Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Sanatoriina Zona as a panopticon of state violence in early Soviet Ukrainian literature

Fri31  Mar05:00pm(15 mins)
Gilbert Scott Room 253
Dr Olena Palko


Olena Palko1
1 University of Basel, Switzerland


Povist' pro Sanatoriinu Zonu [A Tale of a Sanatorium], written in 1924 by the prominent Soviet Ukrainian writer, Mykola Khvyl’ovyi, offers a unique literary representation of pervasive state violence in early Soviet Ukraine. Set within the walls of a sanatorium, this text stands among the earliest examples of the rich literary tradition of the ‘sanatorium novel’, which conventionally begins with Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg [The Magic Mountain, 1924]. Khvyl’ovi’s Tale of a Sanatorium, published in the same year as Mann’s novel, remains little-known beyond Ukraine. Whereas Mann used the locus of a Swiss Kurort as an allegory for how European society hid from political catastrophe in the seclusion of a mountain resort, Khvyl’ovyi’s sanatorium provides an original literary metaphor for emergent Soviet society, from which my article will extrapolate two equally significant interpretations. This paper sets to analyse one of the earliest representations of the Soviet totalitarian state in Soviet literature. It will also demonstrate how the concept of violence was transformed from mere physical acts, a transitional condition of the civil war period, to a permanent psychological fact, a new instrument of power in the nascent Soviet state.