'In a trench on the Western Front a cat recalls her owner Colette's theatrical antics in Paris. In Nazi Germany, Himmler's dog seeks enlightenment. A Russian tortoise once owned by the Tolstoys drifts in space during the Cold War. In the siege of Sarajevo, a bear starving to death tells a fairytale; and a dolphin sent to Iraq by the US Navy writes a letter to Sylvia Plath.
'Ten animal souls tell extraordinary stories about their lives and deaths, caught up in human conflicts of the last century and its turnings. Together they form an animal's eye view of humans at both our brutal, violent worst and our creative, imaginative best. Exquisitely written, playful and poignant, Only the Animals is a remarkable literary achievement by one of our brightest young writers. It asks us to find our way back to empathy not only for animals, but for other people, and to believe again in the redemptive power of reading and writing fiction.' (Publication summary)
On one side there is luminosity, trust, faith, the beauty of the earth; on the other side, darkness, doubt, unbelief, the cruelty of the earth, the capacity of people to do evil. When I write, the first side is true; when I do not the second is. –Czeslaw Milosz, Road-Side Dog
Each creature is key to all other creatures, A dog sitting in a patch of sun licking itself, says he, is at one moment a dog and at the next a vessel of revelation. – J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello
'In Ceridwen Dovey’s short story cycle, Only the Animals, inter-textual allusions to established fictional animals are imposed onto settings of human conflict and ventriloquised through diverse animal subjects. This paper defends narrating from a non-human animal perspective, not as a radical act, but as a move to reinvigorate our conceptions of human-animal relations. Meaningful encounters between human and non-human animals are presented with a recognition of the impossibility of full and mutual inter-species understanding. The juxtaposition of the limits of figuring literary animals with human/animal intimacy and incomprehension marks Dovey’s work as a logical progression of some ideas presented in J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello. This paper reads Dovey’s deployment of textual self-referentiality and overt intersection with Coetzee’s work in Only the Animals as a reflexive writing form that works to critique another representational dispossession: that of anthropocentric realism. Both works understand that humans do not share language with non-human animals but we often meet questions of the animal through stories. This makes the stories we tell highly significant; indeed – vital – components of the cultural landscape.'
'I am listening to the ghosts of the meatified. It is to them that I - my thinking, my writing - is accountable. But, with only these words, how can I account for even a fraction of what goes on in the world of industrial animal agriculture? I can't. Not really. I know this. Here I go.' (Publication abstract)