Forest Song by Lesya Ukrainka

(book review)

– La-la! Like that, my freedom would be lost?
That’s just as through the wind should cease to be!
Mavka

I’m sure at least everyone has heard of such novels as “The Master and Margarita” by M. Bulgakov, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by G. Marquez or “The Green Mile” by S. King. At one time, they caused a real sensation and now they belong to the classic. But what if I say there’s another work unfairly not included in this top? Such ignorance looks like real shame, right? However don’t worry, today you have a chance to wash your disgrace away!

Forest Song” is a classic of magical realism, written in 1911 by Ukrainian writer Lesya Ukrainka. Actually, this is not an ordinary novel, but a drama-fairy-tale in verse! Created in just 12 days, it became a precious pearl not only of Ukrainian but also of world literature. This is evidenced by the fact that “Forest Song” has three English translations!

The drama events took place in a mythical forest in Western Ukraine. When the snow melted and the birds began to sing, Mavka, a land mermaid and a forest princess, woke up from hibernation. She heard a village guy named Lukash playing the flute. Mavka enjoyed his melody, and then she began to flirt with him:

Why should such a question be a task?
See there, doth not the wild rose ask:
Am I not lovely?”
The ash tree nods, his branches bow,
He says: “None lovelier than thou.”

Eventually, they were head over heels in love with each other.

But their romantic relationship is under threat! The sinister mother is dissatisfied with such a daughter-in-law and seeks a replacement for her. On the contrary, the Death and Oblivion phantom wants to take the forest princess to his underworld. Finally, even Forest Elf, Mavka’s faithful friend, quarrels with her because her love of the human:

Unworthy of the name of forest child!
Your soul is no more of the forest free,
But of the slavish house!
Will Lukash and Mavka defend their right to a happy life?!

On the website “Goodreads”, the drama has the average rating 4.28/5. Readers are very positive about “Forest Song”, comparing it to “Romeo and Juliet”, and advising to read it. Here is one of the comments: “My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE. if u want to read a Ukrainian book make this onE!”

Magic realism style and poetic form are the main advantages of “Forest Song”. But, like any work, this one has its flaws. In particular, there’s no humor in the drama. Well, there’re attempts to joke, but they’re extremely vague. The English translation, on the other hand, destroys that Ukrainian melodiousness with too long sentences, and has certain inaccuracies. For example, in the P. Cundy translation “viburnum” is translated as “cranberry”, which slightly distorts the perception of the drama.

We’ve already heard the opinions of other readers. So, what is my “Forest Song” perception? Despite the above-mentioned flaws, I rate the drama at 6/5. Thus, I advise you to put your housework aside and immediately start reading this pearl of the world literature!

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