About this book
The Body of the Beasts
Audrée Wilhelmy • Susan Ouriou
Disturbing and sensuous, Audrée Wilhelmy’s tale of a hermetic family minding a lighthouse in willed isolation is reminiscent of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
The Body of Beasts is a startling, gorgeously written novel that tells the story of the Borya family living in isolation. Their lives are altered when young Osip, peering from the lighthouse gallery sees a woman, Noé, arrive — her dress scant, her skin curiously scarred, and her manner mysterious and wild.
Noé bears a child, Mie, to the eldest son on whose hunter-gathering the Borya family depends. She lives in a cabin on her own and covers the walls with drawings that allude to her mysterious life. The family’s entrenchment in nature is enthrallingly conveyed in young Mie’s sensuous ability to borrow at will the body of mammals, birds, fish, and insects. Her shape-shifting allows her to know the ways of the natural world, though only to a point. When her own awakening body starts to intrigue her, she asks her uncle Osip to “teach me human sex.”
The Body of the Beasts is an imaginative tour de force, a beautifully described portrait of a world that exists outside of words; an uninhibited and erotic novel that, in the singular tradition of Québécois Boreal Gothic, explores our humanity — and animal nature.
About the Creators
AUDRÉE WILHELMY was born in 1985 in Cap Rouge, Quebec and now lives in Montreal. She is the winner of France’s Sade Award, has been a finalist for the Governor-General’s Literary Award, and was shortlisted for the Prix France-Québec and the Quebec Booksellers Award. The Body of the Beasts is her third novel and the first to be translated into English.
SUSAN OURIOU is considered to be one of Québec’s finest translators of literary fiction. With Christine Morelli, she has previously translated Fanny Britt’s acclaimed novel Hunting Houses for Arachnide.
Awards and Praise
PRAISE FOR AUDRÉE WILHELMY AND THE BODY OF BEASTS
"The Body of the Beasts is daring and darkly erotic, as emotionally and morally elusive as the characters who roam within it … Wilhelmy’s language is tight yet immersive; there is an underlying melancholy to it, like being alone in a forest with nothing but the sound of rustling leaves. It is rare and delightful to find a novel where language and character move so seamlessly together, hand in hand … A piece of this book will linger.” — Literary Review of Canada
“The Body of the Beasts is a visceral story with wings: rhythmically beating, it both suffocates readers and prepares us to soar.” — World Literature Today
“Sensual and strange.” — Booklist
“Masterful … Finding beauty in unexpected places, be they natural settings or seldom-explored corners of human behaviour, is something Wilhelmy does as well as any young writer in any language.” — Montreal Gazette
“[Wilhelmy] is a meticulous recorder of the dramatic wilderness … Lovely writing.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A bold, tactile tale as vivid as cold sea water, The Body of the Beasts is an attentive study of desire, the senses, nature, and freedom, in which the lines between human and animal are blurred and those between good and bad are obliterated. Whether delving into the hushed violence permeating her characters’ lives or describing the exuberant, heartbreaking beauty of the wilderness, Wilhelmy’s powerful voice is soft but incisive, and Ouriou’s delicately crafted translation does her story every justice. This is a novel that conjures imaginary worlds but speaks to the most acute of realities.” — Catherine Leroux, Scotiabank Giller Prize–nominated author of The Party Wall and Madame Victoria
“A marvel … The style is magnificent, the characters unforgettable: Noé, Mie, and Osip are great literary creations. As with all this author’s books, the sensual is omnipresent, and sometimes troubling. The ending is overwhelming, and the chapter on the skinning of a whale is fantastic. Run to buy this book as soon as it arrives at the store!” — Michel Tremblay, Winner of the Governor General's Performing Arts Award
“With a miniaturist’s touch, Audrée Wilhelmy creates a singular universe suffused with sap and silence, at once lush to the limit, smothering and amoral … A tour de force of audacity and sensuality achieved unhesitatingly in full-bodied writing that is precise and without misstep. A brilliant novel that explores from on high an aspect of the human condition too often eluded: our own bestiality.” — Le Devoir
PRAISE FOR AUDRÉE WILHELMY AND LES SANGS
Finalist, Prix des lecteurs de l’Hebdo
Finalist, Prix Marie Claire du roman féminin
Finalist, Prix des libraires du Québec
Finalist, Prix France-Québec
PRAISE FOR AUDRÉE WILHELMY AND OSS
Finalist, Governor General’s Literary Award
Longlist, Prix des libraires du Québec