Serhiy Zhadan

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Serhiy Zhadan
Сергій Вікторович Жадан

(1974-08-23) 23 August 1974 (age 49)
Alma materH.S. Skovoroda Kharkiv National Pedagogical University
Occupation(s)poet, novelist, translator

Serhiy Viktorovych Zhadan (Ukrainian: Сергі́й Ві́кторович Жада́н; born 23 August 1974 in Starobilsk, Luhansk oblast, Ukraine) is a Ukrainian poet, novelist, essayist, musician, translator, and social activist.

Life and career[edit]

Zhadan was born in Starobilsk, Luhansk Oblast in Ukraine. He graduated from H.S. Skovoroda Kharkiv National Pedagogical University in 1996 with a thesis on the work of Mykhaylo Semenko and the Ukrainian Futurist writers of the 1920s. He then spent three years as a graduate student of philology, and taught Ukrainian and world literature from 2000 to 2004. Since then he has worked as a freelance writer.

Starting his career in 1990, his verses revolutionized Ukrainian poetry: they were less sentimental, reviving the style of 1920s Ukrainian avant-garde writers like Semenko or Johanssen. And they drew upon his homeland: the industrial landscapes of East Ukraine. Voroshilovgrad (the Soviet name for Luhansk) tells a story of a young man called Herman who left his home city Starobilsk (in the Luhansk region) but who has to come back to his native lands to protect something that belongs to him.[1] Based on the book, Yaroslav Lodygin directed the award-winning movie The Wild Fields (Дике поле, 2018).

Zhadan is an internationally known Ukrainian writer, with 12 books of poetry and 7 novels, and winner of more than a dozen literary awards. In March 2008, the Russian translation of his novel Anarchy in the UKR made the shortlist of the National Bestseller Prize. It was also a contender for "Book of the Year" at the 2008 Moscow International Book Exhibition. In 2009, he won the Joseph Conrad-Korzeniowski Literary Prize. In 2012, Gunshot and Knife won Ukrainian rating "Book of the Year" for fiction. His 2010 novel Voroshylovhrad won him the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature in Switzerland, BBC Ukrainian's "Book of the Decade" award and Brücke Berlin Prize. His selected poems Dynamo Kharkiv won Ukrainian "Book of the Year." (2014) His book Mesopotamia won the Angelus literature prize in 2015, the Award of the President of Ukraine "Ukrainian Book of the Year" in 2016.

From 2016 to 2019, he was a member of the Taras Shevchenko National Award Committee of Ukraine.[2]

Serhiy Zhadan, 2015, Wrocław

Zhadan has translated poetry from German, English, Belarusian, and Russian, from such poets as Paul Celan and Charles Bukowski. His own works have been translated into German, English, Estonian, French, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, Polish, Serbian, Croatian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Belarusian, Russian,[3] Hungarian, Armenian, and Czech.

His translated poetry has appeared in Ambit ,[4] Asymptote,[5] Blackbird ,[6] Gulf Coast,[7] The Manchester Review,[8] Modern Poetry in Translation,[9] Poetry International,[10] Poetry International Web,[11] Plume.,[12] The Threepenny Review,[13] Tin House,[14] and Virginia Quarterly Review.[15]

Theater and multimedia projects[edit]

His novel Anthem of Democratic Youth has been adapted for the stage and performed at the Ivan Franko National Academic Drama Theater in Kyiv. Since 2004, he has worked with Yara Arts Group from La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York, contributing to the shows: "Koliada: Twelve Dishes" (2005), "Underground Dreams" (2013–2014), "Hitting Bedrock" (2015) and "1917–2017: Tychyna, Zhadan and the Dogs," (2017), which received two New York Innovative Theatre Awards.

His poems "Spy," "Chaplain" and "Needle," translated by Tkacz and Phipps were part of "Blind Spot," an installation by Mykola Ridnyi and Serhii Zhadan for the Ukrainian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale May–July 2015.

Music projects[edit]

Zhadan collaborated with Kharkiv-based music band Luk. Most of Luk's Ukrainian-language songs included lyrics based on works by Zhadan (in particular the first album Tourist zone is based on Zhadan's play Merry Christmas, Jesus Christ).

The tribute album Khor monholskykh militsioneriv (Mongolian police choir) was released in 2008. The songs include lyrics by Zhadan, performed by Kharkiv musicians.

Since 2007, Zhadan has collaborated with another Kharkiv band, Dogs in Outer Space (Ukrainian: Собаки в космосі), now known as Zhadan and the Dogs (Ukrainian: Жадан і собаки). They have released the albums The Army Sports Club (Sportyvny Klub Armiyi, 2008), Weapons of the Proletatiat (Zbroya Proletariatu, 2012), Fight for Her (Byisya za neyi, 2012), Dogs (Sobaky, 2016), Madonna (2019), and Lead (Vedy, OST Rhino, 2022)

In 2021, Zhadan recorded a full-length album titled "Fokstroty" with Yuriy Gurzhy, a Ukrainian-born, Berlin-based musician, DJ, and producer.

Political activism[edit]

Serhiy Zhadan at "Rock for change" rally in Kharkiv, 2013

Zhadan's active involvement in Ukrainian politics began while a student and has continued throughout the various political crises in Ukraine. In 1992, he was one of the organizers of Kharkiv neo-futuristic literary group "The Red Thistle".[16][17] He participated in the 2004 Orange Revolution demonstrations against corruption and voter intimidation in the presidential run-off elections, was the commandant of a tent camp in Kharkiv. The protests resulted in a revote ordered by Ukraine's Supreme Court. He has repeatedly expressed sympathy for anarchists, and in many of his works there are "left" motifs.[18]

In 2013, he was a member of the coordination council of Euromaidan Kharkiv, part of the nationwide protests and violent clashes with police.[19][20] In the aftermaths of the 5-day Maidan revolution, which resulted in Russian-backed President Yanukovych’s resignation, he was assaulted outside the administration building in Kharkiv.[21]

Since 2014, Zhadan has made numerous visits to the front lines of the Eastern Donbas region involved in armed conflict with Russian separatists. In February 2017, he co-founded Serhiy Zhadan Charitable Foundation to provide humanitarian aid to front-line cities.

When asked, Zhadan has described his political commitments in the following manner:

You’re often described as ‘left-wing’ – is that accurate? I have never described myself as left-wing but I’m always being told I belong among the left-wingers! It’s all nonsense. Dividing people into left and right in modern Ukraine is not very constructive. I am a citizen of Ukraine who loves his country and tries to help.

Would you say you were a ‘nationalist’ or a ‘patriot’? I’m not a nationalist. A patriot — yes. I’m a patriot and I love my country, my homeland. But the term ‘patriot’ in modern Ukraine and modern Europe has various connotations. I encounter this in Europe and America, where some members of the public equate ‘patriot’ and ‘nationalist’, or take a ‘patriot’ to be a conservative right-winger. But this is very inaccurate. In Ukraine, ‘patriot’ is a synonym for a person who is on the side of our soldiers on the frontlines — someone who supports our country.

Why wouldn’t you call yourself a nationalist? Because I have known Ukraine’s nationalist movement since the 1980s. I have a lot of friends in the nationalist movement, but the ideas of nationalism do not correspond to my vision of Ukraine. Ukraine is much more complicated, and much less clear-cut.


After the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Zhadan remained in his hometown of Kharkiv, helping to organize humanitarian aid.[23]

Critical reception[edit]

Zhadan in the 2017 Odesa International Film Festival

Rostislav Melnikov and Yuriy Tsaplin of the New Literary Review wrote in 2007:

Zhadan's prose is so poetic, his free verse so prosaic. It is difficult to assign a genre to his work: memoir, travelogue, timely or untimely meditation – or a mixture of all these, centered on the themes my generation and our epoch.[24]

Kirill Ankudinov, writing for in June 2008, said:

There is no summarizing the spicy, hot, sweet, vicious improvisations of Serhiy Zhadan – this is verbal jazz. When you read him, you fear for contemporary Russian literature: of those now writing in the Russian language, there is none among them who is so infernally free (and above all, free from "writerly" prose, from the tendency to "produce an impression").[25]

On 5 March 2022 Polish Academy of Sciences nominated him for the Nobel Prize in Literature.[23]

Books by Serhiy Zhadan published in English translation[edit]

  • How Fire Descends: New and Selected Poems by Serhiy Zhadan, translated from the Ukrainian by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps. Foreword by Ilya Kaminsky, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2023).
  • Sky Above Kharkiv: Dispatches from the Ukrainian Front  by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by Reilly Costigan-Humes 2023.
  • The Orphanage: A Novel, translated by Reilly Costigan‑Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler, (Yale University Press, 2021) ISBN 978-0-300-24301-7
  • A new orthography : poems, Sandpoint, Idaho: Lost Horse Press, 2020. ISBN 978-1-7333400-3-8
  • What We Live For, What We Die For: Selected Poems by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019). ISBN 978-0-300-22336-1
  • Mesopotamia by Serhiy Zhadan, prose translated by Reilly Costigan-Humes & Isaac Stackhouse Wheele poetry translated by Viralna Tkacz and Wanda Phipps, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018). ISBN 978-0-300-22335-4
  • Voroshilovgrad by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler and Reilly Costigan-Humes, (Dallas: Deep Velum, 2016) ISBN 978-1-941920-30-5
  • Depeche Mode by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by Miroslav Shkandrij (London: Glagoslav Publications, 2013). ISBN 978-1-909156-88-3
  • A Harvest Truce: a play by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by Nina Murray

In other languages[edit]

  • Big Mac (Біг Мак. Перезавантаження) — Poland, Czarne, 2005.
  • Depeche Mode (Депеш Мод) — Poland, Czarne, 2006.
  • Die Geschichte der Kultur zu Anfang des Jahrhunderts (Історія культури початку століття) — Germany, Suhrkamp, 2006.
  • Depeche Mode (Депеш Мод) — Germany, Suhrkamp, 2007.
  • Hymn demokratycznej młodzieży (Гімн демократичної молоді) — Poland, Czarne, 2008.
  • Hymne der Demokratischen Jugend (Гімн демократичної молоді) — Germany, Suhrkamp, 2009.
  • Anarchy in the UKR (Anarchy in the UK) — Germany, Suhrkamp, 2007.
  • Big Mäc (Біг Мак. Перезавантаження) — Germany, Suhrkamp, 2011.
  • Die Erfindung des Jazz im Donbass (Ворошиловград) — Germany, Suhrkamp, 2012.
  • Voroshilovgrad — Ukraine, 2011, 2012 (in Russian).
  • Vorosilovgrád (Ворошиловград) — Hungary, Európa, 2012.
  • La Route du Donbass (Ворошиловград) — France, Noir sur Blanc, 2013.
  • Woroszyłowgrad (Ворошиловград) — Poland, Czarne, 2013.
  • Mezopotamia (Месопотамія) — Poland, Czarne, 2014.
  • Mesopotamien (Месопотамія) — Germany, Suhrkamp, 2015.
  • Ze života Marie (Життя Марії) — Czech Republic, Větrné mlýny, 2015.
  • Варашылаўград (Ворошиловград) — Belarus, Логвінаў, 2016.
  • Džezs pār Donbasu (Ворошиловград) — Latvia, Jāņa Rozes Apgāds, 2016.
  • Fire Arms and Knives (Вогнепальні й ножові) — Russia, 2016.
  • La strada del Donbas (Ворошиловград) — Spain, Voland, 2016.
  • Warum ich nicht im Netz bin: Gedichte und Prosa aus dem Krieg (poems from Життя Марії and Тамплієри, and other texts) — Germany, Suhrkamp, 2016.
  • Drohobycz (poems) — Poland, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 2018.
  • Hymna demokratickej mládeže (Гімн демократичної молоді) — Slovakia, OZ Brak, 2018.
  • Internat (Інтернат) — Germany, Suhrkamp, 2018.
  • Poems — Belarus, 2018.
  • Vorosjylovhrad (Ворошиловград) — Netherlands, De Geus, 2018.
  • Vorošilovgrad (Ворошиловград) — Slovenia, Beletrina, 2018.
  • ვოროშილოვგრადი (Ворошиловград) — Georgia, ინტელექტი, 2018.
  • Internat (Інтернат) — Poland, Czarne, 2019.
  • What we live for, what we die for (poems) — USA, 2019.
  • Antena (Антена) — Poland, Warstwy, 2020.
  • Antenne (poems from Антена and Список кораблів) — Germany, Suhrkamp, 2020.
  • The Orphanage (Інтернат) — Denmark, Jensen & Dalgaard I/S, 2020.
  • Depeche Mode (Депеш Мод) — Estonia, 2020.
  • Anthem of democratic youth (Гімн демократичної молоді) — France, Espace Instant, 2020.
  • Internatas (Інтернат) – Lithuania, Kitos knygos, 2021. ISBN 9786094275005
  • Himmel über Charkiw. Nachrichten vom Überleben im Krieg - Germany: Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin 2022. ISBN 978-3-518-43125-2



  • Quotations (Цитатник), 1995.
  • General Judas (Генерал Юда), 1995.
  • Pepsi (Пепсі), (1998).
  • The very best poems, psychedelic stories of fighting and other bullshit: Selected Poems, 1992–2000 (Вибрані поезії), 2000.
  • Ballads about War and Reconstruction (Балади про війну і відбудову), 2001.
  • The History of Culture at the Beginning of This Century (Історія культури початку століття), (2003)
  • UkSSR (У.Р.С.Р.), 2004.
  • Maradona (Марадона), 2007.
  • Ethiopia (Ефіопія), 2009.
  • Lili Marlene (Лілі Марлен), 2009.
  • Fire Arms and Knives (Вогнепальні й ножові), 2012.
  • Life of Maria (Життя Марії), 2015.
  • Templars (Тамплієри), 2016.
  • Antenna (Aнтена), 2018.
  • List of Ships (Список кораблів), 2019.
  • Psalm to Aviation (Псалом авіації), 2021.
  • What We Live For, What We Die For: Selected Poems (a selection of Zhadan's work translated into English), 2019.


  • Big Mac (Біґ Мак; short story collection), 2003.
  • Depeche Mode (Депеш Мод), 2004; Glagoslav Publications Limited, 2013, ISBN 978-1-909156-84-5
  • Anarchy in the UKR, 2005.
  • Anthem of Democratic Youth (Гімн демократичної молоді), 2006.
  • Big Mac² (Біґ Мак²; short story collection), 2007.
  • Voroshilovgrad (Ворошиловград), 2010; Deep Vellum Publishing, 2016, ISBN 978-1-941920-30-5.
  • Big Mac and Other Stories (Біґ Мак та інші історії), 2011.
  • Mesopotamia (Месопотамія; nine stories and thirty poems), 2014.
  • The Orphanage (Інтернат), 2017.


  • Capital (Капітал), 2006 — includes everything but The History of Culture at the Beginning of the Century, Big Mac, and Maradona.

Anthologized poetry[edit]

  • Stanislav+2 (Станислав+2), 2001.
  • Ch-Time[26] – Verses on Chechnya and Not Only (Время `Ч`. Стихи о Чечне и не только), 2001.
  • We Will Not Die in Paris (Мы умрем не в Париже), 2002.
  • The History of Culture (История культуры), 2004.
  • The UnKnown Ukraine (НеИзвестная Украина), 2005.



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External links[edit]