Cover Image: The Beast, and Other Tales

The Beast, and Other Tales

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Member Reviews

The Beast and Other Tales by Jóusè d'Arbaud, translated by Joyce Zonana is a beautiful  work of world class translation that allows readers of the world to go back in time both to the 15th century protagonist of d’Arbaud but also to the 19th century Provençal Revival that was led by the author.

The book has four novellas of which The Beast or La Bestio dou Vacares is the most eminent. It talks of a world where a demi-bull, demi-god approaches a guardien in search of food and together they form an uncanny friendship that lives just at the border of reality, not without its share of fear, fantastic moments and a willing suspension of disbelief.

The other three short stories carry similar themes of humans in deep relationship with nature, horses and faes. 

What I loved about these novellas is their rare spiritual quality where you leave behind a contemporary reality and immerse yourself into lives as they were lived multiple centuries back and by largely male protagonists, who were cowboys, a reality which I didn’t even know existed in Europe, before reading the book. 

I also loved the beautiful descriptions of the Camargue landscape and the high quality of Zonana’s translation. It has music, imagination and a creativity of her own as she brings alive d’Arbaud for a modern reader. The forward where she describes how she chose the book and went about working on it, was quite exciting to read as a way of understanding the art of translation.

I can just keep gushing about this book because I really enjoyed how high quality the writing is. Please read it if you like myths, subcultures and reading books from communities that are sometimes forgotten by the mainstream canons of the world. 

Thank you @netgalley for the ARC in exchange of a fair review.
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I enjoyed this unusual collection of Provençal stories from the early twentieth century, all of which described the life of the “gardian”, a lonely cowboy existence on the salt plains of the Camargue which I was entirely unfamiliar with before reading this book. The relationship of the men with the animals they tended, the landscape and the weather was beautifully described.  Many Provençal words were left peppered in the text when there wasn’t a direct translation to English, and that helped the atmosphere of place.

The main tale, taking up half the short book, was “The Beast” which was a strange medieval horror story featuring a religious young gardian and his encounters with an elderly half-goat half-human demi-god.  I enjoyed this story the most.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for honest feedback.
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This will likely appeal to a pretty narrow audience since it has an academic feel (the set-up, etc, not the cover or description). I see the talent in the writing. I just didn't connect with it very much. True lit fans may like this one.

Thanks very much for the ARC for review!!
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Likely to be your first book translated from the Provencal dialect, this academically-presented four-piece is certainly interesting.  Almost a hundred years since they were first produced, we get a novella and a trio of shorter works, all based on the life of the "gardians" – outdoorsmen who tend to the wild Camargue horses, and the bulls the locals use for fights and other festivals.  The title novella is a little clumsy at first, in pretending it was a diary of one such gardian written in the 1400s, but it soon begins to grip, especially as it's about an unearthly encounter in the boggy terrain of the area.  Set closer to time of writing, the first of the three stories has a solitary gardian find platonic pleasure when he opens his doors to a young female from a disliked community – a sort of gadjo or Romany equivalent.

Certainly for many readers details about what goes on in the bullring are a little too much, but the third piece here portrays sympathy not for the bull but the horse the other, human, combatants use; if it works for you you might just get to feel sympathy for the man who works with both beasts, too.  And we close with a look at the fallout of someone not recognising our lead gardian's prior claim to a fishing hole.  This one isn't great, for it seems to feature the guy thinking of using a fishing line that has been stolen from him and not returned, but all three short stories do have a remarkably fresh style – these could have been written last year, for all the modernism being written in the outside world around their formation.

But what I think I appreciated the most here, despite the rarefied, intriguingly foreign landscape of the Camargue, was the introduction, which packs a welter of learning into its brevity, and fully succeeds in doing what it needs to do – I learnt about the man behind all this, the world behind the man and the world on his pages.  This would be classified as literary fiction by practically all, and it will not find a place on many commutes, but in bringing this existence to such vivid life this book really did hit the bullseye, no pun intended.  Back at the end of the 1990s I knew my top-to-tail trip through France hadn't really given me the real Camargue, whatever the tour brochures said.  This was a much belated corrective – a strong four stars.
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I did like elements about these stories but they just missed the mark for me. I liked how they were translated but they just did not work for me completely
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I found myself having to do some research on the author to try to muster up some encouragement over this book. It has received a lot of praise in it's original form. The translation also is supposedly spectacular. I myself did not enjoy it beyond the first story in the collection, the one whose title graces the cover. I was surprised at how short each story was, and how abrupt they ended. I can see why other people feel this is a great work which I do not disagree with. For someone like me, it didn't capture my attention too well. Perhaps on a different day. Overall, I'd say read it for the first story and if you liked that one, give the second a chance. The others don't hold up as well. It's quick enough to make you feel like you haven't wasted your time is you dislike it.

Also noted: This book is retailing for $19.99? For how short it is, and how I gauged it...I don't think it's likely I'd been willing to shell out $5.
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