#18 The Witches of Kyiv by Orest Somov

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The Witches of Kyiv and Other Gothic Tales collects a range of stories by Ukrainian Romantic author, Orest Somov which were originally published between 1827 and 1833. This collection comes from Sova Books and the translations are by Svitlana Yakovenko. The book also features a helpful glossary and annotations, as well as excellent introduction by Svitlana Krys.

Though written in Russian, these gothic tales draw heavily on Ukrainian folklore, and introduce a distinctly regional flavour to the palette of the Romantic literature of the 1820s and ‘30s. Bold Cossack warriors, perilously seductive water sprites, and cunning witches haunt the pages of the collection, and bring into being the theories espoused by Somov in his seminal essay of 1823, ‘On Romantic Poetry’.

In this episode, I’m joined by Dr Keith Walmsley to discuss the work and influence of this forgotten innovator of Romantic prose in Russian. Over the course of the programme, we discuss Somov’s role as the originator of many motifs that will echo throughout Russian and Ukrainian literature, consider his relationship with Russia, and examine the import of the various folkloric figures which populate his tales.

Bibliography:

‘Orest Somov: An Introduction’ by John Mersereau in The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 43, No. 101 (June, 1965), pp. 354-370 (the Modern Humanities Research Association and University College London)

The Holy Fool in Russian Culture by Eva Thompson (University Press of America, 1987)

Russian Romantic Criticism: An Anthology edited by Lauren G. Leighton (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987)

Russia and Ukraine: Literature and the Discourse of Empire from Napoleonic to Postcolonial Times (McGill-Queen’s Press, 2001)

Были и небылицы, Орест Михайлович Сомов (Сов. Россия, 1984)

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