Kangaroo Characters (Yuz Aleshkovsky)

Yuz Aleshkovsky

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Fan Fanych

Fan Fanych, alias “Citizen Etcetera” or Newton Tarkington, an international gangster. A crook who sustains himself by “relieving” the rich of excess funds, Fan Fanych is an iconoclast fighting to retain his individuality in the face of dehumanizing interrogation and imprisonment by Josef Stalin’s Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del. Fanych, who is used as a guinea pig in a futuristic computer-designed crime experiment, is convicted of an imaginary crime invented by the computer and then dramatized on film: the rape and murder of Gemma, a kangaroo at the Moscow Zoo. Throughout the narrative of his exploits, from encounters with Stalin and Adolf Hitler to his imprisonment in a Soviet labor camp for the kangaroo murder, Fanych retains his spirit and irreverent wit. A dauntless antihero, Fanych outlives Stalin’s regime with most of his sanity intact, free to enjoy life and to experience love.


Kidalla, a KGB investigator. Kidalla is the voice of the Soviet machine, in charge of the interrogation, trial, and imprisonment of Fan Fanych. Despite Kidalla’s overt irritation over the rebellious nature of his prisoner, the reader may detect a covert bond or mutual respect that builds between this investigator and his criminal subject. Kidalla is tough and ruthless; he stops at nothing, using women, an elderly man, and an innocent kangaroo to ensure the success of the computerized crime project. After the death of Stalin, however, Kidalla...

(The entire section is 617 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The hero of Kangaroo is a thief, a pickpocket, and occasionally a liar. His is also—with the exception of his invisible listener Kolya, and Josef Stalin’s right foot—the only truly honest voice in the book. That Fan’s monologue constitutes the book makes no difference, because in Kangaroo Yuz Aleshkovsky is not experimenting with reliable versus unreliable narrators or with point of view. The reader is not expected to delve into the whys and wherefores of Fan’s (or Stalin’s) criminal behavior. Fan Fanych, grown and full-blown, is to be taken at his word—at face value, however grotesque that face might be.

In a sense, word is more important than face, because Aleshkovsky’s characters, like Fyodor Dostoevski’s, begin with a voice and end with a body. Physical description is not particularly important, although physicality itself is. Fan’s language itself identifies him as a member in good standing of the criminal underworld, a world with its own laws and its own language—both of which stand in complete opposition to “socialist legality” and authority. In this case (all meanings apply here), his opposite number is Kidalla, the almost anonymous KGB agent who protects him for years in order to charge him with the crime of the century: kangaroo rape. Kidalla himself has no personality; he seems anonymous because his largest part in the narrative is as an outside force, a disembodied voice through the intercom in Fan’s cell. Even face-to-face meetings provide no physical description. Ironically, though, Kidalla comes closer to speaking Fan’s language than do the other major characters: He may be rotten to the core, but at least he has no illusions about international justice and the uses of force.

Not so Chernyshevsky, Fan’s barracksmate and spokesman for the Old Bolsheviks in the camp. In this phantasmagoric world, he is both the nineteenth century radical critic Nikolay Chernyshevsky and a walking composite of the revolutionary Party elite purged by Stalin in the 1930’s. A creature of ideology and dogma, he garbles his slogans and garbles his mind: “Doesn’t the Central...

(The entire section is 875 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Brown, Edward J. “Truth Through Obscenity,” in Russian Literature Since the Revolution, 1982.

Meyer, Priscilla. “Skaz in the Work of Juz Aleskovskij,” in Slavic and East European Journal. XXVIII (Winter, 1984), pp. 455-461.

The New York Times Book Review. Review. XCI (April 27, 1986), p. 9.

The New Yorker. Review. LXII (April 28, 1986), p. 120.