Vertiginous

Tortoise

In the first story in Ceridwyn Dovey’s short story collection Only the Animals, a human character says, “ignore the animals”, because they are only “spectators”. But here the animals are spectators with voices, as each of these stories of animals intersecting with human history is told from the animal’s point of view. We have a tortoise of Tolstoy’s, who travels to England and meets Virginia Woolf and George Orwell, and a mussel who hitches a ride underneath a battleship to Pearl Harbour, and who narrates in the style of Jack Kerouac. In the story of Himmler’s dog, there is a sad irony in the contrast between Nazi racial purity and Himmler’s love of animals. The letters of a chimpanzee trained to act human in Germany at the time of WWI illustrate the fact that in times of hardship animals are the first casualties. While the stories are often dark, they are also so clever as to induce vertigo. Dovey writes that people become “evangelical” about books. Only the Animals is likely to encourage some evangelical fervour of its own.

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