TRAVEL & GEOGRAPHY

Mesopotamia

Yale Univ. (Margellos World Republic of Letters). May 2018. 328p. tr. from Ukrainian by Reilly Costigan-Humes & others. ISBN 9780300223354. pap. $16. LITERARY
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OrangeReviewStarTwice winner of BBC Ukraine's Book of the Year Award, Zhadan also collected the Angelus Central European Literature Award for this novel, and rightly so. It's an indelible portrait of the traditionally Russian-speaking city of Kharkiv in Eastern Ukraine and could be read from a sociopolitical perspective to understand the edgy feel and hustle of post-Soviet life. But the real reason to read this series of interconnected portraits, augmented by a section of related poems, is the excellent characterization and equally excellent, fine-tuned language. From Marat, hailed for his manly virtues though stories at his funeral come out differently, to hapless Mark, whose efforts to help shifty Kolia end in a beating, these complex characters will be recognizable but subtly different from your neighbors.
VERDICT Great work for worldly readers.

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