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Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis
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Fifteen Dogs (2015)

by André Alexis

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4293334,807 (3.8)147
  1. 31
    Lord of the Flies by William Golding (charlie68)
    charlie68: A book that came into my mind while reading, perhaps similar themes.
  2. 00
    Green Grass, Running Water by 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
  3. 01
    Watership Down by Richard Adams (charlie68)
    charlie68: Both use animals to move a story along and both have similar themes.
  4. 12
    Animal Farm by 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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» See also 147 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
For book club.

I quit at page 72. This is not a book I would have chosen for myself and I can find nothing in it to make me keep going. I am confused at how the dogs have to develop language, but clearly communicate with each other in complex ways almost immediately. Majnoun can speak to his owner - really? - but chooses only to nod or shake his head - presumably because otherwise it would become too ridiculous. She has to explain the concept of "God" to him, but "cancer" poses no problem for him.

I can't do it any more. ( )
  pgchuis | Feb 4, 2018 |
I'm so torn about this book. On the one hand, I cried buckets; on the other hand, I feel somewhat emotionally manipulated by the deaths of the various dogs. On the one hand, I definitely appreciate what the book was trying to do; on the other hand, the narrative voice doesn't do it for me, and I feel like the book does not mesh with my understanding of dogs. ( )
  bucketofrhymes | Dec 13, 2017 |
Suppose Apollo and Hermes chose to wager on whether granting human intelligence to dogs would result in their being as unhappy as humans, and proceeded to do just that to fifteen kennel dogs. What follows is a dark fable about power and reactionary politics, a well-written immersion into the sentience of dogs and a meditation on language and knowledge. Suprisingly violent. In fact, it could have more helpfully (and thus avoidably) been titled The Awful Deaths of Fifteen Dogs. ( )
  beaujoe | Sep 29, 2017 |
Greek gods Hermes and Apollo argue in a bar one night about what would happen if animals were granted human intelligence, would they be happier than humans? It just so happens that 15 dogs in a nearby veterinary clinic make a handy group of subjects. And so it begins, the dogs awakening to the complexities of the world around them and the choices they can now make about how to live their lives. Able to free themselves, new possibilities and new realities open up to them. I wouldn't say that this was a 'nice' story, in fact I started to feel like I was reading the animal version of Lord of the Flies. Interesting, but with some very violent scenes, because after all, that seems to be what humanity engenders. ( )
  DebbieMcCauley | Sep 13, 2017 |
In a Toronto tavern, Hermes and Apollo have made a bet that if animals were given human intelligence they would be more unhappy than humans. In a nearby veterinary clinic there are fifteen dogs, who provide a convenient test study.

Alexis appears to point at human frailties in his story, such as when Apollo, intoxicated with his divinity allows "parts of himself to be touched by an older man in a business suit" in the tavern’s washroom. A pleasure that cost the man eight years. Or when Majnoun discusses topics such as same-sex relationships, religion, or what happiness is, with his new human companion, Nira.

It is tempting to make comparisons to Animal Farm, but this fable is quite different from Orwell's. Alexis' message might be slippery, ambiguous, but he tells a wonderful story and the characters of the dogs are finished to perfection.

Apollo and Hermes have a lot to answer for.

Each of the dog poems has the name of one of the dogs hidden in the lines, a type of poetry created by [[François Caradec]] that has significance to both humans and dogs.

As well as other awards [Fifteen Dogs] won the Giller Prize in 2015. I read it at this time to remember Jack Rabinovitch, founder of the Giller Prize who died a few days ago. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Aug 10, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
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...
- Pablo Neruda, "Oda al perro"

why is there day, why must night come...- Pablo Neruda, " Ode to A Dog'
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For Linda Watson
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One evening in Toronto, the gods Apollo and Hermes were at the Wheat Sheaf Tavern.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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.

André 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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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.… (more)

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