ad astra per alia porci

August 3, 2010, 3:08 pm
Filed under: diary, the arts | Tags: , , ,

“Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog”.

– Oleg Gazenko, 1998

Despite my interest in graphic novels, I have not read anything that got me close to shedding tears. So it was a strangely pleasant experience when Laika came close to doing so.  A well-crafted and ultimately heartbreaking mix of fact and fiction, Laika tells the story of the eponymous dog, who was the first living creature to be sent to space. Through Nick Abadzis’s simple yet evocative drawings, we are introduced to a dog who touched the lives of those she interacted with and while unable to speak had an ocean of emotions. Laika came to trust the humans who cared for her, and earned their love and affection. However by the end of the book Laika was unfortunately reduced to a pawn in the former Soviet Union’s plan to boost its national pride during the Cold War, a casualty of the folly of human pride and carelessness, as she was hastily sent on a one-way trip to outer space as a test subject on the Sputnik II, which was commissioned to commemorate the Bolshevik Revolution.

There is something deeply heartbreaking about sending a sentient creature who cannot speak and cannot make its feelings known to anyone else to die alone in space in a metal container, thousands of miles away from the nearest breathing creature, because of some mindless, meaningless and ultimately childish contest of power between two impersonal blocs of power, under the guise of “progress” and “the greater good”. I believe that anyone with some heart, not just animal rights advocates, will be moved by Abadzis’s able and sensitive portrayal of a dog’s remarkable journey from the streets of Russia to the lonely heights of outer space. One of the best graphic novels I have ever read, not on the basis of technical accomplishments but rather its strong emotional pull.


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