Two Mishas and Two Sergeys

Gabriele Annan

  • Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov, translated by George Bird
    Harvill, 228 pp, £9.99, March 2001, ISBN 1 86046 835 7

The penguin is called Misha and lives with Viktor Alekseyevich Zolotaryov in his bachelor flat in Kiev. His eyes are small and melancholy. Viktor adopted him the year before the story begins, when the zoo was giving hungry animals away to anyone able to feed them. That must have been in 1994: the novel was written between December 1995 and February 1996, so the events in its short course presumably occurred in 1995. By that time there seems to have been no problem about getting frozen salmon, plaice or cod in the local shops: Viktor buys them every day for Misha.

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