Yuri Andrukhovych describes himself as an “Odyssean type”. He travels a lot, he says, but always returns in the end. The arts pages call him a literary explorer. One topic is constantly on the mind of the Ukrainian writer: Europe.
I am my own line of defence, and I have no other choice than to defend this strip, this spot, these patches which are falling apart in all directions.
– Yuri Andrukhovych
In My Europe – Two Essays on So-called Central Europe, which Andrukhovych co-wrote with Polish author André Stadium at the turn of the millennium, Andrukhovych describes the vision of a transnational community of the kind easily forgotten in Western Europe due to a preoccupation with political routine and multicultural platitudes. Andrukhovych, to whom Europe is more than just the EU, believes that the critical examination of one’s own country plays a vital role in dealing with Europe. He characterises Ukraine’s role in Europe in a very personal way. He once said in an interview: “Ukraine is my territory, my suspicious and low-valued world, the surrounding defence walls have long collapsed, the trenches filled with historical junk and cultural debris, with broken porcelain, black ceramics from Havarechyna, and tiles from Huzulschyna; I am my own line of defence, and I have no other choice than to defend this strip, this spot, these patches which are falling apart in all directions.”
Andrukhovych, who, on the one hand, is deeply influenced by the rich cultural heritage of his home country and, on the other, by decades of Soviet paternalism, is considered one of the most original and eminent voices of contemporary Ukrainian literature and is also highly regarded in Germany as a critical observer of political and armed conflicts.
Andrukhovych was born in 1960 in Stanyslaviv, now Ivano-Frankivsk in the westernmost, Galician tip of the Ukraine. He read journalism at the Polygraphical Institute of Lviv. He satirised his military service in the Red Army in seven short stories. He began to publish his first poems in various literary journals as early as 1982. These were followed by essays, works of prose and novels.
In 1985, together with Viktor Neborak und Oleksandr Irwanets, he founded the legendary performance group Bu-Ba-Bu, which stands for Burlesk-Balagan-Buffonada, or in English Burlesque-Bluster-Buffoonery, and also means travelling circus or show booth. With their brilliantly playful texts the authors parodied literature in an anti-totalitarian and bohemian way over a period of nine years. Andrukhovych’s texts began to be translated into German from the mid-1990s.
The author has won national and international awards, including in 2001 the Herder Prize, which is conferred by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation in recognition of cultural commitment in Eastern Europe. In 2005 Yuri Andrukhovych received the Special Award of the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize from the City of Osnabrück, and in 2006 the Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding for his novel Twelve Rings.