Question: What initially inspired you to write this story?
Oksana Zabuzhko: My having been born and grown up as a woman in the Soviet Ukraine. When you turn 30, you inevitably start reconsidering what you have been taught in your formative years--that is, if you really seek for your own voice as a writer. In my case, my personal identity crisis had coincided with the one experienced by my country after the advent of independence. The result turned explosive: Field Work in Ukrainian Sex, the story of one woman’s "personal revolt," provoked the top literary scandal of the decade. Now, 14 years after its first publication, the novel is regarded as a "contemporary classic," the milestone in new Ukrainian writings etc., but when I was writing it, it felt simply as a "write or die" case.
Question: What authors or books have influenced your writing?
Oksana Zabuzhko: I am afraid I might now confuse my own memories with the influences ascribed to me by critics (this book has been translated in some 12 countries, and from country to country the set of "the names of influence" varies). The most immediate challenge was Milan Kundera: I used to admire his skill to use sex as a tool to both picture the characters and construct the plot, yet his macho attitudes I have always found annoying. My ambition was to try a similar "sex game" on a woman’s part. This is why, of all the acknowledgments this novel has won, the one which made me the happiest was a Czech review in which I was named "Lady Kundera." So, I made it, after all!
Question: Is there any character you most identify with? Why?
Oksana Zabuzhko: The narrator bears my first name, and was given a lot out of my own life experience.
Question: Have you considered trying your hand at other genres?
Oksana Zabuzhko: I have authored 17 books, including poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. I might try to write a film script, but not in the near future.
Question: Have you always wanted to be an author? What other careers have you pursued?
Oksana Zabuzhko: I wanted to be an author since I was five--I used to be a prodigy child. Only my parents having been blacklisted by the KGB helped keep me from a resonant debut in my teens. It is the only thing for which I am truly grateful to the late USSR, for there are few things as certain to destroy "a born writer" as the premature start.
In my school years music and theatre were two other strong temptations. Later I studied philosophy, and obtained a degree in the philosophy of arts. I have also taught at several universities in Ukraine and abroad (including Harvard, Penn State, and the University of Pittsburgh in the U.S.), and worked as a newspaper columnist. Since 1996, when Field Work in Ukrainian Sex was published, I have been living as a freelance writer.
Question: How does this book compare to your previous books?
Oksana Zabuzhko: It is generally regarded as my first "brand book," even though before I had published three collections of poetry, stories, and a literary study. For me, Field Work in Ukrainian Sex has become an act of my personal liberation, not the least of the linguistic kind--since this novel I knew for sure I was a "language writer." For Ukrainian literature, it turned out to be a book which has dramatically changed the literary landscape, and brought to life a whole new generation of women authors (dubbed by critics as "Zabuzhko’s daughters").
Question: What's next for you?
Oksana Zabuzhko: I have in my mind quite a list of things which I want yet to write about, yet, despite the fact that for the past 15 years I did manage to cross several lines out off it as "done," the list keeps disturbingly growing, for more incoming things interfere. Something like this happened while I was doing research on my recently published novel, The Museum of the Abandoned Secrets--in the archives I came upon some documents which pressed the button for the long-silenced memories to surface. But I’d rather not discuss my new work until the title is fixed--this is one of my writing superstitions. Product Description Called "the most influential Ukrainian book for the 15 years of independence, "Field Work in Ukrainian Sex” by Oksana Zabuzhko is the tale of one woman’s personal revolt provoked by a top literary scandal of the decade. The author, a noted Ukrainian poet and novelist, explains: "When you turn 30, you inevitably start reconsidering what you have been taught in your formative years—that is, if you really seek for your own voice as a writer. In my case, my personal identity crisis had coincided with the one experienced by my country after the advent of independence. The result turned explosive: ‘Field Work in Ukrainian Sex.’”