The Language of War

The Language of War


When everyday life becomes a state of emergency, how can yesterday’s words suffice?

‘We were so happy and didn’t know it…’

A thirty-three-year-old writer lives in a quiet European suburb with his wife and his dog. His parents have bought an apartment nearby. On weekends they go out for brunch, cook and see friends. Life is good; it is normal. Then the invaders come.

The Language of War is about what happens when your world changes overnight. When you wake up to the sound of helicopters and the smell of gunpowder. When your home is hit by shells or broken into by gunmen, and you spend another night in a basement-turned-bomb shelter. When, even though you’ve never held a weapon before, you realise the only choice is to fight back. It is about things one can never forget, or forgive.

Bringing together Oleksandr Mykhed’s vivid day-by-day chronicles of the invasion of Ukraine with a chorus of other voices – his family, friends in exile, those who have fought and have witnessed unimaginable atrocities – this book is both a record, and a reckoning. Haunting and timeless, it asks how it is possible to find the words to describe a new reality; how you can still make sense of the world when the only language you can speak is the language of war.


  • A vivid account of invasion and the struggle to find the words to describe a new reality: war
    Financial Times

About the author

Oleksandr Mykhed

Oleksandr Mykhed is a writer. Until March 2022, he lived in Kyiv; he is now enlisted in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He is the author of nine books; selected essays and excerpts from his books have been translated into ten languages. He has participated in literary residencies in Finland, Latvia, Iceland, the USA and France, and a virtual residency at Oxford University. He has written for publications including The Financial Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and The Guardian, and has appeared as a guest on CNN and NPR. He is a member of PEN Ukraine.
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