Hooked on Katya Babkina, or why are people naked?

There are several reasons why it is much better to start studying a language with adult literature, rather than with children’s one. Firstly, Winnie the Pooh would not be so interesting that a reader could consider reading to be “wanted”, but to not “obligatory”. A new book by Den Brown has got much more vivid chances. Secondly, themes of war, travelling, relationship in favorite literature of Romanticism\Realism\Modernism hold readers’ interest more efficiently than “The Adventures of Peter Pan”. Choosing between Ray Bradbury and Andersen you will definitely choose the first one. Thirdly, if you are excited with reading, you won’t be a lazybone to look up unknown words, even if there are eight of them in a passage. Actual themes are much more useful. Skovoroda Institute is going to tell you why people want to put aside books with standard texts and start reading the book by a famous Ukrainian writer.

“Happy Naked People” – it is a collection of novels, connected by time. “This book is about quite harsh, traumatic times and experiences, – says Katya Babkina in interview for “Hromadske” radio. – How was it broken and what should be done with that? It is necessary to be able to take it off and stay “naked”. Really, the happy and naked were loosing, finding long forgotten, adjusting to a situation, coping with it all worthily or not so worthily, were blind and sighted, but in another way. Stayed in Odessa, drank alcohol, laughed, cried, lived through the war, sometimes even two, fell in love and not really , but always happy. And “naked”. All of them were different: young, adult and old, connected by one time.

Happy and naked people have picturesque and atmospheric childhood. It is not about something different and very unusual, but because of such a factor that it appears to be quite normal for Ukrainians, especially for those, who were born in 80s. Katya Babkina’s children-characters live in military families or in families of those, who returned from war injured. They often move their houses, but later, eventually, settle in cantonment; they abide prohibitions to swim in the river, burn campfire and cross the road; they do have friends, who doesn’t abide, and sometimes even unlock cars and do small robberies. Then, having grown up, they graduate from universities, set up business and sell it. And while reading about these kids, with their phobias, silly actions, likings and realities that you were aware of, and even those you didn’t know about, it makes you unintentionally remember your own prohibitions and that case, when you crossed the road for the first time to enter the shop, where a candyfloss tasting took place and then caught flack at home, because a neighbor gave away your “secret”; you get a recollection of being about to go for a walk, but before that you could hear a strict phrase from mom or granny “Don’t you dare left the yard”, but you was courageous enough to dare, not even for a single time, using secret paths for your “escape”; you get a recollection of your friend, whose granny worked as a manager in grocer’s, so she had always had everything, she wanted and as much as she wanted. This book is about childhood of happy and naked, when “one country collapsed and another hasn’t appeared yet, everyone did what he or she could”

The philosophy of childhood (smack): “An’ka, in this or that way, was guilty. I can’t remember saying it in a direct way, but it’s happened automatically. I also got my punishment, since everyone should have a head on his\her shoulders and be responsible for his\her actions.

Maturity, described by Katya Babkina, is more real and close to us today, in some cases still painful, but totally different from childhood. The generation of Ukrainians that grew up in 80s-90s, now economically and politically active, is bearing one more war, and not just “waits” for it to end, but acts and feels, what is described in author’s work. Maturity in Katya’s work follows childhood naturally, these are a logical consequence and logical actions of those, who grew up at the edge of two centuries, saw the collapse of one country and became an eyewitness to another one’s rise, and now take part in its development. The author doesn’t name occasions, she doesn’t mention what and where happened, but owing to artistic images and details, it is clear without explanations and accentuations. Katya Babkina – a master of artistic details. One of them runs like a golden thread through the novel and “appears” in appropriate moment, what actually holds reader’s interest and prevents the novel from being put aside for “better times” (probably of Ukrainian literature). Moreover, it is clear now that “better times” are here and now for us to read. Read Ukrainian.

The philosophy of maturity (taste): “Nadia laughed, she always laughed whatever happened, and sometimes it could save the situation. It happens: when you want to die, but suddenly hear a faithful and funny laughter aside, the desire to die decreases in size”

Old age of evil and kind grannies and grandfathers, crippled by war and women, who hosted them, accepted the situation, stifled or not stifled their pain. Everything of it is described by Katya Babkina, but it seems like she depicts it from aside. The old generation in her work appears to be people, we , the young generation, can see and imagine. They are the people, we live with or lived with during our childhood, the people, we meet while going to supermarket, the people, we greet in the doorway. Old people are not naked in Katya’s novels, but happy in their own manner. They are definitely “dressed” in all those stories and traumas, which the writer tells us about in an interview. But they are happy even with them.

The philosophy of old age (aftertaste): “They do not boast in their company. Not like those usual old people, who “boast” their diseases, but these boast in another way: who is still safe and sound. Who is still alive. Each week appears to be a subject to boast of, as if it is a competition: who is going to stay alive longer.

Instead of an ending: “Somebody paddles, somebody produces stools. Somebody draws, somebody sews clothes, somebody raises children effectively and in large numbers. Somebody grows potatoes, cultivates plants. Somebody can heal with only hands. Somebody can write”. “Happy Naked People” is about such people, and not only. The person, who writes about them – “can write”. And the process of reading is desirable, at least to “remember for the whole life how absolute love can appear from nowhere and from nothing”

Written by: Anastasiia Tsvion

Translated by: Bohdan Serediuk