Andrey Kurkov – Ukraine’s most celebrated living author – has stopped writing fiction. Since Russia’s full-blown invasion last year, he has become a roving ambassador for his country and its embattled people and culture. Kurkov’s reports on the war have appeared in newspapers and magazines across Europe and the US, including in the Guardian and the New Yorker. Radio 4 has broadcast his work as Letter from Ukraine. Last autumn, Kurkov published his Diary of Invasion. It is a vivid personal journal and a portrait of a nation struggling against extinction. He recounts his own dramatic exit from Kyiv as enemy tanks approached, on 24 February 2022, and describes the plight of Ukrainians, displaced and under attack. They are, he notes, different from Russians: self-organising, democratic and anarchistic. He’s currently penning a second volume. 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. The action begins in classic Kurkov style in a graveyard. A group of superannuated hippies have come to pay their respects to Jimi Hendrix. Or, more accurately, to his hand, smuggled out of the US by the KGB after the guitarist’s death. This relic is interred in Lviv’s Lychakiv cemetery. One of those who comes along is a retired secret policeman whose job it was to spy on the long-haired. He is full of regret, it emerges, and a passionate Hendrix fan. The novel’s hero, Taras, meanwhile, is a young man who has found an unusual niche in private medical services. He treats Polish clients suffering from painful kidney stones by driving them at night over Lviv’s cobbles. The cure works. Taras’s peregrinations – think Leopold Bloom in a rusty, bouncing Opel Vectra – lead him to a money-changing kiosk. And from there to a chaste love affair with a mysterious woman wearing long green gloves.