The Bakhmeteff Archive: “In the Tight Triangle of the Night”

Tanya Chebotarev, Curator, The Bakhmeteff Archive

On Thursday, March 21, The Bakhmeteff Archive hosted a presentation of a new monograph, in Italian, entitled "In the Tight Triangle of the Night" by Maria Grazia Bartolini.  In about 30 minutes, Maria Grazia managed to introduce the entire book on a well-known Ukrainian-American poet Yuriy Tarnawsky, skillfully and compare him with an eminent Ukrainian philosopher of the 18th century Hryhoriy Skoworoda.


Yuriy Tarnawsky, one of the founders of the New York Group, a group of émigré Ukrainian poets, was born in Ukraine, but raised and educated in the United States.  Upon graduating from college with a degree in Electrical Engineering (Newark College of Engineering), he joined the IBM Corporation, where he worked first on circuit design, but then switched over to computer science, earning a Ph.D. in Linguistics (New York University) in the process. Much of his work in this area has been in Artificial Intelligence, in particular Natural Language Processing.  After taking early retirement, he joined Columbia University in New York City, where he became a Visiting Scholar at the Harriman Institute and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Ukrainian Literature and Culture as well as co-coordinator of Ukrainian Studies.

Yuriy’s professional background has had a profound influence on his literary work.  It manifests itself primarily as strict attention to language and structure. The novel Meningitis (FC, 1979), for instance, is written in an artificial language, a proper subset of English.  Three Blondes and Death (FC2, 1993) uses a similarly restricted language and relies on numerology instead of plot.  His work also shows the strong influence of Surrealism and Existentialism.

His most recent books are five mininovels (a genre he developed himself) Like Blood in Water (FC2, 2007), a collection of short stories Short Tails (Civil Coping Mechanisms/JEF Books, 2011), and selected essays in Ukrainian Flowers for the Patient (Piramida Publishing, 2012)  His play Not Medea was published in Journal of Experimental Fiction in 2009.  It was staged in a workshop production at the well-known avant-garde New York Mabou Mines Theater in 1998.  Forthcoming are collections of mininovels The Future of Giraffes and View of Delft, books two and three of the Placebo Effect Trilogy, from JEF Books, and a book of Heuristic Poetry, Modus Tollens from Jaded Ibis Press.

For his contributions to Ukrainian Literature, in 2008, he was awarded the Prince Yaroslav the Wise Order of Merit by the Ukrainian Government.
Maria Grazia Bartolini is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Ukrainian and Slavic Philology at Milan State University, Italy.  Her area of interest is contemporary Ukrainian poetry as well as Ukrainian Baroque literature, with particular attention to the theological thought developed at the Kyjv-Mohyla Akademy.  She is currently a Eugene and Daymel Shklar Research Fellow at the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, where she is involved in a project focusing on the functional and stylistic distribution of Church Slavonic, Russian and Ukrainian in the language of  the 18th century Ukrainian philosopher Hryhorij Skoworoda.

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