about Author

Maik (Mykhailo) Yohansen (pseuds.: Willy Wetzelius, M. Kramar; 1895–1937); a Ukrainian writer, poet, translator, literary theorist and linguist; he started composing poetry at a very young age, however, around 1916 he burnt his manuscripts, disappointed with the results. In 1917 he graduated from the Faculty of History and Philology at Kharkiv University. He taught at various Kharkiv schools and at the Kharkiv Institute of Public Education. His publications in the field of linguistics include Prystosuvannia Latynytsi do Potreb Ukrainskoi Movy (Adaptation of the Latin Alphabet to the Needs of the Ukrainian Language, 1923) and Lexica: Suchasni Ukrainski Slovnyky Praktychnoho Vzhytku (Lexica: Modern Ukrainian Dictionaries for Practical Use, 1925). He was also one of the editors of a number of Russian-Ukrainian dictionaries, and wrote a Ukrainian Language textbook.

The year 1921 marked the publication of his first Ukrainian poems, in several periodicals and as a separate volume D’Hory (To the Peak). His other poetic collections include Revoliutsiya (Revolution, 1923), Krokoveie Kolo (The Dancing Circle, 1923), Proloh do Komuny (Prologue to the Commune, 1924), Dorobok (Works Thus Far, 1924), Yasen (The Ash Tree, 1930) and Baliady pro Viinu i Vidbudovu (Ballads about War and Reconstruction, 1933).

His prose writing saw its debut in 1925 with the publication of a short story collection Simnadtsiat Khvylyn (Seventeen Minutes), and a novel, Pryhody Mak-Leistona, Harri Ruperta ta Іnshykh (The Adventures of MacLayston, Harry Rupert and Others). Incidentally, the latter was hugely successful, and 100,000 copies were printed that year.

Maik Yohansen’s experimental prose is masterfully written. He was called a ‘jeweller of the word’. His reserve of literal devices and techniques is diverse and he uses them aptly and with sophistication: polyptoton, metaphor, alliteration and neologism – to name but a few. One of Yohansen’s signature techniques is uchudnennia [Engl., ‘estrangement effect’ or German ‘Verfremdungseffekt’) making strange or miraculous something that is familiar and ordinary. The aforementioned techniques, including uchudnennia, are exemplified in his novel Podorozh Uchenoho Doktora Leonardo i yoho Maibutnoi Kokhanky Prekrasnoyi Alchesty u Slobozhansku Shvaitsariyu (The Journey of the Learned Doctor Leonardo and his Future Lover, the Beauteous Alceste, to the Switzerland of Slobozhanshchyna, 1928).

On 18 August 1937, during their great purge (the Yezhov terror), the Soviets arrested Yohansen on accusations of belonging to a fictitious anti-Soviet Ukrainian nationalist organisation. The arrest was soon followed by a death sentence, which was carried out on 27 October 1937 in Lukyanivska Prizon in Kyiv.

See also To the Author of “The Journey of the Learned Doctor Leonardo…”