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THE BLUE WHALE OF MEMORY (Working title)

Tanja Maljartschuk

  • Original Title: ZABUTTYA
  • Publication date: January 2016
  • Publisher: Видавництво Старого Лева
  • Country: UA
  • Dramedy

Information

  • Epoch: Mixed
  • Time Period: 20th century, 21th century
  • Location setting: Ukraine
  • Themes: PEOPLE facing life, Initiation journey, Looking back on one's life

Pitch

A young woman’s quest for her identity, artfully interwoven with the life story of a forgotten Ukrainian national hero.

Comments

Translated from the Ukrainian (original title Zabuttya) and German title: BLAUWAL DER ERRINERUNG

BBC Ukrainian Book of the Year Award 2016

A literary novel originally written in Ukrainian, one of the hot title of the publisher for LBF 2019!
It follows a young woman, who develops serious panic attacks after a breakup. She slowly overcomes that difficult period thanks to the discovery of a Ukrainian forgotten historical figure, namely Vyacheslav Lypunsky - a philosopher and politician coming to a rich Polish family and having lived in the XXth century. The author leads researches on him, which lets her plunges into her personal story and know more about her origins.

Tanja Maljartschuk was born in the Ukraine in 1983. She studied Ukrainian philology and worked as a TV journalist for a couple of years. She lives in Vienna/Austria since 2011 and received several awards and stipends. For the novel ZABUTTYA (“The Blue Whale of Memory”), she received the BBC Ukrainian Book of the Year Award 2016.
She received the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize 2018 for her short story “Frösche im Meer” (“Frogs in the Sea”).

Summary

Reeling after an unhappy relationship, a woman suffers from panic attacks and doesn’t leave her apartment for months at a time. She finds direction and support in a historical figure that played a major role in the history of Ukraine but has since been forgotten completely, devoured by the “blue whale of memory” that feeds on time and people instead of plankton: Vyacheslav Lypynsky, a fervent historical philosopher and politician, was born into a noble Polish family in what today is the Ukraine and at the time, the early 20th century, was the Russian empire. Already early on, he identified with Ukraine and insisted on the Ukrainian form of his name. After his university studies, he turned his political and historical focus to this country, torn between Poland and Russia, obsessively demanding its independence as a nation, an idea that both the Polish and Russians found ridiculous at best. This battle took him across various countries and he paid for it with personal sacrifice. For a while he had been an influential figure but when he died at only 49, after many years of poor health, his star had
already waned.

Sickly like this historical figure and, also like him, in search of belonging, the narrator follows this proud, uncompromising, hypochondriacal man’s life story in order to defy Soviet uprooting through memory. By following his life and by remembering her own family’s roots, she tries to resist the blue whale of memory and its merciless devouring of time. A literarily impressive novel that shows what it means when one’s own identity is composed of fear, obedience and forgetting.

English sample translation available