Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hippest Pa: Serhij Zhadan

Serhij changed radically in the last moments of his stay in the villa guesthouse.

Rumors were attached to him when he came. He was a big bestselling writer in the Ukraine. A hipster, an author of cool and dangerous novels and poetry, and a rock 'n' roll singer too. He gave a reading in the Ukraine before I arrived, but the others traveled hundreds of miles to attend it and reported to me later that he was surrounded by admiring female fans. I witnessed him in action in Krakow: He shot the words off the page as if he were a verbal machine gun, chopping the air with his hand as he did it (see below).

He was stand-offish. I learned nothing about him from himself. But one night I was talking to his fellow Ukrainian Tanja told her, as a joke, that Serjih had spoken to me about her, and said that he thought she wasn't a very good writer. Poor Tanja. Always joking, never taking anything seriously – when I said that, her face dropped, she nearly choked. It was the worst thing she had ever heard and I had trouble convincing her it was just a joke. That told me something about Serhij. But he made one false move. A few days before leaving, he showed up one morning with a young blond boy in tow: Ivan, his son. Suddenly the cool chain-smoking, cutting-edge hipster was a tender, responsible father. We watched in awe as they cooked hot dogs together. And this just in (Jan '08): His book "Anarchy in the UKR" has just been translated into German and published at Suhrkamp. Spiegel Online gave it a good review and called Zhadan a "post-proletariat punk" (here) and it's available on

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