The Dogs is a book about what humans have done to the world and what we have done to ourselves. Specifically, it is a book about ‘Man’s best friend’ – their origin-myths, and their place in the world before they were co-opted into human society and ideas of pure breeding and dysgenics. The Dogs also imagines a future where dogs have developed the power of speech; led by the non-violent UnderDogs and the more radical direct-action Der Uberhünd, the animals of the world begin demanding their rights.
Cover-image: Louis Benoit
Once I was a god. I watched the wolf weep at my feet, the lamb offered me his fleece, fish leaped from streams into my mouth and down my gullet, figs fell from the trees like raindrops, angels caressed my flesh, demons slunk from my shadow, children kneeled and prayed to me, women offered me their bodies, bishops gave me their souls, kings asked me for mercy, the monkeys howled in the trees, the eagles tried to fly into the black pip of my mind, the lunatics built fires from their chattels, cut off their thumbs, gouged out their eyes, bit off their ears, then they turned on me, broke my back, cracked my ribs, twisted my hands into claws, tarred and furred me, crushed my skull, lolled my tongue, stretched my tail, sharpened my teeth. NOW I AM A DOG
Dog watched his own face form in the black waters of the void he listened to the welkin ringing night and howled a hole in the sky Dog ate the dirt and the herb and spat out the firmament Dog barked out the stars and ran round the globe till it spun Dog jumped over the moon chased every kind of winged fowl and all the beasts of the Earth then Dog dug a vast hole and buried all that creeped and all that was dead and all that had never crept or died by the tree of good and evil Dog rested
Argos died of joy when Odysseus returned from Troy. Icarus’s dog, Moera, tried to tell him that, like Bladud, his wings would fail. Dragon, Aubry’s dog, witnessed the murder of his master and was made to fight for his life. Bran, Fingal’s dog, stolen from a giant’s castle as the pup lay with its mother, a deerhound. Kyon (the bear killer) and Prokyon, the dogs of Orion, took a sting from a scorpion. King Arthur’s favourite hound was Cavall: tusked by a boar. Kratim, the dog of the seven sleepers, was allowed to enter Paradise. Gelert, Llewelyn the Great’s greyhound. The gift of a king. Llewelyn left his dog to guard his baby while he went hunting. When he returned he found the baby missing and the cot overturned. He looked to Gelert, and saw that his mouth was smeared with fresh blood. Believing that the dog had savaged the child, Llewelyn drew his sword and killed him. Only then did he hear the cry of the baby, his son, unharmed under the cradle. Then he saw a dead wolf which had attacked the child and had been killed by Gelert. The fate of dogs has always turned on a tanner.
Dog’s thoughts set fire to the Borophaginae: proto-dog with bone crushing molars you cannot compete with those who hunt in gangs. Dog’s bones gave birth to its still born. Dog’s mother was a grey wolf, his father – a golden jackal skulking in the cradle of Dog’s deeds. Dog’s stone was carved into the crook of a man’s arm at Gobekli Tepe. Dog’s testament: the Goyet skull, Dog’s covenant: pawprints in the Chauvet cave ghosts your passing. Dog growled at Dmitri Belyaev as he tried to tame the silver fox choosing the calmest ten percent until they licked the hand that fed. Dog slept as Lyudmila Trut carried on the work of Dmitri breeding rounder snouts and gracile limbs. Dog yawned as Trofim Lysenko watched from the wings, son of a peasant farmer, learning to read through a correspondence course. Dog scoffed at the barefoot professor as he greeted luminaries of agronomy at the Institute of Cytology. Dog laughed as the apparatchik quack became the wheat chief, barley king, Stalin’s bitch. Dog listened as his ranting speech led to the sacking, imprisonment and murder of thousands of geneticists. Dog considered the case of Nikolai Vavilov arrested for carrying German botany books kidnapped by four men in dark suits. Dog bore witness to Vavilov as he was thrown into Lubyanka where he slowly starved to death.
The Man took Dog from his den. First he castrated him, then he caged him, put a noose around his neck, chopped his tail off, pinned his ears, shaved off his fur, forbade him to hunt and instead taught him to play dead, sit up and beg, fetch a ball, fetch a stick, fetch a frizbee. He gave him a name, expected him to come when he shouted it, tossed him scraps from his table. If Dog barked too much or if he didn’t bark enough the Man whipped Dog. Dog looked around at his lot, were he to leave the man he had nowhere to go, no source of food and no shelter. There was no way back to the place he’d come from. He had no choice: now he loved T H E M A N
‘A tour-de-force of visionary imagination that is at once apocalyptic and analytical, compassionate and chaotic, darkly comedic – and deadly serious. In this grenade of a book, Stewart has done for Dog what Ted Hughes did for Crow.’
‘Origin stories, recent histories and a future when hierarchies are subverted mingle in an affecting, heady narrative that makes us think about human cruelty. Exciting, exhilarating, moving and profound.’
A fiery incitement of cruelty, to animals, and also of cruelty to refugees, to poor families queuing at food banks, to all those shackled ad crushed by austerity and the swindles and sweat-stealing of capitalism.’
Nick Moss, Culture Matters
‘an unusual, original and challenging collection.’