By Simon Maass
I had one of my more ambiguous experiences with literature when I recently read “Stories from the Ukraine,” an anthology of tales by the early twentieth-century writer Mykola Khvylovy, translated and edited by George Luckyj. The book contains five short stories by Khvylovy himself, followed by an abridged autobiographical account featuring him but penned by another Ukrainian communist. As the foreword promises, these snapshots of a life of writing demonstrate Khvylovy’s creeping disenchantment with communism (at least as implemented in the USSR), culminating in the former secret service agent’s suicide at age thirty-nine. The collection is heterogenous in other ways, too: it encompasses works in very different genres, and of steadily improving quality.
Part of what makes Mykola Khvylovy such an interesting figure is that he was one of those rare Ukrainian nationalists who were also socialists. Thus, after the Red Army crushed the short-lived…
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