His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.
Tender Is the Flesh, original title Cadáver exquisito, by Augustina Bazterrica is an Argentinian dystopian novel. The book takes place in a not-so-distant future when animal protein is no longer available for human consumption because it has been infected by a virus fatal to humans. After what has been termed the transition, humans quickly come up with an alternative substitute for the lack of animal meat.
“After all, since the world began, we’ve been eating each other. If not symbolically, then we’ve been literally gorging on each other. The Transition has enabled us to be less hypocritical.”
Tender Is the Flesh is a bleak and disturbing story with a very strong agenda. Although the novel was the recipient of several awards, including the Premio Clarin de Novela in 2017 and Goodreads Choice Award for Horror in 2020, at times I felt this novel was part of PETA’s shock-value animal rights campaign to promote a vegan lifestyle. What would happen if the tables had turned and now humanity had to treat their fellow humans with the same disregard as it treats other animals? Argentina is the world’s fifth-largest beef exporter, behind countries like Brazil and the United States, and the world’s second-highest meat consumer. It is no surprise that a novel with such a strong stance on the future of humanity as it relates to meat consumption came from a place glorified by its high-quality beef.
Unfortunately, although the premise was an interesting one, from a literary perspective, this novel falls short. In parts, probably due to being a translation from Spanish. This is one of the worst books I have ever read and one of the few 2-stars ratings I bothered to write a review.
The only positive note on this book is that this is a short novel of about 200 pages which provided me with only 2 hours of misery.