Monday, November 06, 2006

Death and the Penguin - Andrey Kurkov

Andrey Kurkov’s Death and the Penguin is a very Russian satire, set in the city of Kiev.

Viktor is a writer. But economic necessity means he writes obituaries for a newspaper, and not short stories. But writing about death in advance of it happening is a tricky business - involving the Russian mafia, lots of killing and plenty of vodka.

Viktor neither comes across as a hero nor a villain. But he does share his life with a penguin that’ll make you smile.

Check out Kurkov’s other translated work: Penguin Lost, The Case of the General’s Thumb and A Matter of Death and Life.


John Self said...

I thought Death and the Penguin was sort of whimsically pleasant but didn't really engage with it. Someone else I know who enjoyed it more said you really need a working knowledge of the Ukraine and its society and history... so I suppose I was doomed from the start. This is a perennial problem of literature in translation: to what extent can you fully appreciate a book if (a) you're not reading the actual words written by the author, and (b) you're not familiar with the culture.

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

It was good for a reading in bed in a strange hotel room.

Tried any of Pennac's stuff - the Malaussène series?

John Self said...

No, I remember being attracted by the covers but never succumbing. They strike me as more accessible than much translated literature though.

Anyway as my waist has widened with age my mind has narrowed, and my reading these days is shamefully anglocentric. Fewer than 8% of the books I've read this year were by non-English language authors... and I didn't like most of them. Having said that, I am 22 pages (of 560!) into a re-read of Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. I quite liked it as a student but can't remember anything about it. Who knows if it has improved with age?