Serhiy Zhadan

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Serhiy Zhadan
2022.08.17. Serhiy Zhadan Photo Mariusz Kubik 05.JPG
Сергі́й Ві́кторович Жада́н

(1974-08-23) 23 August 1974 (age 48)
Nationality Ukrainian
Alma mater Kharkiv University
Occupation(s)poet, novelist, translator
Serhiy Zhadan signature.svg

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

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, Wroclaw Serhiy Zhadan 2015.jpg
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

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

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 Sobaky v Kosmosi, now known as Zhadan and the Dogs. 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) and Madonna (2019), 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

Serhiy Zhadan at "Rock for change" rally in Kharkiv, 2013 RockEuroMaydan 07.JPG
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" motives. [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

Zhadan in the 2017 Odesa International Film Festival 2017 Odesa International Film Festival 12.jpg
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

In other languages





Anthologized poetry


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