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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Дванадцять обручів

Yuri Andrukhovych

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Title: Дванадцять обручів
Author: Yuri Andrukhovych
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003
Length: 306 pages
Original in: Ukrainian
Availability: Zwölf Ringe - Deutschland
  • Дванадцять обручів has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B : engaging but meandering

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 16/3/2005 Hubert Spiegel
Frankfurter Rundschau . 22/6/2005 Christoph Schröder
Freitag . 18/3/2005 Ingo Arend
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 12/3/2005 Ilma Rakusa
Die Presse . 3/6/2005 Karl-Markus Gauß
Die Zeit . 2/6/2005 Olga Martynova

  Review Consensus:

  Generally favourable (though all find aspects of it ... odd), but no consensus

  From the Reviews:
  • "Wie Dracula ein Produkt des Fin de siècle war, so sind auch Andruchowytschs Zwölf Ringe das Produkt einer Phase der Transformation, in der Ende und Neubeginn, Zusammenbruch und Grundsteinlegung ununterscheidbar zusammenfallen. (...) Es ist ein absurder Tanz, leicht wie die Liebe und schwer wie ein Albtraum, den dieser Roman mit immer wieder neuen und überraschenden Volten und Perspektivwechseln vollführt, anspielungsreich, metafiktional und auf eine Weise postmodern verschachtelt und gebrochen, die westliche Leser an manche Bücher der achtziger Jahre erinnern mag, von Coover und Barthelme bis Calvino." - Hubert Spiegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Zwölf Ringe, das ist eine postmoderne Karpatengroteske, ein postsozialistischer Heimatroman mit surrealer Note. Es ist absurd und komisch, bizarr und unglaublich, verworren und verwirrend, was hier geschieht. Juri Andruchowytsch zündet ein Feuerwerk von Ideen, Ansätzen, Schreibweisen und Perspektiven. Das Ergebnis ist ein in jedem Fall ungewöhnliches Leseerlebnis. (...) Ungeheuer viel wird hier gewagt, aber nicht alles gewonnen" - Christoph Schröder, Frankfurter Rundschau

  • "Zwölf Ringe ist kein Roman nach Brüsseler Norm. In diesem Musterbeispiel des postmodernen Heimatromans offenbart sich ein weltoffener provinzieller Eigensinn, an dem sich das homogenisierungssüchtige EU-Europa noch seine Freude haben wird. Mit diesem furiosen Patchwork aus Mythos und MTV, aus Hochliteratur und Massenkultur ist die europäische (Post-)Moderne ein Stück nach Osten gerückt." - Ingo Arend, Freitag

  • "Dieser Roman ist ein einziges Durcheinander. Aber ein schönes !" - Karl-Markus Gauß, Die Presse

  • "Dieser "huzulische Roman", als der er in Deutschland schon missverstanden wurde, wäre vielleicht lohnenswert gewesen. Der ukrainische Postmodernismus, den Andruchowytsch stattdessen zu erfinden versucht, ist es nicht. Als geborener Essayist vermag der Autor komplizierte Zusammenhänge einfach (mitunter zu einfach) darzustellen. In seinen belletristischen Werken hingegen macht er die einfachen Sachen zu kompliziert und verliert sich in einer umständlichen Romanmaschinerie. Im Umgang mit dem Romanpersonal dominieren überdies grobe Klischees." - Olga Martynova, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Дванадцять обручів is a novel of the contemporary Ukraine, but Yuri Andrukhovych sets it largely in relatively isolated locales, concentrating on a few characters -- allowing him to all the more effectively tie the past in with the present.
       One of the central figures is an Austrian photographer, Karl-Joseph Zumbrunnen. His name sounds straight out of the Habsburg Empire, and the Habsburg legacy in what once was Galicia and Lemberg (which became first Polish (post-WWI) then Ukrainian (post-WWII) Lvov/Lviv) and a nostalgia for aspects of those times suffuse the book. (Tellingly and realistically, however, Zumbrunnen winds up dead: he and what he represents weren't made to endure in these times .....) Zumbrunnen becomes obsessed with newly-independent Ukraine, travelling there repeatedly throughout the 1990s, staying as long as he can. It's an obsession that even costs him his relationship back home -- but, despite his fascination with and immersion in the country, he doesn't pick up more than a few words of the language (or Russian), remaining always the man behind the lens, rather than fully in the picture.
       Most of the other central characters travel with Zumbrunnen by train and then helicopter to the same isolated place, ostensibly the centre of the continent, a one-time weather-station and observatory (and failed elite sports training centre), an ideal representation of past (and present) illusions called 'On the Moon' (and, in some respects, feeling very much as though it really were ...). There's Artur Pepa, a writer approaching forty who is growing dissatisfied with his marriage, his wife, Pani Roma -- who is Zumbrunnen's translator (and lover) --, and eighteen year-old step-daughter, Kolya, artsy Magierski who is to direct the video they've been assembled to make, and a professor specialising in Ukrainian poet Bohdan-Ihor Antonych (1909-1937, another blast from the past), as well as two young women. And there's the sinister oligarch-type who brought them all together here.
       Digressing to provide various backgrounds -- as well as tell the story of the poet Antonych -- the novel meanders about. Andrukhovych mines both Ukrainian history (general and literary) as well as his own material: early on he catches himself almost slipping off to Recreations (and Chortopil pops up here as well), while there are numerous references to Bu-Ba-Bu (the influential poetic group Andrukhovych was part of) and their doings.
       The 'twelve rings' of the title -- another Antonych-reference -- also play a role, the professor egging on Kolya to recall them all by the end of their stay.
       Дванадцять обручів is an interesting mix of the conventional and fantastical, both grounded and high-flying. The unexpected avenues Andrukhovych veers of into are often rewarding, but the central story -- this group of people invited to this relatively isolated spot -- occasionally feels underdeveloped even as he focusses on it.
       Дванадцять обручів is also very much a Ukrainian novel, steeped in reference and allusion -- an appealing aspect, but not always entirely accessible to the non-Ukrainian reader.
       Worthwhile if occasionally frustrating.

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Дванадцять обручів: Reviews: Yuri Andrukhovych: Other books by Yuri Andrukhovych under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Ukrainian author Yuri Andrukhovych (Juri Andruchowytsch, Юрій Андрухович) was born in 1960.

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