How can a country at peace suddenly be plunged into war? What compels hitherto peaceable citizens to take up arms and kill one another? In For Want of a Fir Tree: Ukraine Undone, Frédérick Lavoie tells Artyom, a four-year-old child he saw lying in his little blue coffin on a January afternoon in 2015, about the sequence of events that led to his death. In doing so, and in travelling the country from one side to the other, talking to people from all walks of life in both camps, Lavoie tells a classic story of a land drawn into conflict through misadventure, misjudgment, mistrust, and a legacy of ancient historical resentments with a tenacious hold on their populations. It is a cautionary tale whose truths and whose lessons resonate far beyond these specific events, these particular borders.
About the authors
Frederick Lavoie is a freelance foreign correspondent born in 1983 in Chicoutimi, Canada. He has been working for numerous media in Canada, France, Belgium and Switzerland. He was previously based in Moscow (2008-2012), Mumbai (2012-2014) and Chicago (2014-2016). He is also the author of Allers simples: aventures journalistiques en Post-Soviétie (2012), recounting his years of reporting and travels in Russia and other former republics of the Soviet Union, and Avant l’après: voyages à Cuba avec George Orwell (2018), in which he explores nowadays Cuba and investigates the circumstances of the release of Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four in communist Cuba. His critically acclaimed Ukraine à fragmentation (2015), the French edition of For Want of a Fir Tree, was shortlisted for the Prix des Libraires 2017. He currently divides his time between Montreal and Mumbai.
Donald Winkler was born in Winnipeg, graduated from the University of Manitoba, and did graduate study at the Yale School of Drama. From 1967 to 1995 he was a film director and writer at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal, and since the 1980s, a translator of Quebec literature. In 1994, 2011, and 2013 he won the Governor General Award for French to English translation, and has been a finalist for the prize on three other occasions. His translation of Samuel Archibald's short story collection, "Arvida," was a finalist for the 2015 Giller Prize. He lives in Montreal, Quebec.