Fire horses: the Ukraine of shepherds and spirits

Think of me, my beloved, / Twice a day, / And I will think of you / In one hour seven times. »

Mix of Romeo and Julietand of Hamlet , enhanced with pagan-Christian spells? One family, the Paliytchouks, is the enemy of a neighboring family, the Houteniouks. Of the 20 children, 15 perished in this battle with an axe. Young Ivan, 19th in the family, scares his mother. There ” she-devil she substituted the child, because the progenitor did not drive out the evil spirit from the khata(house), installed at the top of the mountain?

At first, he cried continuously, then stared at nothings for whole hours, as if he saw a kind of distance that others did not know “. Later, he knows all animal sounds, plants and herbs. His forest is full of spirits: the dangerous mermaids torn to pieces by the joyful and dancing Tchougaïstyr, the sylvans, or even Aridnyk, who has power over everything here below and copies God in everything. One day when he climbed to the top of the Montagne Noire, he heard the sweet music that had haunted his ear for so long “. ” Up there, on a stone “HE” sat, the Invisible»…

In this text elements as a living expression of the rolling of the heart, work and days pass, interspersed with the sound of the Trembita which announces a death or a birth. Marischka, daughter of the enemy family, and Ivan are in love. They will meet again after the mountain pastures where the men leave the villages for several months with their animals, so that they can take advantage of the abundant grass on the summits. Love comes, then flees, and Ivan will lose his joy in the mediocrity of days. The shaman has lost his soul, buried under the waters of the Cheremoches. His youth has passed. He disappeared 6 years and returned the 7th year.

This Orpheus of the Carpathians, musician, dreamer, having become an adult, has fallen asleep. Her child’s third eye is gone. Depressed by dint of a petty daily life where he is not in his place, he wanders in his world surrounded by the village, with openings when it is necessary to feed the herd in the mountains. His aspiration to a “normal” life precipitates his tragic end. Indifferent, his wife cheats on him. How to be otherwise? Finally, an appearance and a final dance.

In this Christianity very influenced by the bogomile tradition, the soul locked up in the body by the devil is delivered by death, which returns to heaven. This is why, around the deceased, the Hutsuls organize a hrushka , funeral rite based on prayer, music and gaiety, tipping over into unbridled carnival. We celebrate the end of this life and the beginning of another.

Thus passed the life of beasts and people who united like two springs of mountains in one course », organized according to rites. Witchcraft is a daily affair, and we must prevent it. The mage Yuri,equal of god», pushes back the clouds, and Khyma, the old woman «obsequious who always seemed friendly, transformed at night into a white dog and prowled the neighboring courtyards“. Carl Jung recounts, inMy life,that the Swiss countryside of his youth, at the end of the 19th century, resembled more that of the 14th century than that which was to impose itself in a few decades. The spirits were as familiar there as the sun, which is reborn at each dawn.

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

This immediacy of the rhythms of the world unfolds, to which a culture, an aesthetic, a magic, a mystique, a philosophy have been added. Inthe reality of the soul,Jung also speaks of “this deeper, more universal, more true, more enduring man, who still dwells in the dim primordial clarity. There he is the whole and the whole is in him, undifferentiated from nature and devoid of ipseity.»

The original title of Kotsiubynsky’s work isShadows of Forgotten Ancestors. The “Ukrainian Gorky», for his numerous texts in which he spoke for the Ukrainians and their peasants, built his work between the years 1890 and 1910. This text was completed in 1912, the author died the following year. Sick during its writing, he designed it installed in the seaside town of Kryvorinia, right in the middle of the Hutsul Carpathian forest, where the great Ukrainian artists of the time met.

His style “impressionist“, after having been a master of the “ethnographic realismcomes from the eye of someone who has been able to describe the colors and oscillations of this nature, likening the wind on the leaves to the external expression of an internal feeling.

Filmmaker Sergei Paradjanov, speaking about his adaptation, explained: “Color is not just mood, a complementary emotion. It is part of the content.For Kotsioubynsky, the climate, the reliefs shape an identity. The author transcends the ethnographic approach, and creates an ancient poem with mythological characters. Always Paradjanov, about the work: “I immediately fell in love with this infinitely pure feeling of beauty, harmony, infinity. We perceive this line where nature becomes art and where art becomes nature.»

The Ukrainian Hutsuls are a group of 250 to 300,000 mountainous Ukrainians, mostly focused on livestock, mountain pastures and logging. Settled in the Carpathians, Western Galicia, Hungary and Bucovina, their ancient churches and steeples are made of wood, as in Norway, and thepysanky(decorated Easter eggs), sculptures and other wooden ceramics express their unique culture.

fire horseswas published in French in the Slavic Classics collection of L’Âge d’Homme in 2001, in a virtuoso translation by Jean-Claude Marcadé. In 2018, 600 titles from the small house founded in 1966 by Vladimir Dimitrijevic went to Noir sur blanc, taken from the collection of Slavic Classics and Au coeur du monde.

Vladimir Dimitrijevic, who died in a car accident in 2011, was able to welcome some of the great authors of the 20th century, such as Stanisław Witkiewicz, Alexander Zinoviev, Vladimir Volkov, Pierre Gripari, Eugenio Corti, or even Vassili Grossman and his masterpiecelife and destinylong unavailable.

DOSSIER – Biographical alternate history: literary figures of the past immersed in a modern world

Fire horses: the Ukraine of shepherds and spirits