UK: Pushkin/US: Scribner
Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica is one of the most relentless and ugly books I’ve ever read. The story about a society where humans are slaughtered for meat is presented in more detail than I was ready for, and the novel willfully refuses to allow itself to fall into any category of fiction that would make it easier to take as a reader. The flat direct style of its prose didn’t allow me as a reader to classify it, as I read along, as horror, or satire, or a metaphorical representation of social injustice, or a nihilistic moral thesis about humanity. It is exactly what it is. Never boring, it managed to continue to shock me until its final pages.
In 2010 Roger Ebert reviewed the cult movie The Human Centipede and wrote:
I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don’t shine.
That goes for this novel, as well. If forced to give stars, I would give it five stars, for the way it relentlessly fulfills its purpose.
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