Lviv Book Fair viewed from a Carpathian mountain in Yaremche

by Liubomyr Medyk

The Hutsul ethnic region (Hutsulshchyna) in yellow

The Lviv Book Fair (Львівський форум видавців) is one of a child’s handful of excuses for me to descend the Carpathian mountains. This is when I stock up on my books. This year’s supply will certainly see me through till next September.

The Lviv Book Fair is also a good opportunity to come see my friends in Lviv, the unofficial capital of western Ukraine, perennial rival of the Crimea as a popular tourism destination.

To be there on time, I woke up at 3:24 am on September 13 to take the Rakhiv-Lviv train. I was lucky that day. Not only did I get a key to a friend’s apartment, but I also received a pass to the fair, courtesy of another friend. This allowed me to start exploring the book fair when most good books are still in good supply, and the supply of visitors to the event was low enough to provide an unimpeded access to all that literature.

This year at the fair was like no other. It was the first time in almost a decade that I spent more time attending book presentations and workshops rather than browsing the stalls of publishers.

Finn-Ole Heinrich giving autographs to his young Ukrainian fans in Lviv, September 2012. (Photo courtesy of Ulyana Baran)

First I visited a presentation of children’s book projects by the Center for research of children and youth literature. There I enjoyed the wit of a guest speaker from Germany, Finn-Ole Heinrich. Looking back to his childhood, Finn-Ole said that till age 16 he hadn’t read a single book that he wanted to. This is so much like our high schools. Later in his life, the German writer began feeling like reading when he got bored. The longing to write visitedthe Hamburg-based author and film-maker when he felt like proving to himself that he could do it.

He was lucky to become a writer in Germany. This country supports her budding authors with numerous grants and scholarships, enough to stop worrying about survival. In Ukraine, it will probably take no more than five fingers of a child writer’s hand to count the number of grants that our authors are liable for — especially the ones that write for the youth.

With these calculations entertaining my mind, I went to a book presentation of Andrey Kurkov, a Japanese-speaking, Russian-writing, Ukraine-based author and film buff. I had already read that book of his about Lviv. After, I have popped by a presentation of the edition of Bible illustrated by Salvador Dalí. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t impressed by its 30,000 hrn price tag, gold and precious stone coating, eight-color print and individual number for each tome. I was rather discouraged.

My evening on Thursday, I spent taking in the tunes of  DRUMТИАТР at Dzyga.

On Friday, my culture marathon was rather slow. That’s if you don’t count the later part of  Friday which was launched at a concert of Los Colorados. This Beatles-styled band from Ternopil got internatioanl fame when their version of Hot n Cold available on YouTube was aired on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Then there was a performance of a Polish-Ukrainian band Enej by the city hall. The day finished with lots of wine consumed by Man Booker Prize winner DBC Pierre and his

DRUMТИАТР at Dzyga (Photo from DRUMТИАТР’s Facebook page)

Ukrainian colleague Yuri Andrukhovych. They were talking about Ukraine, wine, sex and pornography. They were reading snippets of Pierre’s. It was fun warmed by the fact the two writers came to the event a bit tipsy and had no trouble finishing the bottle of wine waiting for them at the presentation.

My most vivid recollection from Saturday is a public lecture by Victor Shenderovich on history of Russia. This Novoye Vremya columnist discussed the imperial censorship, suppression of speech in the Soviet times and now looking at satire as resistance. It’s funny how much in common we have with the Russians. They make jokes about guys from St. Petersburg [where Vladimir Putin was born], while our satire is aimed at the Donetsk guys [the region where Viktor Yanukovich comes from].

The day was ended by another concert by the city hall by another Polish band.

Sunday was for friends and taking in the stunning looks of downtown Lviv which I left on Monday happy with my backpack filled with new acquisitions.

So what are the book trophies I brought home to Yaremche with me? There’s a dozen of them. If you sort the list by price, the most expensive is a super illustrated book on the painted Hutsul ceramics of Kosiv and Pistyn.

A banner for the Lviv Book Fair 2012 (Photo by Andy Kozlov)

My fiction library got bigger thanks literary works by Mr Kurkov, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Free Academy of Proletarian Literature/VAPLITE founder Mykhailo Yalovy and a number of children’s books.

The historian in me bought Anna Reid’s Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II: 1941-1944  which I read cover-to-cover in a day. I was enthralled by the book and can put it on the same level with Anne Applebaum’s Gulag: A History and Hiroaki Kuromiya’s Freedom and Terror in the Donbas: A Ukrainian-Russian Borderland, 1870s-1990s. These researchers give historical accounts based on the lives of individual people who lived back then, an approach many Ukrainian historians haven’t mastered yet.

Hiroaki Kuromiya’s Freedom and Terror in the Donbas: A Ukrainian-Russian Borderland, 1870s-1990s

Finland In The Second World War: Between Germany and Russia by Olli Vehvilainen also took my eye as well as Robert Muchembled’s Orgasm and the West: A History of Pleasure from the 16th Century to the Present. I haven’t read these yet. But given the fact that the course of time is transcendental in the Ukrainian Carpathians, I have nowhere to rush.

See related

Mounteering Nigerians and the Cossacks of Ukraine

Discussing the isolation/insulation of Donbass aesthetics with an industrial photographer from Eastern Ukraine

AfroCommonwealth I: Afro-Ukrainian tunes of the times long gone

Liubomyr Medyk is a young Hutsul culture expert. His family runs an ethnic museum as well as a souvenir shop in Yaremche in the Carpathians. Liubomyr studied history in Lviv.


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