Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov and Ukrainian Literature

I have read a few books by the great Ukrainian writer, Andrey Kurkov in the past. Each of them deserves a wider audience especially these days. His books are an emphatic reflection of the Ukrainian soul.

Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov is an original book which is worth reading to get a glimpse into post-Soviet period in Ukraine as well as in Eastern Europe.

This book will definitely resonate with many people who have experienced life in post-Soviet era in East Europe. For others, this will provide a cultural and social introduction into Ukrainian society of those times.

Death and the Penguin constitutes a satirical critique of post-Soviet corruption in Ukraine of the 1990s. It shows a bleak everyday existence filled with confusion and loneliness of the individual caught in the midst of a big political and historical transition. There are many references to Ukrainian habits and culture which to those unfamiliar with the region should be of an interest.

Some of you know I was born in Eastern Europe. War in Ukraine has a very personal dimension for me. I can hardly write anything reasonable here.

There is a lot of support for Ukraine but also I have seen so much misinformation about Ukraine and Eastern Europe in the last two weeks across English-language Western, Asian and Middle Eastern media outlets. I am not sure if this is just ignorance, laziness, arrogance or something else.

For those who are removed from Eastern Europe historically, geographically and culturally, and would like to know more about the region, especially Ukraine, please may I refer you to a few books:

The Orphanage [Internat] by the contemporary Ukrainian writer from Kharkiv, Serhiy Zhadan. I wrote a review of this magnificent book some time ago – see the link here.

Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Belorusets about the experience of ‘ordinary’ Ukrainian women who have been displaced and every facet of their lives have been affected by profound trauma – you can read my full review here.

Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov – you can read my full review here.

Life Went on Anyway by Oleg Sentsov – you can read my full review here

Mondegreen: Songs about Death and Love by Volodymyr Rafayenko

Mesopotamia by Serhiy Zhadan (an ode to the city of Kharkiv)

In Isolation: Dispatches from Occupied Donbas by Stanislav Aseyev

Ukraine Diaries. Dispatches from Kyiv by the Ukrainian writer, Andrey Kurkov

Absolute Zero by the Ukrainian writer, Artem Chekh

Any book by these Ukrainian writers, Yuri Andrukhovych and Oleksandr Mykhed [Myked] that you can find translated into the language you read in.

Ukraine in Histories and Stories: Essays by Ukrainian Intellectuals, Ed. Volodymyr Yermolenko (it includes essays from many Ukrainian writers, intellectuals, philosophers)

Red Famine. Stalin’s War on Ukraine by Anne Applebaum

Bloodlands by the historian Timothy D. Snyder

The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine and The Frontline: Essays on Ukraine’s Past and Present by Serhii Plokhy

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets. by the Belarusian writer, Svetlana Alexievich

The Captive Mind by the Polish writer, Czeslaw Milosz

It also worth checking books by Polish – British historian, Norman Davies

Also, if you can access a documentary Winter on Fire on Netflix about Euromaidan demonstrations, I highly recommend it.

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