Englischsprachige Literatur

Lewycka Marina

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

Penguin, London 2006


“A mad and hilarious” debut, as the Daily Telegraph says. Middle-aged Nadeshda makes us intimate confidantes of her Ukrainian father´s life story, which she tells in the first person. And what a story she has to confide: Her 84-year old frail father Nikolai, after being a widower for two years, falls in love with the voluptuous 30-year-old Valentina from the Ukraine, whose only aim is to find a way to stay in Britain and marry rich.

And in a touching “amour fou” the old man falls for her and does everything for her, including marriage. Nadeshda and her older sister Vera, on the other hand, do everything to bring them apart. Valentina and her son move into Nikalai´s house, turn everything upside down, feed the old man with junk food and lock him up, if he is a nuisance. The only pride, the old man has left, is the “History of Ukrainian Tractors” which he is writing and we get to read that as it deverlops. And we hear more about the complicated relationship between the two sisters and the family past, than we really care to know.

So, at the beginning, this is a very unusual, very funny and moving story of old age, but gradually we find out, that this is only a narrative vehicle to tell another autobiographical family history between Nazi occupation and communist terror in the Ukraine.