Viktor is a failed novelist who takes a job writing obituaries of the living for a Russian newspaper to stockpile. And though he’s sad when his subjects die, he can’t help feeling a bit smug too; after all, he’s finally getting published even if anonymously. Plus the money is good. But when he starts getting more and more assignments, delivered in mysterious ways to his apartment, he senses something is as fishy as the frozen food he serves to Misha, his pet penguin rescued from the Kiev Zoo. Especially when the two of them start getting invited to the funerals.
Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov, translated by George Bird, is as absurdist as a mystery novel is ever likely to get, but it’s also very funny with a dry, cynical touch that I found very refreshing. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel Penguin Lost, just published this month by Melville House.