Everything eventually reaches its appointed place in time and space. Maria Matios’s dramatic family saga, Hardly Ever Otherwise, narrates the story of several western Ukrainian families during the last decades of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and expands upon the idea that “it isn’t time that is important, but the human condition in time.”
From the first page, Matios engages her reader with an impeccable style, which she employs to create a rich tapestry of cause and effect, at times depicting a logic that is both bitter and enigmatic. But nothing is ever fully revealed — it is only in the final pages of the novel that the events in the beginning are understood as a necessary part of a larger whole, and the section entitled Seasickness presents a compelling argument for why events almost always have to follow a particular course.
In Matios’s multi-tiered plot, the grand passions of ordinary people are illuminated under the caliginous light of an ethereal mysticism, and digressions on love, envy, transgression, and atonement are woven into the story. The reader is submerged into a rich world populated by a grand cast of characters and ideas, which Matios animates with her prolific imagination and subtle wisdom.
Each character in this outstanding drama has an irrefutable alibi, a unique truth, and a private conflict with honor and duty. Her characters do not always act in accordance with logic and written-law, as the laws of honor clash with the laws of the heart. And this is why it is hardly ever otherwise.
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Maria Matios was born in Ukraine in 1959, graduating with a degree in Ukrainian literature from Chernivtsi State University. She has worked as chief-secretary for the Bukovina Literary Journal, the Chernivtsi Writers’ Union, and the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine. From 2005 to 2010 she served as deputy chair of the Shevchenko National Prize.
Matios’ first poems were published when she was fifteen years old. In 1992 she published her first prose in Kiev Magazine, and she has gone on to write seven books of poetry and five books of prose. This has earned her the unofficial title of Ukraine’s most prolific female author, and the official titles of Chevalier of the Ukrainian Order of Merit and Honorary Citizen of Chernivtsi.
In 2007, the novel Hardly Ever Otherwise earned Matios the Grand Prix at the Coronation of Words Competition. The title was also named book of the year. Her highly influential novel, Sweet Darusia, was named the best Ukrainian novel written in the first fifteen years after Ukrainian Independence, and earned Matios the Shevchenko National Prize in 2005.
Her works have been translated into many languages including Serbian, Romanian, Russian, Polish, Croatian, Belorussian, Azerbaijani, Japanese, and Chinese.
Endorsements and Review Quotes
[In the novel] “there are many terms that refer to the Hutsul culture of the region. It is always a challenge to translate this type of work. Tkacz succeeds, for the most part, in his attempt to stay true to the flavour and intensity of the original in his translation”. Olena Jennings, East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies
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