The Body of the Beasts

The Body of the Beasts

Written by: Wilhelmy, Audrée
Translated by: Ouriou, Susan

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.

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.

Published By House of Anansi Press Inc — Jul 30, 2019
Specifications 160 pages | 5.25 in x 8 in
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Excerpt
Written By

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 a visceral story with wings: rhythmically beating, it both suffocates readers and prepares us to soar.

” —World Literature Today

“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

“Sensual and strange.” —Booklist

“[Wilhelmy] is a meticulous recorder of the dramatic wilderness … Lovely writing.” —Kirkus Reviews

“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

“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

“Audrée Wilhelmy built a literary universe unlike anything else that's been created in Quebec at the moment.” —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