HURI's Temerty Contemporary Ukraine Program will hold its fifth month-long, interactive book club in July 2021. Readers receive weekly emails, and can discuss on Twitter and attend an event with the author.
For the first time, TCUP Book Club will delve into fiction, reading the latest in translation from Andrey Kurkov, one of Ukraine's most famous novelists. Grey Bees was translated into English by Boris Dralyuk and offers plenty to discuss in its treatment of the ongoing war in Donbas.
Please note: The book is currently in short supply online. We encourage readers to order their copies ASAP due to extended shipping times and limited availability. As of now, there are copies available to ship to the United States via Blackwell's and AbeBooks.
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?
Join the Club
Register online to receive weekly emails and reminders to engage online. We will post the suggested reading schedule as the summer approaches. Follow @HURI_Harvard and @channelljustice on Twitter and use hashtag #TCUPreadsKurkov to find or contribute to the book discussion.
The Book Club will culminate in a live event with author Andrey Kurkov, held over Zoom as part of the Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute Public Lecture Series. The event is open to the public and will take place on Friday, July 30 from 1:15 to 2:30pm EDT. More information, including registration, is forthcoming and will be emailed to Book Club members.
About the Author
Born near Leningrad in 1961, Andrey Kurkov was a journalist, prison warder, cameraman and screenplay-writer before he became well known as a novelist. He received “hundreds of rejections” and was a pioneer of self-publishing, selling more than 75,000 copies of his books in a single year. His novel Death and the Penguin, his first in English translation, became an international bestseller, translated into more than thirty languages. As well as writing fiction for adults and children, he has become known as a commentator and journalist on Ukraine for the international media. His work of reportage, Ukraine Diaries: Dispatches from Kiev, was published in 2014, followed by the novel The Bickford Fuse (MacLehose Press, 2016). He lives in Kyiv with his British wife and their three children.