The Tears and Smiles of Things: Stories, Sketches, Meditations by Andriy Sodomora (Translated from Ukrainian by Roman Ivashkiv & Sabrina Jaszi) - review by Ada Wordsworth

Ada Wordsworth

Reading Livy in Lviv

The Tears and Smiles of Things: Stories, Sketches, Meditations


Academic Studies Press 132pp £14.99

In 1962, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, 25-year-old Andriy Sodomora published his first translation, of Menander’s comedy Dyskolos. The Soviet Union imposed massive restrictions on the use of the Ukrainian language and Sodomora was uncertain whether to translate the ancient Greek work into Russian, the state language, or Ukrainian, his mother tongue. His hesitancy was not unfounded: in 1937 the Ukrainian translator Mykala Zerov had been murdered on Stalin’s orders. Ultimately, however, under the guidance of his lecturer at the Ivan Franko University of Lviv, Sodomora chose Ukrainian, thus beginning a career that would see him become Ukraine’s most prolific classical translator. 

Translated by Roman Ivashkiv and Sabrina Jaszi, The Tears and Smiles of Things is a collection of Sodomora’s short stories, essays and musings, originally published in Ukrainian in two separate volumes. Here they are brought together in English for the first time. Set in both Lviv and his native village of Vyriv, the pieces combine Sodomora’s love of classical antiquity with his love of his Ukrainian home. The references scattered throughout the book range widely, from the classical era to early 20th-century Japanese poets, Federico García Lorca and Emily Dickinson.

Sodomora is obsessed with place. His descriptions open up Lviv as a city: a whole chapter is dedicated to the ‘dialect’ of its rain and another passage describes in minute detail a single shrivelled locust tree. His portrait of the ‘orchard-paradise’ of Vyriv is almost mystical. In one short story,

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