Shot through with Kurkov’s unique brand of black humour and vodka-fuelled magic realism, Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv is an affectionate portrait of one of the world’s most intriguing cities. 

Strange things are afoot in the cosmopolitan city of Lviv, western Ukraine. Seagulls are circling and the air smells salty, though Lviv is a long way from the sea. A ragtag group gathers round a mysterious grave in Lychakiv Cemetery - among them an ex-KGB officer and an ageing hippy he used to spy on. Before long, Captain Ryabtsev and Alik Olisevych team up to discover the source of the ‘anomalies’. 

Meanwhile, Taras - who makes a living driving kidney-stone patients over cobblestones in his ancient Opel Vectra – is courting Darka, who works nights at a bureau de change despite being allergic to money. The young lovers don’t know it, but their fate depends on two lonely old men, relics of another era, who will stop at nothing to save their city.

Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv was longlisted for the International Booker Prize 2023, announced on March 14 2023. 

The International Booker Prize 2023
Published by
MacLehose Press
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Andrey Kurkov

Andrey Kurkov

About the Author

Born near Leningrad in 1961, Andrey Kurkov was a journalist, prison warder, cameraman and screenwriter before he became well-known as a novelist.
More about Andrey Kurkov
Reuben Woolley

Reuben Woolley

About the Translator

A translator from Russian to English, Reuben Woolley was the recipient of the National Centre for Writing's Emerging Translator Mentorship in Russian for 2020-21.
More about Reuben Woolley

Andrey Kurkov on Jimi Hendrix Live

‘The city of Lviv - its special character – has always fascinated me. I remember Soviet Lviv – grey, rainy and with an aroma of coffee in the streets. Later, in the post-Soviet years, Lviv quickly restored its Bohemian/intellectual image. I remember thinking that I owed Lviv a novel. It took almost two years of monthly trips there. Half of the characters in the novel are real people who appear under their real names. They have become my very good friends since then.

‘It took a bit more than two years [to write the novel]. The first year was all about walking the streets of Lviv and talking to people, listening to them, and asking questions about life in Lviv in the 1970s and 1980s. I don’t write plans for my novels. Usually, I develop the story in my imagination and tell friends episodes in different variations, checking their reactions. Once the story is formed in my head, I start writing it down, but while I write, I make more changes - some minor, some very important. I use a laptop to write, but I carry a notebook around with me all the time for urgent messages to myself.    

Read the full interview here.

Andrey Kurkov

What the judges said

‘The escapades of Andrey Kurkov’s loveable eccentrics provide a frame for an intriguing portrait of Lviv in the 2000s, a melancholy borderland city that finds itself recalling a troubled past as it sits on the cusp of an uncertain future.’

What the critics said

Hugh Barnes, The Art Desk

‘Longlisted for the International Booker Prize, Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv is a minor work by Kurkov’s standards, but its deadpan humour is anything but frivolous and his eye for detail is as sharp as ever, whether he is describing baroque architecture or spartan interiors, a clapped-out Opel Vectra or “shit-kicker boots”, a testament to the skill of Lviv’s shoemakers who were able “to bind the boot’s upper section tight to its lower counterpart, tighter than the Soviet government had ever quite managed, over almost fifty years, to bind Western Ukraine to the East.”’

Luke Harding, The Guardian

‘Kurkov’s novel Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv appeared in Russian in 2012 and is now translated into English. Longlisted for the 2023 International Booker Prize, it is a reminder of Kurkov’s prodigious storytelling gifts and a throwback to an earlier, happier age. Like Death and the Penguin, Kurkov’s first global literary hit, it is playful and ebullient, shot through with magical twists and supernatural turns. Its characters, for the most part, are agreeable oddballs.’

Anna Aslanyan, The Spectator

‘The narrative unfolds unhurriedly, propped up by Kurkov’s deadpan humour. He thanks real people for letting him use their stories, but the book’s most memorable protagonist is Lviv itself, ‘one of the most interesting and beautiful city-enigmas’, a rich source of urban myth.”’

 John Self, The Telegraph

‘There’s a sort of manic levity throughout the story. It’s all good fun, but it isn’t subtle: we’re told that Alik is an old hippie almost every time he appears, and many lines of dialogue end in questions, exclamations, or both. […] You might not be missing much if you don’t read Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv, but you’ll probably enjoy it if you do.’

Rosemary Goring, The Herald

‘A novel about the past and its lingering reverberations, Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv is a multi-layered, Chagal-like picture of modern-day Ukraine. Entertaining and poignant, it manages to convey the spirit and plight of the place without once sullying its pages with the names of those presently intent on its annihilation.’ 

Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv

Other nominated books by Andrey Kurkov

The book cover of The Silver Bone by Andrey Kurkov shows an illustration of military man holding a gun with a red silhouette cityscape of Kyiv.