With the Animals


With the Animals

With the Animals
by Noëlle Revaz
Translated by W. Donald Wilson
Dalkey Archive, May 2012
232 pages / $22.95 Hardback; $14.95 Paperback.  Buy from Dalkey Archive or Amazon
Originally published in French as Rapport aux bêtes by Gallimard, Paris, 2002





Sometimes a book comes along that is written in a voice so bizarre and so steadfast, so almost chant-like, that it worms inside my head and plays over and over until I find myself unconsciously putting its somewhat archaic words and phrases to everyday use. Whilst reading With The Animals, I am all of a sudden “canoodling”, “yammering”, “palavering” and “gallivanting” through a world furnished with “snot-rags” and “flyspecks”, “gizmos” and “critters.”

With The Animals is the second novel by Franco-Swiss author, Noëlle Revaz, and the voice from which I am stealing is that of Paul: a middle-aged dairy farmer, husband to Vulva and father of “six brats at least.” Paul is a hardworking, hard-drinking, hardhearted man, and his is a life of self-inflicted hardship.  Paul is all passion before sense, all anger and hunger and lust. If there are any crumbs of true affection in his shrivelled turd of a heart, then every last one is reserved for his cattle. “Yet I know what it feels like, the way it is when you love”, he says, “you keep squying at her and sighing, you have the everlasting fear something bad might occur to damage her about the horns or make you call the vet.” Paul treats his herd with a tenderness never extended toward his human family. The children have presence only in passing: they idle around the farmyard, they whisper to one another in their beds at night, they skitter instinctively from their father’s path whenever he approaches. At one point, Paul boasts how “all them cows, I know them and I have their names by heart.  I can tell when they was born, what diseases they’ve had, and their mother’s name.” Whereas on the subject of his offspring, he is quick to confess how he’s “never able to take to them nor put their names on each.”


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June 22nd, 2012 / 12:00 pm