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 with new 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.
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Travels with Charley
When he was almost sixty years old, worried that he might have lost touch with the sights, the sounds and the essence of America's people, Steinbeck took note of his itchy feet and prepared to travel. He was accompanied by his French poodle, Charley, diplomat and watchdog, across the states of America from Maine to California. Moving through the woods and deserts, dirt tracks and highways to large cities and glorious wildernesses, Steinbeck observed - with remarkable honesty and insight, with a humorous and sometimes sceptical eye - America, and the Americans who inhabited it. What he saw was a lonely, generous nation too packed with individuals for single judgements; what he saw made him proud, angry, sympathetic and elated. His vision of how the world was changing still speaks to us prophetically through the decades.
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Meet Mr Bones, the canine hero of Paul Auster's novel. Bones is the sidekick of Willy G. Christmas, a brilliant but troubled poet-saint from Brooklyn. Together they sally forth across America to Baltimore, Maryland, on one last great adventure, searching for Willy's old teacher, Bea Swanson. Years have passed since Willy last saw his beloved mentor, who used to know him as William Gurevitch, son of Polish war refugees. But is Mrs Swanson still alive? And if not, what will prevent Willy from vanishing into that other world known as Timbuktu?
The Heart Of A Dog
A rich, successful Moscow professor befriends a stray dog and attempts a scientific first by transplanting into it the testicles and pituitary gland of a recently deceased man. A distinctly worryingly human animal is now on the loose, and the professor's hitherto respectable life becomes a nightmare beyond endurance. An absurd and superbly comic story, this classic novel can also be read as a fierce parable of the Russian Revolution.
"I am a dog," the narrator of Patrice Nganang's novel plainly informs us. As such, he has learned not to expect too much from life. He can, however, observe the life around him - in his case the impoverished but dynamic Cameroon of the early 1990s, a time known as les années de braise (the smoldering years). When he isn't limited by the length of his master's leash, the perceptive, even ironic, Mboudjak wanders the streets of Yaoundé, a capital city caught in the throes of social and political change. Only partly understanding the words spoken around him (the other dogs are as unreliable as the humans), Mboudjak relates an experience that not only evokes the wildly diverse language of the streets - a heady brew of French, Pidgin English, the indigenous Medumba, and the urban slang Camfranglais - but also reflects the elusiveness of meaning in politically uncertain times. Mboudjak is not alone in his confusion or in his hardship. The blows he receives from humans and the mocking laughter of other dogs are indicative of a larger pattern of abuse that indicts the ruling regime.
Despite its unflinching depiction of a seething, turbulent society, Dog Days is not a somber story; it is propelled by the humor that is Mboudjak's greatest survival tool, and even by a certain optimism. In the vibrantly chaotic marketplaces, in the bustling energy of Massa Yo's bar, and in the escalating political demonstrations, a brighter future for Cameroon can be glimpsed. This story told by a canine everyman offers something for any reader interested in freedom withheld and the early stirrings that will someday win it back.
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The Man Who Loved Dogs
Dogs may not be the stars of this novel but they are never far away from the action: Cuban writer Ivan Cardenas Maturell meets a mysterious foreigner on a Havana beach who is always in the company of two Russian wolfhounds. Ivan quickly names him "the man who loved dogs". The man eventually confesses that he is actually Ramon Mercader, the man who killed Leon Trotsky in Mexico City in 1940, and that he is now living in a secret exile in Cuba after being released from jail in Mexico. Moving seamlessly between Ivan's life in Cuba, Mercader's early years in Spain and France, and Trotsky's long years of exile, The Man Who Loved Dogs is the story of revolutions fought and betrayed, the ways in which men's political convictions are continually tested and manipulated, and a powerful critique of the role of fear in consolidating political power.