The repressive world of samizdat , of dog-eared, hectographed manuscripts, circulated in repressed secrecy, takes its toll on writers. Yuz Aleshkovsky is a veteran of that world, and in "Kangaroo," he takes his revenge with a torrent of scatological satire that leaves few targets in Soviet history or society untouched. The slangy Russian and sexual descriptions that read like 1950s hard porn leave no doubt that the intent of the author is vehemence. The targets of the satire, unfortunately, are not easily deciphered.
The plot is a complex recursive loop from the conviction of the hero, a Russian pickpocket named Fan Fanych, for the rape and murder of an aging kangaroo in the Moscow Zoo, to scenes in a spaceship, to the Yalta Conference, to a Siberian prison camp where Fanych engages in debates with fervent old Bolsheviks. Keeping track of the narrative and the whirls of fantasy, sorting out the scenes in which the hero is a kangaroo, a rat-catcher with a third eye at the back of his head, or debating Hitler, puts considerable demands on a reader. Making sense of the myriad obscure references will challenge the most avid historians and students of Soviet pop culture. It is enough to be familiar with Chekists, Ilya Ehrenburg, Radishchev, Krupskaya, Bukharin, Zinoviev, and the patronymics of obscure Bolsheviks. The reader also must contend with Ordzhonikidze, Mikhail Zoshchenko, Ivan Pyriev and dozens of other proper names, few of which can be parsed from context, and none of which is explained in a glossary or footnotes.