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 mysteriously disappears.
Josef Stalin, the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Stalin, as interpreted through the eyes of Fan Fanych, becomes the real criminal in the novel. The driving force behind the Soviet regime, Stalin is a merciless dictator who values his own glory above all else. Fan Fanych eavesdrops on Stalin while hiding in a secret chamber of the Livadia Palace; he overhears Stalin plot against his allies Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill as well as sadistically order the execution of an innocent shoemaker and his son. Symbolically, Fanych “hears” Stalin’s foot berate the tyrant for his own miserable inhumanity, warning him that he will never find peace through the abuse of power. Stalin’s death brings life to Fanych and others.
Chernyshevsky, a labor camp prisoner and party loyalist. Chernyshevsky, one of the old Bolsheviks sentenced to live out the remainder of his life in confinement, believes in the Communist Party and in Karl Marx’s utopian vision despite his own personal anguish. In defiance of Fanych’s reports of corruption in the state, Chernyshevsky relentlessly clings to the ideals of the revolution. He is a pathetic figure who fights valiantly for something that does not exist. The Bolshevik plays cards and argues politics with Fan Fanych in the labor camp until he is removed from prison after Stalin’s death.
Professor Bolensky, a seventy-nine-year-old biologist. Bolensky, a specialist on the subject of marsupials, tutors Fanych on kangaroo behavior. Forced by Kidalla to join Fanych in confinement, the timid professor learns about sex through visits from female KGB agents as he teaches Fanych about kangaroos.
Rybkin, a zoo watchman. Under the pressure of interrogation, Rybkin accuses Fanych of the rape and murder of Gemma, the kangaroo. Fanych visits him after his liberation.
Adolf Hitler, the leader of the German National Socialist Party (Nazi Party). Hitler, on his rise to power, encounters Fan Fanych in a café and joins him for a beer. He vows to overthrow Stalin and tries to convince Fanych to join the Nazi Party.
Galya, a student of biology at the university. Young and full of life, Galya becomes the close companion of Fan Fanych after his return. The two fall in love.
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...
(The entire section is 1,540 words.)