Andrey Kurkov: Смерть постороннего (Death and the Penguin)

The latest addition to my website is Andrey Kurkov‘s Смерть постороннего (Death and the Penguin). Yes, it is about a penguin but the penguin is both Viktor’s quirky pet but also a symbol for someone struggling to cope in an alien environment. Viktor is a writer who gets a job writing obituaries in advance of celebrities’ deaths, all the while living alone with a king penguin, Misha, whom he adopted when the zoo could no longer feed him, after the fall of the Soviet Union. We and Viktor soon find out that there is a connection between Viktor’s obituaries and the death of the subjects of the obituaries which is not simply coincidental. Gradually, he, Misha, Sonya, a young girl, daughter of an acquaintance who suddenly disappears, and Nina whom Viktor hires to look after Sonya, get caught up up in a dastardly and violent plot. Kurkov cleverly mixes in the serious issue of corruption and violence in post-Soviet Ukraine with the story of a not entirely happy penguin.

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