Serhij Zhadan

The Orphanage - Novel

Original Ukrainian title: Інтернат, published in 2017 by Meridian Czernowitz, Chernivtsi
(German title: Internat)
ca. 270 pages
Serhij Zhadan
Foto: Serhij Zhadan
© Meridian Czernowitz

Serhij Zhadan was born in 1974 in Starobilsk, near Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, and studied German at Kharkiv University. Since 1991, he has been one of the leading figures on the Kharkiv scene.

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English world rights (Yale UP), France (Noir sur Blanc), Italy (Voland), Denmark (Jensen & Dalgaard) Poland (Czarne), Belorussia (Januškevič), Republic of Moldova / Romanian rights (Cartier), Lithuania (Kitos Knygos), Georgia (Intelekti)

Longlisted for the Angelus Award 2020

»The bard of Eastern Ukraine, where things are falling apart.« The New Yorker

»My books are apolitical, but somehow they’re always unlucky enough to have politics catch up with them.« Serhij Zhadan


A young teacher plans on bringing his 13-year-old nephew home from the boarding school at the other end of town. The school, in which his working sister has »parked« her son, has come under fire and no longer offers security. Crossing the town, in which civil life has broken down, takes a whole day.

The return trip becomes a test. The two of them find themselves in the immediate vicinity of the fighting without being able to see further than the milky fog ablaze with yellow fires. There’s the rat-a-tat of machine guns, exploding mines, more frequently than the day before. Paramilitary troops, ownerless dogs appear in the ruins, apathetic people are stumbling through an apocalyptic urban landscape confused and disoriented.

With incredibly powerful images, Serhij Zhadan describes how a once familiar environment turns into an eerie setting. His art of telling the stories of defiant people who counter fear and destruction with their assertiveness and their sense of responsibility is at least equally as striking. His examination of the war in the Donbass finds its preliminary culmination in his novel The Orphanage.


»Zhadan places his words – tender, painfully sweet, brash – with a delicate sense for melody and association.« Die Zeit

»Zhadan’s powerful language and the pulsing rhythm of his sentences downright whip the reader through the inferno.« Neue Zürcher Zeitung

»If you want to understand what happened in Eastern Ukraine, you have to read Serhij Zhadan’s books.« FAZ

»This war novel is a masterpiece.« WDR 5

»Serhij Zhadan is not only capable of creating unforgettable images and crazy dialogue: whoever reads his novel will also experience how war smells.« SRF

»The Orphanage is a tiny masterpiece… It is more than a novel about an almost forgotten European war. It has to do with the universal theme of the person who either loses their home—because they have to or want to—or remains, but can no longer recognise their home as their home.« Literatur Spiegel

» ... one of the most important and haunting novels to appear this spring.« Sigrid Löffler, RBB Kulturradio

»The Orphanage puts on display Serhij Zhadan’s outstanding capacity for depicting the world of eastern Ukraine with captivating precision and without trivialising or making it banal.« der Freitag

»With The Orphanage Serhij Zhadan has without a doubt written an important novel about war in general, not simply the one in eastern Ukraine.« literaturkritik.de

»The author has nothing other than language to use against this war and he knows how to use it. The reader is not spared a thing.« literaturleuchtet

»With his at times simple, at times surreal images Serhij Zhadan certainly convinces; here deprivation, destruction, and death are all-present and we are reminded of the absurdity and senselessness of war in general.« Südwest Presse

»The Orphanage is above all a literary piece of art which makes the loss of all securities tangible.« Der Bund

»The force of the language gives way at times to irony or cynicism, which hides resignation. Above all, however, it is the vivid language of an important work that is free from accusations, and rich in a quiet, tremendous sorrow.« Kleine Zeitung

»Though [his] language is at times highly poetic, it is no way stylizes the war. The images Zhadan finds are extremely convincing in their precision.« ORF

»More, perhaps, than any other writer from the post-Soviet era, Serhij Zhadan speaks to this experience of national and personal upheaval [...] Zhadan gives us a flâneur’s perspective on post-Soviet urban life, with its ruined socialist architecture, industrial wastelands, petty crime and violence. The absurdity of the clash of socialist and Western culture is also sharply observed.« The Times Literary Supplement

»With amazing literary strength Serhij Zhadan creates an impressive as well as oppressive end-times scenario … « Nürnberger Nachrichten

»Everywhere people are shooting, at any time a tank can come around the corner, it is unclear just who is friend and who is foe, it is the apocalypse, or as Zhadan himself says numerous times: hell. [He] sketches this world with such an intensity and eye for detail that it becomes clear he does not simply know it from hearsay or the TV.« WDR

» With The Orphanage Serhij Zhadan has without a doubt written an important novel about war in general, not simply the one in eastern Ukraine.« Literaturkritik.de

Other publications

Antenne/Antenna (2020)

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Poland (Wrocławski Dom Literatury)

Mesopotamien/Mesopotamia (2015)

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English world rights (Yale UP), France (Noir sur Blanc), Italy (Voland), Denmark (Jensen & Dalgaard), Norway (Pax), Poland (Czarne), Georgia (Intelekti)

Die Erfindung des Jazz im Donbass/Voroshilovgrad (2012)

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English world rights (Deep Vellum), Russia (Astrel), Arabic world rights (Here&There), France (Noir sur Blanc), Italy (Voland), Netherlands (De Geus) Poland (Czarne), Hungary (Europa), Bulgaria (Paradox), Republic of Moldova / Romanian rights (Cartier), Latvia (Janis Roze), Slovenia (Beletrina), Belarus (Logvinau), Georgia (Intelekti)

Hymne der demokratischen Jugend/Democratic Youth Anthem (2009)

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Russia (Amphora), Poland (Czarne), Slovakia (Brak), Bulgaria (Paradox)

Anarchy in the UKR/Anarchy in the UKR (2007)

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Russia (Amphora), France (Noir sur Blanc), Sweden (2244/Bonniers), Norway (Pax), Lithuania (Kitos Knygos), Poland (Czarne), Republic of Moldova / Romanian rights (Cartier)

Depeche Mode/Depeche Mode (2007)

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English world rights (Glagoslav), Russia (Amphora), Italy (Castelvecchi), Sweden (2244/Bonniers), Poland (Czarne), Hungary (Europa), Bulgaria (Paradox), Republic of Moldova / Romanian rights (Cartier), Estonia (Loomingu Raamatukogu), Lithuania (Kitos Knygos)