After seeing Cara’s review over at The Tattooed Book of Tender is the Flesh I was very intrigued by the book. Especially as, on paper, this book seemed to tick a lot of my favourite boxes – translated fiction, dystopian, dark. This book was everything I was hoping it would be and more, but it is definitely not one for the faint hearted.
CW: Cannibalism, sexual assault, animal abuse, graphic descriptions of slaughterhouses
Tender is the Flesh is set in the near future, in a world where all animals have been infected with a disease that is fatal to humans. This leads to another product to rise in its place: human meat or ‘special meat’. Marcos has always worked in the meat production business, however now the product has changed he is becoming more and more disillusioned with it all. This is further complicated when he is gifted with one of the finest quality products to seal a deal…
The entire novel is told from Marcos’ perspective and I really liked the way he was portrayed, this doesn’t mean that he is a good man but an interesting one. I liked how conflicted he was with his job and society’s acceptance to the ‘Transition’ as a whole. Although this is only a short novel, Bazterrica still manages to drip feed information to the reader about Marcos and the ‘Transition’, rather than explaining everything straight away. We are only briefly introduced to a couple of other characters, but in their brief appearances the reader is able to form a very clear idea of what these people are like. A brief look is all we need for some of these characters because of how awful they are, which wonderfully illustrates exactly the type of person that is surviving in this world.
Considering this book was first published in 2017 before it’s English release in 2020, it’s uncanny how many parallels we can draw from this novel to the current pandemic. Which can make now the perfect time to read it, as I imagine, it hits much differently now than what it would have done in 2017. Similarities between the novel and the current global situation aside, even if there wasn’t a pandemic happening this novel would still make you feel incredibly uneasy and on edge throughout. Bazterrica’s descriptions were so detailed that I could feel myself physically recoil at times, despite this I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages. There is something so addictive about this novel, I could barely bring myself to put it down to go to sleep.
Overall, I understand that this book may not be for everyone, especially given the pandemic that we are in, however this book is well worth a read if you can stomach it! It’s such a refreshing take on the dystopian landscape that we’re often presented with this genre.