Black Square, by Sophie Pinkham
“Sophie Pinkham is a wry, erudite observer of human foibles, political illusions, and funny hats. In Ukraine and its complex and tragic confrontation with Russia (and itself), she has found the perfect subject. Anyone who wants an explanation of Ukraine’s recent history that goes beyond Kremlin propaganda and Western media oversimplification should read this book.”
With a keen eye for the dark absurdities of post-Soviet society, Sophie Pinkham presents a dynamic account of contemporary Ukrainian life. She meets―among others―a charismatic doctor helping to smooth the transition to democracy even as he struggles with his own drug addiction, a Bolaño-esque art gallerist prone to public nudity, and a Russian Jewish clarinetist agitating for Ukrainian liberation. These fascinating personalities, rendered in a bold, original style, deliver an indelible impression of a country on the brink.
Black Square is necessary reading for anyone who wishes to learn not only the political roots of the current conflict in Ukraine but also the personal stories of the people who live it every day.
Praise for Black Square
“Essential reading. What makes Black Square superb, to my mind, is Pinkham’s keen eye for the dark comedy and tragedy that mark so many of her subjects. Her portraits of individual Ukrainians and Russians are as rich and nuanced as her synthesis of their national histories and politics. The result is a book whose literary achievement will outlast its timeliness.”
“Black Square is as elegant, suggestive, ominous, beautiful, and deceptively simple as, well, a black square. Perhaps the only thing more impressive than the sheer number and diversity of people Sophie Pinkham has spoken to is how deftly she has woven their stories into a single compulsively readable narrative.”