A humorous Ukrainian writer, who has nothing to laugh about

I had this idea that there were thousands of people stuck between the Russian army and the Ukrainian army, with nowhere to go, and I wanted to give those people a voice.

In the book, your two main characters simply deal with everyday life; they don’t seem to care about politics or war.

The right people want to survive. And people adapt to war, if not to destroy them personally. I’ve been there three times and noticed that even kids could tell which rocket or mine had caused an explosion just by sound. War has become something commonplace, a part of life.

Since you saw the conflict up close, did you ever expect this invasion?

No, until a few weeks ago I didn’t think that was realistic. And then I noticed that Putin got very old, very quickly, and started talking like Stalin before he died. Putin dreams of recreating the Soviet Union, and he considers everyone who does not like Russia, but who understands the Russian language, as traitors. And he loves killing traitors.

Since 2014, what effect has the upheaval in Ukraine had on the country’s literature?

Before the war, there was no war literature. It was mostly sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – and crime stories, of course. But this war created a parallel literature—literature written by veterans, by volunteers. These perpetrators are likely already on their way to the front lines.

If Ukraine survives, it will create even more militant literature. And that does not mean that literature will become better. It just means that the literature will be more politicized – like Soviet literature, but with a different kind of propaganda or patriotic ideas.

It seems that this development worries you.

This is the case, because in Russia, traditionally, writers are at the service of the government and its ideology. But in Ukraine, writers serve themselves and their readers. I mean, the government never cared about what writers wrote. That’s why we had so many books on sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, and few on Ukrainian history.