Karen's Reviews > Death and the Penguin

Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov
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's review
Aug 22, 2011

really liked it
Read from August 14 to 20, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

Viktor has adopted a penguin from the Kiev zoo, which is no longer able to feed all the animals. Misha the penguin is no fluffy cutie. He plops along the halls of his apartment banging into things, staring with beady eyes at his master when (Viktor imagines) he’s feeling neglected. Misha is depressed; he stands still (penguins don’t sit or lie) in a dark corner or stares at himself in a mirror. Kurkov offers no insights into the penguin psyche, but Viktor is attached to him as to no one else, and I’m touched by their relationship.

Viktor should be depressed too, but he’s too busy doing his day-by-day business of surviving in the bleak post-Soviet world he inhabits. He’s an unsuccessful writer who writes very short stories, leading to a newspaper job writing obituaries that are short but stirring portraits. Viktor gets a family; Misha is well-paid to serve as a mourner at funerals; life goes on.

This book is about death and corruption, and the characters’ proclivity to get by, written in a prosaic way that echoes Viktor’s plodding survival. The tale is dark and humorous, bleak and endearing. The plot is well-built, but the characters are what kept me involved. So with funerals and vodka, corruption and murder, this book is appealing and absurd.

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