The book is a first person account of a soldier’s journey, and is based on Artem Chekh’s diary that he wrote while and after his service in the war in Donbas. One of the most important messages the book conveys is that war means pain. Chekh is not showing the reader any heroic combat, focusing instead on the quiet, mundane, and harsh soldier’s life. Chekh masterfully selects the most poignant details of this kind of life.
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Artem Chekh (1985) is a contemporary Ukrainian writer, author of more than ten books of fiction and essays. Absolute Zero (2017), an account of Chekh’s service in the army in the war in Donbas, is one of his latest books, for which he became a recipient of several prestigious awards in Ukraine, such as the Joseph Conrad Prize (2019), the Gogol Prize (2018), the Voyin Svitla (2018), and the Litaktsent Prize (2017). This is his first book-length translation into English.
Oksana Lutsyshyna is the author of four books and fiction and five collections of poetry, the latest of which just came out in English in 2019 (Persephone Blues, Arrowsmith). She is a novelist, a poet, and a translator, and most of her books are published in her native Ukrainian language. Oksana currently works as Lecturer in Ukrainian Studies at the University of Texas in Austin, where she teaches Ukrainian language and Eastern European literatures. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Georgia.
Olena Jennings is the author of Songs from an Apartment (Underground Books, 2017) and Memory Project (Underground Books, 2018). Her translation from Ukrainian of Iryna Shuvalova’s poetry collection, Pray to the Empty Wells, in collaboration with the author, was released in September 2019 by Lost Horse Press. She is a 2018 recipient of a New Work Grant from the Queens Council of the Arts. She is the founder and curator of the Poets of Queens reading series. She holds an MFA in writing fiction from Columbia University and an MA in Ukrainian Literature from the University of Alberta.
Endorsements and Review Quotes
“Absolute Zero is a reminder that even in frozen conflicts there is life and movement. While the interest of the wider world dwindles, hopes for ceasefires ebb and flow; while politics cycles through tragedy and farce, warm young blood must still pump through the frontlines. Chekh reminds us – as a soldier, but also as a writer who wrote before war and will write after war – that it is for the young people trapped in the war that everything freezes.” Thom Dinsdale, East-West Review
“The social identities behind the vintage references in Chekh and Prilepin’s works are the fundamental oppositions of the 21st century: on one side the liberals, the bourgeois, the cosmopolitans, the democrats, the globalists, the human rights-ists; on the other, the degreeless workers, the peasants, the patriots, the nationalists, the traditionalists.” James Meek, The London Review of Books
The book is “filled with very interesting standalone anecdotes that portray the banality and the grotesque horror of war and how it affects not only soldiers, but people who are trying to get updates from back home.” Kate Tsurkan, Coda
“Based on the diary he kept when he served on the frontlines, this book explores the banality of war. There are no depictions of battles, heroic or otherwise; instead, Chekh focuses on the moments in between. It turns out that war isn’t very interesting, neither for the soldiers on the frontlines nor for the people unaffected by it—but every Ukrainian soldier cut off from their friends and family and facing an uncertain future will emerge from the war forever changed.” Kate Tsurkan, Literary Hub
“The focus is much more on how the soldiers react to the daily life of being a soldier with the possibility of attack being only one of their concerns. It could have been dull but never is as Chekh keeps the story varied with something new continually happening.” The Modern Novel
“Chekh, a contemporary Ukrainian author of eight novels, was drafted into the Army following the Russian advance on eastern Ukraine in 2014. In Absolute Zero, he lays out a relentless, guileless account of life in post-Soviet military service.” The Millions
“The book foregoes romantic, sweeping reflections on war in favor of hyperrealism that makes it far more relatable to the average reader. War is hell – but it turns out that it’s also kind of boring.” Kate Tsurkan, Transitions
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