Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov
Trade Paperback. Translated by George Bird.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, newly-free Ukraine is a shell-shocked land . . .
In poverty-and-violence-wracked Kyiv, unemployed writer Viktor Zolotaryov leads a down-and-out life with his only friend, Misha, a penguin that he rescued when the local zoo started getting rid of animals it couldn't feed. Even more nerve-wracking for Victor: a local mobster has taken a shine to Misha and wants to borrow him for events.
But Viktor thinks he's finally caught a break when he lands a well-paying job at the Kyiv newspaper writing "living obituaries" of local dignitaries--articles to be filed for use when the time comes.
The only thing is, the time always seems to come as soon as Viktor finishes writing the article. Slowly understanding that his own life may be in jeopardy, Viktor also realizes that the only thing that might be keeping him alive is his penguin.
No summary can do justice to the strange appeal of this unusual, short book, which is at once a crime novel, a comic novel and a serious political satire on contemporary Ukraine. --Anne Applebaum, The Wall Street Journal