Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov

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“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 war, only two residents remain: retired safety inspector turned beekeeper Sergey Sergeyich and Pashka, his “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?

Translated from the Russian by Boris Dralyuk