Since my review of urban geographer Roman Cybriwsky’s excellent book on Kyїv, Ukraine, has not been published yet by the journal I wrote it for, though a second edition has already come out, and since I’ll be visiting the city in a couple of days, I thought I might as well share that review, here.
(I’ll be giving a talk on Chernobyl and the Anthropocenic sublime at the Visual Culture Research Center on Oct. 25, and another, on the environmental humanities and the Anthropocene, at Lviv’s Ukrainian Catholic University this coming Friday.)
Given what has happened in the city over the two years since the book first came out, it’s not surprising the publisher has produced a second edition. That edition includes a 20-page final section called “Two Years Later.” It’s also now available in paperback for much less than the original edition’s libraries-only price.
Incidentally, while I acknowledge that the spelling of the city should follow the spelling that’s been recommended by the Ukrainian government for several years now — “Kyiv” rather than the Russian “Kiev” — I also understand that many more people recognize “Kiev”, just as they do “Rome” (rather than “Roma”), “Moscow” (rather than “Moskva”), et al.
And that the familiar spelling may do a better job at preserving the two-syllable character of the city’s Ukrainian name: just pronounce “Ki” as in “kill,” and “ev” as in “Eve.” (Much better than the typical English speaker’s reaction to “Kyiv” as “kyiv,” rhyming with “live” or “sieve.” English isn’t a phonetic language, so, in Humpty Dumpty fashion, we can make things sound anyway we want them to, but it helps to follow precedent.)
My preferred compromise solution to this dilemma is to add an umlaut or diæresis to the official spelling: “Kyїv,” rhymes with “naїve” or “cay-Eve.” (Now if I said “quay-ev,” we’d get the Russian pronunciation — but only if we use the British, rather than the American, pronunciation of “quay.”) The point, I am thinking, is to avoid getting into debates about which language is older, Ukrainian or Russian, which pronunciation would have been used a thousand years ago, and so on.