Raven by Vasyl Shkliar

Raven by Vasyl Shkliar

Raven by Vasyl Shkliar

Ukrainian fiction

Translator – Sj Speight and Stephen Komarnychyj

Orginial Title – Залишенець.

Source – Review Copy

When I was offered chance to read Vasyl Shkliar ,I was happy after reading about him and what he does .Vasyl Shkliar is considered the father of the modern Ukrainian novel .Vasyl Shkliar was born in Hanzhalivka in the centre of Ukraine ,his grandfather was a Cossack Warrior ,who too like this novel fought in the Ukrainian Uprising  against the Soviets in 1920 .Shkliar went to a school in a nearby town and spent his summers like many youths in his day working on the farm .He eventually went to university and became a journalist ,whilst doing this he was covering the assassination of a well-known Chechen leader .This later became the basis of his first novel  which in part was based  on this event .The Black Raven was published in 2009 and won the Ukrainian book award that year .

Veremii’s gang has reappeared in the Hunskyl forest and comprises of 80 infantry and 30 cavalry ,with two maxim machine guns and 5 lewis guns .The bandits  made a sudden raid on Zlatopol in broad daylight ,robbed the local executive committee telephone exchange and captured the chief of police ,who , by some accounts is believed to work for them .It is known  that it is the custom among the bandits that when the leader dies one of them takes his name ,but there is  reason to believe that the chieftain ,Veremii was not killed and continues his bloody business .Efforts are being made to confirm this .

The authorised officer ,Diakonov

One of the reports from 1921 from the soviets .


The book Follows A gang of Ukrainians that are fighting against the Soviets in 1921 .The gang is led by a man they call the Raven ,he was a former Tsarist officer ,he is described as thirty years with a black beard and long black hair with deep-set eyes and uncompromising .The group of bandits he leads is about 300 infantry men , 75 cavalry and heavily armed bandits ,they operate in zvenyhocodka ,Cherkassy and shpola forests .We see this band of men causing trouble in these regions we follow their  story as they initially do well ,but then things start to go wrong ,  but at the end of every chapter we follow the soviet attempts to capture these men ,in the form of reports as  ravens gang as they wreak havoc .We see how the gang gets on .We follow the highs and lows of this uprising against the Bolsheviks .we feel the dirt and hunger at times ,the power struggles ,mistrust and also how good comrades can be .Also what it meant to be a Cossack !

Raven passed through villages ,forests and fields to reach the Bohunovi farm by evening .Which was just at the edge of the lebedyn forest .It had grown dark early for ,which was laid up at Yevdosia’s Saint Varvava had increased the night , but not the day ,The silver German pocket watch ,which the raven took out of his pocket .

Indicated it was only 5pm  night had already begun to fall

Things get hectic and the raven is constantly moving later in the book


This book was very eye-opening as I had never heard of this uprising in Ukraine against the soviets ,but also the divides it caused to everyday life .I also felt this book given the time it came out and the fact the Shkliar was writing the book for 13 years before it was published ,just as the face of modern Ukraine was developing .Although he has said it wasn’t about the events at the time of writing but the fact the history had echoed the present .Now to the spin on this book it has caused sparks ,a polish director refused to be involved in a project to film the book  ,I believe this film is still being made as an interview here shows and also a number of people protested it winning the national book prize .Now I am not overtly political and just found it a ripping good historic novel about what where brave men trying to fight to keep the country free .If you like corners of unknown history and want to discover a totally unknown writer in the west I suggest this is the book for you .

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Seamus Duggan
    Aug 24, 2013 @ 07:36:34

    Sounds fascinating. I like coming across ‘new’ history (and I have a tattoo of a raven). Added to the wish list.


  2. Lisa Hill
    Aug 24, 2013 @ 17:37:21

    Stu, I read something just the other day about how novelists from the former Soviet Union are only fairly recently exploring the dirtier past: as you know (because you’ve read more contemporary Russian novels than I have) there are quite a few in translation that are about the difficulties of urban life and so on (e.g. The New Moscow Philosophy and The Concert Ticket) but fossicking around unearthing rebellion against the Soviets is something else again.


    • winstonsdad
      Aug 24, 2013 @ 17:45:59

      Yes I m surprise this isn’t better known but it has a strong nationalist feel to it and was nice to find another Ukrainian writer as had only tried Kurkov before I’m awaiting an epic called stone bridge or such a Russian novel set in World War Two about a group of out of control kids meant be a big thing in Russia a year or two ago


      • Lisa Hill
        Aug 24, 2013 @ 18:11:56

        That sounds interesting too. I met a bookseller from Russia today (from the Urals) and I got talking with another customer about Doctor Zhivago and how the book was so much better than the film, and then we got talking about some of the other books I’d read (thanks to you). She was thrilled to meet an Aussie who was interested in Russian lit (and not just Tolstoy etc.) I think she mostly just sells to Russians which is rather sad, if only more people knew just how interesting their contemporary literature is! PS I bought a fantastic book about architecture in Moscow which explains all about the building styles we’d seen there, I starting reading it while waiting to meet up with The Spouse and it made me want to go back and have a second look *sigh* Lisa

      • winstonsdad
        Aug 24, 2013 @ 18:17:15

        That’s sounds fun I love talking world lit with people so rarely get a chance to do it I would like to visit Moscow one day all the best stu

  3. Kinna
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 20:03:51

    You had me with corners of unknown history. This sounds very interesting. Add to my growing wish list. Thanks.


  4. Steve Komarnyckyj
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 07:58:20

    Dear Stu, Many thanks for this positive and encouraging review. I hope that other people now discover this fantastic novel for themselves. Best Wishes Steve


  5. Steve Komarnyckyj
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 10:00:41

    It’s perhaps worth adding that there is a whole national literature laying undiscovered under the asphalt of occupation. The Russian translator of contemporary Ukrainian literature Elena Marinicheva,claims that our it is very bold, modern and independent, compared to Russian, since their authors find it hard to stray away from tradition. A whole generation of writers known as the Executed Renaissance was destroyed in the decades following Kholodnyi Yar (authors were executed on trumped up charges or starved to death in labour camps or forced to sing in praise of the gang of the sociopaths running the country) . In short it’s time to decolonise Europe’s literature and listen to its unheard voices. as well as valuing the literary traditions which we already know and treasure.


  6. sakura
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 13:58:21

    This sounds really interesting Stu. I’ve only read some Russian novels but nothing about the Ukraine so I’ll be keeping an eye out for this one.


  7. archecotech
    Jan 15, 2014 @ 08:30:34

    Hello, I thoroughly enjoyed this post. When it comes to history, literature, and anything concerning the part of the world I’m currently living in I find it intriguing. I was purposely looking for a blog like yours to introduce world literature to my readers. I personally believe seeing the world through the eyes of many broadens our understanding of other cultures. The world is becoming smaller all the time with the technology we have today. On my blog I’ve created what I call Mirror Reflections, they were created to show similarities between countries through photography, literature and other mediums. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve created a pingback to your blog for my readers to be able to find you. If you are interested in what I’m doing please visit me at hague6185.wordpress.com Thanks.


  8. Trackback: Mirror Reflections – Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Life in Russia
  9. Trackback: Raven by Vasyl Shkliar | chasing bawa

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August 2013


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