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He convinced Vynnychenko not to write in Russian and "forced" the whole of Europe to talk about Ukraine: 5 little-known facts about Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky

Darya SkubEntertainment
From left to right: Ukrainian writers, Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, Volodymyr Vynnychenko.

Throughout his life, Ukrainian writer and public figure Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky believed that he did not "devote himself to literature" enough. These words are surprising! After all, it was Kotsiubynsky who diversified Ukrainian fiction with multifaceted trends, including modernism, and brought it to the European level. He was the first among his colleagues to use impressionism, deep psychologism, neorealism, and elements of expressionism in his works.

The pinnacles of his artistic style are Fata Morgana, What is Written in the Book of Life (1910) and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1911). You remember this from school... What shaped Kotsiubynsky as a person? In an article by OBOZ.UA on the 111th anniversary of the writer's death, we offer to find out how he convinced Volodymyr Vynnychenko not to write in Russian, how he enriched Ukrainian literature with new words, and more.

1. He renounced the Russian language and was a polyglot

Little Mykhailo was born in the city of Vinnytsia, Podillia province, and spoke only Russian. He grew up in a Russian-speaking family, where his father was vigilant about the correct pronunciation of certain words. When the 9-year-old boy got pneumonia, lying in a fever, he began to speak Ukrainian phrases that he had previously heard from his nanny... Several years passed. After hearing this amazing story from his mom and dad, Mykhailo decided to try writing in Ukrainian. At first, it was folk songs, and later he started writing prose.

By the way, at the age of 12, the future writer fell in love with a 16-year-old beauty. To win her favor, the boy began to read a lot. For his self-development, he chose the works of Taras Shevchenko, Marko Vovchok, Ivan Nechuy-Levytsky, Panas Myrny, and a number of other famous writers. They made such a strong impression on Mykhailo that he decided to write as well. In order to make his works multifaceted and different from others, the young man learned different languages on his own. He knew three Slavic languages (Ukrainian, Russian, and Polish), three Romance languages (Romanian, French, and Italian), and three Oriental languages (Tatar, Turkish, and Gypsy). According to some sources, the writer also spoke Greek!

He convinced Vynnychenko not to write in Russian and ''forced'' the whole of Europe to talk about Ukraine: 5 little-known facts about Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky

2. Kotsiubynsky's Russian characters are silent

Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky portrayed characters of different nationalities in his works. These included Ukrainians, Moldovans, Tatars, Poles, and others. In order to make them "come alive" in the imagination of his readers, he used macaronisms (a mechanical mixture of words or phrases from different languages or their reinterpretation in a foreign way) and quotes in the original language. There was only one exception: the Russians... They were unwelcome guests in his work. So, if they did appear in the stories, it was under mysterious circumstances (and disappeared just as quickly!). As a rule, they had no names ("Moskal", "Rusky") and were silent (there were quotes, but laconic), unlike other characters.

Probably, Kotsiubynsky was trying to take revenge for the conditions in which he lived and worked. He was desperate... A telling fact is that he received a meager fee for his Ukrainian-language work. For example, at that time, the Russian writer of Ukrainian origin Anton Chekhov sold his works for 75 thousand rubles. But Mykhailo received no more than 200, as he wrote to his friends: "I have to go to waste... The service barely provides a piece of bread. And literature... I'm ashamed to admit this to a representative of a cultural nation." By the way, Russian translators of Kotsiubynsky's stories received much more.

3. He had a scandal with Volodymyr Vynnychenko

First, let us clarify an important point. At the beginning of the twentieth century (during the imperial era), the Russian language, thanks to legislative privileges, dominated all spheres of public life in Ukraine.

And what about the Ukrainian language? Various personalities tried in every possible way to push it out of active use. Thus, some Ukrainian writers paid great attention to the development of their native language. Among them are Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky and Volodymyr Vynnychenko, a Ukrainian political and public figure, novelist, playwright, and artist, who was 16 years younger than him. When the latter became a popular writer, he decided to start writing in Russian... He argued that "in Russia they pay more". Kotsiubynsky told his younger colleague: "A writer cannot change the language with impunity - it will take revenge."

4. He enriched the Ukrainian language with new words

Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, in his creative impulse, often introduced his own innovative elements into literature. His words merged so harmoniously into the text that it seemed that the language itself was evolving. Thus, thanks to this writer, the lexemes bezglasnyi (mute, silent), kichera (a mountain covered with forest, except for the top), marzhyna (cattle), burun (a foamy wave), and a number of others were born.

He convinced Vynnychenko not to write in Russian and ''forced'' the whole of Europe to talk about Ukraine: 5 little-known facts about Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky

5. "Forced" the whole of Europe talk about Ukraine

Some of Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky's works instantly gained popularity far beyond the borders of Ukraine (they were read no less actively than books by Lesia Ukrainka and Mykhailo Starytsky). We are talking about translations of Fata Morgana, Intermezzo, Persona grata, Horses Are Not to Blame, On the Island, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, and other masterpieces into Polish, Czech, German, Swedish, and other languages.

How did he manage to win the hearts and minds of European readers? As we have already written, Kotsiubynsky's work was the first in Ukrainian literature to incorporate impressionism, deep psychology, elements of expressionism, neorealism, and other trendy trends in art and culture of the time. This was an extremely important step for Ukrainian literature, in particular for its future!

He convinced Vynnychenko not to write in Russian and ''forced'' the whole of Europe to talk about Ukraine: 5 little-known facts about Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky

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