Join the Center for Slavic, East European Studies (CSEEES) and the Hilandar Research Library for a conversation with Ukrainian author Oleksii Nikitin and CSEEES director Angela Brintlinger. Time permitting, Nikitin will also read in Russian, Ukrainian and English from his novel От лица огня (Ukrainian title Бат-амi, English title The Face of Fire, 2021).
Abstract: Wars give rise to legends and stories that come down to us in many versions. Establishing the truth is a complicated – at times impossible – endeavor: the confusion of war possesses a temporal dimension as well as a spatial one. Decades later, when the participants and witnesses are gone, the archives open up. For anyone still interested in events that seem so long ago, they can find out at least a part of what in fact really happened.
It turns out that everything happened differently – differently than witnesses recalled and told us, differently than is written in history books. Differently than society is accustomed to imagining. At times the stories of archival searches are no less fascinating than the events they concern; they merit their own telling. More often, however, such searches consist of weeks in archive reading rooms, hundreds of document files to examine, and a kilogram of dust clogging your lungs. It can be months – even years – before anything comes of it.
The novel The Face of Fire is based on documents from KGB archives that were declassified in 2011, twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as documents from family archives, from the archive of the Ukrainian Partisan Headquarters, from the “Dynamo” Museum of Sports and the Bundesarchive. It is also based on a legend that endured in Kyiv for 70 years – one that is not preserved in any archive.
Presenter: Oleksii Nikitin is a Russophone Ukrainian writer from Kyiv. He has won several awards for his novels: Istemi (2011), Mahjong (2012), Victory Park (2013), The Orderly from Institutska Street (2016), and, most recently, The Face of Fire (2021). The Face of Fire will come out in English translation by Catherine O’Neil and Dominique Hoffman in 2024.
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