Andrey Kurkov

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Andrey Kurkov
Andrey Yuryevich Kurkov

(1961-04-23) 23 April 1961 (age 62)
EducationKyiv Foreign Languages Institute

Andrey Yuryevich Kurkov (Ukrainian: Андрій Юрійович Курков; Russian: Андре́й Ю́рьевич Курко́в; 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, including English, Spanish, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Swedish, Persian and Hebrew, and published in 65 countries.[1] Kurkov, who has long been a respected commentator on Ukraine for the international media, notably in Europe and the United States, has written assorted articles for various publications worldwide. His books are full of black humour, post-Soviet reality and elements of surrealism.

Life and works[edit]

Kurkov on the cover of Culture and Life magazine in 2016

Kurkov's father was a test pilot and his mother was a doctor. When he was just 2 his family relocated to Kyiv in connection with his father's work.[2] He started writing at the age of seven[3] when, after the death of two of his three pet hamsters, he wrote a poem about the loneliness of the remaining pet. He also produced poetry about Lenin, purportedly inspired by his Soviet education at the time.

Having graduated in 1983 from the Kyiv Foreign Languages Institute, and as a trained Japanese translator Kurkov was assigned military service assisting the KGB.[2] However, he managed to get his papers changed to service with the military police. This offered him a greater degree of freedom during and after his service period. He was assigned a prison guard position in Odessa.[3] It was during this period that Kurkov wrote all of his children's stories.

His first novel was published two weeks before the fall of the Soviet Union, and in the ensuing social and political turmoil he made the first steps towards self-publishing and distribution. Borrowing money from friends to fund his work, Kurkov managed to publish independently.[2] While organising distribution around Ukraine, he would also sell copies by hand from stalls on busy streets.

Like many successful writers, Kurkov had difficulty getting his first publishing contract. He reportedly received 500 rejections before being accepted, in which time he had written almost eight complete novels.

Later in his career he won acclaim as one of the most successful Ukrainian authors in the post-Soviet era and has featured on European bestseller lists. His novel The Bickford Fuse (published in 2009 in Russian, and in Boris Dralyuk's English-language translation in 2016 by MacLehose Press) was characterised by Sam Leith in The Financial Times as "a sort of cross between The Pilgrim's Progress, Catch-22, Heart of Darkness and Cormac McCarthy's The Road, with a faint shading, here and there, of Samuel Beckett: an insistently dreamlike absurdist satire shaped by the vastness of Russia's landmass and the insanity of its Soviet-era ideology",[4] and reviewed by The Guardian as a "genre-defying work, fusing picaresque adventure with post-apocalyptic parable", while Kurkov himself called it "the dearest and most important of all my works".[5][6] He has been described by Ian Sansom as "a serious writer never more serious than when he's being funny about unfunny things, and with a whole lifetime of unfunny things to be serious about."[7]

In 2018 he was elected as the President of PEN Ukraine.[8]

Kurkov's novel Grey Bees, which has "elements of both the fable and the epic",[9] dramatises the conflict in his country through the adventures of a beekeeper.[10] The novel was translated into French by Paul Lequesne as Les abeilles grises, which won the 2022 Prix Médicis étranger,[11] and into English by Boris Dralyuk, winning the inaugural Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize from the National Book Critics Circle.[12]

In 2024, Kurkov released The Silver Bone, the first in a new series of novels titled "The Kyiv Mysteries". The second book The Heart Is Not Meat will be published in 2025. He is in the process of writing the third book The Public Sauna Case.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15]


Novels translated to English
Book name ISBN[16] Publication year
Death and the Penguin ISBN 978-1-86046-945-9 2001
Penguin Lost ISBN 9780099461692 2005
A Matter of Death and Life ISBN 9780099461586 2005
The Penguin Novels ISBN 978-0099507062 2006
The Case of the General's Thumb ISBN 9780099455257 2009
The World of Mr Big Forehead
The President's Last Love ISBN 9780099485049 2009
The Good Angel of Death ISBN 9780099513490 2010
The Milkman in the Night ISBN 9781846553981 2011
The Gardener from Ochakov ISBN 9781846556159 2013
The Bickford Fuse ISBN 9780857055583 2016
Grey Bees ISBN 9780857059345 2020
Diary from an Invasion ISBN 9781914495847 2022
Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv ISBN 9781529427820 2023[17]
The Silver Bone ISBN 9781529426496 2024[18]
For children
  • The Adventures of Baby Vacuum Cleaner Gosha
  • Why No One Pets The Hedgehog illustrator: Tania Goryushina, ISBN 978-966-10-2377-1, 2012.



  1. ^ Vannek, Ludmila (7 April 2013). "Radio Liberty interview with Andrey Kurkov". Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Nicholas Wroe (30 July 2011). "A life in books: Andrey Kurkov". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  3. ^ a b Bhula, Pooja (10 April 2020). "'A book is like a battery that passes on energy'". The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  4. ^ Leith, Sam (29 April 2016). "'The Bickford Fuse', by Andrey Kurkov". Financial Times. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  5. ^ Taplin, Phoebe (13 May 2016). "The Bickford Fuse by Andrey Kurkov review – a Soviet Pilgrim's Progress". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  6. ^ Dickinson, Charlie (May 2017). "The Bickford Fuse by Andrey Kurkov". | The International Writers Magazine. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  7. ^ Sansom, Ian (14 May 2016). "Andrey Kurkov's The Bickford Fuse is a satirical masterpiece". The Spectator. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Andrii Kurkov – PEN Ukraine's New President". 17 December 2018. Archived from the original on 30 January 2019. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  9. ^ Blacker, Uilleam (5 February 2021). "Apiculture". TLS. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  10. ^ "Grey Bees". Hachette.
  11. ^ Lépine, Elise (8 November 2022). "Prix Médicis étranger – Andreï Kourkov récompensé pour Les Abeilles grises". Le Point (in French). Retrieved 11 November 2022.
  12. ^ "Announcing the 2022 NBCC Award Winners".
  13. ^ "The Silver Bone by Andrey Kurkov – droll detective work in revolutionary Kyiv". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  14. ^ "Letter from Ukraine". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  15. ^ Brown, Jeffrey (11 April 2022). "Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov on preserving his country's culture during war". PBS. Retrieved 15 April 2022.
  16. ^ "About us". Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  17. ^
  18. ^

External links[edit]