city silhouette


Valerian Pidmohylny

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Valerian Pidmohylny

  • A fragment from The City.


    […] Stepan walked unthinkingly and soon found himself in Khreshchatyk – right in the middle of the crowd. He look around and saw the city in the night for the first time. He froze on the spot. Bright lights, the rumbling and rings of trams crossing here and rolling away, hoarse howls of bulgy yet nimble buses, screeches of smaller cars, and drivers’ shouts mixing with the murmur of the crowd – all this broke his solitary musings. Here, in this broad street, he finally met the city face to face. Impertinent rollers of throngs pressed him against a wall, where he stood and watched, his gaze wandering the street yet unable to find its bounds.

    He was shoved by girls wearing thin blouses, whose fabric merged unperceivably with naked skin of forearms and shoulders; women in veiled hats, men in suit jackets, hatless youngsters in shirts with pulled up sleeves; military men in heavy, stuffy uniforms, housemaids holding hands, Dniprofleet sailors, teenagers, formal technical caps, lightsome dandies’ coats, grotty tramps’ jumpers. […]

    At the corner of  Sverdlov Street, he found himself in another squash, hesitated for a moment and glanced along the gentle slope, where a tram was working its way up. There seemed to be the calm beside the storm, a sudden backwater, where the crowd would turn and break up into persons, who would stop for a moment and then stride away. His gaze followed the tram that disappeared higher up, dissolved in the distant gloom, he stood there, in the bluish swath of streetlights, among quiescent, downcast buildings – and suddenly felt the extraordinary beauty of the city. The bold street lines, their perfect parallels beside heavy perpendiculars, the grand sorrow of the old paving stones showering sparks under the horse hoof-falls – everything steeped in austere harmony he had never known before. Yet he hated the city.


  • * * *


    In the porch shadow, scarcely lit by a light bulb from the first floor, he kissed her passionately and questioningly, demandingly, irresistibly, as if he searched her lips for an eternally sought answer. And then he went home hasty and overjoyed with the discovery.

    Never had he felt such a potent sense of self. The ground seemed a velvet carpet under his feet, the rooftops seemed to hail him like giant hats. And inside his head, inside his brave and free head, rank after rank, line after line and horde after horde of overarching thoughts roamed and stirred. Instead of waiting for the elevator, he hurried up the stairs to the fifth floor, entered the room and opened the windows to the dark depth of the city.

    It lay below docile in undulant crags, marked with fiery dots, it extended to him its keen stone fingers from the gloomy hills. He froze in delightful contemplation of that grandeur of a new element, and then suddenly he threw a enchanted kiss down there with a wide motion.

    And then, in the silent presence of the light bulb above the desk, he sat and wrote his tale about people.


    1. Kyiv
    (Valerian Pidmohylny. The City: A Novel. [Kyiv:] Knyhospilka. 1929, p. 29, 31, 256.)

    The City is the best work by Valerian Pidmohylny, written in 1927 and printed in 1928 (Kharkiv, Knyhospilka).

    The novel tells a story of Stepan Radchenko, who travels to Kyiv from the country to conquer the city, just as Rastignac intends to conquer Paris. A number of characters have their prototypes among Kyiv authors: the poet Vyhorsky is modeled on the poet Yevhen Pluzhnyk, and the principal critic Mikhailo Svitozarov is a somewhat caricature portrait of the neo-classicist Mykola Zerov.


    Dniprofleet – the Office for River Transport created in 1922 (in 1926, the Upper Dnipro Line based in Kyiv was united with the Lower Dnipro Line in Kherson). The abridgement Dniprofleet is, probably, derived from the Dnipro Military Fleet that existed as a part of the Red Army in 1919-1920.


    formal technical caps – meaning students of higher technical schools (dubbed tekhnikum in 1922-1930 Ukraine).


    Sverdlov Street – in 1919-1990, that was the name of Prorizna Street.

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