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Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica
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Tender Is the Flesh (edition 2020)

by Agustina Bazterrica (Author), Sarah Moses (Translator)

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2511281,758 (3.64)18
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)
Member:CozyRaptor
Title:Tender Is the Flesh
Authors:Agustina Bazterrica (Author)
Other authors:Sarah Moses (Translator)
Info:Scribner (2020), 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

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» See also 18 mentions

English (8)  Finnish (2)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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 |
A premise without a plot. The world-building is careful and precise. (Anyone who says it's unbelievable hasn't been paying attention to the socio-politico-economic conditions and behaviors of our species in the last fifty years.) But this is a short book, a little over 200 pages: once Bazterrica is done with the world-building, she's done with the novel, so we never really get to know our protagonist, who becomes an Everyman with vague motivations and desires.

Many reviewers call novels like this fables. I call them unsatisfying; if I wanted a fable, I'd turn to Aesop. I look for more from novels, more depth, more care, more thought. If Bazterrica had given herself a hundred more pages she could really have done something here, really explored our callousness, our economic feudalism, our culture's erotic fascination with mortal violence against women. Instead she gestures toward them, then ties everything up like a shaggy dog story. At the end I felt like the joke was on me: hah! You expected a thoughtful novel and you got the literary version of Hostel.

Because the novel does feel like literary slasher fiction it's hard to excuse the overwhelming and detailed violence focused on young women here. Is she making a feminist critique or just luxuriating in gynophobic fantasies? It seems the book could be read powerfully from either point of view.

If you've read Carol J. Adams' "The Sexual Politics of Meat," all makes sense here. If you haven't, take a look at it. But that's Adams' book and Bazterrica needs to do some work in her own book.

I kept thinking about Nini Holmqvist's novel "The Unit" as I read this. "The Unit" also takes place in a society that takes horrifyingly practical steps to mitigate surplus population. But "The Unit" also has fully realized characters and a plot so you really care what happens in its magnificently detailed world.

So read "The Unit," and if you have the time and stomach (hah!) for a book in which someone casually says, "He raped her to death" (61), then, sure, give "Tender is the Flesh" a try. ( )
2 vote susanbooks | Feb 12, 2021 |
This book from the 2021 Tournament of Books shortlist takes place in a near-future setting in which a virus has made animal flesh inedible, and as a consequence, the farming and consumption of human bodies has become commonplace. Bazterrica's novel is clever, satirical and thought-provoking, but it's also one of the most revolting books I've ever read. The author does not hold back in providing us the gruesome details of dining on human flesh. ( )
1 vote mathgirl40 | Feb 4, 2021 |
Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica is speculative fiction about a future in which a virus affects animals making them poisonous to humans. The solution seems pretty easy, stop eating animals, but people, lead by the meat processing industry, think that equates to starvation, so cannibalism becomes legal. A side effect is that they become enraged at animals, killing them all because they see no purpose for the existence of animals if they can't be used as food. The narrator is a man in charge of a head processing plant (humans raised for consumption are referred to as heads). He seems to be growing a conscience about his profession. I don't know if Bazterrica is a vegan, which seems a difficult thing to be in South American countries, but she makes strong points with an entertaining though very gory story. ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Jan 12, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (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
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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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