Legend has it that, on its publication, A Brief History of Tractors in Ukrainian was often placed in the agriculture or engineering sections of unsuspecting bookshops. In fact, of course, it is a comic novel that draws on Marina Lewycka’s own heritage.

Lewycka was born in a refugee camp in Kiel in Germany to Ukrainian parents but was brought up in England. This insider-outsider status is evident in her books and she has said that some of the language in A Brief History - which started as a memoir of her mother’s life before veering into comic fiction - is a literal translation of Ukrainian speech: ‘There is always a “clunkiness” about translated language which can be quite funny.’ What was less funny was that the novel was rejected 36 times before it found a publisher: Lewycka was 58 when it finally saw the light of day.  

Marina Lewycka

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