Death and penguins and Ukraine and….what?

I’ve pored over my blog pages for the past few months and nowhere have I been able to find my review of two of my favourite books so far this year.  Ok let’s be honest I don’t actually review  books, I mostly just chat about them as you know, but whatever.  I haven’t talked at all about Death and the penguin or Penguin lost, both by Andrey Kurkov.  So I shall do that now. 

These books really are my favourite type.  They are surreal, funny, dark and poignant all at once, with a side of crazy thrown in for good measure.  The premise of the first sees Viktor, an aspiring writer, living in poverty who lives with a penguin named Misha.  In Kiev.  To call Misha Viktor’s pet would be to kind of insult Misha, who came to live with Viktor when the zoo could no longer feed its animals.  Viktor is eventually hired to write living obituaries for the newspaper – the kind you see for the celebrities, politicians etc.  that are written in advance and then filed away, able to quickly be brought out when needed.  He starts to earn more money than he’s ever earned in his life, but a pattern starts to emerge when Viktor notices that as soon as he’s written an obituary, it is almost immediately needed.  Hilarity ensues!  Ok, not exactly hilarity, but lots of stuff goes down, including Misha being hired out to attend the funerals of these dignitaries who seem to be dying in quick succession – and probably not of natural causes, amirite?  The cast of characters soon includes another Misha (non-penguin), a little girl, a Penguinologist and a variety of others.  Honestly?  This book is about as perfect as you can get, and nobody does bizarro, surreal fiction like the Russians.  Except maybe the Ukrainians. Oh and the Hungarians.  You can read more about Andrey Kurkov here and you really should – he’s fantastic.  I should also do a shout-out to the translator, George Bird, because obviously I’m not reading these books in the original Ukrainian.  Translation can make or break a novel, but to me, these were flawless.  

So.  My first real blog post for NaBloPoMo.  And actually kind of a proper book review too, for the record.  Can I get a witness? 

 

 

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