Masterfully fulfilled by Peter Fedynsky, Voice of America journalist and expert on Ukrainian studies, first ever English rendition of the entire Kobzar is coming as a gift edition, richly illustrated with Shevchenko’s paintings, etchings and drawings, aimed to increase awareness of the Ukraine's cultural heritage.
As a foundational text, The Kobzar has played an important role in galvanizing the Ukrainian identity and in the development of Ukrainian literature and its written language. The first editions were censored by the czar, but the book still made an enduring impact on Ukrainian culture. There is no reliable count of how many editions of the book have been published, but an official estimate made in 1976 put the figure in Ukraine at 110 during the Soviet period alone. That figure does not include Kobzars released before and after both in Ukraine and abroad. A multitude of translations of Shevchenko’s verse into Slavic, Germanic and Romance languages, as well as Chinese, Japanese, Bengali, and many others attest to his impact on world culture as well. The poet is honored with more than 1250 monuments in Ukraine, and at least 125 worldwide, including such capitals as Washington, Ottawa, Buenos Aires, Warsaw, Moscow and Tashkent. Former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower unveiled the one in Washington.
This separate gift edition is made possible by generous grants from The Ukrainian Institute of America, The Selfreliance Credit Union in New York, and the James Temerty Foundation in Canada. The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America will sponsor a Kobzar book tour in the United States during Shevchenko’s anniversary year.
For more information about this publication please consult the following website dedicated exclusively to Kobzar.
Roman Czajkowsky of the Ukrainian Weekly reports on the presentation of the English translation of Shevchenko’s complete Kobzar.
THE UKRAINIAN WEEKLY
“President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych favored with a presentation copy of the first ever English translation of the complete Kobzar”
EMBASSY OF UKRAINE IN THE USA/PRESS CENTER
Peter Fedynsky’s interview for Voice of America (Ukrainian)
VOICE OF AMERICA
Translator Peter Fedynsky talks to Ukrainian-American weekly newspaper NOVA GAZETA about his English translation of Kobzar by Taras Shevchenko (Ukrainian)
Taras Shevchenko (1814-61) was a Ukrainian author and artist. The Kobzar, which he worked on for nearly 25 years, is considered his masterpiece. His works are celebrated worldwide in museums and cultural centres named after him.
Shevchenko has a special place in Ukrainian history: his poetry is considered to be a foundation for modern written Ukrainian and for Ukrainian literature. Aside from his literary work, his paintings earned him many awards and a professional title from the Imperial Academy of Arts.
Born into serfdom, Shevchenko experienced poverty from an early age. By the age of 11, he had lost both his parents, but before passing away, his father managed to get him an apprenticeship with a deacon, who taught the young boy to read and write. After the death of his parents, Shevchenko was an itinerant worker until the age of fourteen, when he became a house servant with his overlord, Pavel Engelhardt.
The boy showed early talent for art. At 15, he travelled with Engelhardt to St. Petersburg and was given a series of apprenticeships. Eventually, he came to the attention of several prominent intellectuals, including Russia’s finest living painter, Karl Briullov, and poet Vasilii Zhukovsky, who was the tutor of future Czar Alexander II. They bought Shevchenko’s freedom for 2,500 rubles by auctioning off one of Bruillov’s portraits of Zhukovsky. In 1838, Shevchenko was accepted into the Imperial Academy of Arts as Briullov’s student.
The first half of the 1840s is considered propitious for the artist. Having written poetry since 1837, Shevchenko published his first Kobzar in 1840. The collection earned him critical and popular acclaim, and his status as a cultural figure was on the rise. He returned to Ukraine for the first time at the age of 29, travelling extensively for a critical three year period from 1843-45 that resulted in a series of paintings and some of his most penetrating and patriotic verse. In Kyiv, he joined the Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood, a secret organization that advocated the abolition of serfdom and also the right of every Slavic nation to develop its own culture and language. His membership in the Brotherhood, deemed subversive by czarist authorities, as well as his controversial poetry, led to Shevchenko’s arrest in 1847. He was then exiled with a military detachment to Orenburg on the edge of the Ural Mountains. Czar Nicholas I personally prohibited Shevchenko from writing or painting.
Shevchenko, however, violated the Czar’s orders. Such insubordination led to even deeper banishment to the town of Novopetrovsk on the desolate eastern shore of the Caspian Sea. (In honour of the poet, the city was renamed Shevchenko in 1963). His friends, including members of the prominent Tolstoy family, appealed for his release, which finally came in 1857.
Shevchenko’s health was permanently affected by the ordeal, but his creative output remained strong. In 1860, the Imperial Academy of Arts honoured the artist with a professional academic title. Soon after, his health deteriorated and he died of heart failure on March 10, 1861— seven days before the abolition of serfdom was formally announced.