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In 1943, when Japanese troops retreat from the Aleutian island of Kiska, they leave behind four military dogs. One of them dies in isolation, and the others are taken under the protection of US troops. Meanwhile, in the USSR, a KGB military dog handler kidnaps the daughter of a Japanese yakuza. Named after the Russian astronaut dog Strelka, the girl develops a psychic connection with canines. In this multigenerational epic as seen through the eyes of man’s best friend, the dogs who are used as mere tools for the benefit of humankind gradually discover their true selves and learn something about humanity as well.
Hideo Furukawa was born in Fukushima in 1966. He dropped out of Waseda University’s literature program. He was nominated for the Naoki Prize with Belka, Why Don’t You Bark? in 2005 and won the Mishima Yukio Prize with Love in 2006. Furukawa has been active in giving readings as an expression of literature and has collaborated beyond the genre of fiction in fields including music, art, and dance.
“I want to set them loose.”
—Siberia (the sleeping land), 199X
The snow had let up, but the temperature remained below zero. The road was hemmed in on each side by a forest of white birches. The young man trudged onward, bundled from head to toe against the cold, snow crunching underfoot. He had been walking an hour already. Then, at last, he saw a house. A cabin—made of logs, rough-hewn. Clearly inhabited. The smoking chimney proved that.
The young man’s face brightened.
The place looked as if it belonged to a hunter. The man noted the four skis propped against the wall. Two inhabitants, maybe? Or was one pair an extra? You’d think there’d be a guard dog, but there wasn’t. Instead, the owner himself pushed the door open, stepped outdoors. Must have heard the footsteps in the snow. Realized he had an unanticipated visitor. He was old. An old man. His expression softened in response to the young man’s greeting. “What are you doing way out here?” he said. “So deep in the hills, this time of year, in this no man’s land? There is not a dacha for miles. Lost your way?”
“Does the road lead to a village?” the young man asked.