God Is a Rusyn: An Anthology of Contemporary Carpatho-Rusyn Literature

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9780893573812: God Is a Rusyn: An Anthology of Contemporary Carpatho-Rusyn Literature

Carpatho-Rusyn literature, which dates back to the sixteenth century, emerged as a distinct creative movement only after the revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe, where the ancestral Rusyn homeland straddles the borders of five countries: Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. For much of the twentieth century, however, Rusyns did not officially exist, since Soviet-dominated governments stubbornly denied the existence of any such ethnicity or language. Only the former Yugoslavia recognized a small community of Rusyns, descendants of immigrants from the Carpathian region to the Vojvodina.

Shortly before the fall of Communist rule, however, it became clear that Rusyns had not disappeared, and since that time a Rusyn cultural renaissance has been underway. As the language was standardized, writers who had previously used Ukrainian, Slovak, or Polish now applied their talent and expertise to rejuvenating a Rusyn national literature in several variants of the Rusyn language. Not surprisingly, one of the most important thematic concerns is Rusyn identity--its history, survival into the present, and its preservation for the future.

Collected here, for the first time in English translation, is a representative sampling of contemporary Rusyn poetry and prose by twenty-seven authors from six countries. An introduction surveys Rusyn literary history, and an appendix provides selected texts from each country in the original Rusyn, as well as an extensive bibliography of language resources.

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About the Author:

Elaine Rusinko is Associate Professor in the department of Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is the author of "Straddling Borders: Literature and Identity in Subcarpathian Rus'" and numerous articles on Carpatho-Rusyn literature.

Review:

Translating literature, in the broadest of terms, is never simple, while translating poetry can even be described as formidably difficult. Choosing literary works for translation into English, as a way of introducing a little-known ethno-linguistic group as a literary people to the world, is just as daunting a task: this collection will be the starting point for those who may know no Rusyn, who may know only a little about the Rusyns as a people, and yet have a desire for some exposure to their literature. The editor is to be congratulated for even attempting a project of this kind, fraught as it is with such difficulties. [...]

The textual anthology is preceded by a short introduction to the subject of literature in Carpathian Rus'. The very use of the term Rus' will of course be immediately interesting to readers unfamiliar with Rusyn, because the Carpatho-Rusyns are thereby culturally tied to the legacy of the greater Rus' of Kyjiv; in Rusyn, however, this term is commonly used. The ten-page introduction is a tour de force in its own right and ought to be read by anyone who is at all interested in the development of literature among the Slavic peoples. This is a short and tightly-knit literary history of a people who are spread across the Carpathians and beyond a people who have been at the mercy of the greater countries within which they have lived for centuries. [...]

In many books with an appendix, such a section will be an "add-on," providing extra information, guides, or a reference for further reading and the like. This is true of Rusinko's Appendix too but hers is more important than a mere add-on. Here we are provided with a selection of texts in the original Rusyn, which will be of particular interest to readers who know another Slavic language that uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Each section (presented according to country, as is the main body of the book) begins with a summary of recent linguistic activity in each region, including extremely useful information on the use of Rusyn in the media and education. Following the sample Rusyn-language texts, we are also given lists of "Sources and Language Resources" for each country or region represented: these take the place of a standard bibliography, which Rusinko's book does not have. The editor has actually made life a little easier for the reader who wishes to pursue a given avenue of Rusyn studies, because he/she does not have to scour an entire bibliography in order to find books or publications devoted, say, solely to the Rusyns of Poland: they are all together in one place. Should one be interested in more than one variant of Rusyn (or all of them), it does not take long to peruse all of the sections, as the lists of references are selective rather than exhaustive.

This book is a worthy addition to the growing number of publications devoted to the language, literature, and culture of the Rusyns, and we hope that it is only the first publication of its kind. --Stefan M. Pugh, Slavic and East European Journal

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Elaine Rusinko
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