Saturday, March 16, 2024

Ukraine’s Bid for the Booker

As incredible as it may seem, the longlist of contenders for the 2024 International Booker Prize—“which seeks to honor the best novels and short-story collections in translation published in the UK and/or Ireland every year”—includes a crime novel, The Silver Bone (HarperVia). Written by Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov, it’s the opening installment in a succession of historical Kyiv Mysteries, and was originally published in Ukraine prior to Russia’s ruthless 2022 invasion of that second-largest European country. The English version was translated by Boris Dralyuk and released earlier this month.

Summing up The Silver Bone’s plot, Publishers Weekly writes:
A Kyiv torn to pieces by WWI provides the backdrop for this fascinating series launch from Ukrainian novelist and screenwriter Kurkov ... The action begins with teenage Samson Kolechko seeing his father cut down in the street by Soviet Cossacks, followed by a saber slice to Samson’s head that severs his right ear. Alone and stunned, he takes shelter in his family’s apartment, only to find two Red Army soldiers quartered there. He files a report about the soldiers’ misdeeds, including the unwelcome removal of Samson’s father’s furniture. The eloquence of the report’s language impresses the local police investigator, who offers Samson a job “combat[ting] crime and restor[ing] order,” which he accepts. Bolstering Samson even further is a budding romance with strong-minded yet tender statistician Nadezhda. After a tailor friend and a soldier are both murdered, Samson leads an investigation into the crimes, discovering evidence including an incredibly large suit and a silver bone as long as a femur at the scenes.
A second translated Samson Kolechko yarn, The Stolen Heart, is expected to reach U.S. stores sometime in 2025.

Meanwhile, a shortlist of this year’s International Booker nominees is due on April 9, with the winner to be declared on May 21.

READ MORE:Ukrainian Writer Andrey Kurkov: ‘I Felt Guilty Writing Fiction in a Time of War,’” by Nicholas Wroe (The Guardian).

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