World Book Day: Writing in Troubled Times | culture | DW

He is an Odysseus type, he says of himself, because like the heroic figure from Greek mythology, the Ukrainian writer Yuri Andrukhovych travels a lot – and like the ancient warrior, he longs for his homeland. “I’m always ready for any trip, especially if it’s a read. I pack things up very easily and quickly, but I always come back. But for now, I’re staying here very consciously,” he says. Here: This is his home in Ivano-Frankivsk. Since the beginning of the war, Yuri Andrukhovych has not left Ukraine because he knows, “I have no choice.”

The Ukrainian became famous with novels such as “Carpathian Carnival”, “Lovers of Justice” and “Moscoviada”, which have been translated into several languages. Andrukhovych has received several awards, including the Goethe Medal, the Hannah Arendt Prize and the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding. In his many speeches, Andrukhovych never got tired of talking about his country’s pro-European leadership and calling on the EU to support Ukraine.

“We inadvertently became your pangs of conscience,” Andrukhovych said in his speech at the 2014 Vienna Book Fair following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. He tried long and hard to awaken the West, but some countries refused to accept it. “I do not want to to Speaking of the west, I do not want to generalize. For example, we see that the UK has a very different relationship with Ukraine than Germany. “And of course the countries themselves that have experienced Russian aggression and occupation – like the Baltic states or the Czech Republic – understand us very well,” said Andrukhovych. In Germany, on the other hand, the pro-Russian stance after World War II. became an integral part of German identity The Germans had great reverence and excessive sympathy for everything Russian.

Andrukhovych’s current novel “Radionacht” will be published in German this summer. He is looking forward to the reading tour, he says, and hopes it can be accomplished. But then the road leads home – which has suffered from Russia’s war of aggression since February 24.

writing in exile

Volha Hapeyeva can not return at the moment. She left her homeland Belarus in 2019. In early August 2020, Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner there after the controversial presidential election – and thus lost the confidence of the majority of the population. Massive nationwide protests with white-red-white flags followed, followed by arrests, torture, and intimidation. Volha Hapeyeva decided to stay abroad – the writer became a member of the PEN program Writers in Exile.

“Once I was standing on the steps of the Palace of the Republic in Minsk and immediately a police officer came to me. I was just reading a book there, but he said I could not sit there. These are the little things that show you that the city does not “It’s mostly ordinary citizens. You can do nothing as a resident, the city belongs to the government,” says Volha Hapeyeva. The more she thinks about what a home really is, the more she understands the concept of home as something global. “I often think of going to the mountains or forests where I do not have to explain who I am and what passport I have or why I do not have a visa. Words like exile, refugees, immigrants are only for communities. “I’m free in nature and there is a great temptation to think that this planet is my home and that I can feel at home anywhere in it.”

Volha Hapeyeva dreams of a world without limits

Hapeyeva’s poetic volume “Mutantengarten” has been published in German, among others. Some of her poems can also be read in the current PEN anthology “Voices from Exile: In the Endless Amber Night”. In it she also elaborates on the events in Ukraine. Since 2017 she has been translating texts for the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), which for years tried – in vain – to settle the conflict in eastern Ukraine. She has also seen private letters, which she has elaborated in her book of poetry.

and here I am in the prison cell writing a letter

and here I am in the trenches trying to read the handwriting

send me warm socks and a game of chess

your son


Artists in two worlds

“I’m half a bird, half a tree: half wants to take root, the other half to fly”, writes Umar Abdul Nasser. His texts can also be read in the current PEN anthology. The Iraqi writer and singer hid from IS for two years before he managed to escape. Today he lives in Germany and is – like Volha Hapeyeva – a PEN scholarship holder. Memories of the house and pre-flight events are still alive. “When I remember my childhood in the time of Saddam Hussein, I think of fear. Fear of saying something, fear of not doing something, fear that my father will be caught. And later, during the rule of IS, we are with them. Any “They lived to the death. They could be at the front door at any moment. Even those few vacant private rooms, like the interior of an apartment, were no longer safe from IS,” recalls Umar Abdul Nasser.

He took refuge in the world of thoughts and found a safe haven in literature. He wrote poetry to elaborate on what was happening around him. Later he not only escaped terror in his mind, but in real terms – first in Poland; today lives in Germany. “I love the Iraqi people, I love my country, but at the same time I see the problems much more clearly from afar,” he said. “Life in exile has opened my eyes.”

“Imagine being in my country. My skin color was born, my age, the same address. Imagine being born in a country you did not choose, growing up between wars you are not your fault. Your passport opens the prison doors in instead of giving you access to other places Stuck between times, going from one war you have not chosen to another you have not chosen either You walk indecisively and do not know how it all started and how to leave… “, writes Umar Abdul Nasser in his text” Being a refugee “.

To write when there is war and destruction in the home is for spiritual salvation and escape to freedom.

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