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.