Excerpt of The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith
(Page 2 of 4)
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For five days, starting at sunrise, finishing at sunset, hed laid every
charge explosives strategically positioned to ensure the structure
collapsed inwards, the domes falling neatly on top of themselves. Far
from demolition being chaotic, there was order and precision to his
craft and he was proud of his particular skill. This building presented
a unique challenge. It wasnt a moral question but an intellectual test.
With a bell tower and five golden cupolas, the largest of which was
supported on a tabernacle eighty meters high, todays controlled, successful
demolition would be a fitting conclusion to his career. After
this, hed been promised an early retirement. Thered even been talk
about him receiving the Order of Lenin, payment for a job no one else
wanted to do.
He shook his head. He shouldnt be here. He shouldnt be doing
this. He shouldve feigned sickness. He shouldve forced someone else
to lay the final charge. This was no job for a hero. But the dangers of
avoiding work were far greater, far more real than some superstitious
notion that this work might be cursed. He had his family to protect a
wife, a daughter and he loved them very much.
. . .
Lazar stood among the crowd, held back from the perimeter
of the Church of Sancta Sophia at a precautionary distance of a
hundred meters, his solemnity contrasting with the excitement and
chatter of those around him. He decided that they were the kind of
crowd that might have attended a public execution, not out of principle,
but just for the spectacle, just for something to do. There was
a festive atmosphere, conversations bubbling with anticipation. Children
bounced on their fathers shoulders, impatient for something to
happen. A church was not enough for them: the church needed to
collapse for them to be entertained.
At the front of the barricade on a specially constructed podium to
provide elevation, a film crew were busy setting up tripods and
cameras discussing which angles to best capture the demolition.
Particular attention was paid to ensure they caught all five cupolas,
and there was earnest speculation as to whether the timber domes
would smash in the air as they crashed into each other or not until
they hit the ground. It would depend, they reasoned, on the skill of the
experts laying the dynamite inside.
Lazar wondered if there could be sadness too among the crowd.
He looked left and right, searching for like-minded souls the married
couple in the distance, both of them silent, their faces drained of
color, the elderly woman at the back, her hand in her pocket. She had
some item hidden in there, a crucifix perhaps. Lazar wanted to divide
this crowd, to separate the mourners from the revelers. He wanted
to stand beside those who appreciated what was about to be lost: a
three-hundred-year-old church. Named and designed after the Cathedral
of Sancta Sophia in Gorky, it had survived civil wars, world
wars. The recent bomb damage was a reason to preserve, not to destroy.
Lazar had contemptuously read the article published in Pravda
claiming structural instability. Such a claim was nothing more than
a pretext, a spoonful of false logic to make the deed palatable. The
State had ordered the churchs destruction, and what was worse, far
worse, was that the order had been made in agreement with the Orthodox
Church. Both parties to this crime claimed it was a pragmatic
decision, not an ideological one. Theyd listed a series of contributing
factors: damage by Luftwaffe raids. The interior required elaborate
renovations that couldnt be paid for. Furthermore, the land in the
heart of the city was needed for a crucial construction project. Everyone
in a position of power was in agreement. This church, hardly one
of Moscows finest, should be torn down.
Excerpted from The Secret Speech by Tom Robb Smith. Copyright © 2009 by Tom Robb Smith. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher