I am woken early this morning by a panicked phone call from Basil, my indefatigable Ukrainian publisher. From a railway junction in a place appropriately named Chop, he explains that in spite of reaching the No.1 fiction slot across the entire region of Zakarpattia Oblast (better known as Carpathian Rus), the Ukrainian edition of Zoia’s Gold has been withdrawn from sale there, following an ugly spat with the local authorities. The signing tour is now definitely off, and if I attempt to set foot inside the regional capital, Basil says, I may well be taken into custody for my own protection.
Basil is a great believer in what he calls ‘mouth to mouth’ publishing. In this case, the mouth in question belongs to the provincial governor, a man whose nicely touched-up portraits are to be found lovingly adorning every classroom in the region, such is his popularity among the young. The governor was apparently much taken with Zoia’s Gold (or Zojino Zlatinko in the local dialect), and even more taken with the several cases of fine wine and cured rabbit that Basil brought back from his last caravanning holiday in the Dordogne. Magically Zojino Zlatinko found its way onto the syllabus in every school in the region (see photo of happy recipients, above), doing wonders for my ranking on Amazanko.zpt.
Sadly, things have since turned sour. The sticking point, it seems, is a casual reference in the text to Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia, which is what Zakarpattia Oblast was called when the hated Hungarians owned and ran the place, which they did for a thousand years until they were finally sent packing in 1919 (It is still an offence to display the Hungarian flag or to serve goulash in any public restaurant). Local nationalist sensibilities have been enraged, and now Basil has been told to pulp his entire print run or face the very serious charge of Sedition and Splittism (Sedijka i Splittinko). This is especially unfair, since Zakarpattia still entirely lacks a book pulping plant, and Basil's previous attempts to dispose of unwanted or libellous stock have had a truly disastrous impact on the local sewerage system.
If only he hadn’t rushed the sub-editing and insisted on the early publication date of April 1st, none of this would have happened.