Searching for Misha

Admirers of Andrey Kurkov's Death and the penguin will remember that Misha, the penguin, was last seen in the company of some Russian gangsters, while his "friend" Viktor had taken a sneaky ride on a boat to the Antarctic, meant for Misha, fearing that the Russian mafia were about to come after him.

In Penguin Lost Viktor is ensconced in the Antarctic, but is desperate to come home, feeling that he has let Misha down horribly, and fearing for the penguin's life. After befriending another Russian gangster who is on the run in the Antarctic, Viktor is able to find his way home, but discovers that Misha has been sold on, and is being held captive in Chechnya. Viktor heads into the war-zone to save his friend.

I loved Penguin Lost. It's a much darker read than the earlier volume. Its examination of the breakdown of the Soviet Union, and the black underbelly of the Chechen conflict make this an incredibly bleak novel. Probably because of this Kurkov's satirical humour is even funnier than in the previous book.

If the first half of the novel is black, the second half, as Viktor and Misha are reunited, is often gloriously funny. Kurkov gently mocks the corruption that underlies the new republics, most notably his own Ukraine. There are some wonderful witty asides that are guaranteed to raise a chortle.

I thoroughly enjoyed Death and the Penguin, but think that Penguin Lost is a bleaker, but better, book.


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