Interview with Black Raven-author Vasyl Shklyar

Earlier this year Vasyl Shklyar refused the Shevchenko Prize and the $32,000 in prize money as a protest against what he considers the anti-Ukrainian policies of current Minister of Education Dmytro Tabachnyk. In an essay I linked to previously novelist Andrey Kurkov referred to Black Raven as “a rare literary scandal,” for being nominated for a state prize at the same time it was denounced as xenophobic propaganda.

“All the non-Ukrainian characters are depicted as deformed and ugly and the very worst of them are Russians.  As a result, the novel was purchased by all those who have something against Russia – and there are quite a few of them in Ukraine. Thus a literary event became a political one,” Kurkov wrote.

Although the novel has not been translated (and does not sound likely to be – or judging from its cover look likely to be either) Shklyar is touring the US attempting to raise funds for a film adaptation of the story of the anti-Bolshevik Ukrainian resistance of the 1920s.

Brian Spadora interviewed Shklyar for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and for the most part kept to general political questions. There was no mention of charges of xenophobia and essentially no mention of the book itself, other than a denial that it is related to current political events as he began it many years ago.

Although I have not read the book and cannot judge either its merit or the charges against it I found this statement by Shklyar extremely unsettling: “Among those artists and writers in Ukraine who have a national awareness, there is very little distinction between culture and politics.”

You can read the whole interview here …

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Categories: Literary Controversy

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