Review: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka.
[rating:5/5] Now I see his energy is all redirected towards this woman and her son- they will become his substitute family. He can speak with them in his own language. Such a beautiful language that anyone can be a poet. Such a landscape- it would make anyone an artist. Blue-painted wooden houses, golden wheat fields, forests of silver birch; slow wide sliding rivers. Instead of going home to Ukraina, Ukraina will come home to him. I have visited Ukraine. I have seen the concrete housing blocks and the fish dead in the rivers. Lewycka’s short novel is the story of a woman whose elderly father (an immigrant from Ukraine) who falls in love with a young woman, Valentina (also from Ukraine) and marries her. The narrator has her doubts all along about the young woman’s intentions. They fight: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” I have slipped into the mongrel language, half English half Ukrainian, fluent and snappy. “Ah-shamed! Ah-shamed!” She snorts. “You shame. No me shame. Why you no visit you mamma grave? Why you no crying, bringin flower? Why you making trouble here?” The thought of my mother lying neglected in the cold ground while this usurper lords it in her kitchen drives me to a new pitch of fury. “Don’t you dare to talk about my mother. Don’t even say her name with your filthy-talking boil-in-the-baggage mouth!” “You mother die. Now you father marry me. You no like. You make trouble. I understand. I no stupid.” She speaks the mongrel language, too. We snarl at each other like mongrels. Another book I picked up in Canada. B.C. this time. The story weaves from discovery to discovery, her parents’ story in WW2 Ukraine, and the detective work involved in ridding Valentina (the other woman) from her father’s life: The detective thrusts the envelope into her hands. Valentina looks confused. “Divorce pepper? I no want divorce.” “No,” says the detective, “the petitioner is Mr. Nikolai Mayevskyj. He is divorcing you.” She stands for a moment in stunned silence. Then she explodes in a ball of fury. “Nikolai! Nikolai! What is this?” she screams at my father. “Nikolai, you crazy dog-eaten-brain graveyard-deadman!” My father has locked himself in his room and turned the radio on full volume. She swings round again to confront the private detective, but he is alreadly slamming the door of his black BMW and driving away with a screech of tyres. She turns on Vera. “You she-cat-dog-vixen flesh-eating witch!” A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka.

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