Death and the penguin by Andrey Kurkov

Source – personnel copy

Andrey Kurkov is a Ukrainian writer he grew up under the soviet system ,his father was a test pilot and his mother a doctor .He trained as a Japanese translator and did his Military service as a prison guard in the southern Ukraine city of Odessa ,he has publish thirteen novels and some children’s books .His books have been translated into numerous languages

Death and the penguin was Kurkov’s debut novel and was written in russian and translated here by George Bird ,he has translated Kurkov’s over novels .The book centre’s on Victor a writer struggling to make a living at his craft he has a companion Misha a Penguin he rescue from a local zoo that had to get rid of its animals .The book starts with victor been offered a job which he takes as Obituary writer ,so he then seems to be boosted in the world of politics and corruption as he meets and chats to the friends and family of the recently deceased  or to be deceased as it turns out along the way Victor meets another Misha a human thou which made me laugh as she is referred to as the non penguin Misha through the book .There is also two women that seem to end up at the funerals and a shadowy figure called that fat man ,A downward spiral of disaster awaits Victor as the hapless writer gets drag into a conspiracy ,which means he has to escape and Misha the penguin ends up getting sent to her home in the Antarctic .

Two days later the phone rang ,

capital news. Sorry to trouble you said a crisp ,clear female voice I have the editor in chief on the line .

The receiver changed hands .

Viktor Alekseyevich a man’s voice enquired couldn’t pop in today could you ? or are you busy ?

no said Viktor .

The phone call that sets Viktor on a troubling path and a start in writing Obituaries

This book was dark and comic novel ,a look at post communist Ukraine ,I felt Misha and Viktor maybe symbolise Ukraine a little Misha a nation flightless and out-of-place and Viktor an artist want to find its voice amongst corrupt people and crumbling system .Kurkov’s writing is fast-moving and lyrical at times .Most of the story is told from Viktors point of view as he gets caught up in troubling times .Misha is his escape from his everyday world this penguin that needs him to look after him and ultimately set her free on her new life and in doing so sets himself on a new life path .This book has a follow-up penguin lost

This is one of my eastern european reading challenge choices ,

Have you read this book ?

29 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kimbofo
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 21:44:04

    I’ve wanted to read this one ever since Armen chose it for his Triple Choice Tuesday selection


  2. John Latham
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 21:48:33

    I liked the book- dark and funny. It seemed quite unusual and was very readable. It did not seem like art but it was certainly diverting. I would recommend it to anyone who was looking for that kind of thing. Thank you so much for reminding me of a book that had all but slipped out of my memory. Jon.


  3. parrish
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 22:17:01

    I’ve read & enjoyed Kurkov’s Good Angel of Death, in fact posted on it. Have been meaning to check this out, as It’s supposed to be better.This writer has got some stick before, because he writes in Russian, not Ukrainian, strange but true.


  4. Claire (Paperback Reader)
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 22:32:39

    I read this a few years ago, Stu, and really enjoyed it. Quite surreal but amusing and engaging. You’ve reminded me that I need to read Penguin Lost.


  5. Becky (Page Turners)
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 01:53:43

    I haven’t read it bit it sounds amazing. I love the title and the cover and the story sounds pretty unique. Ill keep an eye out for it


  6. Emily Jane
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 02:33:29

    This book sounds so intriguing, I haven’t read it yet but would like to.


  7. Caroline
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 09:41:39

    I got this on my TBR pile and am very much looking forward to reading it.


  8. Lisa Hill
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 09:48:10

    I like the idea of black humour being used to explore the absurdity of communist regimes. Everything I’ve read so far has been deadly serious.


  9. gaskella
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 11:30:57

    I’ve been meaning to read some of his books for ages. A Russian friend of mine doesn’t like the English translations though – maybe because he’s Ukrainian writing in Russian then translated into English … I will try one soon though.


  10. verity
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 11:57:22

    I loved this book – I love Penguins and I thought this was absolutely fantastic. I read the sequel too. I haven’t tried any other books by Kurkov; not sure if I’d enjoy them as it was the Penguin element that appealed most to me.


  11. chasing bawa
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 13:24:17

    I thought I’d heard of this book somewhere and it was on Kim’s blog! Kurkov was actually at the Galle Literary Festival I went to in Sri Lanka a few weeks back and I really wanted to attend his talk but couldn’t because it clashed with Lawrence Hill’s. His books sound so interesting.


  12. Gavin
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 15:13:00

    This one sounds intriguing, Stu. My library doesn’t have any of Kurkov’s books but I will keep my eyes open for a used copy.


  13. Nana Fredua-Agyeman
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 19:10:45

    I haven’t read it nor any Eastern European novel as such. I really need to set up a challenge of reading Easter European novels – may be next year. Thanks for this Stu


  14. Heather
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 13:58:51

    You find the most interesting books Stu. I do think it would be worth the effort to search this one out. Thanks.


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February 2011


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