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The Blue Rose

The Blue Rose

A Play in Five Acts

Lesia Ukrainka

Translated by Nina Murray

ISBN 9780674294363

Publication date: 01/14/2025

Where is the line that separates the “normal” from the “abnormal”? Liubov, a young Ukrainian woman of small nobility, struggles with this question in Lesia Ukrainka’s The Blue Rose. Living in Ukraine at the turn of the twentieth century, she finds herself outside the norms for a woman: she reads “thick books,” follows music and art, and is interested in science and psychology. She hosts a salon and challenges men in discussions about politics and culture. Liubov is also an orphan whose mother died in an asylum, and she worries about inheriting her mother’s disease as well as passing it on to future children. When Liubov falls in love with Orest, she proposes a radical solution to her dilemma: to pursue something as rare as a blue flower—“pure love” that foregoes the physical and abandons the requirement of marriage and motherhood.

In her commanding debut as a playwright, Ukrainka created a deep psychological rendering of an unattainable ideal. The Blue Rose highlights themes such as women’s struggles for liberation, social progress and its reliance on science, and resistance to change in traditional societies. Written in sophisticated Ukrainian, Ukrainka’s nuanced play helped Ukrainian culture break free of the Russian imperial mold that sought to first provincialize and then erase it. Presented here in contemporary English translation, The Blue Rose illuminates Ukraine’s intellectual history and its connections with Western culture.


  • Lesia Ukrainka (pen name of Larysa Kosach-Kvitka, 1879–1913) was one of the most prominent Ukrainian writers, poets, playwrights, literary scholars, and activists of the late nineteenth–early twentieth century. Along with Taras Shevchenko and Ivan Franko, she forms the triumvirate of Ukrainian national poets. Ukrainka was well-known for her feminist and progressive views, which found representation in her own works.
  • Nina Murray is a poet and an award-winning translator of Ukrainian literature, including works by Oksana Zabuzhko, Oksana Lutsyshyna, Serhiy Zhadan, and Lesia Ukrainka. She is the author of several poetry collections and a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service.
  • Tamara Hundorova is Senior Research Fellow and Chair of the Department of Literary Theory and Comparative Literature at the Institute of Literature, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, as well as Research Associate at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.

Book Details

  • 200 pages
  • 5 x 8 inches
  • Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute
  • Introduction by Tamara Hundorova

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