Rats and human beings aren’t that far apart from each other in The Rat-Killer. As the political intrigue of post-communist reality develops into nightmare, the greed, cunning and malice of the humans increasingly resemble the behaviour of the large communities of destructive rodents, while the rats acquire more and more human features.
Svetloyar is bidding to be included in the list of historical towns making up Russia’s famous “Golden Ring” around Moscow, a lucrative tourist route. However, aside from the problem that it has no history – having been entirely constructed during the Stalinist period – the place is teeming with rats, so two pest-controllers are summoned from Moscow. What follows is an astute interrogation of the nature of both humanity and history, as the narrator’s philandering impulses are set alongside his perpetual concern for the destruction of rats. While clearly a novel of the classical Russian tradition, The Rat-Killer also incorporates the more experimental and satirical aesthetic of Soviet literature, and as the narrator’s perception of reality becomes increasingly warped, so does our experience of the almost comically grotesque landscape around him.
'Funny, crazy and wonderfully unpredictable.' The Times
'A fine satire in a Gogol-esque vein about the mendacity and greed of small-town officials' – The Guardian
'I like The Rat-Killer
... I always do like these sardonic Russian tales – a genre on their own – that take satire to its extreme.' Doris Lessing
'Alexander Terekhov wrote this political allegory when he was twenty-seven. Bad timing meant it failed to make waves outside Russia, as critics were busy unearthing older, established writers suppressed under the communist regime. This new edition ten years on, updated by the author, unleashes his intelligent, absurd novel on the West...Original and stylish, he deserves to stand out this second time around.' The List
Read an excerpt from The Rat Killer