Oksana Zabuzhko

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Oksana Zabuzhko
Oksana Zabuzhko, 2015
Oksana Zabuzhko, 2015
Born (1960-09-19) 19 September 1960 (age 61)
Lutsk, Ukrainian SSR
Occupationnovelist, poet, essayist
GenreUkrainian literature
Notable worksField Work In Ukrainian Sex (1996)

Oksana Stefanivna Zabuzhko (Ukrainian: Окса́на Стефа́нівна Забу́жко) is a Ukrainian novelist, poet, essayist. Her works have been translated into several languages.


Born 19 September 1960 in Lutsk, Ukraine. The writer's father, Stefan (Stepan) Ivanovich Zabuzhko (1926-1983) — a teacher, literary critic and translator (first translated into Ukrainian the stories of the Czech composer and writer Ilja Hurník), during Stalin's time was repressed.

According to the writer, she received her philological education at home. The repressions against the Ukrainian intelligentsia that began in September 1965 forced the family to leave Lutsk, and since 1968 Oksana Zabuzhko has lived in Kyiv.

Zabuzhko studied philosophy at the Kyiv University, where she also completed her doctorate in aesthetics in 1987. In 1992, she taught at Penn State University as a visiting writer. Zabuzhko won a Fulbright scholarship in 1994 and taught Ukrainian literature at Harvard and the University of Pittsburgh. To date, Zabuzhko works at the Hryhori Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Literary work[edit]

According to Uilleam Blacker, Oksana Zabuzhko's work has two main preoccupations: national identity and gender.[1] Zabuzhko's first novel, Field Work in Ukrainian Sex, published in 1996, was met with great controversy both by the critics and by the readers. With its publication, the Ukrainian readership and the intellectual community faced innovative, provocative and complex feminist writing.[2] According to a poll in 2006, this novel was recognized as "the book that most influenced Ukrainian society during the 15 years of independence". Today it is the most widely translated work of new Ukrainian prose in the world (15 languages), included in many mandatory lists and ratings of modern Eastern European classics.

Oksana Zabuzhko's most famous book in the non-fiction genre is Notre Dame d'Ukraine: A Ukrainian Woman in the Conflict of Mythologies (2007).

As a trained philosopher and cultural critic, Zabuzhko publishes essays and non-fiction works. Zabuzhko also turns to the Ukrainian history. Her most recent novel, The Museum of Abandoned Secrets (2009), deals with three different epochs (World War II, 1970s, and early 2000s), and, in particular, the topic of Ukrainian Insurgent Army, active in Ukraine in the 1940s and 1950s, and either demonized or silenced by the Soviet historiography.

Oksana Zabuzhko belongs to the generation that Tamara Hundorova, a literary scholar, calls «post-Chornobyl».[3] The Chornobyl catastrophe (1986), according to Hundorova, is not only one of the biggest calamities of the modern times, but also a «symbolic event that projects post-apocalyptical text […] into the post-atomic era».[3] Most importantly, Chornobyl also marks the end of the Soviet Union, at least the end of any legitimacy of its ideology, and the beginning of the new Ukrainian society and new Ukrainian literature, free from socialist realism or consciously dismantling its legacy. One important feature of Oksana Zabuzhko's writing is that it is «turned outward» to the world, to be accessible to the Western reader.[3]

In 1995-2010 she was the vice-president of the Ukrainian branch of the PEN Club (president - Yevhen Sverstyuk). In the fall of 2004, she did much to draw international attention to Ukraine's presidential election. On the eve of the Orange Maidan, she published an article in the WSJ by Ukrainian Solidarity.[4]

In June 2018, it supported an open letter from cultural figures, politicians and human rights activists calling on world leaders to speak in defense of Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, a prisoner in Russia, and other political prisoners.


Major works and style[edit]

Oksana Zabuzhko's first novel, Field Work in Ukrainian Sex, is one of the key texts in post-Soviet Ukrainian literature.[7] It caused great controversy upon its publication, because the narrator expresses dissatisfaction with the established order of relationships between sexes, where a woman is subject to oppression, social and sexual, both by the traditional patriarchy, as a gendered subject, as well as a subject of totalitarianism. The novel was analyzed from the point of view of postcolonial theory.[8] It also inspired a number of comparative studies, where Zabuzhko's novel was compared to the writings of Jamaica Kincaid,[9] Assia Djebar,[10] Angela Carter,[11] Nicole Brossard,[12] and others. The novel was also studied on account of its prominent style, with the «poetic» voice and the «intellectual» voice intermingling and creating an intricate structure. The novel engages some elements of écriture féminine, notably, writing (from) the body.

Oksana Zabuzhko's second novel, Museum of Abandoned Secrets, deals with Ukraine's resistance and opposition to the Soviet colonial regime[citation needed] in the 20th century. The novel presents the reality of the relations between the countries that within the structure of the USSR were seen by the West only in the context of the myth of the «friendships of nations», the myth that Putin's Russia would still like to perpetuate.

Oksana Zabuzhko's most famous non-fiction book is Notre Dame d’Ukraine. It focuses on the Ukrainian writer of the fin-de-siècle era, Lesya Ukrayinka (1871-1913), but is also a study of the Ukrainian intelligentsia of that time and their cultural values. More specifically, in this groundbreaking volume Zabuzhko shows Ukraine's European legacy in regard to the tradition of chivalry and the ways in which it shaped the Ukrainian literature and mentality.

Her book Let My People Go won the Korrespondent magazine Best Ukrainian documentary book award in June 2006,[13] The Museum of Abandoned Secrets — Best Ukrainian Book — 2010.[14]

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • May Frost (1985) Травневий іній
  • The Conductor of the Last Candle (1990) Диригент останньої свічки
  • Hitchhiking (1994) Автостоп
  • Second Attempt (2005) Друга спроба


  • Field Work in Ukrainian Sex (1996) Польові дослідження з українського сексу
  • Sister, Sister (2003) Сестро, сестро
  • The Museum of Abandoned Secrets (2009) Музей покинутих секретів


  • Notre Dame d'Ukraine: Ukrayinka in the Conflict of Mythologies (2007) Notre Dame d’Ukraine: Українка в конфлікті міфологій
  • Let my People Go: 15 Texts About Ukrainian Revolution (2005) Let my people go. 15 текстів про українську революцію
  • The Fortinbras Chronicles (1999) Хроніки від Фортінбраса
  • Philosophy of the Ukrainian Idea and the European Context: Franko Period (1992) Філософія української ідеї та європейський контекст: Франківський період
  • Ukrainian Palimpsest. Conversations of Oksana Zabuzhko and Iza Chruslinska. ""Ukraiński palimpsest". Rozmowy Oksany Zabużko z Izą Chruślińską" 2013.

Zabuzhko's texts translated in English[edit]

  • O. Zabuzhko Girls, translated by Askold Melnyczuk.
  • O. Zabuzhko I, Milena in: The Third Shore: Women's Fiction from East Central Europe (Writings from an Unbound Europe) (Paperback) by Agata Schwartz, Luise von Flotow. Also found in: Two Lands, New Visions: Stories from Canada and Ukraine by Janice Kulyk Keefer (Editor), Solomea Pavlychko (Editor).
  • O. Zabuzhko Field Work In Ukrainian Sex, translated by Halyna Hryn. Las Vegas: AmazonCrossing, 2011
  • A Kingdom of Fallen Statues. Poems and Essays by Oksana Zabuzhko Transl. by Marco Carynnyk, Askold Melnyczuk, Michael M.Naydan, Wanda Phipps, Lisa Sapinkopf, Douglas Burnet Smith, and Virlana Tkacz. Toronto: Wellspring Ltd., 1996
  • O. Zabuzhko The Museum of Abandoned Secrets, translated by Nina Shevchuk-Murray. Las Vegas: AmazonCrossing 2012


  1. ^ Uilleam Blacker. Nation, Body, Home: Gender and National Identity in the Work of Oksana Zabuzhko. The Modern Language Review 105.2 (2010): 487-501
  2. ^ Alexandra Hrycak and Maria G. Rewakowicz. Feminism, Intellectuals and the Formation of Micro-Publics in Postcommunist Ukraine. Studies in East European Thought. Special issue Wither the Intelligentsia: The End of the Moral Elite in Eastern Europe. Ed. Serguei Alex. Oushakine. 61 (2009): 309-333
  3. ^ a b c Tamara Hundorova. Pisliachornobyl's'ka biblioteka. Ukrains'kyi literaturnyi postmodern. Kyiv: Krytyka, 2005.
  4. ^ "Ukraine's Solidarity". www.eurozine.com. Retrieved 2020-11-18.
  5. ^ "Author Oksana Zabuzhko becomes second Ukrainian to win Polish book prize". Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  6. ^ "alyona alyona і Оксана Забужко. Оголошено переможниць премії Women in Arts 2020". nv.ua (in Ukrainian). 13 March 2020. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  7. ^ Oleksandra Shchur (Wallo). Post-Soviet Women Writers and the National Imaginary, 1989-2009. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2013
  8. ^ Vitaly Chernetsky. Mapping Postcommunist Cultures: Russia and Ukraine in the Context of Globalization. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007
  9. ^ Natalia Monakhova. National Identity in the Postcolonial Situation: A Comparative Study of the Caribbean and Ukrainian Cases―Jamaica Kincaid and Oksana Zabuzhko. The Atlantic Literary Review Quarterly (Special Issue on Postcolonial Feminist Writing) 4.4 (2003): 173-98
  10. ^ Oksana Lutsyshyna. Postcolonial Herstory: the Novels of Assia Djebar (Algeria) and Oksana Zabuzhko (Ukraine): a Comparative Analysis. Master’s Thesis, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, 2006.
  11. ^ Inna Steshyn. Hudozhne vtilennya feministychnoyi ideyi v naynovishiy brytanskiy I ukrayinskiy prozi (A. Carter, O. Zabuzhko) (Literary Expression of Feminist Ideas in the Contemporary British and Ukrainian Prose (A. Carter, O. Zabuzhko). Kandydat Degree Thesis, Ternopil State Pedagogical University. Ternopil: University Press, 2002.
  12. ^ Amy Elizabeth Moore. Feminism and Nationalism in the Works of Nicole Brossard and Oksana Zabuzhko. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of California, Berkeley, 2009.
  13. ^ "Check out Ukraine's best books". Kyiv Post. 21 June 2006. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  14. ^ Корреспондент назвав переможців конкурсу Краща українська книга-2010

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]