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Tender is the Flesh Reviews

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, Sarah Moses

Tender is the Flesh

Agustina Bazterrica, Sarah Moses

4.00 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: Pushkin Press
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publication date: 6 Feb 2020
ISBN: 9781782275572
4 stars out of 5
Justine Jordan
21 Feb 2020

"This provocative, sorrowful novel expertly wields a double-edged cleaver"

But Marcos’s main obsession is not flesh but language: how we construct the world out of words, how we speak the unspeakable, and how we negotiate the gap between words and reality. In a narrative otherwise so blunt and blood-spattered, he piles metaphor on simile as he tries to convey the weight of others’ words – his wife’s voice “a river of lights, an aerial torrent” when discussing the child they might have, then uttering only “black holes” when grieving his death; his sister’s speech “like boxes filled with blank paper”, smelling “of confinement, of intense cold”. When he visits a laboratory experimenting on humans, the only way he can think of to defy the Mengele-like scientist in charge – whose words “are like tiny tadpoles dragging themselves along” – is to withhold his own speech.


4 stars out of 5
James Lovegrove
14 Feb 2020

"told with a chilly aloofness that makes the horror of it all the more disturbing"

When Marcos is given a woman to rear at home for private consumption, he neglects her at first, before realising she may be the answer to the problems he is having with his estranged wife. The story, translated from Spanish by Sarah Moses, is told with a chilly aloofness that makes the horror of it all the more disturbing. Descriptions of naked, mute human beings undergoing the treatment we currently reserve for cattle will turn even the strongest stomachs.

4 stars out of 5
13 Feb 2020

"Much, much more than a horror story"

Sitting comfortably? Not after even the tiniest nibble of this gut-churning, brilliantly realised novella. When a nasty virus poisons all animal meat, people reject the vegan option and look to another abundant source of protein: so-called special meat, or humans...

When Marcos is gifted a prize piece of living flesh (i.e. a person), he breaks every rule by not eating her and is on the path to redemption until, well, a twist. Much, much more than a horror story, here is a no-holds- barred, red-blooded take on meat-eating, consumerism and human nature itself.

4 stars out of 5
8 Feb 2020

"The story of a world turned cannibal is grimly engrossing"

Of course, implicit here is the ghastly way we treat animals in the industrial food chain. There’s nothing described that isn’t done to livestock. It’s not an elegant read, but it’s grimly engrossing, with a sucker-punch ending. And it may well put you off that bacon sandwich.