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A Matter of Death and Life

Andrey Kurkov

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : The Harvill Press

Published : 2005

Copyright : Andrey Kurkov 2005

ISBN-10 : HB 1-84343-104-1
ISBN-13 : HB 978-1-84343-1046

Publisher's Write-Up

Marital troubles? Sick of life? Suicide the answer? Why not get yourself a contract killer? Nothing easier, provided you communicate only by phone and box number. You give him your photograph, specify when and in which cafe to find you, then sit back and prepare to die. Murdered, you will be of greater interest than ever you were in life. More to him than met the eye will be the judgment. Our perpetually glum hero meticulously plans his own demise, expect for one detail: if he suddenly decides he wants to live, what then?

This darkly funny tale is Kurkov on top form. With a style ranging from the sombre to the quietly hilarious, Kurkov's is a world in which we accept the ordinariness of the absurd. Another modern masterpiece from the author of the highly acclaimed Death and the Penguin.

Andrey Kurkov, born in St Petersburg in 1961, now lives in Kiev. Having graduated from the Kiev Foreign Languages Institute, he worked for some time as a journalist, did his military service as a prison warder at Odessa, then became a film cameraman, writer of screenplays and author of critically acclaimed and popular novels.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Ray (240306) Rating (7/10)

Review by Ray
Rating 7/10
I'd probably be right in saying that not many people have heard of Andrey Kurkov but he writes curious books about the life and times in Kiev, Russia. His books are written in Russian and translated to be published abroad. I've read several and this is his newest short story. And it is very short, just over 100 pages but it's a little gem.

Imagine a scenario where life just isn't getting any better, marriage is going down the pan, no money, no hope, what are you to do? This story centres on a particular glum fellow called Tolya. It's written in the first person as he tells the story of how he wants to go out with a bang, creating a false life that people would talk about after his death.

He arranges a 'hit' on himself. Simple really. You give the killer a photograph, specify when and which café to find you, then sit back and prepare to die. But just before the big day, his life turns for the better and he would quite like to live, what’s he going to do?

It's beautifully written, and has a curious stark quality to it that I've only ever found in Kurkov books. He describes the scene and the feelings of Tolya very well. The characters in the book gel well and you find yourself smirking at the poor man's despair and the way he tries to get out of being killed. There are a few twists and turns and a clever ending but you can't help thinking there should be more. Life in Russia must truly be a glum affair if the scene that Kurkov paints is true to life. But it’s a fitting setting for this story and I'm looking forward to more from Kurkov.
Ray (24th March 2006)

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