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Meanwhile, Back in the Ukraine

Battle on January 10, 2014 at Kiev’s “Euromaidan”

Battle on January 10, 2014 at Kiev’s “Euromaidan”

The one Ukrainian author I have read is Andrey Kurkov, a Russian who lives in Kiev and considers himself Ukrainian. He is best known for three mystery novels, the first two of which feature a penguin named Mischa: Death and the Penguin, Penguin Lost, and The Case of the General’s Thumb.

During the 2013-2014 revolution that sent President Viktor Yanukovych to Russia requesting asylum from Putin, Kurkov kept a diary of daily events in Kiev, the Crimea, and Eastern Ukraine. It was published in 2014 as Ukrainian Diaries: Dispatches from Kiev. His mystery novels have a wry sense of humor which also carries over to this diary:

Posters and signs have been put up all over the country with images showing that all Ukrainians, after the signature of the Association Agreement with the EU, will become homosexuals. Even in the metro, each time you take an escalator, you have to pass dozens of these posters. In Kiev, he propaganda campaign is considered laughable, but I am afraid that in the east and in the provinces, people will naively believe that universal conversion to homosexuality is the condition imposed by Europe on Ukraine for the signature of the treaty. (November 28, 2013)

And: “Yesterday, Parliament announced an open forum day. Everyone was given the chance to speak. Or, in other words, no one listened.” (February 5, 2014)

Ukrainian Author Andrey Yuryevich Kurkov

Ukrainian Author Andrey Yuryevich Kurkov

Since it declared its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, the Ukraine has had a succession of governments that could only be described as a combination of thuggery and rapine—in fact, pretty much the sort of governing we could expect from a Donald J. Trump. You can see in Kurkov’s penguin mysteries the dysfunctionality of Ukrainian politics at work. Now, in the diaries, we see Kurkov losing sleep whether he would be dragged out of his flat by security forces, tortured, and killed.

Fortunately for us, he wasn’t. I look forward for his other works to be translated from Russian to English.


3 thoughts on “Meanwhile, Back in the Ukraine

  1. I’ve just started reading Death and the Penguin. I love the militiaman joke. That’s a bizarre? (can’t think of a better word right now) job–writing obits for living people.

    Thanks for recommending it. If the rest of the novel holds up to the beginning, Kurkov has a new fan out here in Tucson.

  2. I have just finished Death and the Penguin and will put Penguin Lost on my hold list. I have recommended it to others in the book groups I belong to. The most human character in the novel is Misha the Penguin.

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