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.


»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

»A nightmarish, raw vision of contemporary eastern Ukraine under siege. [...] With a poet’s sense of lyricism [Zhadan] unblinkingly reveals a country’s devastation and its people’s passionate determination to survive.« Publishers Weekly, starred review

»Zhadan captures the grim war-torn city experience very well [...] In its basis in real-life conditions that are so close to us, in time and place, [The Orphanage] serves well as a solid, all-too-close-for-comfort picture of how quickly societal collapse can ripple through even safe-seeming harbors, a reminder of how near such situations might be, to all of us.« M. A. Orthofer, Complete Review

»A literary master of enormous force.« Ilya Kaminsky

»Serhiy Zhadan is one of the most important creators of European culture at work today.« Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny

»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.« Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»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

»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

»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

»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

»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

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

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

Other publications

Antenne/Antenna (2020)

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Poland (Wrocławski Dom Literatury), Bulgaria (Paradox)

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)