Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Posted January 13, 2021 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Earthlings by Sayaka MurataTitle: Earthlings (Goodreads)
Author: Sayaka Murata
Translator: Ginny Tapley Takemori
Published: Granta, 2020
Pages: 247
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

What I really loved about Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is the way she writes about social norms. She looks at social situations and asks the question, “What do we consider normal, and why it is so important?” Keiko was happy with her situation as a convenience store attendant, but the world and even her family wanted to push her to want more from her career and life. Murata seems to take this idea one step further in Earthlings.

The novel follows Natsuki, who even from a very young age felt like she did not belong here on earth. Both Natsuki and her cousin Yuu considered themselves to be aliens from another planet left on earth. Even when she got older, Natsuki had this viewpoint, and considered earth to be just a baby making factory. To keep her family off her back she married and hoped to just have a quiet life with her husband. However, her family kept demanding she have children and the pressure continuously grew to unhealthy levels.

Earthlings is a weird book; it explores the social pressures of reproducing but it does take a disturbing turn. I like the way Sayaka Murata looks at social issues and pushes the boundaries to show just how damaging they can be but I am also not a fan of the way this book ended. I do not think it is worth discussing the ending and if you have read the book, you know what I mean. I feel that the focus should be on how alienating social norms can be, and the way it made Natsuki feel. I have been married for eleven years and I know how frustrating it is when people ask me and my wife why we do not have children. This question is none of their business and tend to lead to awkward moments if you do decide to share the reasons. This novel plays with the social expectations of reproduction by constantly referring to the world as a baby making factory, like life has no value except creating children.

Sayaka Murata loves to push the boundaries with her characters and I am not going to try and diagnose these people in her books. I have seen far too many people claim Keiko was autistic in Convenience Store Woman, but does that really matter? You could probably label both Natsuki and her husband as asexuals in Earthlings, but it feels weird to label a fictional character. I am not a psychologist, so I do not want to diagnose Keiko with autistic and while I understand it is useful to show representation or to use psychoanalysis to analyse a book, I often find myself questioning the motives. If the author has not mentioned it, are we just projecting ideas onto a character? Granted this can be useful for understanding but it can also mean we are pushing these characters into a label and not letting them show us the problems with the world around us.

The writing of Sayaka Murata might not be for everyone, but I am looking forward to seeing what Ginny Tapley Takemori translates next. I want to read more books like this, where the author challenges social ideas and does it in interesting ways. This is a dark but very entertaining novel, and I am glad that Murata has done so well for herself in the English speaking world.

2021 Reading and Creative Goals

Posted January 11, 2021 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 4 Comments

I am passionate about world literature, and I find myself wanting to share my passion in every way possible. I have this blog, I have a podcast, and sometimes I make YouTube videos and TIkToks. The problem seems to be that I want to share my passion everywhere, including social media, but I wonder if I am giving everything enough attention. I know my blogging has suffered and I think that should be my primary focus, I want to improve as a writer or an essayist. Although, the Lost in Translations podcast is covering a niche that I don’t think is getting enough attention. Having said this, I think my biggest hindrance is my own self-doubt. I am not going to improve in anyway until I give up that feeling of inadequacy and just make content, so 2021 is the year for that.

Like most book nerds, most of my goals for the year are book related, like reading bigger books more often, or re-reading some of my favourite works of literature. However, I do have the Invisible Cities project to focus more on world literature, not that I needed the help in reading translated literature. My main goals for 2021, is to make money doing something I love, and create more content. If I can work out a way to combine those two goals, that would be perfect, and I am about to release perks on the podcast patreon page to help with that, including essays, personal book recommendations, and much more. I do think I need to work at perfecting my craft and I believe if I can take away some of my own negativity, I will be able to write more, and make other content.

I attempt so many mediums because I do not see enough people sharing the joys of world literature, and it often feels like the cries for more diversity in literature often focuses on American literary scene. I love that people are putting more focus on reading diversely, and I want to help promote books that don’t get talked about. I have found my reading passion and it is world literature, but rarely see it being talked about until after I start making content. There are so many great book bloggers that review literature from all around the world, but it feels like it wasn’t till I started that I found them. It’s like the internet waits to show you all the people that are doing a better job at making content than you. The BookTube community is growing and there are many great content creators, but I feel like world literature is still a small niche in that community, so I should make the effort to promote it, even if I have never gotten comfortable in that medium. As for TikTok, I’m very new to this short video format, and the book community feels very focused on young adult literature, so my brain is telling me to make content to help it grow, but also, I just hope to find more lovers of world literature.

Basically, I am saying that I want to make more content and promote my love of world literature but also, I want should make the essay writing side of it my primary focus. I still need to write book reviews because I find that having written thoughts on a book has been very useful for my own memory. One day, I hope to develop a similar style as Alejandro Zambra, and be able to write essays that function as a book review as well, but that will take a lot of practice. I find my essays to be a great way to dump all my thoughts onto a page and process my own feelings, but I hope they are enjoyable to read as well. I will probably focus on personal essays revolving around literature to begin with, but I would love to branch out and try different topics as well, maybe film would be a safe starting place.

2020 Reading in Review

Posted January 8, 2021 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 6 Comments

Thankfully 2020 is over and, like most people, it was not a great year for me. Apart from the pandemic and job seeking, I did have an ear infection that decided it wanted to go into my brain, leading to ventriculitis, but without going into the details of my health, let’s just say it was not the best year for my reading. I only managed to finish 54 books, which isn’t too bad but for me it was felt really low.

I did read some amazing books through the year, I started off with Older Brother by Mahir Guven (translated by Tina Kover) which was an amazing novel. The way this book talked about a Franco-Syrian family really stuck with me, I love the way Guven explored political divide between the father and the sons. Let’s face it, if Tina Kover translated the book, I am already interested in reading it, no need to tell me what it is about. In February I read The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa (translated by Stephen Snyder) which seemed to get plenty of attention this year. For me, I didn’t enjoy the book, Ogawa is an amazing writer, and I will continue to follow her writing, I just don’t understand the hype behind this book and not some of her other works, maybe this is the first book people have read.

I tend to focus on translated literature, but I am in a book club, so I have read some popular fiction; some of the highlights for the year included Bruny by Heather Rose, The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue and Betty by Tiffany McDaniel, but the true highlight was The Yield by Tara June Winch. However, the book club was also responsible for the worst book I read this year, which was The Motion of the Body Through Space by Lionel Shriver. That book was awful, I know Shriver is meant to be satirising life, but her horrible political beliefs were really reflected in this novel.

Every year when the International Booker Prize longlist is announced, I try my best to read it in its entirety. This year I was not successful, but I managed to complete the shortlist. Highlights from the books I read included The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar (translated by anonymous), The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezon Camara (translated by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh) and Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann (translated by Ross Benjamin) which I didn’t love as much as most people, and I think it had something to do with the fantastical elements found within the book, or my health. The book I would have picked as the winner was Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (translated by Sophie Hughes), so obviously I knew it wasn’t going to win. The winner was The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (translated by Michele Hutchison) which I need to give a reread before deciding my opinion, but I was pleased to see they were the first non-binary winner of the Booker prize (are they the first non-binary winner of any major literary prize?).

While recovering from my health issues, I turned to crime novels as a way to get back into my reading habits, and because they were easier to manage. I love crime novels as palette cleansers and reading so many this year reminded me how much I enjoy the thrill of reading purely for entertainment. This is not why I read but I do appreciate the relaxation that came from reading just for pleasure and maybe I should do it more often. Favourites included Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand, Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner and Nada by Jean-Patrick Manchette (translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith). I am very picky when it comes to crime novels and one day, I need to work out what my criteria is for selecting a good book. I was disappointed by the latest Renee Ballard book, The Night Fire, I normally like Michael Connelly’s writing style, but something was missing in this one. Although the worst crime novel I read had to be Memory Man by David Baldacci, I liked the concept of a detective suffering from synesthesia and hyperthymesia but there was some very horrible language used to describe an intersex character that really ruined the whole experience.

Some other reading highlights included, Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The Dishwasher by Stéphane Larue (translated by Pablo Strauss), Zama by Antonio Di Benedetto (translated by Esther Allen), Four by Four by Sara Mesa (translated by Katie Whittemore) and Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami (translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd), but my favourite book of the year has to be Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo (translated by Jamie Chang). Honourable mentions have to go to The Wind that Lays Waste by Selva Almada (translated by Chris Andrews), And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier (translated by Rhonda Mullins) and The Beauty of the Death Cap by Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze (translated by Tina Kover). I only read one piece of non-fiction, a memoir from Annie Ernaux called A Man’s Place (translated by Tanya Leslie), and one re-read which was Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, this time I read the amazing translation by Oliver Ready, which I highly recommend. Let me know of your reading highlights of 2020.

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The Invisible Cities Project Begins

Posted January 1, 2021 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 6 Comments

Now that it’s 2021, like all bookish nerds, I have a list of reading goals for the year. This includes reading more tomes, and doing some rereading. However, my main reading project is the Invisible Cities project which I’m hosting with some book bloggers and booktubers. This is a reading project to encourage reading around the world. Each month we have three different counties to focus on and participants are encouraged to engage with one or all the countries culture by reading a book, watching a film, eating their food or any other way. Our hosts are divided into the three counties to help provide content. For example, in January we are looking at Argentina, Japan and Morocco and I’ll be one of the hosts for Argentina.

We hope to give people plenty of time to plan their reading, and I need to announce the countries for March, which are Iraq, Mexico and Libya. For those who don’t know, February’s countries were China, Colombia and Egypt (the country I’ll be hosting). I am looking forward to March, because I will be a host for Libya and I’m not sure if I’ve read anything from this country.

As always I’m going into the reading project with no books planned, I read on a whim but it does make it difficult to promote the reading project. For example, in January I’m focusing on Argentina and I have so many options I want to read. I think I plan to read Dark Constellations by Pola Oloixarac (translated by Megan McDowell) & Dead Girls by Selva Almada (translated by Annie McDermott). I’m very excited about this project and would love to see more people involved, there is a Discord for this project, so people can connect and talk about the project. 

Just Write…

Posted December 10, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in My Essays / 4 Comments

Why is it that my brain is most active when I’m trying to sleep? This is frustrating, currently at 1am my brain is contemplating my writing style. Granted, a few essays by Alejandro Zambra before bed have not helped. There is something mesmerising about the way Zambra writes. I do not speak Spanish, so I rely on Megan McDowell to provide the English translation. The book is called Not To Read and it is a collection of essays on literature. The book reminds me that I want to be better at writing essays, and this is what is keeping me awake.

I have contemplated this thought many times throughout my history of blogging and I have a sense of what my writing goals are, I just never feel like I will ever achieve them. Are there people out there that are happy with their writing abilities? And how do I achieve that level of narcissism? I adore the way Alejandro Zambra writes, there is this level of familiarity in his words that makes me feel like he is just having a conversation with me about a book. This skill is something I have strived for in my own writing, and he makes it look so easy. I may have said something similar when reading Ex-Libris by Anne Fadiman, which makes me aware that literary essays is the type of writing I want to work towards.

I tend to write reviews on this blog, and I am aware that I need to continue this practice. Not for anyone, I just find that they are useful for me when reminiscing on a particular book. I briefly mentioned on my review of Crime and Punishment the value of a written review. This was a reread for me and I was able to look at my old review and see just how different my thoughts really were on the book. It was insightful to see just how much my thoughts on the book, and my writing style have changed over the past seven years. Then there are those times I want to talk about a book I have read in the past but have no review, and I struggle to recall my thoughts. So here I am with a desire to write more essays but also fully aware that I need to continue writing reviews.

Is there an easy solution? Obviously, I have to push myself to write more. Continue the reviews but also make time to write essays and develop that skill. When thinking about this blog, I tend to be of the mind that this is just a location to store all my writing. It is a way to reflect and physically view my journey as both a writer and as a reader. Having a public facing site motivates me to continue and while I tend not to write for other people, feedback does seem to be a powerful motivator. I guess I am a narcissist, but also, I know my writing journey is far from complete. I will probably continue to struggle with my writing skills and complain about this very topic in the future, it is all part of the journey. I do believe I am a non-fiction writer and I want to work on improving those skills. I have been flipping through The Complete Review Guide of Contemporary World Literature by M.A. Orthofer and wondering what my version of this book would look like. Then I pick up Not To Read for another essay or two and wish I was writing more essays. My mind wants to take on too many projects.

Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand

Posted December 7, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Generation Loss by Elizabeth HandTitle: Generation Loss (Goodreads)
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Published: Small Beer Press, 2007
Pages: 265
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Most people know that I am very particular when it comes to crime novels. I tend to be drawn to the gritty, pulp novels of the 1930s. I honestly could not tell you what works for me and what would not. Taste is a weird measuring tool; it is constantly changing and there are aspects that even the reader is unaware of, for example, I recently read Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand and there is so much I liked about this novel, yet there is something that did not work for me. I am reviewing the book in the hopes to fully understand my feelings here.

Cass Neary is the protagonist of what appears to be a series of currently five books. She had moderate success as a photographer in the 1970s, in which she was involved in the burgeoning punk movement and has a weird fascination with death photography. Thirty years, later she is a struggling freelance photographer that is running out of luck and work. An acquaintance of hers gives her a job to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine. Cass Neary has the style and attitude I tend to like in a protagonist of a crime novel but still there is a part of me that wants more. It could be the fact that we rarely get a female protagonist in literature and I really want to see the struggles that she faces along the way.

This is not to say that Cass Neary has an easy journey, she faces many obstacles with Generation Loss, but I feel I wanted more. The whole struggling artist and living in the world as a woman, there is so much angst and anger that could really come alive in this novel. I do not think Elizabeth Hand did a bad job, I think she delivered a great book, I am just thirsty for more. I will read the second book Available Dark, and I am curious to see where Cass Neary’s journey will take her. I am just realising that I want very different things from a female protagonist to a male. I know this is wrong, but I want a bitter cynical male, but I want female detectives to struggle with the everyday sexism as well. The world is unjust, and I think there is a lot of interesting layers that can be added.

I have really enjoyed the Michael Connelly books that feature Renee Ballard because there is an exploration into the sexism of the police force. It is not that I want sexism to exist, I just feel like this is an aspect that should not be ignored in these books. I think these female investigators have a legitimate reason to be bitter and cynical with the world, and it want to explore that journey. I want to read more crime novels that feature an angry, feisty woman, and let us be honest, I would rather it be written by a woman, men do not have to ability to really understand just how sexist the world really is.

I really wanted to talk about Generation Loss, but I did not know how to write a review for a crime novel without going into the plot. This turned into an exercise to unpack my own feelings towards the genre and my own reading tastes. I am very aware of my own biases here, I just think in an unjust world, it is important to explore those injustices. Also, I just like a bitter and cynical character, and I do not want them always to be men, because women have more to be angry about. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (trans. by Oliver Ready)

Posted November 10, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 5 Comments

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (trans. by Oliver Ready)Title: Crime and Punishment (Goodreads)
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Translator: Oliver Ready
Published: Penguin Classics, 1866
Pages: 702
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

What I love about rereading a translated classic is that most of the time there are so many translations to try out. The translator makes a big difference and it is amazing how different it can make in interpreting the text. I love Russian literature and have openly discussed my issues with most of the commonly used translators, being their translation method, the anglicising of names or their censorship of the text. I will leave you to work out my meaning here, I just reread Crime and Punishment, but being an outsider to a BookTube readathon. My issue was the fact they picked a translation that I was not interested in reading, so I buddy-read the Oliver Ready translation with Derek from Read the World! I thought it was a way of being ‘sort of’ apart of the community reading event but still have a more one-on-one conversation with a better translation.

It has been eight years since I last read Crime and Punishment, and looking back at my previous review, it does not look like I said anything interesting about this great novel. I mention the class struggle and internal conflict of Raskolnikov, but I did not really go into any detail. The internal conflict is obvious, you can see a psychological break down of Raskolnikov after the murder, but I struggle to comprehend everything Dostoevsky is trying to say here. From the reread, it feels like there is a philosophical question being thrown at the reader, but Dostoevsky never seems to offer any insights. I wonder if Dostoevsky had any true answers here, because on this reread, I feel like the struggle with understanding the psychological and philosophical ramifications of the crime is the purpose of the novel and no true answers are given, or if they are I might find out on a later reread.

Class struggle was an interesting topic to explore with Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov is struggling with the idea of class internally. He has it in his mind that he is a wealthy intellectual, but in reality, he is just a struggling young man living off the money his mother gives him. Upon rereading, I was fascinated to just how disillusioned he is about his own class status. He is just a young man, that really has no idea of his own value or how to budget his money. I found it interesting to look back at my reading of this novel, I was closer to the same age as Raskolnikov and probably had similar naivety. However, I will not go into great detail about this, as you will be able to find my discussion of the book with Derek here.

I was very impressed with Oliver Ready’s translation of Crime and Punishment; I think his translating method really appealed to me. There was some modernisation of the writing but done in a way that still felt dated. Like he used phrases that felt old but still more contemporary, and I think he managed to nail that balance of making the book accessible, while still feeling like an older piece of literature. I really hope Ready continues to translate some of the Russian classics, not just Dostoevsky.

I am probably going to regret not putting extra time into this review, I have a lot to say but I know that I want to save that for the podcast. This time reading it, I think I cared more about the secondary characters rather than Raskolnikov, particularly his sister Dunya, but I also liked Sofya. She was a fascination for me, and I wish Dostoevsky spent more time with her. I will have to read this novel again and again, not sure which translation I will go with next, possible the Michael R. Katz translation. This is the type of book that needs to be reread every few years, just to see what you get out of it later.

2021 Reading Project: Invisible Cities

Posted November 7, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 3 Comments

As most people are aware, I am a fan of translated literature. I have a blog, YouTube channel, a podcast and talk about It on social media. In the UK, Ann Morgan gained a bit of a following for her blog A Year of Reading The World, which she then turned into a book called Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer (or if you live in the North America, The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe), which has inspired many people to take on similar projects. I have been interested in world literature before reading her book, but I do want to achieve a similar goal. Granted, I do not want to focus it into one year and I want to read more than one book from every country in the world, but I want to grow my knowledge of the world by reading its literature. Beginning in January, I am planning to be involved in a project called Invisible Cities, in which we are encouraging people to read books from different countries.

This idea originates from Yamini (Shakespeare and Spice) and also involves Agnese (Beyond the Epilogue), Stephanie (Time to Read), Natalie (Curious Reader), Nicole (Nicole is Here to Learn) and Wil (My Bookish Empire). The project is to motivate each other to read books from all over the world. Each month there will be three different countries being discussed with a few hosts on each, but all of us have our own personal goals. For me, I would like to talk about at least one book and one film from each country I am assigned. In January, that country is Argentina, not sure what I will read or watch but I love this pick and cannot wait to have conversations about the literature.

The three countries that we are focusing on in January will be Morocco, Argentina and Japan. The focus currently is Africa, South America and Asia, this was done as we want to give more attention to these continents before moving into Europe, Australia and North America. I am looking forward to this project, not just because it will get me reading more widely, but I love talking about world literature. There is a Discord for this project where you can talk to others involved and get resources. However, if you are just a casual fan of world literature or cinema, you should also join my Discord, Literary Salon.

I know I am constantly promoting world literature, but I like the idea of building a community and help others find the joys in the literature I love. I am currently building a database in Notion of books from around the world and I hope to easily see where my reading gaps are, and also document all the books I love from different countries. This obviously is a working project, but I hope that one day, I can look at my reading life and tell people exactly what books I have loved from all over the world. Also, maybe this reading project will mean more guests on my podcast.

Now, I have so much planning to do; I am very excited to continue my journey into translated literature and develop a deeper understanding in world cinema too. I hope others will be inspired to join the project and talk about books from around the world. I now need to read Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities so I can understand the reference.

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Posted October 15, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 6 Comments

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena FerranteTitle: The Lying Life of Adults (Goodreads)
Author: Elena Ferrante
Translator: Ann Goldstein
Published: Europa Editions, 2020
Pages: 322
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

What I love about reading Elena Ferrante is the way she is always writing about the experiences of women from a social-political standpoint. She always gives the reader a wide range of emotions and can make them feel uncomfortable with the situation but in a way that does not cause many to abandon her books. I have read all Ferrante’s works of adult fiction and was happy to see that my in-real-life book club was doing her latest release The Lying Life of Adults. Honestly, sometimes I think I go to my book club just to complain about the books we read, but I also attend to try and improve my ability to talk about literature with real life humans.

The Lying Life of Adults is the story of Giovanna, who is a young woman that is quickly discovering all the drama happening within her family. She learns why her father and her aunt Vittoria do not talk, and basically uncovers all the hostility and fighting that has been happening in the family all her life. This is not the easiest information to uncover, the adults all have their own side of the stories and they are all lying to make themselves look better in every situation. Ferrante’s books always deal with domestic drama and The Lying Life of Adults is no different, but what I really enjoyed about this novel, is the way it focuses on the lies.

It is hard to talk about The Lying Life of Adults without mentioning the Neapolitan series, those books got plenty of attention and will be the basis of all Ferrante critiques. Which is justifiable, the approach Elena Ferrante takes when writing really focuses heavily on the life of women living in Naples, particularly looking at sexism and domestic abuse. I find that The Lying Life of Adults seems to have similarities with The Story of a New Name, book two in the Neapolitan series. Both books have characters in the late teens, exploring the balance between family, love and academia. This journey fascinates me; I want to learn about young women discovering just how messed out their family is, while also realising how horrible men are, all while trying to decide their plans for the future.

Personally, I would have preferred if Elena Ferrante really dove into the psychological state of Giovanna. Not to mention the exploration into the feelings of attraction, sexuality, and emotion. There is so much that could have been unpacked if she wanted to really explore the damaging nature of these lies, and the effects they would have had on Giovanna’s outlook and future. I am fascinated for a deeper dive into the emotional damage, but I understand why Ferrante grazed over these topics. Not everyone wants to explore domestic abuse in so much detail and it would greatly change the tone of the novel.

If you have never read Elena Ferrante before, this might be a good place to start, I personally recommend The Days of Abandonment as a starting point, but this would work too. Fans of the Neapolitan series may not need any encouragement to check out The Lying Life of Adults but I hope you do. Obviously, I really enjoyed this novel, I think Ferrante is doing an excellent job at helping bring translated literature into the spotlight, thanks to the amazing work of Ann Goldstein.

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

Posted October 13, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia / 2 Comments

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina BazterricaTitle: Tender is the Flesh (Goodreads)
Author: Agustina Bazterrica
Translator: Sarah Moses
Published: Pushkin Press, 2017
Pages: 224
Genres: Dystopia
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Tender is the Flesh was released at the perfect time, with the current global pandemic, a novel about a virus that changes the way we look at the world. Agustina Bazterrica’s novel primarily follows Marcos, who works in a slaughterhouse producing ‘special meat’. When the virus hit, all animals were infected andtheir meat became poisonous. The government had to make some changes to the law, now it was legal to buy ‘special meat’ – human meat.

This is a weird dystopian novel that has one very basic message that really sticks in your brain. The concept of giving up meat is so ridiculous that the country starts producing humans that will be used as meat. These are not people; they are cattle and are treated in that way. The concept of giving up meat and turning vegan is too preposterous for the country. Cannibalism becomes the norm.

The idea behind the novel seems to be focusing on just how cruel humans are, going to great detail to explain the process used to prepare meat at a slaughterhouse and the treatment of animals (in this case humans). Tender is the Flesh takes it a step further, with the retirement homes advertising the security they offer for your elderly relatives to protect them from being slaughtered and eaten. The world population drastically declines, and people have lost the ability to be caring or loving to others around them.

That is the entire premise, Tender is the Flesh takes a simple idea and plays out the situation. The way people turn on each other, the way people change their views on society and the ridiculous notion of becoming vegan. This is a dark comedy set in a dystopian world and executed with perfection. I cannot say that this converted me to becoming a vegan, but I think I honestly need to make more of an effort. An ugly look at our consumeristic culture and here I am, still wrestling with the idea of protecting the animals…I hate myself, but I think this novel achieved its goals.