Magazine article The Spectator

Tough Work Experience

Magazine article The Spectator

Tough Work Experience

Article excerpt

Tough work experience THE FLAYED DOG by Christo Saprjanov Chanadon, £12.99, pp. 115, ISBN 095419733X £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848

Vasil works as a concrete-spreader, part of a gang of workers imported to build a road 'a thousand kilometres north and east of Moscow. Taiga, swamps and night.' Vasil was a teacher in his native Bulgaria; he's only here to earn the 5,000 roubles needed for an operation to save his child's failing eyesight. The other men are there for the money, too, but the attractions of women and alcohol are insidious. Can Vasil remain aloof? Can he keep his priorities, his beliefs, his very identity intact?

The workers share stories, jokes and dreams. They unite in loathing the foreman; they retain an approximate respect for each other's privacy and small possessions. They also kill dogs; huskies are prized, but any dog will do. The dogs are flayed, roasted and eaten. The men stick bottles between the legs of Lida, the resident hooker, and use her naked backside as a scoreboard for their card games. Her small daughter sleeps untended in a corner. For Vasil, this child becomes the touchstone of all that matters. His desire to protect her, to rescue her, grows stronger as his dreams of saving his own child fade.

There's a pet dog in the camp, a Maltese terrier, the only bright spot in the life of its surly owner Meto. It's only a matter of time before the line is crossed and the pet becomes a victim. Sure enough, Meto's hutmate Hesho rapes the dog. …

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