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Fifteen Dogs: An Apologue

af André Alexis

Serier: Quincunx (2)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
8815724,594 (3.8)183
An utterly convincing and moving look at the beauty and perils of consciousness. -- 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 withnew 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. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.… (mere)
  1. 31
    Fluernes herre af William Golding (charlie68)
    charlie68: A book that came into my mind while reading, perhaps similar themes.
  2. 11
    Kaninbjerget af Richard Adams (charlie68)
    charlie68: Both use animals to move a story along and both have similar themes.
  3. 00
    Green Grass, Running Water af 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
  4. 00
    The Call of the Wild af Jack London (Ciruelo)
  5. 12
    Kammerat Napoleon af 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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» Se også 183 omtaler

Engelsk (55)  Fransk (1)  Alle sprog (56)
Viser 1-5 af 56 (næste | vis alle)
"¿De qué iban a ponerse a hablar los dioses en un bar si no era de la naturaleza de los hombres?: «Cualquiera diría que se entienden entre sí, pero no tienen ni idea de lo que significan sus palabras para los demás. ¿Cómo resistirse a esa farsa?», pregunta Apolo. Hermes, en cambio, cree que la conciencia y el lenguaje hacen dan la felicidad, y para zanjar la cuestión, apuesta con Apolo un año de servidumbre a los resultados de un experimento. Se trata de conceder la palabra y el pensamiento a quince perros que están pasando la noche en una clínica veterinaria cercana". (Descripción editorial).
  Perroteca__ | Apr 6, 2024 |
Excellent. Fun to read, beautiful and clever. The allegory of what it means to be alive and to love is wonderful told. The dogs sum up the bulk of humanity—the chance, the innate nature, and the ability and or willingness to make use of a gift.
  BookyMaven | Dec 6, 2023 |
I loved the dog poems, the hiding of the name within the verse, and the way the story and style matched with classic Greek plays. ( )
  xaverie | Apr 3, 2023 |
Fifteen Dogs Again
Review of the Coach House Books Kindle eBook (March 23, 2015) released in advance of the paperback (April 14, 2015)

I read Fifteen Dogs in my pre-reviewing days and gave it a 5-star rating at the time. I re-read it now after seeing its recent theatrical adaptation at Toronto's Crow's Theatre in January 2023 and it was still a 5-star for me. The adaptation was excellent as well and was extremely faithful to the book.

See image at https://scontent-ord5-2.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t39.30808-6/325313457_1478256539371391_29...
Publicity poster for the Crow's Theatre theatrical adaptation of "Fifteen Dogs". Image sourced from Crow's Theatre.

As can be read in the book's synopsis, fifteen dogs who are over-nighting in a Toronto veterinary clinic are given the power of human language and consciousness by the gods Apollo and Hermes. This is inspired by a bet that at least one of the dogs will die happy as a result (Hermes) vs. they will all die miserably (Apollo).
When Zeus discovered what his sons had done, he sent for them.
– How could you have been so cruel? he asked.
– Why cruel? asked Apollo. Mortals suffer. What have we done to make their suffering worse?
– He’s right, Father, said Hermes. Wipe them out if you don’t want them to suffer.
– They suffer within their own bounds, said Zeus. These poor dogs don’t have the same capacities as humans. They weren’t made to bear doubt or to know that their deaths will come. With their senses and instincts, they’ll suffer twice as much as humans do.

There is admittedly suffering and confusion throughout as the dogs struggle with their new capabilities and understanding. A conflict arises between those who accept and relish it and those who turn back to the old dog ways. This aspect of the book can be read as a metaphor for the way humans turn on each other. All of the mythological inspirations, the drama and suspense, the poetry and dog language, the comedy of interaction with humans and the pathos & fantasy were just as interesting to me the second time around. And again I found myself quite choked up at the conclusion.

See photograph at https://scontent-ord5-2.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t39.30808-6/326277972_492288559723077_905...
The 6 member cast of the Crow's Theatre adaptation of "Fifteen Dogs" receive a standing ovation at the conclusion of the play.

In the end the bet is won (no spoiler), but the debate goes on:
It would have been different if we’d given cats this so-called intelligence, said Apollo.
– It would have been exactly the same, said Hermes. What we should have done was give a human the intelligence and capacities of a dog.


Trivia and Links
Until I read the Author's Afterword to Fifteen Dogs I had forgotten that the dog poetry in the book was written with an Oulipo constraint. Oulipo (short for French: Ouvroir de littérature potentielle; roughly translated: "workshop of potential literature") is prose or poetry written with some sort of constricting rule, which is meant to force inspiration. In the case of the poetry "written" by the dogs Prince and Majnoun, the rule is that within the poem the name of one of the 15 dogs must sound when the poem is spoken aloud. For instance, in Prince's first poem it is Majnoun's name in the final line (from Madge, noon):
The grass is wet on the hill.
The sky has no end.
For the dog who waits for his mistress,
Madge, noon comes again.

All of the dog poems and some other excerpts from the book can be seen in my Kindle highlights.

The 15 dog names can be seen below:
See image at https://scontent-ord5-2.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t39.30808-6/326515808_955204132109881_412...
Image sourced from the Crow's Theatre online programme booklet for its theatrical adaptation of "Fifteen Dogs". ( )
  alanteder | Jan 22, 2023 |
!!! 2015 Paperback, Coach House Books Toronto
Apollo and Hermes were sitting at a bar in Toronto one night, when they started arguing about human nature. They said humans didn't deserve the intelligence they had, because it only made them miserable. They ended making a wager that, giving 15 dogs the intelligence of humans, whether even one of them would die happy. HErmes said that if even one of them died happy, Apollo would owe him a year of servitude. Apollo didn't believe any of them would die happy. So they gave intelligence to 15 dogs that were in the back of a nearby veterinary clinic. Mostly this was the cause for much unhappiness among the dogs. Two times in this book I cried: once for Majnoun, and once for Prince, the dog that wrote poetry. His poetry was pretty good actually and I'm not much for poetry. If I could give this book more stars I would.
P.17-8:
"For three of the dogs, the strange episode ended here. agatha, who was in constant and terrible pain and had been left at the clinic to be put down, could find no point in going on with the others. she had lived a good life, had had three litters and, so, had had all the respect she needed from the bitches she sometimes met while out with her mistress. she wanted no part of a world in which her mistress did not figure. She laid down by the clinic's door and let the others know she would not leave. She did not know that this decision meant her death. It did not occur to her -- it could not -- that her mistress had left her to face death on her own. The worst of it was, the following morning, when those working in the clinic discovered her -- along with the mutts, Ronaldinho and Lydia -- they were not kind. They took their frustration out on Agatha, hurting her as she was brought to the silver table where she was to be put down. One of the workers slapped her as she raised her head in an effort to bite him. she knew as soon as she saw the table that the end had come, and her final moments were spent in a useless effort to communicate her desire to see her mistress. in her confusion, Agatha hoarsely barked the word for 'hunger' over and over until her spirit was released from her body."
P.26:
"the 12 dogs reacted differently to their altered status. Atticus found the situation intolerable. it was traumatic to know oneself to be a simple dog but to live in a world where other dogs treated you as something other. For atticus, all the old pleasures -- sniffing at an anus, burying one's nose where a friend's genitals were, mounting those with lower status -- could no longer be had without crippling self-consciousness."

The dogs Find a coppice where they can have their dog den in the park. Their days are spent fairly pleasantly, as there is a lake there and small animals to kill and eat. The two biggest dogs, Majnoun and atticus, are the natural leaders. But a dog pack can have only one leader, so soon problems crop up. Atticus and the dogs who naturally side with him make a plan to kill the other three.
P.34-5:
"... Atticus had invited majnoun out into the park for another conversation. then, when the den was quiet save for the small sounds of breathing, Frick and Frack rose from their places. Frick noiselessly padded to where Bella and Athena slept, took up Athena's compact body in his jaws, bit down hard, and made off with her. Despite Athena's strangled shriek, none of the other dogs woke.
after a time, Frack woke Bella, nudging her head with his snout.
-- they have taken the small bitch, he said.
Bella Rose slowly from sleep, but when she saw Athena was gone she was immediately alert and understood Frack's words.
-- where have they taken her? She asked.
-- I do not know. My brother has gone after them. I will take you where they went.
where he took her -- where they ran -- was to a street beside the park: Bloor. The street was on a hill and, though it was night, it was rhyrhmically busy. that is, groups of cars came fast down the hill and then nothing and then fast cars again. Toward the middle of the incline, on the sidewalk, Frick stood in the light of a street lamp. He was looking at something on the other side of the road.
as Bella and Frack approached, he said
-- there she is. can you see her? She is under the light.
Bella could not see clearly, but there did appear to be something beneath the Street lamp on the other side of the road. it was an intimidating road, but, where Athena was concerned, Bella was not cautious. She would have done anything for this, the one being on Earth to whom she was devoted. in fact she would have run across the street at once, had Frack not said
-- wait! My brother will go to the top of the Hill and bark when the light has changed and it is safe to cross.
Bella waited anxiously, jumping up and down, trying desperately to see Athena on the other side of the road.
-- go now, said Frack, it is safe.
But, of course, it was not safe. Frick's timing was impeccable. Bella was not a quarter of the way across the road before she was struck and killed by a taxi.
In a word, the murders of Bella and Athena were flawlessly done."

Prince, the poetry-writing dog, was in danger of being murdered. But Hermes took pity on him, and came to him in a dream, telling him he was in danger. Prince followed him, and left his body. He was puzzled by the way he could see himself sleeping in the dog den, yet he was with the stranger.
P.38:
"He saw Frick, Frack and Max as they went about looking for him. They passed in front of him, beside him, almost through him. he could barely resist barking to let them know he was there, as if it were all a game. But he did not bark. He followed hermes out of the den and into High Park proper. There, he was suddenly fully awake and Hermes was gone.
... The dogs did not see him. They ran off, but they radiated menace as they went. Prince had no doubt that, dream or not, Hermes had told the truth. the three were murderous. When he was certain they would not see him, he fled, his exile beginning in panic, fear and darkness."

Majnoun and Benjy both know how to speak english. Majnoun, although left for dead by atticus, frick, frack, and max, is not dead, and wakes up in the house of Nira and miguel, a couple that live not far from High park. While recuperating from his debilitating attack, he listens to the speech of his humans, and learns more about language.
Nira works at home, so she ends up taking the most care of majnoun. One day she asks him a question, and he answers her. But he learns that this can be a disastrous experience. So he keeps quiet and only nods his head yes or no to Nira's questions.

Benjy the beagle is very smart. So smart that he can figure out that Atticus and his gang want to kill him. There is a place called a Death Garden, where humans plant good things to eat. But they also plant, dug into the ground, chicken, cow.. laced with poison. He is smart enough to avoid this, but Atticus and his gang are not. So, very craftily, Benjy the beagle leads Atticus and his gang to the Death Garden.
Benjy finds majnoun, and Majnoun brings him to nira and Miguel's house. Things go well for a while, but because Miguel likes Benjy -- Benjy is in essence Miguel's dog, just as majnoun is nira's dog, the Dynamics in the house changes. Things are not what they were, and Majnoun realizes he must kill benjy. But benjy is smart, and slippery weather conditions help him out when Majnoun is intent on bashing him against the concrete. He escapes.

Prince has been staying with a couple named Clare and Randy. Clare works but Randy let's her support him. When Benjily happens upon Clare and Randy, and springs his little tricks (he knows how to roll over, dance, beg for food, etc ) and English-speaking on them, Randy, who is really an asshole, blocks Prince from getting back in the house. Clare is an asdhole, too, and she doesn't say anything about it. So now Prince is out on the street.

This is the part I could hardly bear to read. While I realize it is fiction, I am very close to dogs, and it felt very real for me. Two of my dogs are special needs seniors, who I adopted like this from the shelter, and my other dog was my father's companion after my mother died. She's going to be 17 years old, and she has heart disease. My pug mix's legs are becoming paralyzed, and he has heart disease too; it breaks my heart when I see dogs get old and sick. The worst part is when they are so sick because a human did not take care of them. Prince, living out on the beach, has become blind. He makes his way slowly, falteringly, by smell to the house of A woman he knows will takes him in, but then he becomes deaf too.
Nira and Miguel go for a trip, and don't return. Majnoun knows how to get out of the house, so when Miguel's family comes to the house 3 days later, majnoun escapes out the back door. Now he begins his vigil of waiting for nira to come back. This part is too sad -- I cried. Hermes once more has to intervene, though he's been forbidden by his father Zeus.
This author is somebody I wish I had for a friend. The way he writes about dogs lets me know that he feels very much the same about them as I do. the way he talks about the dogs' interaction with humans, lets me know that he's only too aware how cruel some humans can be to animals.
To find out who won the bet, you have to read it.
( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
Viser 1-5 af 56 (næste | vis alle)
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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An utterly convincing and moving look at the beauty and perils of consciousness. -- 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 withnew 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. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.

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