“Forgottenness” and “Cecil the Lion Had to Die”: two Ukrainian award-winning novels released in US in one day


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In a landmark moment for Ukrainian literature in the United States, two celebrated Ukrainian novels, “Forgottenness” by Tanja Maljartschuk and “Cecil the Lion Had to Die” by Olena Stiazhkina, were released on Jan. 23.  Published by The Old Lion Publishing House in Ukraine, both books have received literary awards and critical acclaim in their native country, now making their much-anticipated debut to American audiences.





“Forgottenness,” published in the US by Liveright, an imprint of W.W. Norton & Company, has the distinction of being “the first novel written in Ukrainian to be published by a major US publishing house,” as noted by Judith Shulevitz in The Atlantic. The novel’s journey to English-speaking readers was facilitated by Zenia Tompkins of the TAULT agency (The Tompkins Agency for Ukrainian Literature in Translation). 



Mljarchuk, the author of the book, expressed in a  Facebook post that she feels both “glad and sad.” 


“I’m glad because this book, despite all its vulnerability, published back in distant 2016, continues to speak to the world about Ukrainian history, pain and trauma. The more people know and hear about Ukraine, the more support it receives,” Maljarchuk wrote.


At the same time, the author highlights the unfortunate reality that Ukrainian novels are finding their way to a broader US audience only now, despite the wide range of great literary works that have been published over the last 30 years.


Georgi Gospodinov, the winner of the international Booker Prize, noted on the cover: “Both personal and political, this book rages against time and oblivion as all true literature does.” 


Additionally, the novel “Forgotteness” was published in Poland and Germany in 2019. In 2016, it became the “BBC Book of the Year” in Ukraine. Before the official Ukrainian book release, most of the booklists and reviews were including “Forgotteness” by Tanja Maljartschuk as ‘The Most Wanted’. 



 “Cecil the Lion Had to Die”



Renowned Ukrainian historian, writer, and journalist Olena Stiazhkina might already be familiar to the U.S. audience, thanks to her earlier book, “Ukraine, War, Love: A Donetsk Diary,” which was published in the United States in 2023. In her new novel, she once again references Donetsk, her native city, but this time in Soviet Ukraine in 1986.


Olena Stiazhkina follows four families through “radical transformations when the Soviet Union unexpectedly implodes, independent Ukraine emerges, and neoimperial Russia occupies Ukraine’s Crimea and parts of the Donbas. Just as Stiazhkina’s decision to transition to writing in Ukrainian as part of her civic stance—performed in this book that begins in Russian and ends in Ukrainian—the stark choices of family members take them in different directions, presenting a multifaceted and nuanced Donbas”.


While predominantly writing in Russian prior to the Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2014, Stiazhkina underwent a notable shift to writing in Ukrainian. This transformation is reflected in the original publication of the book, which begins in Russian and concludes in Ukrainian.


A novel “Cecil the Lion Had to Die” has just received the 2023 Lviv — UNESCO City of Literature Award


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