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Tender Is the Flesh

by Agustina Bazterrica

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3661555,727 (3.75)25
Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans--though no one calls them that anymore. His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the "Transition." Now, eating human meat--"special meat"--is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing. Then one day he's given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he's aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost--and what might still be saved.… (more)
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» See also 25 mentions

English (11)  Finnish (2)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Are Humans Capable of Just About Anything?

How you answer that question will probably determine if you will enjoy Tender Is the Flesh (originally published as Cadàver Exquisito). Of course, if history tells us anything, it warns us never to put anything past our fellow humans, at our own peril. Surely, members of the Donner Party never expected to be eating each other when they set out for Oregon in the 1840s; nor did those on Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. Exceptional cases, you say. Cannibalism has been documented throughout human history, and is common in the animal kingdom. So, it’s not beyond the realm of reason that pushed to the wall by lack of meat and general food scarcity, humans might resort to consuming each other. Being communal and organizational by nature, we humans could be expected to transform it into an accepted practice and profitable business. Which is what it is in Bazterrica’s combination dystopian and horror tale, with splashes of fetish eroticism.

In the future, a virus develops that kills off the animal kingdom and threatens humans as well. Humans respond to this cataclysmic event by breeding members of their own species specifically for consumption. Breeders grow these humans just as they did cattle and other animals, feeding them special diets and pumping them full of antibiotics and hormones to both keep the heads, as they are termed, healthy, succulent, and to quicken growth. Once the act of eating humans becomes accepted, other practices follow, including using some on hunting preserves for the pleasure of hunters and the well to do seeking an adventure. Bazterrica devotes considerable time walking readers through the slaughter process, so be forewarned those faint of heart.

The main character, Marcos Tejo, works in a slaughterhouse. His family once owned an animal abattoir, but with no animals, the business went bust. Marcos, through whom we see this dystopian world, is a disaffected individual. His son died as a young child. His wife, traumatized by the death, left him. And his father, whom he loved, suffers from dementia in a nursing home. Oh, and he has a married sister whom he loathes. Add to this the fact he’s discontented with his job and you have a walking case of depression. This changes when a client presents him with a top-grade female head. At first, Marcos stores her in his barn, but later moves her into his house. And you should be able to guess what follows, though not nearly all of it.

And if you are wondering, yes, you will read about preparation methods and dinner parties where diners enjoy various body parts. Not only might humans adapt to pretty much anything, but, by the lights of Tender Is the Flesh, they will enjoy doing so.
( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Are Humans Capable of Just About Anything?

How you answer that question will probably determine if you will enjoy Tender Is the Flesh (originally published as Cadàver Exquisito). Of course, if history tells us anything, it warns us never to put anything past our fellow humans, at our own peril. Surely, members of the Donner Party never expected to be eating each other when they set out for Oregon in the 1840s; nor did those on Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. Exceptional cases, you say. Cannibalism has been documented throughout human history, and is common in the animal kingdom. So, it’s not beyond the realm of reason that pushed to the wall by lack of meat and general food scarcity, humans might resort to consuming each other. Being communal and organizational by nature, we humans could be expected to transform it into an accepted practice and profitable business. Which is what it is in Bazterrica’s combination dystopian and horror tale, with splashes of fetish eroticism.

In the future, a virus develops that kills off the animal kingdom and threatens humans as well. Humans respond to this cataclysmic event by breeding members of their own species specifically for consumption. Breeders grow these humans just as they did cattle and other animals, feeding them special diets and pumping them full of antibiotics and hormones to both keep the heads, as they are termed, healthy, succulent, and to quicken growth. Once the act of eating humans becomes accepted, other practices follow, including using some on hunting preserves for the pleasure of hunters and the well to do seeking an adventure. Bazterrica devotes considerable time walking readers through the slaughter process, so be forewarned those faint of heart.

The main character, Marcos Tejo, works in a slaughterhouse. His family once owned an animal abattoir, but with no animals, the business went bust. Marcos, through whom we see this dystopian world, is a disaffected individual. His son died as a young child. His wife, traumatized by the death, left him. And his father, whom he loved, suffers from dementia in a nursing home. Oh, and he has a married sister whom he loathes. Add to this the fact he’s discontented with his job and you have a walking case of depression. This changes when a client presents him with a top-grade female head. At first, Marcos stores her in his barn, but later moves her into his house. And you should be able to guess what follows, though not nearly all of it.

And if you are wondering, yes, you will read about preparation methods and dinner parties where diners enjoy various body parts. Not only might humans adapt to pretty much anything, but, by the lights of Tender Is the Flesh, they will enjoy doing so.
( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
A readable but repulsive book. I can't believe I read it and I can never unread it. ( )
  kayanelson | Mar 9, 2021 |
So, hey, there's this book and it's about this guy named Marcos, who works for a slaughterhouse, as the second-in-command, doing all the meetings and employee-related stuff since his boss is not that great with people. It pays well, which is good because his father's nursing home is expensive. He's married, but his wife isn't living with him as they both deal with the sorrow over the death of their daughter. Oh, and the world has changed a little -- a mysterious virus rendered all animal meat poisonous to humans and so they switched to eating people. First poor people, but now humans are being raised for meat, it's a whole thing.

This novel is Marcos, going about his day, visiting butcher shops and suppliers, giving tours to new employees, and feeling not that enthusiastic about any of it. In fact, Marcos is feeling very judgmental about everyone, from his co-workers to the suppliers and customers he's supposed to be smoozing. And that's what this novel is, mostly. Marcos walks a pair of job applicants through the slaughterhouse, carefully describing the process. He visits a butcher shop, where he bangs the butcher and also describes what the butcher does, how she cuts the limbs and torsos and heads she receives from his slaughterhouse into cutlets and chops. He visits a customer, who shows off his hunting lodge, which has switched over to a Greatest Game sort of scenario, and discusses with him which specific kinds of people his clientele like to hunt and Marcos stays to lunch. Marcos visits a laboratory where experiments are run using people and even though he has been there many times, he is still taken on an exhaustive tour.

So this is pretty much a book about this world Bazterrica has dreamed up and all of the details of that world. The characterization is minimal, as is the plot, but those are not the point of this book. This is a sermon, of fire and brimstone and slippery slopes. It was not the book for me, not for the eating people thing, but because this book felt more like someone making a point than it did a novel. ( )
2 vote RidgewayGirl | Feb 23, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Agustina Bazterricaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Aaltonen, EinariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moses, SarahTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nguyen Béraud, MargotTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strobel, MatthiasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
What we see never lies in what we say.
—Gilles Deleuze
They nibble away at my brain,
Drinking the juice of my heart
And they tell me bedtime stories. . .
—Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota
Dedication
For my brother, Gonzalo Bazterrica
First words
Carcass.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans--though no one calls them that anymore. His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the "Transition." Now, eating human meat--"special meat"--is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing. Then one day he's given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he's aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost--and what might still be saved.

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