A Bit of Blood-stained Batting. Kharkiv, Saturday, 13 May 1933

May 2015
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Mykola Khvylovy did not leave notes for his wife or daughter. Or for his mother, the mother who outlived him, the mother he was accused of killing because he had written a story about a son who murders his mother with an axe.

In the spring of 1933 Mykola’s mother sent him a letter from a village a little more than a hundred kilometers northwest of Kharkiv. The letter ended up in his security-service file. We do not know whether he read it. The GPU may have intercepted it before it reached him. Or the secret police may have removed it from his study after his death. In either case, his mother was starving and had been begging for help, and he had done nothing.

“Dear Koliunichka,” Mykola’s mother begins. She is using an affectionate form of his name, and she is writing in a semi-literate Russian with an admixture of Ukrainian. Liudia and Vania are Mykola’s sisters Liudmyla and Valentyna.

I was waiting all the time for money from you and decided to write. Liudia visited you on the 20th and she said that you promised to send it the next day and Yulia wrote two months ago that you would send it soon; I’m worried and wonder whether maybe you sent it and it was lost. I have many debts and life is very hard. Everything is expensive. If there’s no money then please write me at least two words that there’s no money. Liudia and Vania are leaving for good on the 20th and the teacher is leaving for good to join her sister in Kharkiv because this is the most difficult month to survive until everything brings forth. When I get the money I’m thinking of going to visit you, and then in the fall I’ll come to you at least for a visit. To see you dear Koliunichka I miss you so much. I feel so unwell all the time that I’m afraid of falling ill. Everything is expensive and I’m often half starving. People are eating chaff, grinding sorrel, acacia flowers, oil cakes There’s a lot of bread at the marketplace at twelve rubles a loaf. There are pieces for two or three rubles; people are even grinding sawdust and I got half a sack for Liudia and she’s mixing it with flour to make it last longer. Life is horrible and there was nothing like this even during the famine [of 1921]. Some people can’t be recognized faces swollen arms and legs Some are dying If only one of you would write how you’re doing no one sends a single word. I kiss you warmly my dear sonny, and also Yulia and Liuba Your mother who loves you very much.

Forgive me that there’s no postage stamp, I can’t remember when there was money.

So those who accused Khvylovy of matricide sensed something they did not fully comprehend. Sleep and death are psychological equivalents, and suicide is both a murderous impulse and an expression of the infantile wish to lie in union with the mother.

What, then, was Mykola Khvylovy fantasizing when he reached in an alcoholic haze into the depths of his desk drawer for his gun? That with a bullet to his temple he would hasten his reunion with his mother?

I am grateful to Olga Bertelsen and Myrna Kostash for their comments on drafts of this essay.

 

Further Readings

Bibliographies

Babych, Ie. K. and V. V. Patoka. Represiï v Ukraïni (1917–1990 rr.): Naukovo-dopomizhnyi bibliohrafichnyi pokazhchyk. Kyïv: Smoloskyp, 2007.

Holohors'ka, Tetiana Viacheslavivna, comp., Ukraïns'kyi pys'mennyk Mykola Khvyl'ovyi, 1893–1933: Bibliohrafichnyi pokazhchyk. Kharkiv: Ministerstvo kul'tury i turyzmu Ukraïny, Kharkivs'ka derzhavna naukova biblioteka im. V. H. Korolenka, 2008.

Kalytko, S. and others, Politychni represiï v Ukraïni (1917–1980-ti rr.): Bibliohrafichnyi pokazhchyk. Kyïv–Zhytomyr: Polissia, 2007.

Archival Material

”Sprava-formuliar na M. Khvyl'ovoho,” 65/S-183, Haluzevyi Derzhavnyi arkhiv Sluzhby bezpeky Ukraïny, Kyïv.

Published Documents

Dems’ka-Budzuliak, Lesia, comp. Dorohyi Arkadiiu: Lystuvannia ta arkhivariia literaturnoho seredovyshcha Ukraïny 1922–1945 rr. L’viv: Klasyka, 2001.

Luts’kyi, Iurii, ed. Holubi dylizhansy: Lystuvannia vaplitian (Materiialy z arkhivu Arkadiia Liubchenka). New York: Ob"iednannia ukraïns'kykh pys'mennykiv Slovo, 1955.

———. Lehkosynia dal’: Vaplitians’kyi zbirnyk. New York: Proloh, 1963.

———.Vaplitians’kyi zbirnyk. Oakville, ON: Mosaic Press, 1977.

Shapoval, Iu., ed. Poliuvannia na ‘Val’dshnepa’: Rozsekrechenyi Mykola Khvyl’ovyi. Kyïv: Tempora, 2009. See also the enclosed DVD Tsar i rab khytroshchiv. Directed by Iryna Shatalina, script by Iurii Shapoval and Iryna Shatokhina. Kyïv: Natsional’na Telekompaniia Ukraïny, 2009.

Ushkalov, Oleksandr, and Leonid Ushkalov, comps. Arkhiv rozstrilianoho vidrodzhennia: Materialy arkhivno-slidchykh sprav ukraïns'kykh pys'mennykiv 1920–1930-kh rokiv. Kyïv: Smoloskyp, 2010.

Works by Mykola Khvylovy

Khvyl'ovyi, Mykola. Tvory v p"iat'okh tomakh, comp. and ed. Hryhorii Kostiuk. New York-Baltimore: Ob"iednannia ukraïns'kykh pys'mennykiv Slovo and Smoloskyp, 1978–86.

———. Tvory u dvokh tomakh, comps. M. H. Zhulyns’kyi and P. I. Maidachenko. Kyïv: Dnipro, 1991.

———. Ukraïna chy Malorosiia? Pamflety, introductions by M. H. Zhulyns'kyi and H. O. Kostiuk. Kyïv: Smoloskyp, 1993.

Khvylovy, Mykola. Stories from the Ukraine, trans. George S. N. Luckyj. New York: Philosophical Library, 1960.

———. The Cultural Renaissance in Ukraine: Polemical Pamphlets, 1925-1926., trans., ed., and intro. by Myroslav Shkandrij. Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1986.

Memoirs

Dniprovs'kyi, Ivan. “Mykola Khvyl'ovyi: Portret m"iatezhnyka,” Suchasnist', 1992, no. 3:125–32.

———. “Literaturni strichi (Pam"iatka dlia memuariv): Shchodennyk.” in Mykhailo Naienko, Oderzhymist': Krytychni rozvidky, portrety, vidhuky. Kyïv: Vydavnytstvo TsK LKSMU Molod', 1990.

Dukyna, Natalka. Na dobryi spomyn… Povist' pro bat'ka. Kharkiv: Berezil', 2002.Hai-Holovko, Oleksa. Smertel'noiu dorohoiu: Podiï nashoho chasu. Winnipeg: Tryzub, 1979–1983. 2 vols.

Hak, Anatol' [Anatol' Antypenko]. Vid Huliai-Polia do N'iu-Iorku: Spohady. Neu Ulm: 1973.

Hirniak, Iosyp. Spomyny, ed. Bohdan Boichuk. New York: Suchasnist', 1982.

———. Interview by author, New York, 20 July 1983.

Hzhyts’kyi [Gzhyts’kyi], Volodymyr.  “Spohady pro mynule.” Spadshchyna: Literaturne dzhereloznavstvo, Tekstolohiia 6 (2011): 258–351. See also Iaryna Tsymbal, “’Spohady pro mynule’ Volodymyra Hzhyts’koho: pryhaduvannia i konstruiuvannia,” 240–[57].

Kardinalowska, Tatiana. The Ever-Present Past: The Memoirs of Tatiana Kardinalowska, trans. Vera Kaczmarska, ed. Uliana Pasicznyk. Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 2004.

Kobets', Oleksa. "Nezabutni dni i liudy ukraïns'koho renesansu: Rozdil iz knyzhky 'Zapysky pys'mennyka'," Neopalyma kupyna, 1995, no. 3–4:[149]–68.

Kostiuk, Hryhorii. Zustrichi i proshchannia: Spohady; Knyha persha. Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1987.

Kulish, Antonina. “Spohady pro Mykolu Kulisha,” in Mykola Kulish, Tvory, ed. Hryhorii Kostiuk, 365–[433]. New York: Ukraïns'ka Vil'na Akademiia Nauk u SSha, 1955.

Kulish, Volodymyr. Slovo pro budynok “Slovo.” Toronto: Homin Ukraïny, 1966.

Liubchenko, Arkadii. “Ioho taiemnytsia.” In Vybrani tvory, [415]–39. Kyïv: Smoloskyp, 1999.

Liubchenko, Arkadii. Shchodennyk Arkadiia Liubchenka, ed. Iurii Luts'kyi. L'viv: M. P. Kots', 1999.

Maistrenko, Ivan. Istoriia moho pokolinnia: Spohady uchasnyka revoliutsiinykh podii v Ukraïni. Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1985.

Sambros, Iurii. Shchabli: Mii shliakh do komunizmu; Memuarni narysy. N.p.: Suchasnist', 1988.

Senchenko, Ivan. “Notatky pro literaturne zhyttia 20–40-kh rokiv.” In Opovidannia, povisti, spohady, 540–79. Kyïv: Naukova dumka, 1990.

Smolych, Iurii. Rozpovid’ pro nespokii. Kyïv: Radians’kyi pys’mennyk, 1968.

———. Rozpovid’ pro nespokii tryvaie. Kyïv: Radians’kyi pys’mennyk, 1969.

———. Rozpovidi pro nespokii nemaie kintsia. Kyïv: Radians’kyi pys’mennyk, 1972.

———.”Mozaïka. Z tykh rokiv (kuriozy),” Spadshchyna: Literaturne dzhereloznavstvo, Tekstolohiia 5 (2010): [239]–351. See also Iaryna Tsymbal, ”’Mozaïka’ Iuriia Smolycha iak dzherelo do istoriï literaturnoho pobutu 1920–1930-kh rokiv,” [228]–38.

Sokil, Vasyl’. Zdaleka do blyz’koho: Spohady, rozdumy. Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1987.

Umantseva, L. H. “’Vin u krovi mav: tvoryty, a zmushuvaly vyhynatysia…’.” Interview by O. Murzina, Lenins'ka zmina, 16 September 1989, 6.

Biographical and Critical Studies

Bertelsen, Olga. The House of Writers in Ukraine, the 1930s: Conceived, Lived, Perceived. Pittsburgh: Center for Russian and East European Studies, University of Pittsburgh, 2013.

Bezkhutryi, Iu. M. Khvyl’ovyi: Problemy interpretatsiï. Kharkiv: Folio, 2003.

Bondar-Tereshchenko, Ihor. U zadzerkalli 1910–30-ykh rokiv. Kyïv: Tempora, 2009.

Grabowicz, George G. “Symbolic Autobiography in the Prose of Mykola Khvyl'ovyi (Some Preliminary Observations),” Harvard Ukrainian Studies 22 (1998): [165]–80.

Han, O. [P. I. Petrenko]. Trahediia Mykoly Khvyl’ovoho. Ulm: Prometei, [1947].

Hrechaniuk, Serhii. “Den' povernennia Mykoly Khvyl'ovoho.” Literaturna panorama 1988: 202–18).

Hrytsenko, Oleksandr. “Lohika buntu proty lohiky,” Vitchyzna, 1991, no. 7:152–7.

Iushchenko, Oleksa. Zoria Mykoly Khvyl'ovoho: Publitsystyka, poeziï. Kyïv: Smoloskyp, 1997.

Kratochvil, Alexander. Mykola Chvyl'ovyj: Eine Studie zu Leben und Werk. Munich: Otto Sagner, 1999.

Kuziakina, N. Arkhivni storinky. Kyïv: Natsional’na asotsiatsiia ukraïnoznavtsiv, 1992.

———. Traiektoriï dol’. Kyïv: Tempora, 2010.

Lavrinenko, Iurii. “Dukh nespokoiu: Z idei i motyviv mystets’koï prozy Mykoly Khvyl’ovoho.” In Zrub i parosty: Literaturno-krytychni statti, eseï, refleksiï. N.p.: Suchasnist’, 1971.

Lewin, Bertram D. “Sleep, the Mouth, and the Dream Screen,” Psychoanalytic Quarterly 15 (1946): 419–34.

Lozyts’kyi, Volodymyr. Buntivnyk: Zhyttia i smert’ Mykoly Khvyl’ovoho. Kyïv: Heneza, 2009.

Luckyj, George S. N. Literary Politics in the Soviet Ukraine, 1917–1934. Rev. ed. Durham: Duke University Press, 1990.

Luckyj, George S. N. Ukrainian Literature in the Twentieth Century: A Reader's Guide. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992.

Luts'kyi, Iurii. “Rozdumy nad 'Vaplite',” Suchasnist', 1993, no. 12:111–14.

Meis, Dzheims. “Buremnyi dukh rozstrilianoho vidrodzhennia (Mykola Khvyl'ovyi),” Suchasnist', 1994, no. 11:31–43; no. 12: 73–82.

Mel'nykiv, Rostyslav. Literaturni 1920-ti: Postati; Narysy, obrazky, etiudy. Kharkiv: Maidan, 2013.

Ovcharenko, F. D. Spohady. Kyïv: Oriiany, 2000.

Panchenko, Volodymyr. “Doroha do Khvyl’ovoho,” Den’, 5 October 2010, http://incognita.day.kiev.ua/doroga-do-xvilovogo.html.

Pliushch, Leonid. Ioho taiemnytsia, abo “Prekrasna lozha” Khvyl’ovoho. Kyiv: Fakt, 2006.

Pronenko, Vladyslav. “Mykola Khvyl'ovyi ta Mykola Skrypnyk: Ostannii shliakh ta ostannii prytulok," Lenins'ka zmina, 17 October 1989, 1, 3.

Shapoval, Iurii. “Zhyttia ta smert' Mykoly Khvyl'ovoho u svitli rozsekrechenykh dokumentiv HPU, “ Z arkhiviv VChK, HPU, NKVD, KHB, 2008, no. 1–2 (30-31):[311]–48.

———. “Fatal'na ambivalentnist' (Mykola Khvyl'ovyi u svitli dokumentiv GPU),” Chornomors'kyi litopys 2010, no. 2:41–55.

Sherekh, Iurii (Iurii Shevel’ov). “Khvyl’ovyi bez polityky.” In Ne dlia ditei: Literaturno-krytychni statti i eseï, 53–67. New York: Prolog, 1964.

Shevchenko, Vitalii. “Taiemnytsia kvartyry Mykoly Khvyl’ovoho.” Museum-Ukraine, 14 April 2010, http://narodna.pravda.com.ua/history/4bc508113a685/ю

Shkandrii, Myroslav. “Mykola Khvyl'ovyi: U p"iatdesiati rokovyny smerty,” Suchasnist', 1983, no. 5:7–14.

Shkandrij, Myroslav. “Irony in the Works of Mykola Khvyl'ovy,” Journal of Ukrainian Studies 14 (summer/winter 1989): 90–102.

Shkandrij, Myroslav. "Ukrainian Avant-Garde Prose in the 1920s." In Literature and Politics in Eastern Europe: Select Papers from the Fourth World Congress for Soviet and East European Studies, Harrogate, 1990, ed. Celia Hawkesworth, 106–16. London: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

Shkandrij, Myroslav. Modernists, Marxists, and the Nation: The Ukrainian Literary Discussion of the 1920s. Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 1992.

Ushkalov, Leonid. “Markiz de Sad, Lombrozo ta inshi: Zakhidni paraleli do ‘Ia (Romantyka’,” Natsional’na spilka pys’mennykiv Ukraïny, 5 December 2014, http://kharkiv-nspu.org.ua/archives/3474.

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