Blog Post, Review

13 Days of Horror | Day Six | Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

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Content warnings for: Animal cruelty and death, death, gore, cannibalism, human trafficking, rape, violence, death of a child
Representation:

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica (translated by Sarah Moses) is a book that gets under your skin and sits there festering long after you’ve put the book down.

Set in a not so distant dystopian version of Argentina, Marcos works at a processing plant. After all animal meat is outlawed following an infectious disease that made it poisonous to humans, humans are now on the menu (although don’t call them that!). Consuming ‘special meat’ is legal, meaning the world has to adapt to a new way of preparing and cooking.

Tender is the Flesh follows Marcos who’s life isn’t going well. His wife has left him following the death of their child, his father is spiralling into dementia, and he hates his sister. Marcos is well respected at the processing plant he works for. He gets on with his job, sees the special meat as just that, and will get his hands dirty when needed. No longer affected by the conditions the human meat is kept in, Marcos just keeps his head down and gets on with it. However, all is about to change when he is gifted a ‘head’ for himself, a young woman. Marcos starts down a slippery slope of disobedience once he names the ‘head’.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted, Agustina Bazterrica doesn’t hold back when describing the conditions the humans are kept in, including and not limited to, removing of their tongues to stop screaming, amputating arms and legs for the breeding stock and people keeping a ‘head’ at home slowly removing flesh when they need it. Each atrocity runs parallel to those carried out on animals in our current reality, begging the question, are we making the right decisions? Or, in the words of Marcos “in the end, meat is meat, it doesn’t matter where it’s from”.

Tender is the Flesh is ultimately about how even the most disgusting, gory and ultimately soul-destroying things can become mundane. As we have learnt over the last two years, even the craziest of things can swiftly become the new normal. 

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