Perhaps only the animals can tell us what it is to be human.
The souls of ten animals caught up in human conflicts over the last century tell their astonishing stories of life and death. In a trench on the Western Front a cat recalls her owner Colette’s theatrical antics in Paris. In Nazi Germany a dog seeks enlightenment. A Russian tortoise once owned by the Tolstoys drifts in space during the Cold War. In the siege of Sarajevo a bear starving to death tells a fairytale. And a dolphin sent to Iraq by the US Navy writes a letter to Sylvia Plath . . .
Exquisitely written, playful and poignant, Only the Animals is a remarkable literary achievement by one of our brightest young writers. An animal’s-eye view of humans at out brutal, violent worst and our creative, imaginative best, it asks us to find out way back to empathy not only for animals, but for other people, and to believe again in the redemptive power of reading and writing fiction.
The insight that “perhaps only the animals can tell us what it is to be human” turns the notion of anthropomorphism on its head. These tales are not intended to reveal an understanding of the animals who speak to us, these tales reflect an image of humanity
back at ourselves that is both daunting and confronting.
This text can be accessed by students at a range of levels. On the simplest level, these
are rich, engaging tales of love and loss in times of conflict. They are stand-alone stories
of animals and their interaction with the species that is supposedly, superior to all others.