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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv

Andrey Kurkov

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To purchase Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv\

Title: Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv
Author: Andrey Kurkov
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2023)
Length: 405 pages
Original in: Russian
Availability: Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv - UK
Le concert posthume de Jimi Hendrix - France
Jimi Hendrix live in Lemberg - Deutschland
  • Russian title: Львовская гастроль Джими Хендрикса
  • Translated by Reuben Woolley

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Our Assessment:

B : relaxed, mild-mannered novel of modern Lviv

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian B 7/4/2023 Marcel Theroux
NZZ . 24/10/2014 Ulrich M. Schmid
The Observer . 16/4/2023 Luke Harding
The Spectator . 22/4/2023 Anna Aslanyan
Sunday Times . 2/4/2023 David Sexton
The Telegraph B 1/4/2023 John Self
The Times . 7/4/2023 Tom Ball
TLS . 19/5/2023 Julian Evans

  From the Reviews:
  • "The reader finds that despite the promise of the setup, we've moved away from The Lives of Others and closer to Scooby-Doo. Kurkov's laconic masterpiece Death and the Penguin worked by mining an absurd situation for pathos and balancing it with darkness. Whimsy was a barely noticeable flavour in a cocktail of other ingredients. I confess I didn't have so much appetite for Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv. (...) Even the prose is looser than the stripped-down writing of Death and the Penguin. (...) (A) charming but slight addition to the author's oeuvre." - Marcel Theroux, The Guardian

  • "Der 1961 in Russland geborene Andrej Kurkow wechselt in seinem Roman virtuos zwischen Realität und Fiktion. Literatur kann die Welt retten -- und umgekehrt kann die Welt die Literatur retten. Kurkow spielt hier ironisch mit dem historischen Motiv der «Befreiung Lwiws», die im blutgetränkten 20. Jahrhundert nacheinander von den Ukrainern, den Polen, den Sowjets und den Deutschen für sich beansprucht wurde. Nun ist es ausgerechnet die bunte Fangemeinde von Jimi Hendrix, die Lwiw vor dem Zombie aus Wynnytschuks unfertigem Roman rettet." - Ulrich M. Schmid, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "(A) reminder of Kurkov’s prodigious storytelling gifts and a throwback to an earlier, happier age. (...) At the heart of this joyous caper is Lviv, the biggest city in western Ukraine. (...) In the context of today’s horror, the novel feels like a missive from a more optimistic and sunnier place." - Luke Harding, The Observer

  • "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." - Anna Aslanyan, The Spectator

  • "The title -- Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv -- sums up much about the book: it is eccentric, curious, misleading, and a bit silly. (...) 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." - John Self, The Telegraph

  • "The kernel of the plot, and the novel’s title, are whimsical, to put it mildly (.....) The Kurkovian world is founded in the absurdist reality and legacy of Soviet life. (...) In the current grave conditions Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv may seem frivolous, or lacking in urgency and bite. But its playfulness and deftness are of a piece with everything the author has achieved since its original publication." - Julian Evans, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

[Note: this review is based on the German translation of Львовская гастроль Джими Хендрикса by Johanna Marx and Sabine Grebing, published as Jimi Hendrix live in Lemberg (2014).]

       Львовская гастроль Джими Хендрикса (now translated as Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv\) does not actually feature Jimi Hendrix performing in the Ukrainian city; indeed, Hendrix plays only a very small part in the novel -- or, arguably, only a very small part of Hendrix features in the novel ... -- but he does help make for a connection between some of the characters. And the novel does begin on the night going into 18 September 2011, when a ragtag group of hippies -- proudly still identifying as such -- make their annual pilgrimage to the Lychakiv Cemetery to pay their respects on the anniversary of Hendrix's death. Among them is Alik -- and joining them this night is a newcomer, former KGB man Rjabzew, who remembers Alik well: as part of his job, back in Soviet times, he kept a close eye on him and the hippie scene; he even still has a key to Alik's room, which he used to inspect back in the day (all without Alik knowing). Hendrix helped win Rjabzew over some, back then, making him a little protective of Alik and the other hippies, and occasionally helping them out (without their knowledge).
       Elsewhere in the night -- and this is a novel in which much of the action takes place at night, the streets largely deserted and interactions with the everyday largely avoided -- is Taras, who does reasonably good business having found a surprising niche that takes advantage of the horrible condition of Lviv's streets. He's figured out that if you drive over them, bouncing your passenger around sufficiently, it's enough to shake loose even the most intractable kidney stone. And so people suffering from them come to him and take his 'vibrotherapy' cure, driving across the deserted street late at night until they're ready to pass the stone(s). Taras' rates are reasonable -- his only other demand being that he get to keep the passed stones.
       Taras' customers tend to be foreign, and he gets paid in foreign currency, so he frequents a 24-hour exchange booth, manned by Darja -- who is locked in for the duration of her shift (for understandable safety reasons) and suffers from all sorts of allergies. She takes the night shift, because it's easier on her susceptible body -- though it's not ideal, because among the things she is allergic to is money, which she can only handle wearing gloves. Taras grows increasingly fond of her, and from light flirting theirs moves onto a serious relationship; the novel is, in no small part, their love story. Among other things, it eventually turns out to be fortuitous that Taras always keeps those passed kidney stones .....
       Taras also has a somewhat annoying neighbor, Jerzy, who always complains when Taras steps on the loudly creaking fifth step up to his apartment (Taras tries to avoid it, but doesn't always remember). When Jerzy, a former barber, meets Taras' close friend, Oxana, he is smitten, and does what he can to get in her good graces; she is largely unmoved.
       There are some odd happenings in Lviv, too. The smell of saltwater in the air, the seagulls that fly about -- and become increasingly aggressive, one impaling itself in Oxana's window, which she then nurses back to health. And real-life author Yuriy Vynnychuk -- a friend of Kurkov's -- also shows up, with a very peculiar problem: it seems he wrote a character out of his current novel -- and the character didn't take to the deletion too kindly, as he now haunts Lviv, looking to get back to the seaside, with Vynnychuk having no idea how to get rid of him.
       Львовская гастроль Джими Хендрикса is an easy-going novel, ambling about at an unhurried pace. There are moments of some tension, but even that is mostly low-key -- like the kidney-stone vibrotherapy episodes -- and even the sinister bird attacks aren't played for nearly as much as they could be, Kurkov avoiding the horror-novel opportunities he has. Oxana is a bit frenzied, but the other characters are very easy-going, mostly loners of one sort or another -- lonely, too, in part, and reaching out to each other -- but trying to do their best. There is a lot of alcohol consumption, and considerable wandering (and driving) about -- not quite aimless, but rarely more goal-oriented than ... say the loosening of those kidney stones.
       The characters connect -- sometimes somewhat grudgingly, but ultimately seeing the good sides in each other. Alik spends time with KGB-man Rjabzew -- whose hobby is keeping pigeons -- and Jerzy turns his life around a bit in his aim to please Taras and impress Oxana, including by picking up his scissors again; he's apparently quite good at his (former) job. Oxana helps the homeless out -- an activity that draws in Jerzy (he volunteers to cut their hair), Alik (mistaken for homeless, in his hippie outfit and bearing), and ultimately proves helpful in figuring out what the hell to do with the restless character from Vynnychuk's novel.
       It's all nice -- despite a former-KGB presence, and the fairly tough times many people seem to be having in contemporary Ukraine, there's almost no edge at all to anything here. The characters display a sense of longing, but they're all surprisingly accepting of their rather humble lots; Taras and Darja's relationship blossoms with only minimal hurdles.
       Despite its fantastical elements, Львовская гастроль Джими Хендрикса does feel like a very true-to-life novel, avoiding the absurd twists and actions often packed into fiction -- and treating the one truly wildly imagined twist, the character from another novel, as a minor (if admittedly unusual) problem to take care of, as the characters indeed eventually manage to.
       It makes for an enjoyable read -- though one might wish there were more to it. Substantial in size, it's a bit thin on actual depth. But Kurkov's agreeable style is appealing enough, and one doesn't mind spending the time in the company of this quirky set of characters going about their various small activities and dealing with their sometimes odd problems (down to Taras trying to figure out how to share coffee with his beloved when she's locked away inside her exchange booth).

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 August 2019

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Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv\: Reviews: Other books by Andrey Kurkov under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Andrey Kurkov (Andrej Kurkow, Andreï Kourkov, Андрей Юрьевич Курков) was born in Leningrad in 1961 and now lives in Kiev.

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© 2019-2023 the complete review

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