Ukrainian selection by default : the March 2015 Slavonic item(s) of the month


A selection of the books which have arrived so far.

Earlier this year, the University Library started to buy Ukrainian material by approval plan.  This method involves the vendor helping with selection by providing a tailored shortlist of books based on an agreed profile.  The first delivery of Ukrainian books selected in this way has recently arrived; this post examines some of the new arrivals.

Book selection is a major part of the work of the European Collections and Cataloguing department.  Several language areas are partially served by approval plans (a 2013 blog post discussed the French fine art approval plan), but this method had not previously been employed by the Slavonic section.  Small Ukrainian print runs, however, have often caused us to miss out on material we would like to have bought, and for this reason we decided this year to try out the use of an approval plan for material published in Ukraine.  In our profile, we stated that our main interest is in recent academic books in Russian or Ukrainian about Ukrainian or East European culture and history.

Several parcels have turned up in recent days, containing the first of the 139 items we have ordered via approval plan so far (few have been catalogued so far; classmarks for the items featured below will be added over time).  Among the new arrivals are literary and historical works, but by far the most strongly represented subject is modern-day Ukraine and its troubles.

In terms of books about Maidan and the events which have followed, we agreed with the vendor to relax certain rules stated in our approval plan profile.  Academic material about the situation will be published eventually; in the meantime, the books appearing on the Ukrainian and Russian markets are more memoiristic or journalistic.  Nevertheless, it is extremely important that the University Library can provide its readers with examples of what is being produced. Many of the books we have received on approval plan so far which relate to the current and recent situation are much shorter than we would otherwise usually stipulate and almost all lack the academic, intellectual distance from events that we would otherwise seek.  Among these books are:

  • 94 dni : Ievromaidan ochyma TSN (94 days : Euromaidan in the eyes of TSN [a daily Ukrainian news programme]; 169 pages) – a heavily illustrated chronology of the events of Maidan, as seen and shown by TVN.
  • Euromaidan : history in the making (281 pages) – a Ukrainian-English bilingual book of photographs of Maidan.
  • Znakove svitlo Maidanu (The symbolic light of Maidan; 44 pages) – Maidan-inspired poetry by award-winning poet Nadiia Dychka, illustrated with photographs.
  • Voina : perepiska odnoklassnikov (War : correspondence between classmates; 121 pages) – an interesting but depressing book containing an e-mail chain between Irina Anilovskaia in Ukraine and her old school classmate in Russia, held over the course of 3 days in March 2014. The conversation about Maidan and Ukraine-Russian relations starts warmly as the two friends try to make sense together of what is taking place, but gradually degenerates until the two part ways entirely.
  • ATO : istorii zi skhodu na zakhid (ATO : stories from east to west; 82 pages) – ATO stands for Anti-Terrorist Operation; in the current Ukrainian context, it is a term specifically applied to the fighting in the east of the country. The heroes of Marharyta Surzhenko’s stories are, like her, young people from Luhansk who have moved west within the country to escape the violence.

The five books discussed above.

These books join others already purchased by the Library about Maidan, the takeover of Crimea, and the war in eastern Ukraine.  Some of these earlier purchases were discussed in an previous blog post.

Of the other books which have arrived, some are literary, such as:

  • Anarchy in the Ukr (C203.d.9607) – a novel by the very popular and lauded writer Serhii Zhadan. Although the novel came out some years ago, this is the Library’s first copy of the book.  Even this is touched by the current situation, however – our copy, printed in 2014, includes an additional work: Zhadan’s Luhans’kyi shchodennyk (Luhansk diary).
  • Vybrani tvory (Selected works; C203.d.9504) – a collection of poems, manifests, and critical works by Valer’ian Polishchuk. This book is one in a series called ‘Rozstriliane vidrodzhennia’ (Executed Renaissance) produced by the publisher Smoloskyp, providing selected works, complete with critical commentaries, of writers who died in the 1930s.  All catalogued books in the series can be seen here.

The last two books we have picked out from the new arrivals are about film – more specifically, about the film director Sergei (Serhii in Ukrainian) Paradzhanov, who died 25 years ago.  Paradzhanov, born in Armenia and a Moscow graduate, was closely associated with Ukraine, living and working there for a long time.  Both books contain articles by various authors, with the first focusing on the director’s relationship with Ukraine and the second on his films.

  • Serhii Paradzhanov i Ukraina (Sergei Paradzhanov and Ukraine; C209.c.3795)
  • Ekrannyi svit Serhiia Paradzhanova (The screen world of Sergei Paradzhanov)

Vendors usually send books they have selected by approval plan directly to the Library, with the default being that the Library will keep what we are sent with only rare exceptions. Since the Library’s Ukrainian approval set-up is still in its infancy, the vendor will continue to e-mail lists of suggested items in advance so that we can help fine-tune their selection for us.

It is very gratifying to know that we are now able to get good and interesting books more quickly and with less chance of disappointment.  So far, the vast majority are published in west Ukraine (mainly Kyiv) and predominantly in Ukrainian – only one of the books featured above is in Russian.  As a peaceful resolution to the awful situation elsewhere in the country is found, we hope, then we will be able to look forward to a more representative selection.

Mel Bach

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