Culture

a crossing of Donbass at war



Boarding school

by Serhiy Jadan

Translated from Ukrainian by Iryna Dmytrychyn

Black on white editions, 274 p., €22.50

Published in 2017 in Ukraine, the latest novel by Serhiy Jadan, published on October 6 in France, seems to have been written in recent months, as it realistically tells the war experienced by civilians. He does it in a deliberately chaotic style. We are in a small town in the Donbass whose name is not specified. There are just places: the boarding school, the station, the store. There is also fighting between two unidentified armies. Ruins, fog, humidity, civilians hiding in cellars and fear…

The novel recounts the itinerary of Pacha, a teacher who has always lived there. He goes to pick up his nephew, a boarder in an institution in the middle of a combat zone. Along the way, he encounters a multitude of characters with thwarted destinies. The horizon for them is limited to the limits of the city, because no one has ever travelled. We discover that Pasha’s family is dysfunctional, broken as are the factories and buildings around it. The whole composes a very black fresco of this industrial and mining region of eastern Ukraine.

The conflict started in 2014

It should be remembered that the war in the Donbass began in 2014, when Russia armed a separatist faction and deployed troops there to provoke the conflict. Very localized, the fighting was however extremely violent, using destructive artillery for civilians and causing nearly 13,000 deaths. The current war is only the extension of this first phase of conflict.

Ukrainian writer from Kharkiv, in the east of Ukraine, but also singer of a very popular rock band in his country, Serhiy Jadan knows how to capture the local atmosphere perfectly. The region was already the setting for The Donbass Roada previous novel, published in French in 2014 and adapted to the cinema in 2018 under the title Wild Fields (Dike Pole).



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