Йоханан Петровський-Штерн. “Належати до тих, кого вбивають...”: внутрішній вибір Леоніда Первомайського

Being for the Victims: Leonid Pervomais’kyi’s Ethical Responses to Violence

By Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern

(Northwestern University, Illinois)

Source: Judaica Ukrainica 1 (2012): 317–405

Publication date: December 1, 2012

Publication type: article

Language: Ukrainian

Full text:

 

Abstract

The first English-language study of Leonid Pervomais’kyi (Illia Shliomovych Hurevych, 1908–1973), one of the key Ukrainian literati of the Soviet Ukraine, focuses on his dual identity as a poet of Ukrainian-Jewish concerns, and on the meanings and forms of the Jewish themes permeating his writings. Originally published as a chapter in a book on Ukrainian poets and writers of Jewish de-scent, this essay starts by analyzing Pervoma’skyi’s early prose of the 1920s, in which he sought to bring together Ukrainians and Jews and craft a Ukrainian-Jewish linguistic synthesis. It explores the transformation of Pervomais’kyi’s Jewish themes through the 1940s, when he turned to the literary exploration of the Holocaust; it reconstructs an unknown chapter in Pervomais’kyi’s bi-ography when, in the 1950s, he responded in a poetic form to the vicious at-tacks of the Soviet officialdom; and it traces Pervomais’kyi’s itinerary through the 1960–70s, the pinnacle of his poetic accomplishments, when he explored the fate of his own poetic language and the fates of the writers and poets worldwide. The essay approaches Pervomais’kyi from the perspective of anti-colonial theory and post-colonial studies, emphasizing Pervomais’kyi’s key themes: the shared fate of Ukrainians and Jews as the victims of violence and the attempts of the voiceless victims to rediscover their voice through the poetic means. This repossession of one’s voice becomes possible due to Pervomais’kyi’s conviction in the redemptive capacities of his literary text, and his conceptualization of the elements of poetry – words, lines, metaphors, papers, texts – in the context of violence andvictim-hood. Although the essay does not neutralize the complexities of Pervomais’kyi’s literary quest, it demonstrates his transformation over time, which brought him from predomi-nantly Soviet class-based themes to a rediscovery through poetic means of the semiotics of poetry, a unique phenomenon in the Ukrainian poetry of the 20th century. The essay argues for a critical role of several important Jewish themes in this transformation. The essay is taken from a Ukrainian-language book Anty-Impers’ka Alternatyvato be published by Krytyka.

 

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