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Fifteen Dogs: An Apologue

Tekijä: André Alexis

Sarjat: Quincunx (2)

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
8855724,789 (3.8)184
An utterly convincing and moving look at the beauty and perils of consciousness. -- I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence. -- I'll wager a year's servitude, answered Apollo, that animals - any animal you like - would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence. And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto vet­erinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old 'dog' ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles withnew thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks. Andre Alexis's contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.… (lisätietoja)
  1. 31
    Kärpästen herra (tekijä: William Golding) (charlie68)
    charlie68: A book that came into my mind while reading, perhaps similar themes.
  2. 11
    Ruohometsän kansa (tekijä: Richard Adams) (charlie68)
    charlie68: Both use animals to move a story along and both have similar themes.
  3. 00
    Green Grass, Running Water (tekijä: Thomas King) (unlucky)
    unlucky: Both stories engage with mythology in interesting and novel ways to make philosophical points and both share a similar sense humour
  4. 00
    Erämaan kutsu (tekijä: Jack London) (Ciruelo)
  5. 12
    Eläinten vallankumous (tekijä: George Orwell) (vancouverdeb)
    vancouverdeb: Both books use animals to illustrate human shortcomings and a base nature, animals gain human consciousness,both are allegories , and dystopian novels.
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englanti (56)  ranska (1)  Kaikki kielet (57)
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 57) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
This is an excellent book. It is a poetic meditation on what it means to be human as seen through the eyes of dogs if dogs were intelligent and had true language. Some of the pack descriptions of dog life may be a bit dated but that does not mute to emotional power of this treatise. This is a worthwhile read. ( )
  Neil_Luvs_Books | Jun 8, 2024 |
"¿De qué iban a ponerse a hablar los dioses en un bar si no era de la naturaleza de los hombres?: «Cualquiera diría que se entienden entre sí, pero no tienen ni idea de lo que significan sus palabras para los demás. ¿Cómo resistirse a esa farsa?», pregunta Apolo. Hermes, en cambio, cree que la conciencia y el lenguaje hacen dan la felicidad, y para zanjar la cuestión, apuesta con Apolo un año de servidumbre a los resultados de un experimento. Se trata de conceder la palabra y el pensamiento a quince perros que están pasando la noche en una clínica veterinaria cercana". (Descripción editorial).
  Perroteca__ | Apr 6, 2024 |
Excellent. Fun to read, beautiful and clever. The allegory of what it means to be alive and to love is wonderful told. The dogs sum up the bulk of humanity—the chance, the innate nature, and the ability and or willingness to make use of a gift.
  BookyMaven | Dec 6, 2023 |
I loved the dog poems, the hiding of the name within the verse, and the way the story and style matched with classic Greek plays. ( )
  xaverie | Apr 3, 2023 |
Fifteen Dogs Again
Review of the Coach House Books Kindle eBook (March 23, 2015) released in advance of the paperback (April 14, 2015)

I read Fifteen Dogs in my pre-reviewing days and gave it a 5-star rating at the time. I re-read it now after seeing its recent theatrical adaptation at Toronto's Crow's Theatre in January 2023 and it was still a 5-star for me. The adaptation was excellent as well and was extremely faithful to the book.

See image at https://scontent-ord5-2.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t39.30808-6/325313457_1478256539371391_29...
Publicity poster for the Crow's Theatre theatrical adaptation of "Fifteen Dogs". Image sourced from Crow's Theatre.

As can be read in the book's synopsis, fifteen dogs who are over-nighting in a Toronto veterinary clinic are given the power of human language and consciousness by the gods Apollo and Hermes. This is inspired by a bet that at least one of the dogs will die happy as a result (Hermes) vs. they will all die miserably (Apollo).
When Zeus discovered what his sons had done, he sent for them.
– How could you have been so cruel? he asked.
– Why cruel? asked Apollo. Mortals suffer. What have we done to make their suffering worse?
– He’s right, Father, said Hermes. Wipe them out if you don’t want them to suffer.
– They suffer within their own bounds, said Zeus. These poor dogs don’t have the same capacities as humans. They weren’t made to bear doubt or to know that their deaths will come. With their senses and instincts, they’ll suffer twice as much as humans do.

There is admittedly suffering and confusion throughout as the dogs struggle with their new capabilities and understanding. A conflict arises between those who accept and relish it and those who turn back to the old dog ways. This aspect of the book can be read as a metaphor for the way humans turn on each other. All of the mythological inspirations, the drama and suspense, the poetry and dog language, the comedy of interaction with humans and the pathos & fantasy were just as interesting to me the second time around. And again I found myself quite choked up at the conclusion.

See photograph at https://scontent-ord5-2.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t39.30808-6/326277972_492288559723077_905...
The 6 member cast of the Crow's Theatre adaptation of "Fifteen Dogs" receive a standing ovation at the conclusion of the play.

In the end the bet is won (no spoiler), but the debate goes on:
It would have been different if we’d given cats this so-called intelligence, said Apollo.
– It would have been exactly the same, said Hermes. What we should have done was give a human the intelligence and capacities of a dog.


Trivia and Links
Until I read the Author's Afterword to Fifteen Dogs I had forgotten that the dog poetry in the book was written with an Oulipo constraint. Oulipo (short for French: Ouvroir de littérature potentielle; roughly translated: "workshop of potential literature") is prose or poetry written with some sort of constricting rule, which is meant to force inspiration. In the case of the poetry "written" by the dogs Prince and Majnoun, the rule is that within the poem the name of one of the 15 dogs must sound when the poem is spoken aloud. For instance, in Prince's first poem it is Majnoun's name in the final line (from Madge, noon):
The grass is wet on the hill.
The sky has no end.
For the dog who waits for his mistress,
Madge, noon comes again.

All of the dog poems and some other excerpts from the book can be seen in my Kindle highlights.

The 15 dog names can be seen below:
See image at https://scontent-ord5-2.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t39.30808-6/326515808_955204132109881_412...
Image sourced from the Crow's Theatre online programme booklet for its theatrical adaptation of "Fifteen Dogs". ( )
  alanteder | Jan 22, 2023 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 57) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
André Alexis has gone to the dogs. He’s gotten down on all fours, savoured canine experience through Homo sapien senses and emerged with a novel that, like last year’s exquisite Pastoral, commences as an inspired lark and only gradually accrues poignancy and trans-mammalian insight...Yet it is precisely because of this dogness and the contrast it engenders that these dogs’ struggle with intelligence speaks to us so acutely of what it means to be human. The accumulation of experience tells us who we are, and the passing of those experiences haunt us with what we’ve lost.
 
André Alexis’s new novella is an allegorical take on the value and detriment of human consciousness....Yet this story endeavours to delve even deeper by examining what German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once called humanity’s greatest conceit: our ability to invent knowledge...Alexis makes great use of what French writer François Caradec called “Poems for Dogs,” poetry that is meant to bear significance to both humans and dogs by concealing a dog’s name within a verse. ...In the same vein as George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Fifteen Dogs reveals universal truths about human nature by transferring consciousness and conscience to animals. Alexis masterfully dissects the discrepancies in the way humans think and feel, by posing large questions, such as: What is happiness? And what makes a life truly fulfilled? One by one, the dogs succumb to death in full awareness of their mortality and the demise of their language. But by the story’s end, Alexis makes clear that the virtues of love — of being in love and loved in return — is at the core of a good life.
 

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por que es de dia, por que vendra la noche…
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why is there day, why must night come...
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One evening in Toronto, the gods Apollo and Hermes were at the Wheat Sheaf Tavern.
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (1)

An utterly convincing and moving look at the beauty and perils of consciousness. -- I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence. -- I'll wager a year's servitude, answered Apollo, that animals - any animal you like - would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence. And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto vet­erinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old 'dog' ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles withnew thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks. Andre Alexis's contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.

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