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Kazan (1914)

by James Oliver Curwood

Series: Kazan (1)

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1744132,775 (3.77)29
Kazan Father of Baree The unforgettable adventures of a wolf-dog Kazan, three-quarters dog and one-quarter wolf, searches for companionship while struggling to survive the harsh Canadian wilderness. He suffers every threat imaginable, from man and beast alike. Finally, with his courageous mate, Gray Wolf, he befriends humans and travels with them in an adventures trek through the frozen Northern wilds.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
Passing through this book very early on is one character, Paul Weyman, a zoologist who loves wild animals purely for their own sake: he hates the steel gin-traps, bait poisoned with strychnine, the whole paraphernalia of cruelty used routinely in this setting—and, in fact, never even carries a gun. He plays no important part in the story and is there, I’m sure, to give us a glimpse of the author himself. Even back in 1914 when Kazan was being written, there were people with a more enlightened attitude toward our fellow creatures and James Oliver Curwood, a hunter as a young man, had become one of them.
   Kazan is three parts husky and one part wolf, most of his four years having been spent as lead dog in a sled-team during the pioneering days of the Canadian northwest. Although a huge and powerful animal, it’s been an exceptionally savage existence and his body is scarred from nose to tail by the whip and the club, his eyes bloodshot from the brutal winters. One fateful day, though, Kazan kills a man and takes off into the forest; what he’s actually done is save a woman from attack, possibly even saved her life, but he’s not to know that—all this wolf-dog knows is that he’s ripped a human throat out and must run. And so he exchanges one harsh life for another, but at least in this new one he is free.
   I found the opening a bit confusing, and clumsy—but after that simply could not put this book down as Kazan contended, one after another, with everything the Yukon and its harsh landscapes and climate, its other wild animals and occasional humans, could throw at him. The truth of it is that Curwood doesn’t get into his stride until he finally clears the last human being off its pages and leaves us with the wolf-dog alone in his wilderness. Once he has, though, it’s an effortless read: no elaborate plot or subtle characters, just a series of challenges, tragedies and adventures. If you have any kind of soft spot for dogs and wolves at all, it’s a rollercoaster.
   There are inevitable comparisons with Jack London’s The Call of the Wild and White Fang, some questioning Curwood’s portrayal of Kazan’s inner life as unrealistic, too similar to our own. Unusually for his time, he came to believe we are not the only animal on this planet capable of rational thought and Kazan reads to me very much like his response to The Call of the Wild, which is more to do with instincts, with drives. He uses his gin-trap-hating zoologist to make this clear too: Weyman is himself writing a work to be called The Reasoning of the Wild.
   Either way, for me Kazan’s setting is the more memorable of the two, with its lynx, beaver dams and snowshoe hares, its vast open spaces, its winters. There is a sequel, but I doubt I’ll read it—I don’t want to risk spoiling Kazan himself; I want to leave him, and Gray Wolf too, in my mind exactly the way they are. ( )
1 vote justlurking | May 20, 2022 |
This book was very well written. I had a problem with a few parts that were inaccurate about wolf behavior, but other than that I loved it! ( )
  DominiqueMarie | Sep 22, 2019 |
Kazan is one of those books from the early 20th century that works well as a youth or adult read: there are elements of cruelty, violence, and brief descriptions of a small pox plague and its effects on the inhabitants of northern Canada, but nothing overly graphic. The author, better known for his work The Grizzly King which was made into a popular movie The Bear, displays his literary ability as well as his first-hand knowledge of the subject matter, having lived in the time and places he writes about. Curwood composes better than Jack London, and with less of the societal commentary that drags the telling of the latter author's works such as White Fang. And Curwood was an early advocate for conservation and limiting the unfettered slaughter of animals of his time, and it shows in his writings without being preachy.

This was one of my favorite books of my childhood, and it remains a favorite read some 45 years later. ( )
  fuzzi | Apr 24, 2018 |
James Oliver Curwood was an American action adventure writer and at the time of his death in 1927, it is claimed he was the highest paid author per word in the world. There are 55 editions of Kazan which was published in 1914 and many of his books have been made into films. Hardly any reviews on Librarything and so I presume he is little read today. He was a game hunter turned conservationist and many of his novels are based in the wilds of North West Canada and Alaska and it would appear that Kazan is a typical example.

Kazan is three parts husky and one part wolf and the novel follows his adventures after an escape from his servitude as a sledge dog, where he suffered some cruel beatings. His strength and intelligence soon make him a fearsome leader of a wolf pack and his adventures in the wild and his confrontations with frontiersmen make up the substance of the story. Kazan is ambivalent about domestication because he had been kindly treated by women and does respond to kindness: we know all this because Kazan is anthropomorphised by Curwood and we see the world through his eyes. It would seem that Curwood knew the landscape, wildlife and had the knowledge of a naturalist and so his novel has an authentic sounding setting, however what he didn’t know of course was how an animal like Kazan would think and feel and so its success depends very much on how accurate the reader thinks he might be. This is not a fable or a fantasy it is an adventure story set in a wild and rugged landscape and Curwood convinces with his depiction of the savagery of both the animals and some of the humans, but as to the “finer” feelings of Kazan and his wolf mate then it is more a matter of conjecture.

This is a quick, entertaining read and I particularly liked the chapter about the colonisation of the wolf-dogs territory by the beavers, because Curwood is at his best when describing the natural world. I suppose this is a book that would be described today as a YA novel and I am sure that I would have enjoyed this when I was thirteen. This might be pretty good of it’s kind and so three stars. ( )
4 vote baswood | Apr 17, 2016 |
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Kazan Father of Baree The unforgettable adventures of a wolf-dog Kazan, three-quarters dog and one-quarter wolf, searches for companionship while struggling to survive the harsh Canadian wilderness. He suffers every threat imaginable, from man and beast alike. Finally, with his courageous mate, Gray Wolf, he befriends humans and travels with them in an adventures trek through the frozen Northern wilds.

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