Volha Hapeyeva

Portrait Volha Hapeyeva
Volha Hapeyeva [© Isamu Bergson]

The writer, poet, and playwright Volha Hapeyeva was born in Minsk in 1982. She studied at the Minsk State Linguistic University, where she received her doctorate in 2012 and was professor until 2019. She also studies Gender Studies at the European Humanities University in Vilnius, where she also taught.

Her literary texts have appeared in various journals and anthologies since 1999. She has published 14 books in Belarusian to date. In her poems, she explores the manifold expressive possibilities of language in terms of expanding consciousness and demonstrates the multitude of interpretive possibilities in poetry. An important theme for Hapeyeva is the human body – as a mediator between people and as an object of trauma and inflicted pain in a patriarchal world. She addresses and evaluates political and historical events from a decidedly female perspective. The position of women in society and in gender relations aims at freedom and independence. Her collection of poems appeared in English translation under the title »My Garden of Mutants« in 2021. Hapeyeva’s children’s books explore philosophical thought processes behind seemingly ordinary events and behaviors of the protagonists and pose questions about the human condition. In her opinion, children’s and young adult literature should convey new norms of behavior and change values regarding gender roles and gender diversity.

Her first novel »Kemel-Тrewel« [2019; tr: Camel Travel], combined with autobiography, is about childhood and youth in the final phase of the Soviet Union. The setting is the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, where both Russian and Belarusian are spoken, and everyday struggles can only be overcome with rich inventiveness and improvisational talent. The novel also has a socio-political dimension because it shows the protagonist’s development into a critical, feminist personality in contemporary Belarus. Hapeyeva has written plays such as »Kalekzyjaner« [tr: The Collector], which was presented, among others, at the »Konfrontacje Teatralne« International Theater Festival XI [Lublin, Poland] in 2006.

In addition to her linguistic research and writing, Hapeyeva collaborates with musicians such as DJ Buben and Aortha to present audiovisual performances, as well as with artists such as Milijana Istijanovic to create art instillations. She also translates literary works from English, German, Chinese, and Japanese. As an editor, translator, and author, she has contributed to various anthologies such as »Linija Frontu« [2003; tr: Front Line], a collection of Belarusian and German texts, and »Antalogija latwijskaj paezii« [2013; tr: Anthology of Latvian Poetry].

Hapeyeva’s texts have been translated into 15 languages and awarded the Rotahorn-Literaturpreis 2021, among others. For her previously unpublished German-language essay »Die Verteidigung der Poesie in Zeiten dauernden Exils« [tr: The Defense of Poetry in Times of Permanent Exile], she was awarded the WORTMELDUNGEN Literature Prize 2022. She was a 2019/2020 writer-in-residence in Graz, has been a fellow of the Writers-in-Exile Programme of PEN since May 2021, and in 2022 is a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.

Date: 2022