Death and the Penguin (Melville International Crime) by Andrey Kurkov (translated by George Bird):
The year that was ending had brought much that was strange into his life. And it was ending strangely, engendering mixed feelings and thoughts. Loneliness had given way to a kind of semi-loneliness, a kind of semi-dependence. His own sluggish life force had borne him as on a wave to a strange island, where suddenly he had acquired responsibilities and money to discharge them. Remaining, in the process, remote from events and even from life itself, he had made no effort to grasp what was taking place around him. Until recently, with the arrival of Sonya. And even now, life around him was still dangerously unfathomable, as if he had missed the actual moment when the nature of events might have been fathomed.
His world was now him, Penguin Misha and Sonya, but so vulnerable did it seem, this little world, that should anything happen, it would be beyond his power to protect it. Not for lack of a weapon or karate skills, but simply because, containing no genuine attachment, no sense of unity, no woman, it was too ready to crumble. Sonya was someone else’s little girl temporarily in his care, his penguin was sickly and sad, and under no obligation to show gratitude doggy-fashion, wagging his tail after fresh-frozen fish.