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July 27 2019
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French peasants work the land, 1915.

Animalia by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo

Bleak is the word. If EM Cioran, the great Romanian philosopher of the bleak, had been a novelist, Animalia is the kind of novel he would have produced. Published by the courageous Fitzcarraldo, this won’t make it on to a list of beach reads. But it is likely to be hailed as a modern classic. You can’t have everything.

Jean-Baptiste Del Amo has published four novels in his native France. Animalia is the first to appear in English, in a translation by Frank Wynne, whose unenviable task it has been to take Del Amo’s original, Règne Animal, and to capture and convey something of its full throttle, bold, dark profundity. He has triumphantly succeeded: Animalia in English has a truly savage quality, all blood and stench and despair.

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