July Book Club

Originally published in Russian in 2009 and translated into English in 2011, Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov’s Milkman in the Night (tr. Amanda Love Darragh) offers a mixture of everyday ordinary Ukrainian life, absurdism, and magicalism of sorts.

Our book club members enjoyed reading it despite mixed reviews of the novel. There are strange characters with unbelievable stories and behaviours, and their stories are presented in an interestingly slow pacing that concurrently draws the reader to read on. There are numerous cliff-hangers and Kurkov pauses at the right critical points.

That said, perhaps Kurkov had tried to pack too much in 480 pages with several intertwining threads of stories, so much so there seems to be little exploration of character development and at times there seems too much tell rather than show.

We wonder if we should read Kurkov’s critically acclaimed Death and the Penguin to have a better grasp on his satirical writing and black humour. We’re also curious about his other writings like Grey Bees and Penguin Lost.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has certainly increased our curiosity and interest in Ukrainian culture and literature. Prior to the invasion, we probably had little or close to no awareness of the Ukrainian way of life, history, and literary culture.

It’s a relief we have access to English translations of their literature and can slowly move towards narrowing that knowledge and cultural gap.

*

Join us in August as we discuss Danish writer Olga Ravn’s The Employees (tr. Martin Aitken).

Everyone is welcome to join our book club. We meet online every last weekend of the month. For more updates, follow us on Instagram and Facebook!