Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov

Life in 1990s Kiev is hard. The winter is brutal, jobs are scarce, and the government is corrupt. Viktor Alekseyevich Zolotaryov is very lucky to have been hired to write obituaries for the Capital News, though it does seem odd that none of his subjects are dead - yet. He even interviews a few of them. But he can not be choosy about work. He has a penguin to feed.

It is now 2012 and only a year since American readers have gotten an English translation of Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov, a darkly comic tale published in Russian in 1996. Melville House has added it to its growing Melville International Crime Series, paperbacks that give us affordable literary fiction.

Back to Victor and the penguin, whose name is Misha. Both are lonely guys. The impoverished Kiev Zoo gave away most of its animals to anyone who would take them, so Victor took Misha to his apartment where they are lonely together until four-year-old Sonya joins them while her father goes underground. They become an odd sort of family, decorating a Christmas tree and hiding from the gangsters that Victor has unwittingly crossed.

Death and the Penguin is a great read for anyone who enjoys offbeat humor and a totally unfamiliar menacing setting.

Kurkov, Andrey. Death and the Penguin. Melville House, 2011. 228p. ISBN 9781935554554.

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