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The Good Angel of Death by Andrey Kurkov

The Good Angel of Death (edition 2009)

by Andrey Kurkov, Andrew Bromfield (Translator)

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1107109,733 (3.65)12
Title:The Good Angel of Death
Authors:Andrey Kurkov
Other authors:Andrew Bromfield (Translator)
Info:Harvill Secker (2009), Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Read, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Russia

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The Good Angel of Death by Andrey Kurkov



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Showing 4 of 4
Another masterpiece from Andrey Kurkov, this time we start off in familiar territory of Kiev, but very quickly wander off to the desert of Kazakhstan; but not before a dark edge to the novel has been set. The first section in Kiev is masterpiece Kurkov, with a magnificent set of elderly characters that Kolya meets as he searches for the person who annotated a book he finds hidden inside a copy of War and Peace left in his new flat; this search leads him to digging up a grave to find some relevant documents and so to Kazakhstan.
In Kazakhstan he is clearly blessed and the novel takes on a dream like quality, as he walks over sand and more sand; Kolya survives despite having little in the way of provisions and he is saved by a desert family and finds a wife; the beautiful and enigmatic Gulya. More characters join the novel and the story gets more bizarre.
This is a novel about journeys; across the Caspian Sea, the desert and then the rail journey back from Kazakhstan, with Kolya, Gulya and two others they met in Kazakhstan and a load of sand that smells of cinnamon that is going to restore the sense of a nation to Ukraine. Kurkov takes us on these interesting journeys, always with limited views - just the sky from the bed in the factory ship across the Caspian Sea, sand and more sand in the desert and in the train, at first there is no view, until they break open the window and then the view is always restricted.
I've no idea what any of this means, but it all pulls together in to an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable novel that has Ukrainian nationalism and what that means as its big theme. ( )
1 vote Tifi | Nov 19, 2012 |
Have you heard the one about the Russian, the Kazakh & the ex KGB officer? No. How about the one about a Bedouin, a Ukrainian & a Chameleon, still no? Then let me introduce you to Andrey Kurkov's "The Good Angel of Death.

This is the story of Kolya, a Russian night-watchman, who, whilst moving into a new flat in Kiev discovers a book (covered with marginalia), hidden in a copy of War and Peace. This awakens his curiosity & he sets out to discover more about the mysterious annotator.

This leads him to the to the grave of a Ukrainian nationalist who died in suspicious circumstances and was buried with a manuscript. Kolya exhumes the manuscript & learns that an item of national importance is buried at some old fort in the deserts of Kazakhstan. So far fairly straight forward, yes?

In Kolya's day job (sorry, night) as a watchman he watches over a warehouse full of dried baby food, which turn out to be hallucinogenic drugs, that are wanted by a criminal gang, who then threaten Kolya, causing him to flee.

He now sets out on the quest for this item (you know, that one of national importance), armed with 3 tins of the baby milk & not much else. On this adventure he crosses the Caspian sea in a floating fish factory, gets lost in the desert, acquires a beautiful Kazakh wife & gets involved with the machination of 2 Ukrainian nationalists & a KGB colonel, he also befriends a Chameleon who could be a spirit that protects wayward travellers.

On one review I read that this is written as though it was a dream, that it meanders it's own sweet path through the political drama of Ukrainian nationalism. I am slightly paraphrasing the original, although the sentiment is the same & to my mind almost perfect, I say almost because it's not a dream, but a daydream.

http://parrishlantern.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/good-angel-of-death.html ( )
2 vote parrishlantern | Jun 29, 2012 |
The narrator Kolya's odyssey through the southern states of the former soviet union left me mildly baffled mid-way. It seemed to be taking an uncharacteristically mystic turn, before more familiar Kurkov themes emerged. The usual animal that quietly figures in the story also slipped in in an unobtrusive way, so it took me a while to realise its presence in the story (despite the cover).

Overall, it's a low-key exploration of nationalism, history and national archetypes, and the often dark threads that criss-cross the former soviet states. Kolya needs a quiet but often fatalistic optimism in the face of of forces that can't be controlled or ignored, but have to be lived with somehow - as is often the case in Kurkov's books.

Somehow I failed to mention the humour: again, it's quietly present throughout. ( )
  ten_floors_up | May 5, 2012 |
I'd seen and almost picked up a previous book by this author as the back cover blurb had me intrigued. Unfortunately, as it was a sequel, I decided to give it a miss so I was delighted to find another of his titles going cheap. Hugely talented, truly very funny was the accompanying quote on the front so I was expecting more laugh out loud humour but was surprised by the understated satire on post-Soviet nationalism that this book provided. The story follows Kolya as he discovers the baby-milk powder he has been guarding for his job as night-watchman has some unexpected properties when he uses some in coffee to calm his nerves (He'd had a call from his boss warning him that someone might try and break in). After another warning phone call, Kolya decides it might be safer if he disappeared for a while so decides to follow up on a possible treasure hunt for something buried by the Ukranian literary hero Taras Shevchenko. We follow along as Kolya travels from Kiev across the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan in search of the buried treasure.

At times the story meanders along passively but is still fascinating for the clash of cultures and thought processes of the differing people that Kolya interacts with on his journey. Half the time though you're not quite sure if what is transpiring in the narrative is not part of a baby-milk induced trip. The novel was written and set in the late 1990's but has only just been translated by Andrew Bromfield who seems to have done a pretty good job of it as far as I can tell. While the book didn't blow me away and was somewhat different to my expectations I still want to read more from the author which is always a good sign ( )
1 vote AHS-Wolfy | Jul 14, 2011 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Andrey Kurkovprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bromfield, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vogel, ChristaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Early in the spring of 1997 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.
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Original title: Добрый ангель смерти
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When Kolia moves into a new flat in Kiev, he finds a book hidden within a volume of 'War and Peace'. Intrigued by the notes that appear on every page, Kolia sets out to find out more about the scribbler. His investigations take him to a graveyard, more specifically the coffin of a Ukrainian nationalist who died in mysterious circumstances.… (more)

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