With a warm yet political humor, Ukraine’s most famous novelist presents a balanced and illuminating portrait of modern conflict.
Little Starhorodivka, a village of three streets, lies in Ukraine's Grey Zone, the no-man's-land between loyalist and separatist forces. Thanks to the lukewarm war of sporadic violence and constant propaganda that has been dragging on for years, only two residents remain: retired safety inspector turned beekeeper Sergey Sergeyich and Pashka, a rival from his schooldays. With little food and no electricity, under constant threat of bombardment, Sergeyich's one remaining pleasure is his bees. As spring approaches, he knows he must take them far from the Grey Zone so they can collect their pollen in peace. This simple mission on their behalf introduces him to combatants and civilians on both sides of the battle lines: loyalists, separatists, Russian occupiers and Crimean Tatars. Wherever he goes, Sergeyich's childlike simplicity and strong moral compass disarm everyone he meets. But could these qualities be manipulated to serve an unworthy cause, spelling disaster for him, his bees and his country?
"A latter-day Bulgakov . . . A Ukrainian Murakami." —Phoebe Taplin, Guardian
"A post-Soviet Kafka." —Colin Freeman, Daily Telegraph
"Kurkov draws us with deceptive ease into a dense complex world full of wonderful characters." —Michael Palin
"A kind of Ukrainian Kurt Vonnegut." —Ian Sansom, Spectator
"This time, the Ukrainian author of Death and the Penguin, known for his brilliantly dark humor, has written a modern-day odyssey, with a return that is ambiguously hopeful." —India Lewis, Arts Desk
"Strange and mesmerizing . . . In spare prose, Ukraine's most famous novelist unsparingly examines the inhuman confusions of our modern times and the longing of the warm-hearted everyman that is Sergeyich for the rationality of the natural world." —John Thornhill, Financial Times
"A warm and surprisingly funny book from Ukraine's greatest living novelist." —Charlie Connelly, New European
"Carries top notes of Beckett and Pinter, along with a slug of Kafka." —Strong Words, One of the Top 20 Books of the Year
"Sergey is at once a war-weary adventurer and a fairy-tale innocent . . . His naive gaze allows Kurkov to get to the heart of a country bewildered by crisis and war, but where kindness can still be found . . . Translated by Boris Dralyuk with sensitivity and ingenuity." —Uilleam Blacker, Times Literary Supplement