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Unavailable for twenty years, this harrowing allegory of obedience to authority is esteemed as one of the defining literary texts of the post Stalin period The Guardian Set in a remote Siberian depot immediately following the demolition of one of the gulag s notorious camps and the emancipation of its prisoners, Faithful Ruslan is an embittered cri de coeur from a writer whose circumstances obliged him to resist the violence of arbitrary power Every writer who writes anything in this country is made to feel he has committed a crime, Georgi Vladimov said Dissident, he said, is a word that they force on you His mother, a victim of Stalin s anti Semitic policy, had been interred for two years in one of the camps from which Vladimov derived the wrenching detail of Faithful Ruslan The novel circulated in samizdat for than a decade, often attributed to Solzhenitsyn, before its publication in the West led to Vladimov s harassment and exile A starving stray, tortured and abandoned by the godlike Master whom he has unconditionally loved, Ruslan and his cadre of fellow guard dogs dutifully wait for the arrival of new prisoners but the unexpected arrival of a work party provokes a climactic bloodletting Fashioned from the perceptions of an uncomprehending animal, Vladimov s insistently ironic indictment of the gulag spirals to encompass all of Man s inexplicable cruelty


10 thoughts on “Faithful Ruslan

  1. karen karen says:

    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 there.it is sad and desperate and demeaning, but there is a spark of hope that makes it all worthwhile.for a lot of the book, 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 there.it 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 transgressions.it 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 that.so, yeah.good book.come to my blog


  2. Ryandake Ryandake says:

    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.wha 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


  3. Jennifer Jennifer says:

    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 collecti 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


  4. Onur Onur says:

    One event happened Ruslan s life and his life changes suddenly.The first difficult years of Ruslan s life, later on, passing years with Satura and Pejmurde At the end, duty calls again to Ruslan Nice and interesting book.


  5. Stephen Douglas Rowland Stephen Douglas Rowland says:

    This is a rather brilliant and upsetting parable allegory told from the perspective of a former guard dog after the labor camp in Siberia in which he was raised and trained is shut down presumably shortly after Stalin s death, but I m no CCCP historian While written in Russia, it has never been published there which will not surprise anyone who reads it , and has only had a few printings in America Nevertheless, the old hardcover edition with the ugly cover is easy enough to find and I wo This is a rather brilliant and upsetting parable allegory told from the perspective of a former guard dog after the labor camp in Siberia in which he was raised and trained is shut down presumably shortly after Stalin s death, but I m no CCCP historian While written in Russia, it has never been published there which will not surprise anyone who reads it , and has only had a few printings in America Nevertheless, the old hardcover edition with the ugly cover is easy enough to find and I would wholeheartedly recommend finding it to anyone with even a fleeting interest in the Soviet Union Sensitive dog lovers, on the other hand, should probably stay away


  6. Olivia Olivia says:

    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 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


  7. Jay Jay says:

    This is already amazing And I think my dog is going to appreciate me reading this book I m changing how I understand what he is doing and what he is trying to tell me Until now, most of the books I have read that are told from a dog s point of view are, in general, happy Even if the book ends with the dog s death which really is the caseoften than not , the story has wayhigh points than low points This story is not like that Ruslan is an incredible dog This is already amazing And I think my dog is going to appreciate me reading this book I m changing how I understand what he is doing and what he is trying to tell me Until now, most of the books I have read that are told from a dog s point of view are, in general, happy Even if the book ends with the dog s death which really is the caseoften than not , the story has wayhigh points than low points This story is not like that Ruslan is an incredible dog with a powerful sense of honor and great respect for duty Duty is before all He is put in a confusing situation and he struggles to understand what he should be doing I have read other novels set in and around the Soviet penal system, and this one is one of the best written We, the readers, seethan the narrator does We know much of what he is misunderstanding I really enjoyed this book Just don t read it expecting some light hearted tale


  8. Eh?Eh! Eh?Eh! says:

    I come late to things in life Or maybe things come late to me, since I m here all prepared for the typical and standard life things that are supposed to happen job, house, family but here I am with 2 out of 3 and nary a hint of the last in the trinity of a life properly livedanyway, there is a set order to things that was ingrained in my young mind, a procession, and losing that structure had made me feel lost What next Does it matter Why do I get worked up over anything when nothing I come late to things in life Or maybe things come late to me, since I m here all prepared for the typical and standard life things that are supposed to happen job, house, family but here I am with 2 out of 3 and nary a hint of the last in the trinity of a life properly livedanyway, there is a set order to things that was ingrained in my young mind, a procession, and losing that structure had made me feel lost What next Does it matter Why do I get worked up over anything when nothing comes of it in the end The end, the end, the end of my story Poor Ruslan, who lived a life of Service that ultimately betrayed him Poor me Not yet I have time, to find or flex


  9. Jonathan Jonathan says:

    Told from the perspective of Ruslan, a Caucasian sheepdog trained as a guard for a Soviet Gulag, the novel occasionally endures moments wherein the omnipotent narrator indulges a passionate diatribe against the Communist dictatorship of the USSR Despite these moments and thanks in no small part to the highly informative introduction by Michael Glenny, translator of the text, this well composed text reminds readers of how perversely and unnaturally we humans can act towards one other in the name Told from the perspective of Ruslan, a Caucasian sheepdog trained as a guard for a Soviet Gulag, the novel occasionally endures moments wherein the omnipotent narrator indulges a passionate diatribe against the Communist dictatorship of the USSR Despite these moments and thanks in no small part to the highly informative introduction by Michael Glenny, translator of the text, this well composed text reminds readers of how perversely and unnaturally we humans can act towards one other in the name of political ideology I couldn t put it down


  10. Sue Sue says:

    This is a great story about a Soviet guard dog who used to guard a Siberian prison work camp and what happened after the camp was decomissioned I had read an exerpt of the book in an anthology we used in a Russian culture class, and I had to read the entire thing I was able to buy a copy a few years ago, and the ending still makes me cry.