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Deaf Republic opens in an occupied country in a time of political unrest. When soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, Petya, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear – all have gone deaf, and their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. The story follows the private lives of townspeople encircled by public violence: a newly married couple, Alfonso and Sonya, expecting a child; the brash Momma Galya, instigating the insurgency from her puppet theatre; and Galya’s girls, heroically teaching signs by day and by night luring soldiers one by one to their deaths behind the curtain. At once a love story, an elegy, and an urgent plea – Ilya Kaminsky’s long-awaited Deaf Republic confronts our time’s vicious atrocities and our collective silence in the face of them.
‘Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic is one of the finest poetry collections in a year of great poetry collections. It is framed as a drama: one in which the inhabitants of an occupied town grow deaf to horror. Its power has an eerie familiarity – alas.’
‘Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic gave me unexpected narrative heartbreak, a completely new yet somehow familiar imaginative world, and a string of unforgettable images. It also made me want to fight harder.’
‘Ilya Kaminsky’s long-awaited second collection is exemplary in a particularly dazzling year for poetry. The book narrates an imaginary town’s collective political resistance against authoritarianism while focusing in on the private lives of a few of its inhabitants. The town could easily be Kaminsky’s native Odessa or one in Trump’s US, where the poet lives. On an otherwise unremarkable day a boy is shot dead; the townspeople choose to go deaf. And what unfolds is a devastating story that comes so close to our global turmoil it singes the reader’s eyelashes.’
‘Poetry, in general, is overlooked. Ilya Ka- minsky’s Deaf Republic is a work of genius and a true work of art.’
‘Odessa-born, US-based Kaminsky imagines a world, the Deaf Republic, where deafness is a collective form of resistance against a military regime. Characters use sign language that bypasses their oppressors and whose physicality adds rhythm to the poetry. It’s an astounding work.’
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