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Archive for the ‘Ukrainian Literature’ Category

I discovered Andrey Kurkov’sA Matter of Death and Life‘ recently. I haven’t heard of Andrey Kurkov before and this book was slim and so I thought I’ll read it.

The narrator of the story is going through a difficult phase in life. His marriage is collapsing, it appears that his wife is having an affair with someone, he is unemployed, his bank balance is low, he doesn’t seem to have any friends. One day he decides to do something which he thinks will be spectacular. He decides to hire a hitman to kill him. He makes arrangements and is resigned to his fate, and thinks about how he will be in the news when it happens and he’ll become famous and people will look at him differently. But at some point things start looking up, and he even finds some happiness and he doesn’t want to die anymore. But how do you stop a hitman from executing his contract? Not possible, isn’t it? What happens after that is darkly comic and unravels like a Coen Brothers movie.

I loved reading ‘A Matter of Death and Life’. Andrey Kurkov’s prose is spare and there is no superfluous sentence, no wasted word. The pages fly, though occasionally there is a Dostoevskian passage. For example, this passage, which could have easily been in a Dostoevsky novella –

“I found the glaring whiteness of the paper irritating. My urgent concern to make the most of what time I had left seemed suddenly totally devoid of meaning. See who? Ring who? I was needed by no-one, and needed nobody. A fact so obvious as to prompt an icy shiver followed by more positive thoughts, amongst which was the absolute rightness of my decision in favour of suicide. Collecting yet another coffee and taking a colder, more realistic view, I deleted “Ring Nina”, and was at last free to devote to myself such time as remained.”

Kurkov’s dark humour zings in every page and it makes us smile. For example, this passage –

“Outside, the sun was shining, though to no useful purpose at this time of the year. Still, millions of citizens would be glad of it. Taking pleasure in what served no useful purpose had become a habit, and something I was fond of doing.”

There is a beautiful love story in the middle of the book, which was very unexpected. I’m not sure exactly what happened in the end though – I have a few thoughts on that, and if you have read the book, I’d love to discuss it with you.

Andrey Kurkov is Ukrainian, but he writes in Russian. This is one of his earlier books. He has since written many books, and I’m excited to explore more of his work.

Have you read ‘A Matter of Death and Life’? What do you think about it?

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