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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel of rebellion with a bleak undercurrent
The name of Agustin Gomez-Arcos is kept alive in the English-speaking world by this his first novel (written in 1974), which offers a glowingly, startlingly, sympathetic treatment of a passionate affair between two young brothers. The author chose this taboo topic as an expression of his own anarchism and antinomianism, his belief that how we lead our lives need not be...
Published 18 months ago by Dr. Richard M. Price

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A love story with a twist
THE CARNIVOROUS LAMB by Augustin Gomez-Arcos
This wasn't an easy book. I was able to put it down for days, yet I
needed to know the outcome, wanted it to be a happy one.
At the beginning we know nothing about narrator Ignacio only that
he's arrived in Spain to await the arrival of brother, Antonio, who
he hasn't seen for several...
Published on 11 Nov 2005 by Cerisaye


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A love story with a twist, 11 Nov 2005
By 
Cerisaye (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Carnivorous Lamb (Paperback)
THE CARNIVOROUS LAMB by Augustin Gomez-Arcos
This wasn't an easy book. I was able to put it down for days, yet I
needed to know the outcome, wanted it to be a happy one.
At the beginning we know nothing about narrator Ignacio only that
he's arrived in Spain to await the arrival of brother, Antonio, who
he hasn't seen for several years. First he makes the bed in their
old room then bathes repeatedly in the soap their mother always
used, a scent redolent of Antonio. As Ignacio tells his story
recalling the past and his strange family gradually we understand
why he wants Antonio home so badly, his absence a major presence in
a story of longing and passion.
It is 1975. As Ignacio describes his peculiar childhood shut in the
house with only brother, parents and family servant for company, the
story becomes a meditation on love and loss, hope and despair.
Ignacio hated his mother who ignored his existence, silent and
indifferent since he refused to open his eyes for 16 days after he
was born and then only to look at his older brother. His father
retired to his study a defeated man, an invisible presence in the
house.
It's a love letter from Ignacio to Antonio. Though the relationship
is incestuous, it's described so beautifully I didn't question the
morality. The sex is explicit but tasteful, literary erotica. You
never feel Antonio exploits Ignacio; the boy is in control. Their
intimacy is tender and affectionate as well as something intensely
physical.
The mother knows what's going on, and the father's isolation is
disturbed when it comes to his attention. The affair is hardly
clandestine as the brothers flaunt their togetherness.
The book is laden with social & political meaning, about Spain, the
Civil War and the Franco regime. Heavy use of symbolism includes
colour, red and yellow. The decaying old house with its family at
war stands for a country marked by conflict, triumphant victors and
bitter losers slowly dying without hope. Read as metaphor the
relationship of Ignacio & Antonio is about freedom of conscience,
their union a victory against totalitarian forces of oppression
holding Spain in thrall. Ignacio & Antonio are the young generation,
the hope for a better future.
This is a literary book, carefully crafted, yet
somehow it just didn't get under my skin; I never forgot I was reading a novel. Ignacio is the carnivorous lamb, a stuffed skin
belonging to Ignacio's mother, a pet never to grow up, devouring
everything it touches, a disturbing image. Are we meant to like him? I'm
not sure if I did, yet I wanted Antonio to come back to him. Is this
an acceptable book, the kind that wins prizes, because it uses
incest to make a political statement and educate readers in
history? Food for thought.
Recommended to anyone interested in understanding modern Spain,
though it can be read simply as a stylish romance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel of rebellion with a bleak undercurrent, 11 Jan 2013
By 
Dr. Richard M. Price (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Carnivorous Lamb (Paperback)
The name of Agustin Gomez-Arcos is kept alive in the English-speaking world by this his first novel (written in 1974), which offers a glowingly, startlingly, sympathetic treatment of a passionate affair between two young brothers. The author chose this taboo topic as an expression of his own anarchism and antinomianism, his belief that how we lead our lives need not be dictated by accidents of gender or culture. Commentators have concentrated on the book's politics. The boys belong to a republican family, allowed to survive in Franco's Spain, but cut off from the society around them and emotionally traumatized. The boys' decision to turn their back both on the society around them and on their parents as well is at once a sexual, a social and a political gesture, a refusal by the up-and-coming generation to identify themselves with either the victors or the vanquished of the Spanish Civil War. Yet their mother is the most revealing character in the book, in her inability to extend not just toleration but love towards her sons, and in her self-awareness and self-contempt; for the author she personifies the torpor and negativity that he perceived in late Francoist Spain.

The novel is focussed on the younger brother, who is also the narrator. Rejected and ignored by his parents from birth, he is adopted and coddled by his elder brother, in a way that does not equip him for life outside, when at the age of thirteen he belatedly starts his schooling. His relationship with his brother also deteriorates, and when the latter goes abroad and gets married he is left with absolutely nothing. The author contrives a happy ending, but it cuts less deep than the younger brother's previous desolation. At the heart of this book is loss and the pain of living with loss - as in the same author's later and most admired novel, `Ana Non', where the main character (a war widow of the Spanish Civil War) has tragic stature and the political context is more clearly presented.

I should say that this review is based on the French text. Other Amazon reviewers have criticized the English translation for a crudity of style that mars the beauty of the original. But it appears that the translation is still serviceable.
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