9 September 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Prelude Apology: Sorry for being a bit behind—I’m home sick with a nasty cold . . . More posting and podcasting next week.

This week’s featured Read This Next title is Penguin Lost, the second book in Andrey Kurkov’s detective series that, yes, includes a penguin (and is translated from the Russian by George Bird):

Andrey Kurkov’s first book to be published in English, Death and the Penguin, was hailed by leading critics in the US and the UK as “a tragicomic masterpiece” (The Daily Telegraph) of suspense about life on the crime-riddled streets of an impoverished, post-Soviet Kiev. But until now, fans haven’t been able to read the sequel and find out what happened to Viktor and his silent cohort, the penguin Misha, whom Viktor was forced to abandon at the end of the novel while fleeing Mafia vengeance.

Admirers need wait no longer. Now available for the first time in the US, Penguin Lost sees Viktor grab at the opportunity to return to Kiev incognito and launch an intensive, guilt-wracked search for Misha.

It’s a search that will take Viktor across the Ukraine to Moscow and back, vividly depicting a troubled landscape. It once again lands Viktor in league with a series of criminals and corrupt officials, each of whom know something of what happened to Misha, and each of whom are willing to pass that information along if Viktor will just help them with one more job. . . And it’s a tale told once again in a style that’s part Bulgakov and part Hitchcock, simultaneously funny and ominous, nearly absurd and all-too-real.

Readers may find themselves rooting even harder for Viktor this time, as he presses forward on his odyssey under even more dangerous circumstances, in another brilliantly rich and topical book from a contemporary Russian master.

Everyone I know who has read Death and the Penguin absolutely loves it, and I’m sure this is going to be a huge favorite as well.

Click here to read an extended preview. And remember, you can buy the novel directly from Melville House Publishing by clicking here.

In addition to the preview, we also posted a short interview with Kurkov himself:

Read This Next: To butcher a quote from Michel Houellebecq: it’s a writer’s responsibility to find a theme and then use their novels to explore that theme. In your novels, I sense that this kind of thematic exploration is going on. Do you feel that your work has an overarching theme? That you’re returning to the same ground again and again? If so, what do you feel this theme to be?

Andrey Kurkov: Until recently I had been writing two kinds of novels. The first kind are novels dedicated to the history of the evolution of the Soviet utopian mentality, and the second—evolution of post-soviet mentality. Now I am going on only with post-Soviet theme, i.e., what happens to people who live in the country much younger than they are. The fact is that in the early-mid 90s most of people (who were not old) were really infantile and were waiting either for a miracle, or for luck, or were looking for would-be victims. I was interested in evolution of post-Soviet infantile intellectuals, until I noticed that, with time, some of them stopped being passive and left their hide-outs, where they were hiding from roughness of life. Penguin Lost is actually a transitional novel in this sense—Viktor was very infantile in Death and the Penguin, but became more entrepreneurial and dynamic in the sequel.

Finally, you can also read E.J.‘s review of the novel:

Viktor Zolotaryov, the hero of Death and the Penguin, here returns for a second adventure, this time seeking out his friend and closest companion, the penguin Misha. At the start of the novel Viktor is in Antarctica, having taken Misha’s seat on a plane to escape with his life at the end of Death and the Penguin. Misha has, in the meantime, disappeared, and most of the action in Penguin Lost consists of Viktor’s increasingly dangerous attempts to track down his friend, whom he thinks has been moved from Kiev to Moscow.

And so begins a tour through the underworld, which in this case is the world of the moneyed elite, or which has instead has become the only world, of post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine. [. . .]

The Viktor of Penguin Lost is a more energetic and invigorated figure than the one we met in Death and the Penguin, one who, at first, seems to have taken his fate in to his hands in a way that the earlier Viktor seemed incapable of doing. But for all his activity, it becomes apparent that all this energy and vigor is only allowed to find expression by the good graces of the moneyed and powerful, that only stubbornness and luck allow him to accomplish anything at all—his seeming willfulness masks a helplessness, a complete domination of the public and political sphere by the demands of criminal-capitalism, that seems an even more damning criticism of the post-Soviet East than the one represented by the beaten-down Viktor of Death and the Penguin.

Enjoy all of this, and be sure to get a copy of the book . . .

And if you’re looking for something new to read, we now have extended previews of 14 titles up at Read This Next that you can check out.

....
Miruna, a Tale
Miruna, a Tale by Bogdan Suceavă
Reviewed by Alta Ifland

Miruna is a novella written in the voice of an adult who remembers the summer he (then, seven) and his sister, Miruna (then, six) spent in the Evil Vale with their grandfather (sometimes referred to as “Grandfather,” other times as. . .

Read More >

Kamal Jann
Kamal Jann by Dominique Eddé
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Kamal Jann by the Lebanese born author Dominique Eddé is a tale of familial and political intrigue, a murky stew of byzantine alliances, betrayals, and hostilities. It is a well-told story of revenge and, what’s more, a serious novel that. . .

Read More >

I Called Him Necktie
I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flašar
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

While looking back at an episode in his life, twenty-year-old Taguchi Hiro remembers what his friend Kumamoto Akira said about poetry.

Its perfection arises precisely from its imperfection . . . . I have an image in my head. I see. . .

Read More >

Return to Killybegs
Return to Killybegs by Sorj Chalandon
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

The central concern of Sorj Chalandon’s novel Return to Killybegs appears to be explaining how a person of staunch political activism can be lead to betray his cause, his country, his people. Truth be told, the real theme of the. . .

Read More >

The Last Days
The Last Days by Laurent Seksik
Reviewed by Peter Biellp

Spoiler alert: acclaimed writer Stefan Zweig and his wife Lotte kill themselves at the end of Lauren Seksik’s 2010 novel, The Last Days.

It’s hard to avoid spoiling this mystery. Zweig’s suicide actually happened, in Brazil in 1942, and since then. . .

Read More >

Selected Stories
Selected Stories by Kjell Askildsen
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

To call Kjell Askildsen’s style sparse or terse would be to understate just how far he pushes his prose. Almost nothing is explained, elaborated on. In simple sentences, events occur, words are exchanged, narrators have brief thoughts. As often as. . .

Read More >

Letter from an Unknown Woman and Other Stories
Letter from an Unknown Woman and Other Stories by Stefan Zweig
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

After a mysterious woman confesses to an author simply known as “R” that she has loved him since she was a teenager, she offers the following explanation: “There is nothing on earth like the love of a child that passes. . .

Read More >