Penguin, Porcupine and the Plight of Immigrants

All three of the following books and their authors were completely new to me, and I’ve added all three writers to my ‘they need exploring’ list.

38 Congo: Alain Mabanckou – Memoirs of a Porcupine (translated by Helen Stevenson)

First of all, I was surprised to learn that there are two Congos on this planet. This book represents the Republic of the Congo. Something I truly enjoyed was that the story of the human beast was narrated by a porcupine … the details and background of which you really should explore yourself! The author also took a rather unconventional approach to sentence structure and punctuation which added to the quirkiness and delight.

39 Ethiopia: Dinaw Mengestu – The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Amazingly well narrated by Dion Graham, this story was full of tender moments without being tacky. It was also filled with moments of despair which were turned into humour by the three immigrant friends – how else can you avoid not giving into it? By making a guessing game out of dictatorship. The exploration of the question of identity and in what way it is connected to a country has come up time and again in this reading project (and I assume this isn’t going to change). I liked the way it was addressed by the author in this work.

40 Ukraine: Andrey Kurkov – Death and the Penguin (translated by George Bird)

Not Misha, but his cousins.

Not Misha, but his cousins.

I came across this novel via the BBC World Book Club. Having been to Antarctica and, as regular followers of my blog know, being a big fan of penguins, I just had to read it. Misha the Penguin, a King Penguin, to be precise, isn’t the main character, but my favourite. I thoroughly suffered with him in his wish for Antarctic ice and penguin company. And yes, the story around the obituaries and the Ukranian mafia is equally wonderfully weird.

 

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