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The Length of Days

The Length of Days

An Urban Ballad

Volodymyr Rafeyenko

Translated by Sibelan Forrester

ISBN 9780674291201

Publication date: 02/07/2023

The Length of Days: An Urban Ballad is set mostly in the composite Donbas city of Z—an uncanny foretelling of what this letter has come to symbolize since February 24, 2022, when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Several embedded narratives attributed to an alcoholic chemist-turned-massage therapist give insight into the funny, ironic, or tragic lives of people who remained in the occupied Donbas after Russia’s initial aggression in 2014.

With elements of magical realism, Volodymyr Rafeyenko’s novel combines a wicked sense of humor with political analysis, philosophy, poetry, and moral interrogation. Witty references to popular culture—Ukrainian and European—underline the international and transnational aspects of Ukrainian literature. The novel ends on the hopeful note that even death cannot have the final word: the resilient inhabitants of Z grow in power through reincarnation.


  • Volodymyr Rafeyenko is an award-winning Ukrainian writer, poet, translator, and literary and film critic. Although he initially wrote and published in Russian, his novel Mondegreen: Songs about Death and Love was his first written in Ukrainian. It was nominated for the Taras Shevchenko National Prize, Ukraine’s highest award in arts and culture. Among other recognitions, he is the winner of the Volodymyr Korolenko Prize for the novel Brief Farewell Book and the Visegrad Eastern Partnership Literary Award for the novel The Length of Days.
  • Sibelan Forrester is the Susan W. Lippincott Professor of Modern and Classical Languages and Russian at Swarthmore College. She has published translations of fiction, poetry, and scholarly prose from Croatian, Russian, and Serbian. Her own research includes women’s and gender studies, South Slavic literature, folklore, science fiction, Russian Silver Age poetry, and the history and theory of translation.
  • Marci Shore is Associate Professor of History at Yale University.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 5 x 8 inches
  • Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute
  • Afterword by Marci Shore

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