“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.”
ebook, 235 pages.
Read from February 19, 2017 to February 21, 2017.
This is the first book I tackled off the Canada Reads 2017 shortlist! I have approached the short list this year not knowing anything about the current books that are being discussed and I find that kind of exciting. It allows me to read each book without any bias too. After reading the first chapter of this book, I knew I was in for a treat.
Greek gods have always found a way to cause trouble and misery for mortals. We are just pawns in their big game. Well as Apollo and Hermes, the sons of Zeus, are having a leisurely drink in the mortal realm, they make a bet. Apollo believes that human intelligence binds us to being unhappy while Hermes disagrees. To settle the bet, they agree to give fifteen dogs inside one vet clinic the “gift” of human intelligence while also allowing them to remember their previous life before beforehand. Following this gift, most of the dogs agree to leave the clinic and join as a pack. Murder and betrayal are quick to follow. Vivid, descriptive and unique, André delves into a first-person perspective of what the world would look like through the eyes of these dogs, while also relaying a philosophical approach to our own humanity.
I loved this book. It was truly a treat to read. The writing styles is gorgeous, fluid and consistent while the author also made easy work of the characters and plot despite its complexities. Why aren’t more novels this length? Novels, like movies, are becoming ridiculously large these days and people seem to have forgotten the art of being concise. It is much harder to be concise than it is to write at length. This book is a perfect example of beautiful and poignant writing.
Can I also say, that I wish I could have a relationship with my pets the way that Nira and Majoun had. What would my silly cats say? I can’t imagine that either of them would be as philosophical as Majoun, but hey, you never know! I enjoyed reading the banter the two of them and the differences in how they perceived certain situations. For example, Majoun does not understand why Nira finds it so repulsive that he enjoys the taste of his own poop or that he sees her mate as the leader of the pack and not her. Majoun still makes sense of the world through the culture of dogs despite coming to some basic understanding of human culture. And kudos to André, if dogs could communicate and think the way that humans do, I believe this is exactly what would they would think like.
In terms of the Canada Reads question: What is the one book Canadians need now? – this book analyzes our humanity, both the good and the bad, and focuses on the positives of: language, poetry/art, and companionship in relation to happiness and purpose. With the current political atmosphere, this book helps reminds of our need to connect and communicate, to ultimately respect the differences of others, and just how essential this is to our happiness as a species. As with the dogs in this book, hate only leads to more hate, hurt and tragic endings.
Even after the bet is over, Hermes and Apollo still, even after all this time have not come to a complete understanding of mortals. To know what it is to die or that your life has an expiry date is an inspiration and a curse that an immortal would never be able to understand, which is why their fascination will never cease.