In Andrey Kurkov’s 1996 novel ‘Death and the Penguin’ Misha (the penguin) is adopted from the Zoo in Kiev because it can no longer afford to keep him.
Living with his owner in a Kiev apartment block, Misha Penguin is used to symbolize Ukraine itself (and probably most other ex-soviet states) and while Misha is lonely and a little sad (after the breakup of the USSR) Mr Pidpaly (the Penguinologist) explains how ‘penguins’ are:
Penguins “are quick to distinguish mood – in people and other animals, of course. Apart from that they’re very unforgiving. They’ve also a good memory for anything good. But their psychology, you understand, is far more complex than, say, a dog or a cat’s. They’re more intelligent, more secretive; capable of concealing feelings and affections.”
hmm, secretive Ukrainians who conceal their feelings – I’ll have to be careful. However, at least, if I fail to learn Cyrillic and fail to master Russian and fail to write my MA thesis – at least I can learn Penguinology.