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Jean-Baptiste Del Amo

  • awardWinner, Prix du Livre Inter, France, 2017
  • awardWinner, Prix Valery-Larbaud
  • awardWinner, The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses, United Kingdom, 2020
  • awardShortlisted, German Book Prize, Translation, Germany, 2019
  • awardShortlisted, Gay Fiction, Lambda Literary Awards, United States, 2020
  • awardShortlisted, Big Other Book Awards for Translation, United States, 2020
  • awardShortlisted, Albertine Prize, United States, 2020
  • awardLonglisted, Fiction, Best Translated Book Awards, United States, 2020
  • Translated by Frank Wynne

    Animalia tells the confronting and compelling story of a peasant family in south-west France as they develop their plot of land into an intensive pig farm. In an environment dominated by animals, five generations endure the cataclysm of two world wars, economic disasters, and the emergence of a brutal industrialism. Only the enchanted realm of childhood—that of Éléonore, the matriarch, and Jérôme, her grandson—and the innate freedom of the animals offer any respite from the barbarity of humanity. Animalia is a powerful novel about man’s desire to conquer nature and the transmission of violence from one generation to the next.


    Australian ($) 
    Australian Book Review 
    Irish Times  
    Lit Hub 
    Lit Hub: To the Child I Will Never Have  
    Orion Magazine 
    Overland: July in Fiction
    Paris Review: Staff Picks 
    Republic of Consciousness  
    Telegraph (UK) ($) 
    The Times (UK) ($)

    Jean-Baptiste Del Amo
    About the Author

    Jean-Baptiste Del Amo was born in 1981 and is one of France’s most exciting writers. Animalia, his fourth novel, published by Text in 2019, won the Prix du Livre Inter 2017 and the 2020 Republic of Consciousness Prize, and was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt, Prix Femina, Prix Medicis and Prix Wepler. The Son of Man, published by Gallimard in...

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    About the Translator

    Frank Wynne has translated works by authors including Michel Houellebecq, Patrick Modiano, Virginie Despentes and Mathias Enard. His work has earned many awards, including the IMPAC Prize, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Premio Valle Inclán and the International Dublin Literary Award.

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    Text publication date:
    7 May 2019
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    Praise for Jean-Baptiste Del Amo

    Animalia is stupendously good. This is a novel of epic scope and equally epic ambition, and it is exhilarating and frightening to read. Every page blazes with incandescent prose. After reading Animalia it might be a while before I can return to reading a contemporary novel, I suspect everything will seem tepid and timid in comparison. Del Amo has thrown us down a gauntlet: be bold, be daring, be rigorous, be a poet. A stunning book.’

    Animalia is a book about sex and violence, but it has unusual sobriety, and a story with a deep pull. The way it senses the natural world, in seed, vein, hair, grain, pore, bud, fluid is like nothing I’ve read.’

    ‘This is an extraordinary book. A dark saga related in sprawling sentences, made denser still by obscure and difficult vocabulary…I was spellbound…The strangeness of the words, used with precision and scientific exactitude, slows your reading down, immersing you more in the scene on the page, and those scenes are so vividly imagined and conveyed…A kind of savage reimagining of Thomas Hardy and D.H. Lawrence.’

    ‘[L]ikely to be hailed as a modern classic…Animalia in English has a truly savage quality, all blood and stench and despair…Animalia is an important reminder that literature’s task is not necessarily to uplift, but to help us to attain a true understanding of our predicament.‘

    ‘[Del Amo] uses language like an Old Testament seer – grandiloquent, exquisitely tuned to the violence and anguish of his biblical rage. But at his centre there is no God, just the random eternality of the earth.’

    ‘If novels came with matching scratch-and-sniff stickers, this one would clear a bookshop within seconds. Dung, urine, mucus, blood, bile and every other bodily fluid spread noxiously across the pages of Animalia…Yes, this fourth novel by a rising star of French fiction stinks to high heaven. It is also compassionate, lyrical, angry, audacious, composed with a supercharged eloquence, and translated—by Frank Wynne—with dazzling virtuosity…Both halves of Animalia play whiffily brilliant variations on the time-worn motifs of the French rural novel, with its warring kindred rooted in a land that nurtures but curses them…Del Amo’s prose throws a bucket of slurry from some ‘unspeakable mire’ over the conventions of pastoral fiction. Yet he has plentiful passages of heart-lifting loveliness, as when an August harvest prompts Marcel to feel nature as ‘an indissoluble great whole.’ From first to last, ‘the cruelty of men’ emits its rancid stench. Thankfully, Del Amo lets us sniff the sweeter scents of tenderness and beauty too.’

    ‘[A]s magnificent as it is bleak: a sickening and strident alert.’

    ‘Powerful…One of the most fascinating aspects of this novel is the way in which a sense of inevitability can loosen to allow for other possibilities and our perspective can be altered in unanticipated ways…Remarkable writing which is attentive to every moment, every sound and every silence—in a beautifully detailed translation by Frank Wynne.’

    ‘Evocative and insightful…Deeply perceptive and sharp as a razor, this novel will get under your skin.’

    ‘Jean-Baptiste Del Amo’s talent is impressive. His writing is both rich and explicit, sinuous and et razor-sharp, sensuous and surgical…A great book.’

    ‘Radical, violent and disturbing.’

    ‘A splendid novel…While tackling the issue of animal rights, Jean-Baptiste Del Amo constructs an intelligent, elliptical story, a meditation on human barbarity, family tensions and history that repeats itself. But Animalia is above all a virtuoso piece of writing that makes us experience colours and smells in a way so few works of recent fiction do—and which, incidentally, may inspire you to reduce the amount of pork you eat.’

    ‘Stunning…Shades of Antonin Artaud’s machete let loose on Georges de La Tour’s paintings…A book people will talk about.’

    ‘Reminiscent of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.’

    ‘Mixes the tragic energy of a family novel with the brutal evolution of the relationship between man and beast…Del Amo shows an apocalyptic vision of how humanity has been led to madness, all in the name of economic rationality…A richness of style both sweeping and powerful.’

    ‘An epic book about family and human barbarity. An astonishing novel. Beyond its thematic richness, the pictorial power of the scenes and the savage sensitivity of the words in Animalia are worthy at moments of the best of Cormac McCarthy. A dark splendour.’

    ‘Del Amo’s artistry lies in his depiction of people, their faces, their want, their silent desperation…Haunting…In his use of images, Jean-Baptiste is a master.’

    ‘Anyone who misses the good old days of peasant life should read Animalia, a runaway success in France.’

    ‘There is hypnotic and disturbing writing and a profound materiality in this novel about the exploitation of animals.’

    Animalia is a disturbing and profound book. Del Amo builds such a realistic, richly textured world that by the novel’s close, despite its horrors, it feels a real wrench to leave the landscape.’

    ‘[An] extraordinary work’

    ‘Tackling a complex, fraught topic – the very essence of what it is to be a New Zealander – with courage, style and insight.’

    ‘Del Amo’s Puy-Larroque oppresses and destroys the family who inherited it, but it’s a thrilling jolt of life to a reader who encounters it from afar. The writing appears effortless yet impossible to emulate, as if Del Amo were tuned in to a secret channel connecting him to words straight from the earth.’

    ‘A lyrical powerhouse, a sophisticated portrait of a fucked-up feedback loop of familial cruelty and disappointment, and a story that, for all its brutality, also reveals something more…there is wickedness enough for this book to stand alongside Cormac McCarthy’s meanest, but the brief moments when these beleaguered characters show their humanity and kindness—delivering a calf, bathing a mother—left me breathless.’

    ‘Jean-Baptiste Del Amo’s novel Animalia, an inter-generational saga about a French peasant family, is rather more difficult, in several senses: a demanding read.’

    ‘A family saga of French pig farmers, it drags us through the mire with merciless precision, from the misery of poverty-stunted peasants in the 1890s to the ravages of the First World War to the horrors of intensive farming by the 1980s. Yet in the sumptuousness of ooze and rot we see, smell and taste the very being of five generations and their helpless heritage of violence. This writing, a bridge from Zola to Édouard Louis, made me love classic French again. Frank Wynne’s translation rivals the original for luscious, obsolescent words.’

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