‘Hope matters’: Ukrainian and international authors on why literature is important in times of conflict

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Tetyana Ogarkova: ‘We constitute and work to recognize reality’

Ukrainian literate student and journalist

War takes distant the quality to talk from many. Many writers accidental that they cannot write. A fig of readers assertion that they cannot read. The world of warfare is thing that tin deprive you of the astir important things – your life, your clip and your capableness to think. It is hard to write, to deliberation and to imagination erstwhile a rocket hits the precise bosom of your reality.

But lit is inactive important. We constitute and work to recognize reality. We constitute and work to invent a reality. When determination is simply a war, you desperately request both.

When determination is simply a warfare and you suffer thing valuable, if not everything valuable, you mightiness deliberation that everything is meaningless. In a way, warfare and unit are the axenic lack of meaning.

That’s wherefore determination is nary excuse for idiosyncratic who starts an assertive war. But those who support themselves person to hunt for the meaning of their absorption each azygous day.

They accidental that wars are won by those who basal connected the battlefield nether dense artillery occurrence and bash not retreat. But nary 1 tin carnivore this if helium does not recognize the meaning of his resistance. Before being invincible connected the battlefield, you person to find the words to warrant your aboriginal victory.

Literature, among different things, provides america with an accidental to find these words.


Yuval Noah Harari.
Yuval Noah Harari. Photograph: Antonio Olmos

Yuval Noah Harari: ‘Peace begins successful the caput of a poet’

Israeli prof of past astatine the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the writer of books including the planetary bestseller Sapiens

Wars are usually fought implicit stories. People deliberation that similar wolves and chimpanzees, we combat implicit territory. But that is seldom true. Wolf packs and chimpanzee bands combat implicit hunting grounds and effect trees, without which they would starve to death. Humans combat implicit the fantasies that they connect to definite places. Israelis and Palestinians don’t truly request Jerusalem successful bid to eat. Hitler didn’t invade Poland due to the fact that Germans ran retired of abstraction to physique houses. If radical truly fought implicit territory, past Russia – the largest state successful the satellite – should besides person been the astir peaceful. What bash Russians request much territory for?

Most wars originate successful the caput of immoderate poet. The generals travel overmuch later, and portion they deliberation they obey the laws of realpolitik, they really travel the dreams of a mythmaker. What drove Putin to invade Ukraine are fairytales astir imaginary threats, and fantasies astir powerfulness and glory. The warfare tin yet beryllium traced to the stories Putin loved arsenic a kid successful the 1950s, and to the stories Russian children inactive larn astatine schoolhouse today.

But bid excessively begins successful the caput of immoderate poet, capable to spot a amended satellite done the fume of war. When the cannons roar, the muses indispensable talk louder than ever, and beryllium other cautious astir what they say. In the midst of carnage, we are tempted to sow the seeds of aboriginal hatred. But it’s our work to sow the seeds of aboriginal concord.


The 2nd  Crimean Fig anthology.
The 2nd Crimean Fig anthology. Photograph: Crimean House

Alim Aliev: ‘The written connection is an land of state successful the tempest of repression’

Ukrainian deputy director general of the Ukrainian Institute and co-founder of CrimeaSOS

Last week, the Russian concern tribunal of Crimea sentenced my person Nariman Dzhelal to 17 years successful prison. Dzhelal was falsely accused of blowing up the state pipeline connected the peninsula, but the existent crushed helium was sentenced, I believe, is that helium was the astir almighty and courageous dependable of Crimean Tatars – the indigenous radical of Ukraine..

Dzhelal has been down bars for a year, and during this clip helium has go an writer of prose and poetry. There are much than 140 Crimean governmental prisoners similar him, and immoderate of them constitute texts successful Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages, which my colleagues and I person published successful the anthology Crimean Fig. The written connection has go an land of state successful the tempest of repression.

Crimean Tatar lit has gone underground, with authors penning nether pseudonyms and utilizing Aesopian connection to constitute astir beingness nether occupation, arsenic good arsenic humanities topics. Some writers get unneurotic and clasp meetings successful backstage apartments wherever they work poesy and prose for a constricted ellipse of “their people”. This helps sphere the Crimean Tatar language, which contiguous is endangered, according to Unesco, and is simply a cornerstone of the individuality that Russian assemblage argumentation is trying to destroy.


The Last Colony by Philippe Sands.
The Last Colony by Philippe Sands. Photograph: Orion

Philippe Sands: ‘Literature allows america to ideate crossed clip and place’

British and French lawyer and writer of books including the precocious released The Last Colony

A period aft the warfare against Ukraine began, a person wrote to accidental that the Russian connection translator of my publication East West Street, connected the origins of genocide and crimes against humanity successful Lviv, successful Ukraine, had been arrested. A lifelong defender of quality rights, she was detained connected the borderline of Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Square, heading for the spot associated with acts of solitary, peaceful protest. She wanted to work a poem, written retired connected a ample portion of paper.

The constabulary spotted the rolled-up insubstantial poking from her backpack. They stopped her and asked to spot the paper. They work lines drawn from a poem, Listening to the Horrors of War. They were written successful 1855, by renowned writer Nikolay Nekrasov, proprietor and exertion of Sovremennik, a literate magazine, who had been inspired by stories submitted to him by Leo Tolstoy, precocious returned from the warfare successful Crimea. Nekrasov published them arsenic the Sevastopol Sketches.

The translator was duly arrested. She was charged with “discrediting the existent peculiar cognition by speechmaking the substance that Nekrasov wrote astatine the tail-end of the Crimean war, having been influenced by Tolstoy’s Sevastopol Sketches.”

Literature allows america to deliberation and imagine, crossed clip and place. It helps america to understand, arsenic Tolstoy hoped with his Sketches, that the horrors and futility of warfare let lone 1 hero: truth.


Rachel Clarke.
Rachel Clarke. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

Rachel Clarke: ‘Bearing witnesser successful a clip of warfare is profoundly necessary’

British palliative attraction doc and writer of Dear Life

Even successful a chaotic, overwhelmed NHS hospital, I americium struck anew each time astatine enactment by the medicinal unit of storytelling. There is morphine for pain, silk for lacerations, energy to jolt breached hearts backmost to beingness – but truthful often a doctor’s astir transformative enactment is the 1 successful which they halt and perceive to a patient’s story. In turn, a doctor’s words tin encourage, console, instil hope, assuage fear. Titrated carefully, dosed conscionable right, words tin adjacent instrumentality a dying diligent from the depths of despair to a spot of anticipation oregon serenity. I’m not definite immoderate cause has much power.

War, successful this respect, is surely similar illness. Amid the fracturing of mean life, the losses and upheavals, the caller uneasy authorities of uncertainty and fear, telling one’s ain communicative has immense therapeutic potential. Bearing witnesser successful a clip of warfare whitethorn beryllium perilous, courageous, reckless oregon defiant. It is besides profoundly necessary.


Samar Yazbek.
Samar Yazbek. Photograph: Ed Alcock/MYOP Diffusion

Samar Yazbek: ‘Writing information offers justness to the oppressed’

Syrian writer of novels including The Crossing and Planet of Clay

When facing destruction, our weapons are our words and our state to usage them. Literature exposes the ugliness of warfare and its interaction connected quality destiny, ever looking to the future. It volition not halt the war, but it volition face its ugliness with its aesthetics and imaginative vision. Literature strips the look of warfare and delves into the horrors of its brutal instrumentality and its interaction connected the tragic destiny of man.

For me, erstwhile the fashionable uprising began successful Syria and past the warfare followed, I did not hesitate for a infinitesimal successful my afloat committedness to the enactment of penning – astir warfare and against warfare – done my novels, my documentaries and my journalism, not lone due to the fact that penning against warfare and unit is portion of inventing a amended future, but due to the fact that penning against warfare and astir warfare is an effort to marque our words portion of an enactment of justness and a question for change. No substance however slight, penning information offers justness to the oppressed. ***

Volodymyr Yermolenko: ‘Literature during the warfare is some a blasphemy and a duty’

Ukrainian philosopher, journalist, and presenter of the podcast Explaining Ukraine

Literature during the warfare is simply a blasphemy due to the fact that the world of the warfare cannot beryllium expressed successful words. The warfare makes you speechless, silent. You tin ne'er explicit the symptom of nonaccomplishment of your beloved ones. Or the fearfulness of the wide graves and burnt cars with radical inside. Or the abyss of mothers who mislaid their children. Any effort to interruption this soundlessness of mourning seems to beryllium blasphemous.

Yet lit during the warfare is besides a duty. We person a work to speak, to witness, to confess, to marque testimonies. Evil which is buried successful soundlessness is an evil that volition return. Ukrainians cognize this each excessively well. The effort of genocide we are facing present from the Russian invaders is horrible not lone due to the fact that it is an embodiment of cruelty, but besides due to the fact that it is an embodiment of the repeated cruelty. Previous crimes successful this portion were kept successful soundlessness for excessively long, and radical who attempted to archer its stories were sent to jails oregon killed en masse. Therefore, we should interruption this vicious ellipse of silence. This makes lit an enactment of revolt against evil.


Victoria Amelina.
Victoria Amelina. Photograph: May Lee/Lviv BookForum

Victoria Amelina: ‘There are wounds lone stories tin heal’

Ukrainian novelist, essayist and quality rights activist

War erases stories: warfare criminals kill, past fell the grounds successful hopes that the satellite volition ne'er larn adjacent their victims’ names. After liberating each town, Ukrainians enactment hard to retrieve the names of the dead, hide them with dignity, and archer the satellite their stories. Often we succeed, but not always. As I constitute this, connected my mode to Izyum to papers war crimes, the occupiers whitethorn good beryllium destroying the grounds of genocide successful Mariupol. Despite each our efforts, excessively galore stories volition ne'er beryllium known. As a quality rights activist, I papers warfare crimes and advocator for justice. Yet, arsenic a writer, I cognize determination are wounds lone stories tin heal.


I Will Mix Your Blood with Coal by Oleksandr Mykhed.
I Will Mix Your Blood with Coal by Oleksandr Mykhed. Photograph: Nash Format Publishing

Oleksandr Mykhed: ‘Without the quality to write, I wouldn’t beryllium here’

Ukrainian literate scholar, curator of creation projects, and writer of I Will Mix Your Blood with Coal

With a full-scale invasion, it’s hard for maine to absorption connected speechmaking and perceive to the undertones of moralising successful large literature. A full-scale warfare shows everything with crystal clarity and adds fragility to the accustomed mode of beingness and the radical themselves.

A room of respective 1000 books is simply a load that you cannot instrumentality with you portion being evacuated. Only the memories of the books work tin acceptable into an exigency bag. And with predominant relocations of a displaced person, these memories get lost.

However, the fearfulness of Russian invaders of our books and civilization restores my religion successful the powerfulness of literature. Every time, the archetypal happening they bash successful the occupied territories is rename the settlements successful the Russian manner, bring backmost Soviet symbols, and purge libraries. The occupiers question retired “harmful” books arsenic if they were arsenic unsafe arsenic flesh-and-blood “subversives”.

Literature does not fight, but writers person gone to warfare and are defending the country. At the aforesaid time, defenders who person not tried their manus astatine penning antecedently are trying to articulate their acquisition done books.

I inactive find it hard to read. But without the quality to constitute and grounds the horrors of a full-scale invasion, I wouldn’t beryllium here.


Margaret Macmillan: ‘Books tin assistance america recognize war’

Canadian past lecturer astatine the University of Oxford and writer of The War that Ended Peace

Do we request to ask? War makes america face our ain mortality arsenic good arsenic the champion and the worst successful quality nature. Books tin assistance america understand. In the archetypal satellite warfare mean French soldiers ordered copies of Tolstoy’s War and Peace to effort to marque consciousness of their grinding warfare successful the trenches. Or we tin escape, astatine slightest successful our imaginations, our ain wars. In the 2nd satellite warfare 2 of the astir fashionable books successful English were Richard Llewellyn’s How Green Was My Valley, astir lives and sorrows successful a declining Welsh mining municipality and Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, astir that earlier large war. You whitethorn emotion oregon hatred Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s fable The Little Prince, published successful the acheronian days of 1943 and 1 of the world’s best-sellers of each time. While it ends successful the decease of the wandering prince it besides promises that contented tin beryllium recovered and emotion may, successful the end, triumph. Hope matters too.