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The Lives of Animals
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The Lives of Animals

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,114 ratings  ·  79 reviews
The idea of human cruelty to animals so consumes novelist Elizabeth Costello in her later years that she can no longer look another person in the eye: humans, especially meat-eating ones, seem to her to be conspirators in a crime of stupefying magnitude taking place on farms and in slaughterhouses, factories, and laboratories across the world.

Costello's son, a physics prof
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ebook, 136 pages
Published May 14th 2014 by Princeton University Press (first published 1977)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,999)
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Lisa Vegan
I read this for my book club; I’m the one who suggested this book. I’d wanted to read it for many years. I had thought that it was a novel whose main character is an animal rights advocate. It’s not and for me that was a disappointment.

It’s mostly essays by other authors than the main author, referring back to Coetzee”s pieces: Amy Gutmann, Marjorie Garber, Peter Singer, Wendy Doniger, and Barbara Smuts. Except for Singer’s, which is a fiction piece, they’re basically non-fiction pieces.

The auth
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Sridhar
A brilliant work by a Nobel laureate in literature and a wonderful book to start the year with. A superb form of academic novel (a novel genre, I could say, if the pun may be forgiven), this is top-notch writing on a theme of profound and enduring significance for anyone concerned with human values and connections with other animals.

J. M. Coetzee, invited to Princeton to deliver the prestigious Tanner Lectures on Human Values, presents the lectures as a fictional story with debate and dialogue c
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Rafa
Adoro la facilidad con la que crea un buen texto; incluso con su personaje menos atractivo.
Izlinda
I read this book for my writing course, Our Animal Selves. Coetzee writes about a famous author, Elizabeth Costello, who is invited to give a talk at a university. Coincidentally, her son works there. While there, Costello doesn't given an expected speech about literary works, but about human-animal relations. The next day she gave a seminar about poets and animals and finished her visit with a debate with a philosophy professor.

It was kind of hard to pick apart the arguments Costello used since
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Alison
This story is ingeniously written. Coetzee, invited to give two talks as part of a university lecture series, instead delivers a fictional story in two parts about a novelist who is invited to give a series of university talks. His lecturer, Elizabeth Costello, chooses to engage with the philosophies underlying vegetarianism and humane treatment of animals, rather than speak about her own work. Meanwhile, his protagonist (her son and a junior professor at the university), must navigate the socia ...more
Sasha
This novella is actually the two-part lecture that Coetzee gave at Princeton in 1997. Here Coetzee presents the topic of human cruelty toward animals through fiction, with fiction writer Elizabeth Costello invited to give a distinguished lecture at a university, and this is her topic of choice. The controversy of her lecture is argued, discussed, and rebutted by academic characters including Costello's son and his wife. The philosophical, poetical, and literal approaches to Costello's chosen sub ...more
Lucas
this short work cleverly uses the platform of a fictive academic lecture -- which coetzee later presented, metatextually, at princeton -- to condense many familiar and unfamiliar arguments about eating and treating animals. is Costello, the impassioned novelist and lecturer in the book, a mouthpiece for Coetzee? probably not. that ambiguity is likely what allows coetzee to lay out such a morally charged and ultimately irresolvable exchange.

the impasse in which humans find themselves when it com
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Benjaminxjackson

This is another Odyssey project reading.

The book as a whole is kind of interesting because of the essays that accompany the main story, which is a pair of lectures written as a fiction story.

That said, the main story of the novelist giving lectures about how humans should do something in regards to animals differently than they do now falls flat for me. Coetzee's apparent alter ego of Costello doesn't seem to know what she wants people to do. She is a vegetarian, but doesn't suggest that for ot
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Teniesha Kessler
The academic novel (in this case, novella) is an interesting, lesser-known, and supposedly underrated sub-genre, and in "The Lives of Animals, this setup explores animal cruelty using philosophy and literary analysis--an interesting vessel, though not the most engaging either, as I found the main character flat and mostly emotionless. A strong argument either way, and the four supplemental essays afterward were helpful and enjoyable, especially those by Peter Singer and Barbara Smuts. A good rea ...more
Stefany GG
Una de las lecturas base para activistas en pro de los animales no humanos.
Rachel
I'm glad I was able to read it and especially glad I didn't have to pay $20 to buy it. I thought Coetzee's "academic novella" had poorly written characters and a badly told story, if it was supposed to be story.

However, I was delighted and surprised to see Peter Singer's work of "fiction." Seems like he had a ball writing that! What a talented writer and astute ethicist (Singer). I bet Singer would have written a much better academic novella than Coetzee. And ... isn't Coetzee a fiction writer,
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Chris
This was the book that changed by attitude to eating meat. I could no longer evade the central question of the unnecessary cruelty invloved and our capacity to collude to denying that fact by splitting it off from our meat munching. A powerful arguemnet skillfully fictionalised. Trully a book that changes my life.
Hannah Davey
A brilliant discussion of animal rights, set out as a lecture within a novella.

A distinguished writer is chosen to give a talk at a University after winning a literary prize. Rather than talking about her book or anything else, she chooses to talk about animals - how we live with them, and by what right we hold them captive, and eat them; whether it can be said philosophically that they have a soul, and how far they differ from humans in their thoughts and feelings.

The lecture in the story is ha
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Nora
Sure, there's a lot of cerebral stuff to talk about with this book. But, that doesn't make it a good read. My poor, poor Freshman Writing students...
Eh
Sin embargo, los animales no entienden la muerte como nosotros o, mejor dicho, como fracasamos nosotros a la hora de entenderla. En la mente del ser humano se produce un total desmoronamiento de la imaginación ante la muerte, y ese desmoronamiento de la imaginación, tan gráficamente evocado en la conferencia de ayer, es la base misma de nuestro miedo a la muerte. Ese miedo no existe en los animales y no podría existir en ellos, ya que el esfuerzo por comprender la propia extinción, y el fracaso ...more
Wes Young
Had to read this for my Environmental Issues philosophy class in college. Top notch read!
Becky Boyle
yep. vegetarian for sure now.
Angélique Moreau
Ce roman court fait partie intégrante d’une série d’essais écrits par divers auteurs sur la question des droits des animaux.

Le personnage fictif de la femme de lettres Elizabeth Costello, double de l’auteur, est invitée à participer à une conférence littéraire mais choisit de parler de ce thème délicat, dont elle est une activiste, sous le regard horrifié de son fils (bien sûr, il ne saurait se trouver un roman de Coetzee sans qu’intervienne des problèmes de filiation). Le personnage se retrouve
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Paola
Le conferenze di Coetzee sotto forma di racconto alle Tanner Lectures presso la Princeton University:

"... si concentrano su una questione etica importante: il modo in cui gli esseri umani trattano gli animali."

Coetzee crea un romanzo con un suo personaggio, Elisabeth Costello scrittrice, invitata a tenere delle conferenze in una università.

La signora Costello é un'anziana donna, stanca e sfiduciata dell'umano essere e dei suoi comportamenti criminali.

E mentre l'aspettativa degli uditori é sent
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Jose
Aug 20, 2008 Jose rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: amantes de animais
Shelves: contemporary
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emily
I stopped eating meat, for environmental reasons, during my first year of college. Then a few years passed, and I entered that slippery state of "flexitarianism," which really means, "I eat meat when I want to," i.e. too often. I picked up The Lives of Animals as an intervention. The book has pleasantly surprised me, in a couple ways.

First, it doesn't have a clear political agenda. It helps that J.M. Coetzee can hide behind his fictional characters (or step behind, if "hide" sounds too evasive)
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Zein
Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello travels to the United States to give a lecture at a college. Animals are the main subject, and Coetzee addresses many of the debates that surround the ways that humans treat animals through the narration of her lecture and the subsequent discussions that take place.

I appreciated the care with which Coetzee crafted his arguments, and the broad range of thinkers he uses to support them: Kafka to Plutarch to modern poets. Perhaps the impressive argument comes early, in
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Dharushana
Surprisingly compelling, although perhaps not so suprising. Coetzee is a master story teller, even when his story is the philosophical (and poetic) contemplation of animal rights. His clever meta-lecture ruse is engaging, provokative and a smooth read. His gifts contrast all the more with the intelligent but not nearly as masterful commentaries that accompany the lecture. The commentaries i enjoyed the most were from philosopher Peter Singer and primate biologist Barbara Smuts. As a pseduo-veget ...more
Alex Obrigewitsch
Had some thought provoking ideas, as well as some outright laughably wrongminded argumentation. Coetzee's method of lecture within a lecture to seperate the discussion and discourse a step feom himself is well executed. Hard to argue against him, as none of these ideas are necessarily "his."
One of my professors gave me this to read, and it made for some stimulating light reading.
Haleigh
I'm so conflicted! We have decided we are superior so we rule amongst species... We kill animals because they ARE. They have no reason, no consciousness but Coetzee makes point that human babies also have no consciousness yet we find it absurd to even think of killing one. Why is that? So many questions
Dinesh
A thought provoking book debating the value of lives of animals as viewed by us, the intelligent humans. The book shows both sides of arguments on the animal rights movement, and definitely makes the reader think. A really good (and thought-provoking) must read.
Judith
Not for everyone. But for those who seriously consider what is/can be/should be the relationship between our species and other animals this is a thought-provoking book. For me this book shows the weakness of trying to apply human logic to the question of what do animals think? are they aware of their mortality? is their suffering as important as ours? For goodness sake - how can we know those things? Why should animals think like humans in order to merit compassion and respect? The format of the ...more
Daniel Ares lópez
I love it. I think it partakes of the old classical and Renaissance genre of the philosophical dialogue, and it does it with unbelievable insight. For some years I thought this genre has a great potential for the expression and exploration of ideas beyond the monological expression of the traditional essay (one author, one voice). It's the first time I see this potential being realized in contemporary literature. Great novella and a masterful literary essay (all in one) on animals and our ways o ...more
Brenda Bear
"It is as if I were to visit friends, and to make some polite remark about the lamp in their living-room, and they were to say, ‘Yes, it’s nice, isn’t it? Polish-Jewish skin it’s made of, we find that’s best, the skins of young Polish-Jewish virgins.’ And then I go to the bathroom and the soap-wrapper says, ‘Treblinka — 100% human stearate.’ Am I dreaming, I say to myself? What kind of house is this?

Yet I’m not dreaming. I look into your eyes, into Norma’s, into the children’s, and I see only ki
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Hiram R.
Not only is the self-consciously irrational moralistic grandstanding an annoyance that is nearly impossible to stomach, Coetzee's characters are predictable, two-dimensional, depthless stereotypes. Throughout the book, as if he wanted to add insult to aesthetic-intellectual injury, Coetzee follows Costello's incoherent ramblings with thinly-disguised apologies for just how poorly written her diatribe actually is.

There is no brilliance to this work. It's an even worse faux-novel than Nietzsche's
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Universal Compass...: First Selection 10 13 Mar 30, 2014 12:57PM  
  • The Animal That Therefore I Am
  • When Species Meet
  • The Case for Animal Rights
  • Animal Liberation
  • The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory
  • The Open: Man and Animal
  • Eternal Treblinka
  • Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight
  • The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery
  • Making A Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights
  • Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect
  • The Kosher Sutra
  • We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication
  • Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog?
  • Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, And Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry
  • Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues
  • Frontiers of Justice Disability, Nationality, Species Membership (OIP): Disability, Nationality, Species Membership (Tanner Lectures on Human Values) (The Tanner Lectures on Human Values)
  • Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals
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John Maxwell Coetzee is an author and academic from South Africa. He is now an Australian citizen and lives in South Australia.
A novelist and literary critic as well as a translator, Coetzee has won the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature.
More about J.M. Coetzee...
Disgrace Waiting for the Barbarians Life and Times of Michael K Slow Man Elizabeth Costello

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“I want to find a way of speaking to fellow human beings that will be cool rather than heated, philosophical rather than polemical, that will bring enlightenment rather than seeking to divide us into the righteous and the sinners, the saved and the damned, the sheep and the goats.” 42 likes
“Let me say it openly: we are surrounded by an enterprise of degradation, cruelty, and killing which rivals anything that the Third Reich was capable of, indeed dwarfs it, in that ours is an enterprise without end, self-regenerating, bringing rabbits, rats, poultry, livestock ceaselessly into the world for the purpose of killing them.” 10 likes
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