Oksana Zabuzhko was born in 1960 in Ukraine. She made her poetry debut at the age of 12, yet, because her parents had been blacklisted during the Soviet purges of the 1970s, it was not until the perestroika that her first book was published. She graduated from the department of philosophy of Kyiv Shevchenko University, obtained her PhD in philosophy of arts, and has spent some time in the USA lecturing as a Fulbright Fellow and a Writer-in-Residence at Penn State University, Harvard University, and University of Pittsburgh. After the publication of her novel "Field Work in Ukrainian Sex" (1996), which in 2006 was named “the most influential Ukrainian book for the 15 years of independence”, she has been living in Kiev as a free-lance author. She has authored 17 books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, which have been translated into fifteen languages. Among her numerous acknowledgments are the Global Commitment Foundation Poetry Prize (1997), MacArthur Grant (2002), Antonovych International Foundation Prize (2008), the Ukrainian National Award, the Order of Princess Olha (2009), and many other national awards. About the Translator:
Halyna Hryn is an author, translator, editor, and researcher. She is the editor of "Hunger by Design: The Great Ukrainian Famine and Its Soviet Context," translator of the novels "Peltse and Pentameron" by Volodymyr Dibrova, editor of the journal "Harvard Ukrainian Studies," and a lecturer at Harvard's Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. She received her PhD from the University of Toronto. Her research interests center on Soviet Ukrainian literature and cultural politics of the 1920s. Hryn received the 2011 Best Translation Prize of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies.
Fear oozed in from the outside like caustic fumes, but inside the house it was warm, sultry in fact, teenage depression, no, neurasthenia, some kind of stupid pills, fever stuck at 99.2, tears umpteen times a day, the lady doctor told you to undress and asked Daddy to leave the room “she’s a big girl already”—and you were shocked that Daddy, rather than defend his paternal right—after all, it was his
child that was about to be examined!— shuffled to the door in humiliation, flustered and dwarfed as if caught red-handed (the curious thing, she tells herself with the imperturbability of a surgeon, is that he really was a good-looking guy, talkative, witty, and ready to embrace life, and women liked him, and there would have been absolutely no problem finding some action outside the house, so why did he guard his chastity like some Galician old maid, was it not because mother married him still before he was “rehabilitated” and he spent his whole life cowering, afraid he hear her say aloud what he was secretly tormenting himself with within—that he ruined her life? But to be left alone, without
her, he was afraid of that, too, wasn’t he). And by way, this time they only charged him with “willful unemployment,” keeping him for only 24 hours in the district jail and sending him out after that only as a night watchman to a construction site where he sat in a glass booth opening gates for dump trucks and the rest of the time reading Bruno Schulz, about whom he was going to someday write a book but never did get around to it (he had pretty good taste in literature, except that he couldn’t stand any hint of eroticism, like the Catholic Index)—his panic at her unrestrained growth—“Hey, stop that!"—settled into his insides and slowly sawed away at them with a dull blade, but they only diagnosed cancer when it was too late to operate, his whole reproductive system was affected: prostate, testes (every day Mother grated carrots for juice and squeezed them by hand, twisting the ball of mash through a piece of cheesecloth, her fingers, which had once strummed a guitar, acquired a permanent yellow color and could be straightened only with effort, and at nights Daddy’s girl would run to the phone booth down the block to call the ambulance, and so when mother, her eyes white with horror, returned from the hospital one day with news of the diagnosis, which at all costs was to be kept a secret from Daddy, the first thought that flashed through your
head [which you would never ever forgive yourself], was a cold and merciless, hissed through clenched teeth: Thank God!). In fact, it was nothing less than war, a war in which there could be no winners because, having exhausted all means to get his way (pin ‘em down with your knee, shove ‘em into the crib, “she’s just a child,” we wanted a boy, but that’s okay, she turned out a smart tough cookie and she’ll show them all!
) —having done all that, the man resorts to the ultimate weapon, death, and that does the trick, you lay down your arms and you go over to his side. And your adolescence, which you swore you would never again re-live, it catches up with you twenty years later, releasing from the darkest recesses of your being a tearful and frightened teenage girl who takes over completely, and then it and laughs at you long and hard: “What, thought you could get away?... Didn’t get too far, did you?”