Boryslav in Flames by Ivan Franko is a pioneering novel that depicts the rise of the labour movement in Western Ukraine. The story unfolds against the backdrop of the industrial revolution in the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the 1860s. As industry burgeons in Boryslav, a nascent working class emerges, inspired by socialist ideals – a unique phenomenon in mostly agrarian Galicia.
Central to the narrative is Benedio, a lowly mason’s assistant who organizes the striking workers. This is offset against the impulsive rebelliousness and violence purveyed by the Basarab brothers.
Woven throughout this tapestry of labour strife is a “Romeo and Juliet” subplot of romance between the offspring of two affluent oil tycoons.
Serialized in the Lviv magazine Svit from 1880 to 1881, the novella remained unfinished, due to the magazine’s closure. It was eventually published as a book in 1922.
Over time the novel has undergone evolving interpretations. Initially lauded as a portrayal of the budding labour movement, it was later dissected for its intricate character psychology and examination of wealth and power dynamics. Franko’s representation of the perspectives of the workers continues to provoke critical analysis, solidifying its status as a seminal work in Ukrainian literature.
This book has been published with the support of the Translate Ukraine Translation Program.