Valerii Shevchuk’s Eye of the Abyss

5 Thursdays, April 16 -- May 14, 2015

by Svitlana Kobets, PhD

Eye of the Abyss (1996) is a remarkable contribution to the world literature by a renowned contemporary Ukrainian author, Valerii Shevchuk. It is a philosophical and psychological novel, as well as a travelogue, which goes beyond the actual travels, turning into a metaphysical search for understanding of the enigmas of life, death, faith and selfhood. The novel’s dynamic, engaging plot, multifarious discussions and inserted tales make it comparable to Boccaccio’s The Decameron and Umberto Eco’s The Name of Rose. Yet Shevchuk’s novel was modeled on neither. In it, Shevchuk invites the reader to ponder modernity through the lens of the Middle Ages, whose colourful scene serves as an a-temporal setting for discussing questions of both eternal and modern importance. In Eye of the Abyss, in pursuit of the truth, miracles and faith, the four main characters set out on the pilgrimage to a famous medieval saint, Mykyta of Pereyaslavl. Their travels, insights and discoveries comprise the plot of the novel and provide the framework for its major discussions. The latter reveal relevance to the problems urgent not only for the contemporary Ukraine but for humanity in general. We will read and discuss this novel in a superb English translation by Olha Rudakevych, which is available online in the 1 and 2 volumes of the journal of English translations, Ukrainian literature Part 1 containing chapters 1-13, and Part 2 containing chapters 14-24 and Epilogue, 

 Schedule (last revised on May 9):

April 16, 2015

Class 1

Introduction: Shevchuk, his work, his cultural and political contexts.

Eye of the Abyss, Book 1 Chapters 1-4, pp. 1-13


April 23, 2015

Class 2: Eye of the Abyss, Book 1, Chapters 5-6, pp. 13-18


April 30

Class 3: Eye of the Abyss, Book 2, Chapters 7-13, pp. 18-49


May 7, 2015

Class 4

Eye of the Abyss, Book 2, Chapters 14-20, pp. 51-117


May 14, 2015

Class 5

Eye of the Abyss, Book 2, Chapters 21-24 and the Epilogue, pp. 117-163

Additional reading:

The Way of the Ascetics: Negative or Affirmative? By Kallistos Ware

Quest for Selfhood and Dystopia in Valery Shevchuk's The Eye of the Abyss by Svitlana Kobets


© 2019 by Svitlana Kobets. All right reserved.