Animalia by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo (Translated by Frank Wynne) - review by Katie Da Cunha Lewin

Katie Da Cunha Lewin

Down at the Farm

Animalia

By

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Jean-Baptiste Del Amo’s arresting new novel focuses on two periods of time – the years 1898 to 1917 and a few months in 1981 – in the lives of one family living on a remote farm in France. Starting out with just a few fields of wheat and one or two pigs, they end up with an intensive pig farm. In the early years, young Elénore and her distant parents live a bare life dominated by the changing seasons. Sixty years later, Elénore lives alone in an outhouse filled with cats. Her son, Henri, and his two boys manage the now expansive operation. Each one lives with a constant stink of pig that can never be washed away.

Although the years between 1917 and 1981 represent a curiously large lacuna in the narrative, the jump in time brings into sharp relief the way farming was modernised during that period. The relationship between the farmers and their animals is shown to change dramatically. In the early days

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