Death and the Penguin, written by Andrey Kurkov, is a quirky and darkly comedic novel that takes the reader on a journey through the post-Soviet world of Ukraine. The protagonist, Viktor, is a struggling writer who takes on a job as a obituary writer for a local newspaper, only to find himself embroiled in a world of political intrigue, crime, and murder.
The story is told through the eyes of Viktor, a hapless and endearing narrator, who provides a unique and often humorous perspective on the events that unfold around him. The titular penguin, Misha, serves as both a comic relief and as a symbol of the surreal and bizarre world that Viktor finds himself in.
One of the standout features of Death and the Penguin is its witty and sharp commentary on the state of the world in post-Soviet Ukraine. Kurkov does not shy away from tackling serious issues such as corruption, political unrest, and the struggles of the working class, but he does so with a light touch and a sense of humor.
The writing style is descriptive and engaging, drawing the reader into the story and making them feel as if they are right alongside Viktor on his journey. Kurkov’s use of absurdity and dark humor provides a much-needed respite from the often bleak and serious subject matter, making the book a surprisingly enjoyable read.
The book is a great satire showing the chaos of newly Independent Ukraine (and other post-Soviet nations in general, I believe). It also has very short chapters which makes it very readable.