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A Matter Of Death And Life [Hardcover]

Andrey Kurkov
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: £10.00
Price: £8.31 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

3 Mar 2005
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 caf- 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. (2004-06-24)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Press (3 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843431041
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843431046
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13.6 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,109,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A tragi-farcical yet meditative novella' -- Christopher Tayler, Sunday Telegraph

'This little book is truly very funny'
-- (Omer Ali, Time Out)

A tragi-farcical yet meditative novella. -- Christopher Tayler, Sunday Telegraph

This little book is truly very funny. -- Omer Ali, Time Out

Book Description

Keynote/Publisher's Comment 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. (2004-06-24)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short, dark and funny. 20 April 2008
Although I discovered Kurkov's writing a while ago, I have so far resisted the urge to read everything at once. Instead, I've been rationing his novels, much like one of his characters might eke out a wad of ill-gotten dollars stashed under the mattress. This is the third, and it doesn't disappoint.

A Matter of Death and Life is shorter than Kurkov's other works. Almost a short story in fact, and it has a plot to match - man wishes to die, but decides assassination is more glamorous than suicide, and hires a hitman to take him out. You can probably guess what happens after that.

The book packs in Kurkov's trademark black humour around this simple and engaging idea. His characters are their usual listless selves, with their rounds of cafes and bars, their unintentional involvement in murky underworld dealings. You can read it in an evening, and it'd time well spent.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars back on form 9 Feb 2007
By J. Wild
After the slightly contrived, overly coincidental dissappointment that was Penguin Lost, Kurkov returns to form with his twisted view on the everyday, as ever the humour is served rich and dark as the central character having hired someone to kill him tries to undo the events that he has already set in motion. This is a short book and the unrelenting pace does at times seem to thunder through situations without really accounting for or exploring them. Kurkov seems more intent on the outcome, it is the idea he is exploring and so the chapters run like adrenalin as if the reader were the character in this precarious situation. Other characters a drawn in greys and have a seedy repressed quality that adds to the story and setting. If You liked Death and the Penguin this is written in a similar vein and retains that mix of melancholy and wit. A Matter of Death and Life delivers a sharp burst of humour and pathos that will leave you with a darkening glow inside.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book slight, plot familiar 11 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Maybe I've just become a little jaded; this is the fourth novel by Andrey Kurkov that I've read. I loved both of his 'penguin' novels [Death and the Penguin and Penguin Lost], and The Case of the General's Thumb proved an enjoyable change of pace, but "A Matter of Death and Life" feels simply derivative.

Kurkov writes terse, deadpan prose, welcomely free of unnecessary padding. However, this book takes it to the extreme. Even with a fairly large font and well-spaced text, it only runs to 112 pages.

That might be forgivable if the story was brilliantly original. However, I found Tolya, here, remarkably similar to Misha's master. We have another aimless, job-hungry, dissociated male in his middle years, who through completely amoral behaviour improves his material position; he then finds a purpose in life by taking over the family of someone whose death he has caused, having previously been unable and/or unwilling to form family relationships of his own.

Also, I'm beginning to find the latent misogeny in these novels grating. All women appear to be solely motivated by sex and/or money; therefore they are ultimately disposable, and invite no sympathy when the hero discards them for a better offer. When I first met this attitude, I assumed it to be a quirk of the alienated protagonist, but the theme seems common to all the stories. Definitely irritating, but not, of itself, a good reason to give up on the book.

So, an acceptable addition to the Kurkov canon; but I would not start reading Kurkov here - unless you have a very short attention span!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Surreally brilliant in a quiet way 5 April 2014
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
I like Andrey Kurkov as a writer. His slightly offbeat, macabre sense of humour and his willingness to embrace the absurdities of life always make his books interesting and a refreshing change from the normal. Sometimes his work reminds me of Haruki Murakami, and in particular here, with the self obsessed 'hero' whose life unfolds in ways he can never have imagined as his story is told, and yet who takes all the oddities and absurdities of his situation in his stride as though what he were experiencing were, after all, completely normal. I enjoyed this story of the melancholic man who decides to have himself assassinated very much. More of a novella than a novel it is an easy read and a great introduction to Kurkov's work.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Absurd to say the least 23 Sep 2012
The premise of this novel was a lot more promising than it turned out to be. The idea of arranging to have yourself assassinated because you are so sick of life, yet not able to commit suicide, is very appealing. And also very easy to relate to I think. Many of us have at one point or another given it a thought or two, perhaps not seriously, but fleetingly. Murdered, you will be of greater interest than you ever were in your life. Murdered, your memory will last forever.

Yet, for Tolya, things don't go according to plan. He decides he wants to live after all, after it is too late.

Sounds interesting right? Well, I'm afraid it was a little underwhelming. I would have liked to see Tolya die (after trying to escape death), and have people wonder what had happened to him. Perhaps bring in his wife (who had left him for another guy) and make her play a bigger role in the story. Instead, not only does Tolya successfully escape death, but he ends up with two relationships (when he had just gotten out of the biggest failed relationship), and finds himself dragged into the depths of depravity (think murder, bribery, thievery and so on).

Not what I expected going into it. It is quite a short story, and very easy to read, and there are many good thoughts and ideas in the book that I've found myself marking down. However, the storyline itself was quite disappointing, and could have been enhanced tremendously.

All in all, a quick read, and not bad with it being my first Kurkov book.
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