The Ukrainian literary scene today is particularly vibrant. The voice of Serhiy Zhadan is distinct, well-known, and easily-recognizable. In 2021, Yale University Press published his novel titled The Orphanage (Yale UP, 2021), which originally appeared in 2017. In this interview, translators Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler talk about their team work on the novel translation into English. This is not their first translation of Zhadan’s works: Voroshilovgrad in their translation was published a few years ago. When answering the question about why they chose The Orphanage as their translation project, Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler mentioned that they wanted to make this novel available to Anglophone readers. They find it transformative, as such that can change the way we look at life.
Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler share their reading of the novel while drawing attention to the episodes that they found compelling. They also comment on the language of Serhiy Zhadan and how they tried to render the most essential linguistic nuances so that the English version of the text had a similar impact on readers as the original on those who read in Ukrainian. The Orphanage is a commentary on the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict but the events that are depicted in the novel seem to take place outside of some specifically marked location: these are, however, easily recognized by everyone who is displaced—physically or imaginatively—by the current war. This simultaneous sense of both everywhere and nowhere enables an insight into a war beyond the limits of states and nations. As Reilly Costigan-Humes and Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler point out, a humane dimension is the center of Zhadan’s The Orphanage.
Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD student in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures.
Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, Indiana University