on 16 March 2001
Powerful . Penetrating . Disturbing . Reading Coetzee is sometimes like walking through a desert strewn with broken bottles and barbed wire . Even so , the result is invariably uplifting and enriching . And so , no less , is The Lives Of Animals , Coetzee's latest work . Couched in the form of fiction , and with a searing compression that resembles Samuel Becketts later prose , Coetzee skilfully probes the complex subject of animal rights . The prose is beautifully clean and lucid , excoriating at times . The vexed question of whether animals have a soul and a conscience and therefore deserve rights on the same footing as humans , is the driving force behind the narrative . Alluding to philosophers such as the currently feted Peter Singer , and poets the novel proceeds in a loosely dialectical fashion and is challenging ,thought-provoking and intensely moving . It is a fascinating accretion on Coetzee's body of masterworks on the nature of power and servility . Enjoyable and educative at the same time .
on 22 November 2007
This is one of the most fantastic books I have ever read. No wonder it won the Booker prize. A brilliant, concise, compassionate, inspirational look at our perception and treatment of other, non-human animals. Quite literally life changing.
on 9 February 2003
Coetzee explores in this work the sentiency of non-human animals in a mostly one-sided way. The argument ranges from the philosophical (can animals reason?) to the controversial (comparing animal slaughter to the gas chambers of the Jewish holocaust).
It seems bizarre dressing up what is actually an ethical dilemma up in fiction especially as the novella is in one part monologue and the other dialogue with very little narrative interruption- this means that Coetzee's personal opinions are hidden on the subject. Although I personally believe a move to defend the rights of animals is a commendable and correct stance to take I feel Coetzee is, in effect, "tricking" the reader through using a fictional setting. The format also debases his work, as people are less likely to take a fictional account as seriously as an essay or lecture.
For what at it tries to achieve TLOA is a success- it moves the reader into questioning the ways in which humans abuse animals. However its short length means these issues are never explored in detail and its main points can be found in most factual books that deal with the subject of animal rights. A few ideas are Coetzee's invention for the purpose of this novel but it is very difficult to understand which ideas he is criticising and which he believes in. There is very little intervention of a plot so there is very little reason to read TLOA for purely literary purposes.
Effectively this is an exercise on animal rights that doesn't add much to the subject and a work of fiction with very little plot or characterisation. For Coetzee fans and those studying animal rights in depth only.