A poet and novelist whose work has been variously compared to Rimbaud, Charles Bukowski and Irvine Welsh, Serhiy Zhadan’s first novel Depeche Mode depicts Ukrainian youth during the turbulent 1990s. Described by the author as “a book about real male comradeship,” the novel follows the unemployed narrator and his friends, Jewish anti-Semite Dogg Pavlov and Vasia the Communist, on their adventures around Kharkiv and beyond.
Against a background of social disintegration, slowly eroding Soviet mores and rapidly encroaching Western culture, the three comrades drink gratuitous amounts of vodka and embark on a quest to find their missing friend Sasha Carburetor to tell him about the suicide of his one-legged stepfather. Despite containing some darker themes, Depeche Mode takes an irreverent look at life; Zhadan is not afraid to mix philosophical musings and grotesque narrative with moments of slapstick comedy.
Serhiy Zhadan’s poetic style and masterful wordplay have led critics to dub his trademark approach “verbal jazz”, a description that reflects his unique authorial voice. Zhadan stands as a witness to a time of great social change through the eyes of Ukraine’s dispossessed youth. His work explores the changes he has witnessed as a representative of the immediate post-Soviet generation in Ukraine. Never one to bow to convention, since giving up university teaching in 2004 Zhadan was involved in 2006’s Orange Revolution.
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Endorsements and Review Quotes
“Despite the (by now far too) familiar tropes and types, and the excessive reliance on excessive alcohol consumption, Depeche Mode stands out among novels of the early post-Soviet transition – going beyond these, as well as offering a few very nice literary flourishes and twists, early evidence of Zhadan’s promise as a writer.” M.A.Orthofer, the complete review
“More, perhaps, than any other writer from the post-Soviet era, Serhiy 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.” Uilleam Blacker, The Times Literary Supplement
“Serhiy Zhadan is a poet and novelist whose work has been likened to Rimbaud, Charles Bukowski and Irvine Welsh. Depeche Mode is his debut novel, and it depicts Ukrainian youth during the turbulence of the 1990s. […] The characters confront elements of their reality and embark on a sad and dramatic adventure around Kharkiv and further afield. ” Saffron Swire, Reaction
“In fact, Serhiy is not only a brilliant novelist but also a superb poet who succeeds in blending tradition and modernity in his verse. Kerouac and Skovoroda, Semenko and Ginsberg.” Massimiliano Di Pasquale, Eastonline