28 May 2018

Pierre Gascar: Les Bêtes (1953)

Rarely – very rarely  – do I give up on a book, although I had to do this time with Les Bêtes (followed by Le Temps des morts). It won the Goncourt in 1953, and I deliberately sought it out because as a vegetarian and a believer in the equality of many animals to humans I thought that this would prove insightful. Interesting too that Franz-Olivier Giesbart  – who published L'Abbateur in 2003  – should highlight this book, although Giesbert's sympathy for animals stops at winged creatures: Thierry Ardisson's description of Giesbart as a kind of vegetarian is well off the mark because vegetarians eat no meat at all: point final !

Nevertheless, and this isn't in any English sense a novel but a series of short stories, I was initially impressed by the violence inflicted on the horses during the war, by the huge sympathy shown for animals in the depiction of a butcher setting on an apprentice, by the obvious horror of the narrator (and therefore the author) in the suffering of slaughtered animals in the 'abbatoir', but somehow this whole project liquifed into eau de boudin, and I was too bored to continue. But I don't discard any Goncourt winners, and I may return to this and arrive at a different meaning. I hope so.

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