Kurkov (born 23 April
1961 in Leningrad, USSR) is a Ukrainian
author and public intellectual who writes in Russian. He is the author of 19
novels, including the bestselling Death and the Penguin, nine books for children, and about 20 documentary, fiction
and TV movie scripts. His work is currently
translated into 37 languages. Kurkov's most recently translated novel, Grey Bees, which has "elements of both the
fable and the epic", dramatizes
the conflict in his country
through the adventures of a beekeeper. The novel was translated into French by
Paul Lequesne as Les abeilles grises, which won the 2022 Prix Medicis etranger.
Kurkov lives in Kyiv with his English
wife, Elizabeth, and their three children. After
the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, he became an internally displaced person
and continued to write and broadcast about the war. A bilingual, native Russian
speaker, in a 2022 interview
Kurkov speculated that
Russia's war on Ukraine, rather than suppress Ukrainian culture and identity,
would potentially have the opposite effect, encouraging Ukrainian writers,
especially those whose native language is Russian, to publish increasingly, or even exclusively, in Ukrainian. (Wikipedia)
Useful reviews and interviews
Frenemies in a War Zone: On Andrey
Kurkov's "Grey Bees - LA Times –
A Humorous Ukrainian Writer, With
Nothing to Laugh About- NYT -
A Ukrainian Novel Looks Between the Lines of War - New
A Beekeeper and his bees go on a road-trip
across war-torn Eastern Ukraine -
Some major themes of Russian Literature:
Westernizers vs. Slavophiles -
constant awareness of Russia's relation to the cultures of
The superfluous man
- men whose ambition is made irrelevant by the great power of the state
The "enchanted wanderer"
Hagiography - Saints' lives
5. Skaz - telling tales in an almost folkloric voice
Questions for Grey Bees by Andrei Kurkov
What is Sergeich's
relationship to the color grey? How does it change throughout the novel?
Why was the name of Sergeich
and Vitalina's daughter
such a breaking point for their
What is the significance or the vodka/lard (pig fat, not
ceremony in the book?
Why does Sergeich feel so empowered
by changing the street signs around?
Who is the "great man" who comes to sleep on the bee bed, and why is Sergeich so moved by his coming?
Why do Pahka and Sergeich remain
"friends/frenemies" despite their
Why are bees, in
particular, at the center of the story? Are they inside culture or outside of it?
From the point of
view of art, why does Sergeich go to Crimea instead of further west in Ukraine?
What does Kurka need him to find there?
What is the role of the comic scenes
at the border?
10. Are you surprised by Sergeich's ignorance of Tatar culture?
11. How does Sergeich's time in Crimea affect him?
12. Do you really have to know the history of this region to understand this book?
What is the
relationship between the three regions where Sergeich spends time in this book
- the grey zone, "free Ukraine" and
Towards the end of
the novel, Sergeich could have chosen any one of three ultimate destinations: back to his wife, back to Galya, or back to Starohorodivka. Why does he make the choice he does?
15. How has Sergeich changed by the end of the novel?
Map of grey zone in 2015