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The Good Angel of Death

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This page was last edited on 7 September , at Kolya Sotnikov is a Russian night-watchman at a Kiev storehouse that contains cans of hallucinogenic drugs labelled as baby food. The previous owners of his new flat left behind a curious volume, hidden in a copy of War and Peace , containing marginalia that fire his imagination.

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He sets off on a picaresque journey in search of something buried in the sands of Kazakhstan by a much-loved Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko. Crossing the Caspian sea in a floating fish-processing plant, Kolya wanders unprepared into the desert, where he surprisingly acquires a Kazakh wife and gets caught up with a couple of Ukrainian nationalists and a colonel from the secret police.

In between tying one another up and apologising over tea, this motley crew discuss the possibility of a physical manifestation of a national spirit, and narrator Kolya conducts prettily earnest meditations on how songs, or Snickers bars, can contribute to international understanding in hostile terrain. Eventually they arrive at an old fort and begin to dig: The story meanders along with a faint slapstick humour and a pleasant lack of urgency, but the question for prospective readers of this translation is how well the theme of competing post-Soviet nationalisms will play abroad.

Obviously,, reading the novel in translation, knowing very little about its undercurrents regarding Russia and Ukra I have no idea how to review this rather bizarre novel, my first venture into Kurkov' s writing, but I enjoyed it immensely and will read more of the authors work, starting with the more famous Death and the Penguin. Obviously,, reading the novel in translation, knowing very little about its undercurrents regarding Russia and Ukraine, I am well aware I missed nuances and references. I was grateful to be reading on my Kindle with easy access to looking up places and names unfamiliar to me, in Kazakhstan and various republics around the Caspian sea.

Reading world literature exposes just how limited are our horizons if we don't seek to explore beyond our cosy comfort zones.


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I am grateful to translators who work hard to bring such books to the English speaking readership. Above all this book is funny, quirky and puzzling but in a good way, with droll, dry humour. I like the writing style, light and chatty even when it goes into philosophical and spiritual realms. Everything makes sense in the end.

The Good Angel of Death by Andrey Kurkov | Book review | Books | The Guardian

I liked the characters, and their relationships. Jan 31, Amu rated it it was ok. A man finds an old manuscript and is inspired by its writers interest in deeper questions of life. Together with some strange events at his job in "baby food" factory, this inspiration leads him to an adventure all the way to Kazakhstan. It's full of mysterious people and surprising situations. This one was not that much for me. It was funny only occasionally and I found its attitude towards women a bit problematic.

The phil A man finds an old manuscript and is inspired by its writers interest in deeper questions of life. The philosophical start should have developed more and given depth to the story. What I did like about the book was how it dealt with the Soviet history and the national feelings of ex-Soviet nationalities. The Kazakhstan of this book was not the Kazakhstan I know but it made me miss the countries and friends who live there. Jun 17, Malcolm rated it really liked it Shelves: Not much about the blurb on the back prepares us for the wonder of the book between the covers — a strangely annotated copy of a notebook hidden inside a copy of War and Peace left behind when Kolya buys an apartment from an old couple who are emigrating leads to a mysterious robbery, threatening phone calls and the promise of national treasure.

However, Kolya lives in Kiev, and the treasure is buried near a no-longer-existing one-time Russian fort in Kazakhstan. Threatened by who-knows-whom, fo Not much about the blurb on the back prepares us for the wonder of the book between the covers — a strangely annotated copy of a notebook hidden inside a copy of War and Peace left behind when Kolya buys an apartment from an old couple who are emigrating leads to a mysterious robbery, threatening phone calls and the promise of national treasure. Threatened by who-knows-whom, followed in the street, watched by the unidentified late night phone callers or maybe by someone else, Kolya a Russian heads off in search the Ukrainian national treasure in the Kazakh sands.


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There is danger in not taking satire seriously, especially when it comes from such a potent tradition as Ukrainian satire yes, that I have labelled this 'Russian fiction' may be problematic, except that it was written in Russian, not Ukrainian — this is, after all, the home of Gogol, whose short stories in particular make fun of power and in doing so make it public and weaker.

In his quest for the national treasure Kolya finds himself in league with the Ukrainian state, with rabid nationalists, with corrupt officials, married, left wandering in the desert to be saved by a camel, smuggling dirt and countless other slightly-through-to-utterly ridiculous situations all the while fleeing the threats made during his job a watchman in the baby food warehouse. As with other Kurkov novels, characters mutate and few are who or what they seem to be, allegiances and alliances shift and we are left with a form of resolution in this case, a tight one but sure of neither what it means nor quite how it came about.

Where I adore Kurkov in this sense of tight ending is that amid all the absurdity there is no sense of deus ex machina — the ending is right, it fits and yet it hammers home the central point of the satire of the state and its politics. He is a writer very much in the tradition of Gogol, of Jann Kross the great Estonian , of Dostoyevsky — writers whose tightly crafted, multi-layered fiction carries satire that flays its social and political targets but about which they can do little.

And even without all the knowledge we need to get its barbs I am sure I get only a few of them it is a funny, engaging and slightly ridiculous story about a guy travelling from Kiev the Kazakhstan and back — it is, after all, rich and sophisticated in its multi-layering. And, as always, he gives us really good women characters in this case, most especially Gulya — quite brilliant. Armed only with three cases of baby milk, which have unexpected hallucinogenic properties, he sets off on what turns out to be a very bizarre journey, meeting a host of unlikely characters Description: Early in the spring of I sold my two-room flat on the edge of town and bought myself a single-room flat right in the centre of Kiev, beside St Sophia's Cathedral.

St Sophia As Fionnuala piquantly puts it: Dispatches from Kiev review — an invaluable guide to the present crisis 17 Aug Andrey Kurkov, the author of Death and the Penguin, is ideally placed to guide us through the Ukrainian revolution as it unfolds, writes Oliver Bullough, author of. Mar 15, Iryna Khomchuk rated it it was ok. Feb 14, Olivia rated it really liked it. Another book I'd give 3.

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This time because I did like it, but don't actually think it is that good. Insofar as it is a relatively unique book on the experience of being a post-Soviet Man i. The translation is okay, but not awesome - you know you're reading a translated book. But it's about an ethnic Russian in Ukra Ugh! But it's about an ethnic Russian in Ukraine, and the search for a Ukrainian soul, so that is somewhat interesting, if you're into that sort of thing.

It's not funny like Shteyngart and it's not religious like Pelevin, but is a bit of a combination of them. I was already familiar from the past with this sensation of temporary rejection. After a few days, everything would be the way it used to be. Jul 16, Simon rated it really liked it. I'm very glad I took the chance as this is a superb book and makes me want to find more of Kurkov's novels. This book is about Kolya who moves into a new flat in Kiev where the last resident has left a bookshelf of books behind. When Kolya opens the big version of Crime And Punishment he finds another book hidden inside a copy of The Kobza Player by Shevchenko, that book has some rather obtuse notes in the margins that set Kolya on his way to a quest to search for the meaning of these notes and the treasure map he ends up thinking they are.

This then leads him on a journey to Kazakhstan's most inaccessible parts that he gets to on a factory ship that makes canned herring before he goes wandering in the desert for weeks where he picks up a wife and all sorts of odd stuff happens that in places is a bit Indiana Jones but with a serious russian drug smuggling twist to it. I won't give away what happens or the eventual end of the journey, but will say it is one hell of a ride and I would never have guessed what happens. It also makes me need to get a copy of The Kobza Player to read now too. It took Amazon three months to get this book to me, and having read the Penguin series I was excited to read something else by Kurkov, and he did not disappoint at all.

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Kolya, the narrator, buys a flat and discovers a secret inside a book that was left inside a copy of War and Peace, and it has to do with something very sacred ot Ukrainian Nationalism. Mysteriously, he must flee the city because the warehouse where he was a night watchmen was being used by drug dealers who were threatening his lif It took Amazon three months to get this book to me, and having read the Penguin series I was excited to read something else by Kurkov, and he did not disappoint at all. Mysteriously, he must flee the city because the warehouse where he was a night watchmen was being used by drug dealers who were threatening his life, so he packs up and heads ot Kazakhstan to find the item of importance to the Ukraine.