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Ukraine’s most famous novelist dramatises the conflict raging in his country through the adventures of a mild-mannered beekeeper. From the author of the bestselling Death and the Penguin.

“A latter-day Bulgakov . . . A Ukrainian Murakami” – Phoebe Taplin, Guardian

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 “frenemy” from his schooldays.

With little food and no electricity, under ever-present 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?

Grey Bees is as timely as the author’s Ukraine Diaries were in 2014, but treats the unfolding crisis in a more imaginative way, with a pinch of Kurkov’s signature humour. Who better than Ukraine’s most famous novelist – who writes in Russian – to illuminate and present a balanced portrait of this most bewildering of modern conflicts?

Translated from the Russian by Boris Dralyuk

With the support of the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union

Reviews

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 humour, has written a modern-day odyssey, with a return that is ambiguously hopeful.
India Lewis, Arts Desk
Strange and mesmerising . . . 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 Books of the Year
Carries top notes of Beckett and Pinter, along with a slug of Kafka.
Strong Words.
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