Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis
Paperback, 171 pages
” I wonder”, said Hermes, “what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.”
” I’ll wager a year’s servitude,” answered Apollo, “that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.”
And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.
André Alexis’s contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of huma
n consciousness. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.
I can totally see why everyone seems to love this book. It has many things to recommend it. While I did enjoy reading Fifteen Dogs, and I’m glad that I did, I did kind of have to force myself at times to continue on. I think it’s just my personal preference. This book is blatantly a work of philosophy, the story a thinly veiled vessel through which to explore those ideas. I was never really one for philosophy. I guess you could say I like mine to be buried much deeper in the story.