Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press


by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo Translated from French by Frank Wynne

A prizewinning and word-of-mouth literary sensation in France, Animalia is an extraordinary epic that retraces the history of a modest French peasant family over the twentieth century as they develop their small plot of land into an industrial pig farm — a visceral, chilling tale of man and beast

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 384
  • Publication Date August 18, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4940-4
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 384
  • Publication Date September 10, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4757-8
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date September 10, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4758-5
  • US List Price $27.00

The small village of Puy-Larroque, southwest France, 1898. Éléonore is a child living with her father, a pig farmer whose terminal illness leaves him unable to work, and her God-fearing mother, who runs both farm and family with an iron hand. Éléonore passes her childhood with little heat and no running water, sharing a small room with her cousin Marcel, who does most of the physical labor on the farm. When World War I breaks out and the village empties, Éléonore gets a taste of the changes that will transform her world as the twentieth century rolls on. As the reader moves into the second part of the novel, which takes place in the 1980s, the untamed world of Puy-Larroque seems gone forever. Now, Éléonore has herself aged into the role of matriarch, and the family is running a large industrial pig farm, where thousands of pigs churn daily through cycles of birth, growth, and death. Moments of sublime beauty and powerful emotion mix with the thoughtless brutality waged against animals that makes the old horrors of death and disease seem like simpler times.

A dramatic and chilling tale of man and beast that recalls the naturalism of writers like Émile Zola, Animalia traverses the twentieth century as it examines man’s quest to conquer nature, critiques the legacy of modernity and the transmission of violence from one generation to the next, and questions whether we can hold out hope for redemption in this brutal world.

Praise for Animalia:

Winner of the Republic of Consciousness Prize
Finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award in Gay Fiction
Finalist for the Best Translated Book Award
Shortlisted for the Albertine Prize

Longlisted for the Believer Book Award

Animalia is never what you expect it to be . . . Del Amo has Flaubert’s flair for performance . . . His prose leaps out at the reader, gleaming with perfection.”—Ankita Chakraborty, New York Times Book Review

“Colorfully misanthropic . . . Del Amo concentrates on the brute physical aspects of life on the farm, describing with stomach-turning flamboyance the slimy, spurting realities of breeding, birthing, castration, and culling . . . All submit to the forces of decomposition, which the author dwells upon in lavish detail.”—Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

“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.”—Emily Nemens, Paris Review

“Brutally gorgeous . . . Monstrosity abounds in this rancid, shit-smeared book, yet it is rendered with beautiful, almost Miltonian descriptions of the fallen world—a world that fell a long time ago.”—Hunter Braithwaite, Guernica

“Mr. Del Amo’s intensely visual, sensory writing brings to life the physicality of a factory farm: the blood, mucus, gore and excrement are animated, as though characters at war with the human drive to turn animals into disembodied machines . . . Mr. Del Amo’s immersive prose imagines what it is like to try to handle these farms . . . By linking the horrors of past and present, Del Amo tells a story of how modernity has industrialized and optimized human cruelty . . . [Animalia] invites readers to connect the tangled web of violence, against people and animals—and face the brutality in which all of us are complicit.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Arresting . . . The book churns with intense sensory descriptions of the smells and sights that signal death and birth and endure through the decades . . . 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.”—Orion Magazine

“Rarely does a book stimulate all the senses to such an extent . . . Reading Animalia, a novel filled with flesh, sex, and blood, is not for the faint of heart . . . With a vision that flies in the face of our sterilized, overly hygienic society, which turns a blind eye to death, he reveals the wild side of humanity, for better or for worse.”—France-Amérique

“Powerful . . . This is not a novel that says just try to recycle a bit more: it is a book that confronts a reader with a stark moral reckoning of the costs of eating meat. There are characters too, but the main character, here, troubled and chased through these pages, is the farm. Fans of Édouard Louis will find a thrilling fellow-traveler here.”—John Freeman, Literary Hub

“A marvelous novel in the naturalistic mode that explores how the lives of humans and animals are both interdependent and in conflict . . . [Del Amo’s] prose is stunning from the first page on; no smell or sound or texture is omitted . . . Anyone thinking about the art of description would do well to read Animalia to see how a master creates an indelible world.”—Arts Fuse

“A nearly unparalleled entrant into the pantheon of putrescence, Del Amo’s Animalia sinks to high heaven as a matter of course . . . A provincial pig farm proves to be fertile ground for a grim symphony of filth and viscera, expertly exuding the kind of pore-clogging reek that permeates down to the marrow.”—Three Percent

“Del Amo’s pungent, nightmarish English-language debut describes, in a mythic, arresting style, the bleak fates of a cursed family and the pigs they rear . . . The florid prose has an incantatory power well suited to the festering enmity, inhumanity, and majestic squalor on display. This uncompromising vision will leave readers breathless, thrilled, and exhausted.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Carnivores beware. Human and animal misery are evoked in unsparing detail in a dark saga of ruinous husbandry practices . . . Brilliantly, lyrically descriptive whether evoking the natural world or a decaying farmstead, the book traces the terrible evolution of rural ways of life into cruelty and abuse via the history of one unhappy family . . . Del Amo spares no details . . . An unstinting portrait of all that’s wrong with modern food production.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Award-winning Del Amo’s lyrical novel depicting a century on a French family farm emphasizes the earthy and the cruel . . . Artistically and provocatively dissects our conflicted relationship with the rest of the living world.”Booklist

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 down a gauntlet: be bold, be daring, be rigorous, be a poet. A stunning book.”—Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap

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.”—Daisy Hildyard, author of The Second Body

“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.”—David Mills, Times (UK)

“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.”—Boyd Tonkin, Financial Times

“Likely to be hailed as a modern classic . . . 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.”—Ian Sansom, Guardian

“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.”Irish Times

“Evocative and insightful . . . Deeply perceptive and sharp as a razor, this novel will get under your skin.”NB Magazine

“Four-hundred breathtaking pages of flesh, blood, grimy mud, executed with a blazing style . . . Beyond its thematic richness, the pictorial power of the scenes and the fierce sensitivity of the words in Animalia are worthy at times of the best of Cormac McCarthy. A dark splendor.”L’Express

“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.”Le Monde

“Reminiscent of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.”Le Figaro

“Raw and angry and dirty and violent while at the same time being lyrically compassionate. Animalia grabbed my by the throat and wouldn’t let go until I had finished the last page. Then I turned again to page one to start over. I will be looking for Del Amo’s other books, you can be sure!”—Lee Virden Geurkink, Monkey and Dog Books (Fort Worth, TX) 

Animalia is a philosophical novel of relentless naturalism. Even Zola cannot compare! Del Amo’s talent is especially impressive, his style at once rich and explicit, sinuous and razor-sharp, sensual and surgical . . . A great book.”Le Journal du Dimanche

“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, which makes us experience colors and smells in a way so few works of recent fiction do.”Lire

“Radical, violent, and disturbing.”Télérama

“Stunning . . . Shades of Antonin Artaud’s machete let loose on Georges de La Tour’s paintings . . . A book people will talk about.”Le Point

“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.”Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland)

“Anyone who misses the good old days of peasant life should read Animalia, a runaway success in France.”Il Giornale (Italy)

“There is hypnotic and disturbing writing and a profound materiality in this novel about the exploitation of animals.”L’espresso (Italy)