In search of explanations for the inexplicable, Ukrainians are currently wanted interlocutors. In addition to politicians and diplomats, artists should also provide knowledge about the Ukrainian spirit after the Russian occupation. In the case of artists in particular, their essential task, namely their works, is currently neglected.
“It is very difficult for me to represent Ukraine,” Ukrainian writer Tanya Malyarchuk told DW. She is not a military expert, she often lacks the knowledge required of her. “On the other hand, I can not claim that I have no connection with him, because that is not true.”
This Saturday (April 30, 2022) the writer will receive the Usedom Literature Prize. The Usedom Literature Days are also marked by war this year. After two years of pandemic, the festival was originally planned under the motto “The fragility of our existence”. After the start of the war is now: “The fragility of the world.”
“Honest self-investigation about identity”
Maljartschuk’s novel The Blue Whale of Memory – written in Ukrainian and translated into German by Maria Weissenböck – was hailed by the Nobel Prize-winning jury for Literature as “an impressively honest self-question for identity “. There are two levels of narrative, the narrator in the first person and the historical biography of the man that is widely forgotten even in Ukraine. Vyacheslav Lypynskyj (1882-1931)who as a philosopher and politician defended the country’s independence and emigrated to Vienna in the 1920s before the Bolsheviks came.
Tanya Maljartschuk, who was born in Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine in 1983, has also lived in the Austrian capital since 2011, studied Ukrainian philology and worked as a journalist in Kiev. She writes columns and articles for various media, including Deutsche Welle. In 2009 her first book in German was published with the volume of short stories “Nine Percent Household Vinegar”, followed by the novels “Biography of an Accidental Miracle” (2013) and “Of Rabbits and Other Europeans” (2014).
In 2018 she received the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize for the text “Frogs at Sea” and the BBC Book of the Year Award in Ukraine for the “Blue Whale of Remembrance”. Maljartschuk has also written in German since 2014.
Tanja Maljartschuk received the Usemod Literature Prize for her novel The Blue Whale of Memory.
Is she a spokeswoman?
The deep frustration with the West that many Ukrainians feel can also be found in Tanya Malyarchuk’s texts – even before the Russian occupation.
In July 2021, she wrote in an essay that appeared in an abbreviated version in the Tagesspiegel on the accession of ten EU countries in 2004, including Poland, Hungary, the Baltic States – but not Ukraine: “When others uniteone’s loneliness becomes particularly apparentlich “, she wrote at that time.
How does an author, who in her texts narrates about her homeland, treat the fact that she is now wanted as the spokesperson of an attacked nation? “A lot of artists are physically at war right now,” says Tanya Malyartschuk. Her voice continues to be broken, for which she apologizes. “How can I refuse to be sure when asked about the war?” She too is a war soldier.
Malyarchuk criticizes the West
She speaks enthusiastically about democratic progress in her homeland, which was on such a good track. She lists the dates, independence in 1991, which was unrealistic, “because governments were just vassals of Russia and inherited the Soviet Union”; The Orange Revolution of 2004 and 2005, when civil society showed its first strength; Euromaidan of 2013 and 2014, followed by the Russian annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine.
Malyarchuk criticizes the fact that the West continued to do business with Russia after 2014 – and thus may have contributed to the current situation. At the pop-up book fair in Leipzig, she accused the West of being fascinated by the Russian author. “The West is simplifying the East so that it does not have to face it,” she told DW.
In 2018, Tanja Maljartschuk received the renowned Ingeborg Bachmann Award
The Usedom Literature Days honor her novel, which was published in 2019, as representative of all of her work. In it the author also takes a critical look at her homeland. In previous works she describes the generations that inherit the feeling of oppression, of a motionless bureaucracy that goes only with bribes.
He describes a country at risk of losing its market economy and transformation to democracy. “But,” she says now, “it must not be forgotten: Democracy does not prevail overnight.”
When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Malyarchuk was still searching for her next book on the Holocaust and the role Ukraine played in it. Now that the Russian president is rewriting history to justify a war of aggression, she finds it impossible to continue the book.
She wants to use the prize money to help friends
The first 28 signatories, including director Andreas Dresen and writer Juli Zeh, have just sent an open letter to Chancellor Olaf Scholz: They call for a halt to German arms shipments to Ukraine so that Germany does not become a party to the war. and one has avoided Russia counterattack.
Tanya Malyartschuk has not yet read the letter and is therefore keeping it general: “I can only understand it this way: people are afraid of a Third World War. Putin is feeding that fear so that the West will not help. ” She asks if the West really believes Putin’s war will end once it takes Ukraine.
She learned of her award at the Usedom Literature Prize a few weeks before the Russian occupation. “I was very happy, but I can no longer do this physically,” says Tanya Malyartschuk. At the price of 5000 euros, she wants to support friends who have lost their homes and do not know what to do next. Her parents also stayed in Ukraine.
The award also includes a one-month stay to work in Usedom. When and how it will be implemented is still open. “In Ukraine they say: all plans after the victory.”