Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press


by Jean Baptiste Del Amo

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 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 Hardcover
  • 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:

Named a Best Recent Book by the Sunday Times (UK)

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

“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)