Kostetsky, Ihor [Костецький, Ігор; Kostec’kyj] (Kostetzky, Eaghor G.; pen name of Ihor Merzliakov), b 14 May 1913 in Kyiv, d 14 June 1983 in Schwaikheim, West Germany. Writer, playwright, translator, critic, and publisher. He grew up in Kyiv and Vinnytsia. In the 1930s he studied stage directing and acting in Leningrad and Moscow and spent two years as an actor in the Ural Mountains in the RSFSR. A postwar refugee in Germany, he was one of the founders of the writers' association MUR in the displaced persons camps, where he also published a short-lived journal of art and literature Khors. In the 1950s and 1960s he edited an illustrated journal Ukraïna i svit. He and his wife, the German poet and translator Elisabeth Kottmeier, established the Na Hori publishing house in the mid 1950s and, over a period of twenty five years, published several dozen books, including some outstanding editions of world literary classics in Ukrainian translation.
Kostetsky began his literary career under his real name in the 1930s as the author of Russian-language reviews of theatrical performances. His first publication signed with his pen name (the maiden name of his mother) appeared in Vinnytsia in 1941. Kostetsky published prolifically during the late 1940s in the DP camps. His prose works combined traditional and modernist (expressionist, surrealist, dadaist) forms of expression in his collections Opovidannia pro peremozhtsiv (Tales about the Victors, 1946) and Tam de pochatok chuda (There, Where the Miracle Begins, 1948) as well as in numerous works published in the Ukrainian émigré periodicals. His experimental proto-absurdist plays written in the 1940s and published later in Teatr pered tvoïm porohom (The Theater on Your Doorstep, 1963) anticipated many stylistic devices subsequently mastered by such dramatists as Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco. He did not, however, share the pessimistic outlook of the absurdist playwrights, and his works are imbued with an idealism based on the tradition of German expressionist drama. From the mid-1960s, Kostetsky wrote plays and radio-plays in German. An erudite literary critic and scholar, he also wrote numerous studies of Ukrainian émigré poetry and prose as well as extensive essays on Western literary figures. He was the author of the Russian-language study Sovetskaia teatral’naia politika i sistema Stanislavskogo (Soviet Theater Policy and Stanislavsky's System, 1956). A great translator and promoter of literary classics, Kostetsky translated into Ukrainian and published William Shakespeare's sonnets (1958) and Romeo and Juliet (1957), T. S. Eliot's poems (1955), extensive editions of the selected works of Ezra Pound (1960) and Stefan George (1971), and the poetry Federico Garcia Lorca (1958) and Paul Verlaine (1979). He was a member of International PEN, the German Shakespeare Society, and the Teilhard de Chardin Society. A collection of works by and about him was published in Munich in 1964. An edition of his selected works, Tobi nalezhyt' tsilyi svit (The Whole World Belongs to You, 2005), was edited by Marko Robert Stech, who also published extensive selections of Kostetsky’s prose and literary criticism in the journal Kur’ier Kryvbasu in 2001 and 2007–9.
Marko Robert Stech, Danylo Husar Struk
[This article was updated in 2008.]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine