- Published on 29 June 2019
Ilya Kaminsky's dramatic poetry book, Deaf Republic, begins when soldiers break up a protest by killing a young deaf boy who spits at an army sergeant while attending a puppet show.
That gunshot is the last sound the people of the town hear; all go deaf, and their deafness becomes a metaphor for a special perspective on love and war: "Deafness is our only barricade".
Deaf Republic was released in March in the US from Graywolf Press, and it has just made its appearance in the UK (on June 20), published by Faber & Faber. It is a book of poetry, structured as a two-act dramatic work by Ilya Kaminsky, a writer born in the former Soviet Union, himself a "hard of hearing" person. Kaminsky was born in then-Soviet-controlled Odessa (now Ukraine) in 1977. A doctor's misdiagnosis left him deaf at a young age and he had no hearing aids until his family migrated to the USA in 1993.
This latest book of poems was shortlisted for the 2019 Forward Prize for Best Collection, and was a Poetry Book Society Choice 2019. The critical response to the book has been wholly positive and identifies the book as a major work of deaf culture. The Los Angeles Review of Books is just one of the many literary authorities Kaminsky's collection has impressed: "a masterfully wrought collection," the LARB calls it.
Woven into the story of love and war are many epic expressions of relevance for the world of audiology. To quote just one: "ON SILENCE: The deaf don't believe in silence. Silence is the invention of the hearing."