‘The Last Day’ by Jaroslavas Melnikas, translated from Lithuanian by Marija Marcinkute

Jaroslavas Melnikas is a Lithuanian of Ukranian descent and this story is from a collection that won him the BBC Book of the Year. With Melnikas we always get an interesting premise. In this story a book is created which foretells with accuracy the date of death of everyone alive. This acts as the opening note which reverberates throughout the narrative as people come to terms with the implications of knowing their fate and that of their loved ones. There is a parable-like feel to this story, though it concludes on ambiguous note, leaving us question what moral, if any, we are to draw from it, or indeed, from Life.

At first it just seemed bizarre. Three hundred thousand people from all over the world filed a lawsuit against the madman in whose warehouse the eight million volumes were heaped. He had poured nearly all his wealth into printing the thick volumes. It was blasphemy. He was obviously mad. Only a lunatic would print the dates of the deaths of everybody on the planet.

First published in translation by Noir Press, 2018