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Oleh Shynkarenko's novel Kaharlyk began on Facebook as a series of bulletins from an alternative reality. He created fragments of concrete music, mixing sounds such as Serbian liturgical melodies, washing machines and cows mooing to develop a soundscape for his world. The book is written entirely in blocks of 100 words. Andrei Kurkov, a Penguin published author, describes it as a “hologrammatic” novel, a series of “beautifully crafted puzzles”. But the book tells a story. It is set in Ukraine after a war with Russia. A man has lost his memory because the Russian military has used his brain to control military satellites. He regains consciousness in a mysterious hospital-like building and begins a pilgrimage to find his past. He journeys to Kaharlyk, a town where time has stood still following the testing of an experimental weapon. The book is an Odyssey as magical as Alice's tumble through the looking glass or Gulliver's first footprint on the sands of Lilliput.
Oleh wrote the novel while Ukraine was undergoing the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 to 2015. Ukrainians piled barricades of burning tyres on the streets of their capital and overthrew a dictator who had an estate roamed by Ostriches, and palaces that would have made Nero blush. Ukraine's literature is routinely ignored. This book will help the country's voice be heard. It's going to be a crazy ride. Join us.
PS and don't just take our word that it's a great book. The opening paragraphs are below:
Everything I could imagine resembled Kaharlyk. But what was Kaharlyk, what did it look like, and where was it? It seemed spherical, apple sized, its very uneven surface covered in deformed growths. Some saw its unique beauty, but I did not know these people. Perhaps they gave me Kaharlyk to learn something important or to simply smooth out its surface. However, I did not learn and forgot everything they said. Only two words penetrated the dirty windowpane: “recollections” and “diving”. This was clearly a summons, but to what? Where was the verb? Kaharlyk melted, a key I could not reach.
Suddenly Olena's face appeared, a wet maple leaf the wind plastered against the windowpane. She looked intensely at me for a moment then her face darkened. I saw her standing on the snow-covered road. Her green, knitted cap gathered the colourless vista around. Then everything accelerated unexpectedly. Olena was wafted away, a photograph swirled off a table. The photograph of my wife she took some years ago and never showed me. Or perhaps I took it. When I find her I will ask. This place seems to be a hospital. I am alone in a room with white walls.
Want to read more? You can take a round trip to Kaharlyk for less than the price of a takeaway pizza. Join Oleh on his crazy multimedia journey on 30 September 2016.
Enjoy a musical interlude from Kaharlyk here and listen to cows moo a hundred years from now by clicking on the image below:
Publication Date: 30 September 2016