selects the most poignant details of this kind of life.







Artem Chekh (° 13th June 1985) was born in Cherkasy (Ukraine).

He graduated from National Academy of Culture and Arts Management (Kyiv) as sociologist, but he has never worked by speciality. Instead, he used to work as the actor of the Cherkasy drama theater, the guard, the seller, the promoter, the copywriter, the artist of the model-making department, as well as the senior rifleman and gunner of an armored troop-carrier in the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

At the moment he lives in Kyiv together with his wife, Ukrainian writer and filmmaker Iryna Tsilyk, and their son Andriy.

Artem Chekh’s literary life has began in 2007, when he won the competition “City Youth Novel” held by Ukrainian publishing house “Folio”. Since that time a number of his books have been published. Among the main features of Artem Chekh’s prose are autobiography, grotesque, surrealism.

Some of the works by Artem Chekh were translated into German, English, Polish, Czech, Russian languages and published in foreign periodicals and almanacs.

His book 'Absolute Zero' is dedicated to his experience of being a soldier in the armed forces in 2015-2016 (including 10 months on the frontline) in Donbas. This book got the International Ukrainian-Belorusian prize “Warrior of Light” (2017), as well as Ukrainian prize “LitAccent of the Year” (2017) and the Ukrainian State prize named by Mykola Gogol (2018).



100 Key Events in Ukrainian History - Yurii Soroka



The history of Ukraine resembles a half-uncharted map. This is not a mere coincidence, but the result of the deliberate public policy. Hundreds of various people serving their mother countries have been working hard on those blank spots for centuries. Those myth and fake news makers have done their best to make our history, as well as Ukraine itself, look in descendants’eyes the way preferred by those who tried to assimilate the heritage of Kyivan Rus. However, time always puts everything in its place. So this book is an attempt to collect the events that have shaped the Ukraine we know today and will promote its further development.


We sought to focus on positive events in Ukrainian history, in other words, on victories. The image of our country as a helpless continuously suffering victim that always sings sad songs and is incapable of confronting external pressure has been exploited for a long time. In fact, an insight into the actual history of Ukraine proves this image to be false. The voice of the past provides us with dozens of chronicles, documents and historical studies. Courageous heroes, strong warriors, talented artists, prominent statesmen, unrivalled philosophers and scholars — those have been the people creating our history. And, naturally, they and their achievements must be revealed and popularized.

This work is an effort to unite in a single volume the highlights of our historic heritage and show that, against all odds, Ukraine remembers its past and intends to build its own bright future, considering the extensive rich experience that has been gained.



The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine - Serhii Plokhy




Ukraine is currently embroiled in a tense battle with Russia to preserve its economic and political independence. But today’s conflict is only the latest in a long history of battles over Ukraine’s existence as a sovereign nation. As award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy argues in The Gates of Europe, we must examine Ukraine’s past in order to understand its fraught present and likely future.


Situated between Europe, Russia, and the Asian East, Ukraine was shaped by the empires that have used it as a strategic gateway between East and West—from the Romans and Ottomans to the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, all have engaged in global fights for supremacy on Ukrainian soil. Each invading army left a lasting mark on the landscape and on the population, making modern Ukraine an amalgam of competing cultures.




Serhii Plokhy is a Ukrainian and American historian. Plokhy is currently the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History and Director of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, where he was also named Walter Channing Cabot Fellow in 2013. A leading authority on Eastern Europe, he has lived and taught in Ukraine, Canada, and the United States. He has published extensively in English, Ukrainian, and Russian. For three successive years (2002-2005) his books won first prize of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies.



Ukraine in histories and stories. Essays by Ukrainian intellectuals



This book is a collection of texts by contemporary Ukrainian intellectuals: writers, historians, philosophers, political analysts, opinion leaders.

The texts have been written for the international audience. The collection combines reflections on Ukraine’s history (or histories, in plural), and analysis of the present, conceptual ideas and life stories.

The book presents a multi-faceted image of Ukrainian memory and reality: from the Holodomor to Maidan, from Russian aggression to cultural diversity, from the depth of the past to the complexity of the present.


It contains 16 texts: essays and interviews. The authors of the collection are Serhii Plokhy, Andriy Kurkov, Ola Hnatiuk, Irena Karpa, Yaroslav Hrytsak, Yuri Andrukovych, Larysa Denysenko, Vakhtang Kebuladze, Andriy Portnov, Haska Shyyan, Hanna Shelest, Volodymyr Rafeenko, Volodymyr Yermolenko, Alim Aliev, Leonid Finberg, Andrij Bondar.



It is edited by Volodymyr Yermolenko, a Ukrainian philosopher and writer, UkraineWorld's editor in chief and director for analytics at Internews Ukraine.


UkraineWorld is an English-language multimedia project about Ukraine run by Internews Ukraine. Their team produces articles, podcasts, video explainers, analyses and books about Ukraine in English. They've also cultivated a network of over 300 international journalists and experts focusing on Ukraine in order to bring together key actors focused on Ukrainian issues.

On their website you can download this book for free in English (pdf, epub or mobi) or Ukrainian (pdf). 

Just head over to:






As this is one of my favourite reading genres, I just hád to mention following books!


Treasure of the Ages - Klym Polishchuk




 ‘Treasure of the Ages’ consists of seven enthralling short stories. In each story, a legend told to the author is tightly intertwined with current or historical events that took place in Ukraine. The stories are enriched by detailed descriptions of cultural and religious customs.

For readers, unfamiliar with Ukrainian history and traditions, the book includes ‘Translator’s notes’ giving pertinent commentaries and interesting facts on some geographical, architectural, cultural and other points.




Behold the fury is raging…

Under the glow of a burning red sky a fugitive from war learns of a malevolent serpent that once inhabited the caves outside Kyiv.

In the dark ages of Ukraine a charismatic tribal leader defies supernatural sacrificial rituals and counsels his people to live in unity and peace so that a nation can arise.

A cemetery in the old city of Khastiv stirs with the ghostly Haidamaka people who keep vigil every Easter, awaiting their promised liberator.

In medieval Vinnytsia a powerful and sadistic monk mutilates local women, invoking the fury of the tormented villagers.

On a quiet summer’s evening flickering lights reveal a mass of pilgrims paying homage with a prayer and song at a life-giving sacred well.

A man returning to his homeland, ravaged by Tsarism and the Bolshevik revolution, visits the ruins of an ancient castle where treasure is said to be hidden for posterity, protected by ferocious flames.

'Treasure of the Ages' invites the reader into a mystical, ancient world but one that also reflects the harsh reality of the lives of ordinary Ukrainians during the turbulent times of the socialist revolution that the author Klym Polischuk inhabited.


Klym Polishchuk was a Ukrainian writer, executed at 46 in one of the Stalinist concentration camps during the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution. Reading the book, it becomes clear, why the Stalinist followers accused the author of nationalist beliefs. In his book Klym Polishchuk had no intentions to hide his feelings towards Ukraine’s invaders.



Vita Nostra - Marina & Sergey Dyachenko




A "dark Harry Potter on steroids with a hefty dose of metaphysics" (award-winning author Aliette de Bodard)

The definitive English language translation of the internationally bestselling Ukrainian novel—a brilliant dark fantasy with "the potential to be a modern classic" (Lev Grossman), combining psychological suspense, enchantment, and terror that makes us consider human existence in a fresh and provocative way.

Our life is brief . . .

While vacationing at the beach with her mother, Sasha Samokhina meets the mysterious Farit Kozhennikov under the most peculiar circumstances. The teenage girl is powerless to refuse when this strange and unusual man with an air of the sinister directs her to perform a task with potentially scandalous consequences. He rewards her effort with a strange golden coin.

As the days progress, Sasha carries out other acts for which she receives more coins from Kozhennikov. As summer ends, her domineering mentor directs her to move to a remote village and use her gold to enter the Institute of Special Technologies. Though she does not want to go to this unknown town or school, she also feels it’s the only place she should be. Against her mother’s wishes, Sasha leaves behind all that is familiar and begins her education.

As she quickly discovers, the institute’s "special technologies" are unlike anything she has ever encountered. The books are impossible to read, the lessons obscure to the point of maddening, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, their families pay a terrible price. Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want.

A complex blend of adventure, magic, science, and philosophy that probes the mysteries of existence, filtered through a distinct Russian sensibility, this astonishing work of speculative fiction—brilliantly translated by Julia Meitov Hersey—is reminiscent of modern classics such as Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Max Barry’s Lexicon, and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, but will transport them to a place far beyond those fantastical worlds.


Marina and Serhiy Dyachenko are co-authors of novels, short fiction, plays and scripts. They primarily write in Russian (and in the past also in Ukrainian) with several novels translated into English and published in the United States. The primary genres of their books are modern speculative fiction, fantasy, and literary tales.


Other books by these authors (with an English translation):

   - The Scar

   - The Burned Tower

   - Age of Witches

   - Daughter from the dark





PEN Ukraine


After compiling the above list of books, I stumbled upon the website of the non-profit organization PEN Ukraine.


PEN is an abbreviation which stands for poets, playwrights, essayists and novelists.

The International PEN Club was founded in 1921 in London. It has become one of the first international human rights organizations and the first international writers’ association.

Today, there are 146 national PEN centres worldwide.


PEN Ukraine was established in 1989 and admitted to PEN International in the spring of 1990.

You can read more about them here.

To better understand why Ukrainians continue to fight for their values, despite the aggression of one of the largest countries in the world, they've compiled a list of fiction and non-fiction books that will help you better understand Ukrainian history and mentality (all books are available in English).​​



  1. This is quite a literary line-up as we have come to expect from you, Tau. At first glance, Grey Bees, Our Others and Carbide would be my choice of preference. So little time, so much to read. You've put a lot of effort in this one, Taus - kudos.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Bohse!
      Yes, there are more Ukrainian books translated to English than one would think 😄

      In the meantime I already gathered other titles.
      So now I'm going to decide whether to add them to this article or to post them in a second blog, along with additional info.

      Probably the Penguin-books by Kurkov will be to your (humoristic) taste too.
      Once I've read them, I'll keep you informed 😉