Cover of Taras Shevchenko

Taras Shevchenko

A Life

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University of Toronto Press


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Taras Shevchenko is undoubtedly Ukraine's greatest literary genius and national hero. His extraordinary life-story is recounted in this classic work by Pavlo Zaitsev. Born in 1814, the son of a poor serf, Shevchenko succeeded in winning his freedom and became an art student in St. Petersburg. In 1847 he was arrested for writing revolutionary poetry, forced into the army, and exiled to deserted outposts of the Russian empire to undergo an incredible odyssey of misery for ten years. Zaitsev's recounting of Shevchenko's ordeal is a moving portrait of a man able not only to survive extreme suffering but to transform it into poetry that articulated the aspirations of his enslaved nation. To this day Ukrainians observe a national day of mourning each year on the anniversary of Shevchenko's death. Zaitsev's biography has long been recognized by scholars as definitive. Originally written and typeset in the 1930s, the manuscript was confiscated from Zaitsev by Soviet authorities when they annexed Glaicia in 1939. The author still had proofs, however, which he revised and published in Munich in 1955. George Luckyj's translation, the first in English, now offers this indispensible biography to a new audience.

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