Well, if you are you need to read Andrey Kurkov's wonderful Death And The Penguin. Funny and surreal, I absolutely loved this book, and am looking forward to devouring the rest of the series. I love Russian humour, it's just so black, and yet gloriously life-affirming. Kurkov has been compared, perhaps inevitably, to Dostoevsky and Chekhov, and I can see where the comparisons are coming from, although stylistically, and in terms of readability he's much nearer the short stories of Chekhov.

So what's Death and the penguin about? Well it does what it says on the tin basically - Viktor, a depressive would-be author, lives with his pet penguin, Misha (also a depressive), in Kiev (Kurkov's home town). Things start to look up for Viktor, when he's given a job writing obituaries for his local paper. His celebrity obituaries are sealed away ready to be used when one of his obiturants dies. Life however takes a sinister turn when Viktor's VIPs start dropping off the twig, and the penguin is forced to become a regular fixture at funerals of the great and not-so-good. And then Viktor discovers that his own obituary is being researched.....

Funny, moving, deadpan, this is Russian (or should I say Ukrainian) writing at its best, and a wonderfully satirical look at the post-Soviet USSR. For a quirky quick read, this is well worth picking up.


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