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Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis
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Fifteen Dogs (2015)

by André Alexis

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3322833,233 (3.89)120
  1. 21
    Lord of the Flies by William Golding (charlie68)
    charlie68: A book that came into my mind while reading, perhaps similar themes.
  2. 00
    Watership Down by Richard Adams (charlie68)
    charlie68: Both use animals to move a story along and both have similar themes.
  3. 11
    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 120 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Becoming increasingly cynical about the quality of Canadian fiction, my expectations were very low when I started my first Canada Reads 2017 book.
I was very surprised at how quickly I became absorbed in the lives of these dogs and how much I enjoyed the book.
Essentially, the gods Hermes and Apollo, while sitting in a Toronto tavern decide to assign human qualities to a group of dogs. These dogs are found in a vet clinic and almost immediately escape because of their human intelligence and problem solving ability.
Although the story starts with 15 dogs, it focuses on the lives of Prince, Benjy, mahjoun and Atticus. Each of these are part of the original pack which quickly takes on human characteristics of caring, planning, domination, bullying, shunning and cruelty which result in exile, escape or murder.
As the dogs develop language, emotions and reasoning, Prince is the first to excel at English and he recites poetry. The others also learn basic English but this soon causes division and competition among the pack. Atticus becomes the top dog and the others do his bidding. Prince and Mahjoun and Benjy escape and we follow their lives with kind humans.
As intelligent dogs with rational thought, they are able to manipulate their situations and come to love their masters.
This book is surely an allegory for human conscience, reasoning and emotion which once transferred to these dogs, transforms how they behave with their pack mates and their humans. ( )
  MaggieFlo | Jun 22, 2017 |
A peek inside the lives of 15 dogs who are given human consciousness. A heart-wrenching read for dog owners and dog lovers alike. ( )
  ladykat | May 15, 2017 |
I read Childhood for a Canadian Literature class, and the prof invited Alexis to speak to our class about the book and about writing, and how I deeply appreciated his explanations of his craft. Childhood was a 14-chapter sonnet with each chapter ending in a word that had it's according rhymes in another. He has been clever again in Fifteen Dogs with the hidden-name poems for dogs, fifteen of them scattered throughout the book.

It's a great book that hits the literary fiction market while also having a potential appeal to a broader readership as well, not just because it's about dogs but because it's about humanity/consciousness and has a sense of optimism to it. It also deeply appeals to anyone who considers themselves great writer or readers or artists because one of our heroes, Prince, is a dreamer and a poet and his role in the story is flatteringly important. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
Unique and moving.
  chronic | Mar 23, 2017 |
I will give this book high marks for originality...especially notable is Prince's poetry. However, the story didn't really do much for me -- most of the dogs are around for only a brief time or in only a minor role, so I never felt I got to know how their gift of human consciousness affected them. There are issues raised in this book, such as preserving a traditional lifestyle, but they are not explored in enough depth for my taste. Guess I'm in the minority on this one! ( )
  LynnB | Mar 10, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (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'
Dedication
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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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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