Thursday, June 20, 2013

Death and the Penguin

Post-Soviet Ukrainian existential and absurdist noir is new genre for me and one I think Andrey Kurkov owns, Kurkov crafts tales worthy of Kafka but with warm humanity and humor and plotting that are definitely his own. The hero is a writer with writer’s block and a pet penguin (gotten from a defunded zoo) and while this combination at first seems a little bit precious but their melancholy day to day is described with well-placed rhythms and details and is never too cute. The events get both sinister and humorous as the protagonist accidently gains a family, writes obituaries for living people that then die, and is forced to attend gangster’s funerals with the penguin in tow. Death and the Penguin is a beautiful and amusing book with a sad sack sense of humor, affection for absurd and ominous situations presented in clear language, and humanity.

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