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Kris' Books.

Female. Slavic mind. Avid reader.

 I read across a broad range of book genres, with an emphasis on Aus/NZ lit, Russian and Ukrainian literature, Latin-American literature and European history.


Divchatka - Oksana Zabuzhko
I was not sure how to write a coherent review to this book for some time. The story was short, but very complex, encompassing a variety of themes and spanning many notions. If that were the only problem I had digesting this book- the story itself was unlike anything I had read before, and it drastically altered my perspective on certain situations and relationships. I think this book will lurk in the corners of my mind for a considerable amount of time afterwards.

The protagonist of this story is Darka, whom we meet as a Kyivan eighth-grader, and leave as a grown woman. As soon as Darka introduces herself, the reader learns of her friend and classmate Lentsja, a fantastically beautiful fille whose passions have reached the same mature degree of refinement as her looks. As Lentsja tells Darka one evening, "I want to fit all the beautiful things in this world into myself… I feel like I'll fall apart if I don't". To spite the traditional notions of beauty and love,their relationship advances from close friendship to a sexual one within a short space of time, along a steep gradient… however, Lentsja does not stop at this. It is not long before she begins to 'fill herself with beauty' by having sexual relations with other girls, boys and even teachers. Hereupon the audience reads how both Darka and the voracious Lentsja both become broken as women. Darka survives into adulthood alone. As she convalesces from her adolescent adventures, Darka muses to herself:

(rough translation from Ukrainian) "After all, you can not have infinity, right? ... And Lentsja, give it back, you yourself demanded it - but this other notion, which cannot catch up with the initial ones, already only skates through the mind, not reaching into the deep: Darka sees herself stiff in the mirror, with the clothes hangers, from which hangs the fate of a long silk dress, and suddenly it's silly, begone a face with a childish expression: as such, a self-understood realisation- it is impossible to have infinity. And all our claims to become something more than we are - money, men, experience, credentials, dresses, cars - are only pathetic, ridiculous attempts to get closer to beyond infinity, adding up to a meagre sum digit by digit. We need to achieve this somehow else, but how?… "

I have broken this book down into some sort of addlepated palubum, but still I have not described it fully. I should mention that this book is written in a most fulgurant style (not quite poetic), consisting of very long, compound sentences composed of many, many pleasingly archaic, soul-gladdening words. The effect is that although you may not have experienced what the narrator Darka is describing, you will be able to relate in some way to what she feels or thinks because there is some common, comprehendable sense in the words she uses. It's a truth everyone can comprehend.Reading the book, you get the impression that there are no transitory pauses to mark different phases of the book, making it difficult to discern different themes and topics if you are not careful. In addition to what I described earlier, the book also explores the issues (and issues with these issues) of feminism, love, beauty and sexuality,as well as what it means to be a successful woman in a male-dominated or patriarchal society, somewhere between the whims of the storyline. If I have read a truly amazing book this year, it is this one.