|Taurus by Joseph Smith|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Beautiful and cruel, ancient and new, Taurus expands on Smith's previous novella, Wolf by adding more human cruelty into the mix. As a bull gradually awakens into its true self, its appointment with the corrida grows ever closer. Stunning but uncomfortable - and highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: June 2010|
|Publisher: Jonathan Cape|
|External links: Author's website|
As the bull goes from paddock to stall in the searing heat of the farm, he feels strangely disembodied - and yet all he feels is his body: his huge bulk; the angles at which he must hold up his heavy head to see what he needs to see; the strange latency that fills him. He watches the skittish grey horse, transfixed and yet repulsed by its grace and fluidity. He observes his captors, the girl and boy siblings and their father, and he allows their goadings to gradually wake him from stuporous apathy.
He approaches the violence inside him with the care of a lover, but nothing prepares him for the overwhelming joy he feels when it is eventually released, a release that will lead him to the corrida...
Deceptively slim, Taurus takes a while to read. It's desperately intense and draws deeply on old and complex traditions. I felt obliged to re-read several passages and as soon as I reached the last page I felt an overwhelming compulsion to go back to the beginning and read it all over again. It's beautiful yet cruel, ancient yet new, and austere yet utterly stifling. For each thing that I want to say about this book, I also want to say its opposite.
Joseph Smith's first book took its reader inside a wolf in its final winter, and it was savagely beautiful. Taurus is equally immersed in its animal narrator and it is beautiful too, but it is considerably more uncomfortable. Here, man's cruelty towards animals is an intrinsic part of the story and it's an uneasy one, making for difficult reading. The bull indulges his real nature, it's true, and he is both hero and villain, but there's a shocking unthinkingness about it all because he indulges it not to protect his herd or perpetuate his genes, but in the stifling context of prisonerhood.
I did fear that Taurus would give us nothing that The Wolf didn't, but I was wrong. It builds on its predecessor with absolute brilliance. There isn't anyone else writing anything like this, and it's very, very exciting.
My thanks to the good people at Jonathan Cape for sending the book.
If you have yet to read Smith's first book, The Wolf, then you should remedy that as quickly as you can!
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