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Faithful Ruslan (2011)

Faithful Ruslan (2011)

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4.15 of 5 Votes: 5
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1935554670 (ISBN13: 9781935554677)
melville house

About book Faithful Ruslan (2011)

oh, my god.what a fantastic book. don't get me wrong, it is insanely sad, but for most of the book, it is sad in the way it is sad when you are still desperately in love with someone who has lost interest in you and moved on- there is a masochistic pleasure in the depths of your misery as you tail-wag your way around them, trying to rekindle the love you know is still in is sad and desperate and demeaning, but there is a spark of hope that makes it all worthwhile.for a lot of the book, this is ruslan. this is a "he's just not that into you" story that takes place between a dog and a prison guard after one of stalin's gulags has been dismantled, and in a genius move the dogs, trained to guard, corral, and attack prisoners when the need arose, were set free into the woods and the town, still trained with highly specific skills and loyal to one master.and ruslan wants his master back.(incidentally - stalin was a serious dick. i don't know if you know that, but man... what an asshole)torn between his duty and loyalty, and the most basic struggles for survival, he remains true to his training, despite seeing other former prison dogs eventually succumb to the comforts of food and shelter and civilian life. but for ruslan, the camp and its strictures is his entire life. duty is everything.he moves through the town, translating everything he sees through the filter of his training, wondering when the guards are going to come back and whip all these "prisoners" into shape for their is a killer novel. there are so many scenes that are powerful and shocking, and i don't even want to talk about it because it is so short, and this neversink series is 2/2 for me, and i want you all to go out and get them all and be wowed.i mean, it is a dog POV, which can turn some people off, but it's a dog with a highly intelligent mind and a narrow worldview:many times ruslan had noticed that humans often did things that they didn't like, and without any compulsion - something that no animal would ever do. it was significant that in ruslan's hierarchy the highest rank was held by the masters, who always knew what was good and what was bad; next in order were dogs, while prisoners came last of all. although they were bipeds, they were still not quite people. none of them, for instance, would dare give orders to a dog, yet their lives were partly controlled by dogs. in any case, how could they give sensible orders when they were all so stupid? they were obviously stupid because they kept on thinking that there was some sort of better life far away from the camp and beyond the forests - a piece of nonsense that would never enter the head of a guard dog. as if to prove their stupidity, they would run away and wander alone for months, perishing with hunger, instead of staying in camp and eating their favorite food - prison gruel, for a bowl of which they were prepared to slit each others' throats. and when they did return, looking abashed, they would still go on thinking up new ways to escape. poor fools! they were never, never happy, wherever they were.this is a perfect example of a wild intelligence marred by a pinpoint perspective, which in a human, could be termed "propaganda", but in a dog, is just rigorous training.and there's this part... nah, better not.but i can talk about it graphically. this is a beautiful cover, but a little misleading.the whole time i was reading, i was picturing ruslan as some kind of german shepherd dog. after i read the book, i did a little GIS-ing, and this is what ruslan's breed looks like: other words, the biggest dog in the entire world. oh my god, can you imagine being herded by a group of dogs like that? i like dogs, and i am terrified of how big that dog is. i would be the best prisoner ever to avoid being tackled by a dog like, yeah.good book.

generally speaking, i love dogs. i also loathe tales told from their point of view. the dogs usually seem like some ickily anthropomorphized thing you wouldn't want to know as any species.but this book... this book bent my brain.we americans like our animal tales with enough saccharine to make a continent diabetic, as if one could not feel for an animal without being browbeaten into it. Ruslan is not saccharine. Ruslan is a guard dog in a Soviet prison camp, and he does not like to be petted.what he does like is to do the work for which he's been trained. he likes making sure the prisoners stay in line, that they do as they've been trained, that he gets to chase them down if they try to escape. he is a very conscientious worker, quite exacting in his duties and his expectations. having an occasional pathetic, half-starved, hopeless dissident or criminal to attack is the icing on what is, for him, a very bountiful cake.but then the prison camp is closed... and what is a guard dog without something to guard? it's Ruslan's decisions after the camp closes that make him fascinating. because he is most assuredly not just a brute. he is a thinking dog, and he thinks like a dog, in a dog's terms. (those of you who don't believe a dog has the intelligence to reason things out should probably not bother with this book; you haven't observed dogs all that closely anyway.) Vladimov does a mind-trick i've never seen another author pull off: he really gets into a dog's mind, he views the world through a dog's eyes (or nose), and he judges by a dog's values.this book is thoroughly heartbreaking, but not at all in the usual sense: "bad things happen to poor Ruslan, who is at heart a good dog." this ain't Old Yeller. this book is about how duty and faithfulness can warp even the best of creatures. if you read it, prepare to be unable, ever, to forget it.

Do You like book Faithful Ruslan (2011)?

I felt like this book was fine, but I didn't love it. It was quite effective at creating a relatively captivating story at points, where I felt that the dog voice was "authentic" (insofar as a dog voice can be). But it was confusing about whether the dog understands humans or not, and various other anomalies that made the narrator inconsistent. Of course, the point of the book is not to be a strong novel necessarily, but to be a critique of the brutality of the system and the way that the system coopted and corrupted those who were used by that. And in that respect, the book was quite effective. I thought the translation was good, and the tone was probably about right (although I have not read this book in Russian). I also liked that Glenny is genuinely interested in the history and background and setting of this novel, and I think that care shows. Nonetheless, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book to anyone except those friends interested in that period of Soviet literature, as it is not an amazing novel in itself. Interesting, though.

Really, shouldn't I, by this stage in my life, know better than to read books about dogs? Because once you get past the 101 Dalmations stage, there are no happy endings. There are no "and then he sniffed her butt, and she sniffed his, and they walked off into the sunset..." No. The dog dies. The dog always dies.I'm sure that's why, or at least part of why, though the description of Faithful Ruslan was intriguing, I did not pick it when making my big order from Melville House's Neversink collection. But then, because all the books I had ordered weren't actually going to be published for months, the lovely folks at Melville sent Ruslan for free, as a teaser of sorts.Okay, we should probably get one thing straight. It may sound like I was bitter because this was a bad book. That is not the case at all. I am bitter (a little bit), because this was a wonderful, amazing book, that almost caused me to have a complete bawling breakdown in the middle of the Grand Rapids Children's Museum, before I very wisely closed the book and decided to finish reading it in the car. I wasn't sure, when I started reading the book, that I would get pulled all the way in. I am not a dog person. And the book is written from the point of view of the dog, Ruslan, which made me wary. Writing a book from the point of view of an animal is a pretty big conceit. It would have to be wonderful, or the author risks falling on his (or her) face. Luckily, this book is wonderful. It feels authentic, is very engaging, and while there is a feeling of doom hanging over the entire book, it never crosses the line into darkness for darkness's sake. Rather, it feels as if it is bearing witness to a story that needed to be told. Indeed, after I finished reading, I discovered (re-discovered) that the book was based on a real-life incident. A difficult read, but very worthwhile. Recommended to animal lovers and those interested in Soviet history.

Were it not for the fact that I finished reading this book in a cafe, I would have cried as I turned the last page. Avoiding the whole Old Yeller thing (yes, I love dogs; yes, I get misty when shit happens to them-- Michael Vick, burn in Hell), the book is more than a cheap tug at the heart strings. Read other reviews and you'll see what I saw: this is a book about a gulag guard dog stripped of his purpose struggling to find his place once the camp gets shut down. Let loose the metaphors! I mean, one knows going in where things are headed and what Vladimov was trying to do. Nevertheless, everything here hits where it should, Michael Glenny never causes the reader to think they are reading a translation, and the climax, which a cynical reader might call predicable, is stunning. Highly recommended.

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