Tender is the Flesh is a novel written by Augustina Bazterrica, Argentine author. Since she likely wrote this in Spanish originally, a Sarah Moses is credited as being the translator.
This little not so cheery tale takes place in a world where animal meat has been infected with deadly virus that kills humans. Since not everyone wants to be vegan over that, cannibalism has been permitted and institutionalized. There are groups of humans that are designated to be slaughtered cattle. The main character is a fellow named Marcos, who is estranged from this family, and he works in one of these slaughterhouses. Someone sends him a gift of a prime female head, as they are now called. Instead of doing what should come naturally in this society, anyway, he decides to feed her and treat her like a human being. Of course, the relationship becomes more intimate which places the girl he names Jasmine and himself at great risk from the authorities.
This is not a terribly lengthy book, which is fine. It’s not badly written. It does show the depths of human desperation when some well-established traditions such as eating meat goes awry. There is a social message in the midst of this tale that I am philosophically at odds with, but anyone who really knows me would find that unsurprising. Marcos is an interesting main character going through some family crises. A subplot involves his father slipping into dementia and a strained relationship with his sister. Bazterrica certainly does not hold back when it comes to the more gruesome practices. There is a rather surprising ending that might have even impressed the great Alfred Hitchcock.
For those readers with a taste for the macabre, this is worth the time, especially since it shouldn’t take much of it. Does it necessarily hit it out of the park for me? Not quite, but it does satisfy my interest in occasionally breaking out of my more typical literary indulgences.
Now that stepped a b it out of comfort zone, time to return to an old favorite. Bonnie MacBird continues her efforts to provide new cases for London’s best-known consulting detective as Sherlock Holmes tries to unearth secrets protected by The Three Locks.