The dramatic family saga Hardly Ever Otherwise by Maria Matios, having won the Ukrainian national Book of the Year Award 2007 and Grand Prix at the Ukrainian Coronation of the Word Prize 2007, narrates the story of several western Ukrainian families during the last decades of the Austro-
The family of a wealthy farmer Kyrylo Cheviuk is stricken by a tragedy. As time passes, nobody dares to talk about it. His young son Dmytryk´s body had been grinded by the local mill and the poor lad spent his last days hardly breathing with his bleeding chest full of pain and ... his secret love. The course of the events to follow reveals the cruel truth of his death: “They jumped about on top of poor Dmytryk, as if they were dancing a wild dance, stopping only after they heard that his bones no longer cracked...” A homecoming war veteran Ivan Varvarchuk beat Dmytryk to death for seducing his young wife Petrunia. But what did actually happen and most importantly – why?
Several vitally interconnected storylines develop throughout the novel, all fatally converging on the Cheviuk’s family tragedy. Painting a tortured picture of life ’s harsh brutality in the region, Maria Matios features traditional topics of Ukrainian literature such as soldiering, brothers’ litigation over land ownership, betrayal and revenge. Against the colourful backdrop of local traditions and highlanders’ rites she weaves her story of love, intertwined with a heart wrenching human tragedy.
Enchanted by the impeccable style of this family saga, the reader becomes baffled by the character’s actions. In the words of Maria Matios the book is about people ’s deeply concealed nature. When familiar passions like love and hate, joy and envy overcome them and it’s not in their nature to resist, consequences reach the catastrophic magnitude. Each character is flawed, detestable, but in the book’s finale they incite compassion as their painful past is steadily revealed. The eternal dilemma of sin and atonement pervades the pages of this book. The author does not shy away from carnal encounters and masterfully describes the psychology of lovers, accentuating people’s struggles on different levels.
The novel translated by Yury Tkacz.