Contemporary literature

After the collapse of the USSR Ukraine faced a decade of substantial social change. A free book market needed to replace the state-financed Soviet publishing and distribution system.

Since the late 1980s, and particularly after the independence of Ukraine in 1991 and the disappearance of censorship, a whole new generation of writers has emerged: Sofiya Andrukhovych, Yuri Andrukhovych, Nina Bichuya, Natalka Bilotserkivets, Liuko Dashvar, Larysa Denysenko, Liubko Deresh, Anatoliy Dnistrovy, Yuri Gudz, Oleksandr Irvanets, Yuri Izdryk, Irena Karpa, Yevheniya Kononenko, Vasyl Kozhelianko, Tanya Maliarchuk, Maria Matios, Dzvinka Matiyash, Halyna Pahutiak, Yevhen Pashkovsky, Yuri Pokalchuk, Viktor Polianetsky, Svitlana Povaliayeva, Taras Prokhasko, Stepan Protsiuk, Svitlana Pyrkalo, Iren Rozdobudko, Mykhailo Slaboshpytsky, Natalka Sniadanko, Serhiy Solovyev, Dmytro Stelmakh, Liudmyla Taran, Halyna Tarasiuk, Oles Ulyanenko, Yuri Vynnychuk, Oksana Zabuzhko, Serhiy Zhadan, to name but a few. Many of them are considered to be "postmodernists". At the same time many “Soviet era” authors have continued writing, some republishing their censored works in their original form, while others write highly engaging works, usually on previously forbidden historical topics, or revealing the reality of Soviet-era life and contemporary post-independence problems: Valeriy Shevchuk, Yuri Mushketyk, Anatoliy Dimarov, Volodymyr Drozd, Yevhen Hutsalo, to name but a few.

Due to increased freedoms and the openness of Ukrainian society to foreign influences, and much broader contacts with literatures of other countries, contemporary Ukrainian literature is different from the literature of the Soviet period. Writers are dealing with such previously forbidden topics as the forced famine of the 1930s, sexuality, drugs, deviant behaviour, the darker sides of human life, employing new styles such as postmodernism and neo avant-garde, using profanity, mixing genres, and reflecting on social problems and historical memory. Some authors (Bohdan Zholdak, Les Poderviansky, Volodymyr Dibrova, Mykhailo Brynykh) write in a language imitating the language of the marginalized in society, a bastardised mixture of Ukrainian and Russian, a style begun in the 1920s by Ostap Vyshnia. New postmodernist writers such as Yuri Andrukhovych, Viktor Neborak and Oleksandr Irvanets have tried to debunk the social importance attributed to writers in the Soviet period. Mykola Riabchuk was an influential figure in Ukrainian literature in the late 1980s and early 1990s as editor of the influential literary journal “Suchasnist”.

Prominent contemporary Ukrainian poets include such names as Yuri Andrukhovych, Les Beley, Andriy Bondar, Vasyl Herasymiuk, Mariyanna Kiyanovska, Pavlo Korobchuk, Lina Kostenko, Oleh Kotsarev, Halyna Kruk, Oleh Lysheha, Andriy Lyubka, Ivan Malkovych, Bohdana Matiyash, Petro Midyanka, Kost Moskalets, Ihor Rymaruk, Volodymyr Tsybulko, Oksana Zabuzhko, Serhiy Zhadan. Ukrainian poet Ihor Pavliuk became winner of a 2013 English PEN Award.

Some journalists have tried their hand at prose. These include Yuri Lukanov (pseudonym Yuri Lukan). Ethnographer Mykhailo Selivachov has published several important ethnographic texts on meanings of symbols in Ukrainian applied art, an extract of which appeared in English as “Folk Designs of Ukraine”. Nina Virchenko has written a brochure outlining the suppression of the Ukrainian language through the ages.
A number of Ukrainian authors write in the Russian language. Andrey Kurkov is the best known of these and is much translated into English and other languages. Also a great number of contemporary Russian science fiction writers originally hail from Ukraine or still live there (H.L. Oldie, Alexander Zorich, Yuri Nikitin, Andrey Valentinov, Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, Vladimir Arenev and others).

The online journal “Ukrainian Literature: A Journal of Translations” is dedicated to English translations of contemporary Ukrainian writers. A special issue of the “International Poetry Review” was dedicated to Ukrainian poetry from 1985 to 2010. Translators from Ukrainian into English include Michael Naydan, Mark Andryczyk, Steve Komarnyckyj, Vitaliy Chernetsky, Yuri Tkacz and others.
Several publishing houses have specialized in publishing Ukrainian literature translated into English. These include Bayda Books and Sova Books in Australia, Language Lanterns Publications in Canada, and lately Kalyna Language Press and Glagoslav Publications in the UK.