Valerjian Pidmohyl'nyj (1901-1937) is one of the foremost Ukrainian writers of the twentieth century. His best work, Misto (The City), is arguably the finest novel in Ukrinian. Yet Pidmohyl'nyj is largely unknown even in Ukraine, where until recently his works were banned. Tarnawsky's aim in to bring Pidmohyl'nyj out of obscurity into the critical appreciation he deserves.
This study takes a chronological approach to Pidmohyl'nyj's works, tracing his development as a writer along thematic, technical, and stylistic paths. Inspired by Western writers, especially the french realists, Pidmohyl'nyj evolves as a European intellectual in a Soviet Ukrainian setting. The texts are frequently cited in both the original Ukrainian and an English translation.
From the earliest stories of the seventeen-year-old writers, whose focus was on the psychology of sexuality, to the last known work, which recounts a hopeless quest for an unattainable goal, Pidmohyl'nyj's works are linked by a variety of philosophical and aesthetic threads. Chief among these is his interest in the fundamental duality of human beings, their disharmony as both physical creature driven by natural needs and desires, and rational beings. This conflict between instinct and intellect, irrationality and reason, is the central focus of all Pidmohyl'nyj's writings and Tarnawsky's primary subject.