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Tender Is the Flesh Paperback – August 4, 2020

4.4 out of 5 stars 2,207 ratings

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From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews



“From the first words of the Argentine novelist Agustina Bazterrica’s second novel, “Tender Is the Flesh,” the reader is already the livestock in the line, reeling, primordially aware that this book is a butcher’s block, and nothing that happens next is going to be pretty.”
New York Times Book Review

"The novel is horrific, yes, but fascinatingly provocative (and Orwellian) in the way it exposes the lengths society will go to deform language and avoid moral truths."
Taylor Antrim, Vogue

“Taut and thought-provoking...a chilling and alarmingly prophetic book...this is an urgent cautionary tale...timely, crucial.”
Words Without Borders

"A ruthlessly clever, Orwellian satire of our dog-eat-dog, er, man-eat-man modern world."

“It is a testament to Bazterrica’s skill that such a bleak book can also be a page-turner. An unrelentingly dark and disquieting look at the way societies conform to committing atrocities.”
Kirkus Reviews

"Propulsive and deranged, Tender Is the Flesh is a weird and quick read that strays far enough from our current reality to be utterly engrossing... and a book that will stick with you for a long time."

This translated prizewinner by Argentinian novelist Bazterrica exquisitely dishes up an intricate tale of a systematized dystopian society… a sagacious and calculated exploration of the limits of moral ambiguity; it sears and devastates.”
Booklist, starred review

"This book will pull you in, take hold, and not let go until you reach the final page—perhaps far longer than that. Without a doubt, my favorite read of this year.”
—Christina Dalcher, author of Vox

"What a compelling, terrible beauty this novel is. My heart was breaking even as my skin was crawling.”­­
Lisa McInerney, author of The Glorious Heresies

“Provocative, muscular, and entirely unforgiving, this terrifying novel is a timely reminder that words have the power to strip us of our humanity. I gulped it down with my heart racing.”
Sue Rainsford, author of Follow Me to Ground  

“A brutal tale of what humans are capable of inflicting on themselves when social norms collapse. Grotesque, gloriously nasty. Utterly compelling.”
Lucie McKnight Hardy, author of Water Shall Refuse Them

"A skin-crawling yet compelling read." 

"Grimly engrossing with a sucker-punch ending." 
The Times

"This is a hideous, bold and unforgettable vision of the future. Just make sure you've eaten before picking it up." 
i-D Magazine

"[A] thrilling dystopia that everyone should read for Bazterrica's stunning, electrifying language and story-telling—that is, if you can stomach it."
Dazed & Confused Magazine

"Horribly effective... This provocative novel expertly wields a double-edged cleaver..."
The Guardian

"A compelling dystopian novel." 
The Independent

"Told with a chilly allofness that makes the horror of it all the more disturbing." 
Financial Times

"Sitting comfortably? Not after even the tiniest nibble of this gut-churning, brilliantly realised novel." 
Daily Mail

"Unflinching... engaging." 
SFX Magazine

“At what price is a world without animals viable? That’s the question posted by Argentinian author Agustina Bazterricca.... With an artfulness perfectly calibrated with irony, [she] presents an astounding portrait of a humanity ready to do anything to satisfy itself, even at its own expense.
Le Monde

“A dystopic fable as chilling as it is compelling.”
Paris Match

“Hypnotic.... [Bazterrica’s] hell is akin to that of Richard Fleischer’s and Soylent Green.”

“From a fear of the future (overpopulation and a shortage of meat), Bazterrica has penned a stunning novel on the plasticity of our moral values, and what Hannah Arendt called 'the banality of evil.'”

“Heiress to Orwell, the Argentinian author deploys a voice as vivid as it is chilling. In an increasingly dehumanized world, she pushes us to a dizzying reflection on violence, love, [and] power."
Livres Hebdo

“This Argentinian novel, winner of the Clarin prize in 2017, pulls no punches. Agustina Bazterrica succeeds in normalizing a cruelty beyond words.”
Le Canard Enchainé

“A political fable, a denunciation by way of absurdity on the fate society reserves for animals and a love story outside conventional norms, [this novel] seizes you and won’t let go.

Skilled seamstress, Agustina [Baztericca] unspools her thread and stitches the words to bring us wherever she wants, upending our sensibility through a ride that has everything in a final twist.”

A fable on the gruesome side of the modern world, impressionistic and poetic.”

“A biting and uncompromising expression of what happens daily in our society.”
La Nacion

“Hypnotic, gruesome, beautiful, captivates the reader within moments.”
—El Imparcial

“Heavy, magnetic, disturbing—the novel of the year.”

About the Author

Agustina Bazterrica is an Argentinian novelist and short story writer. She is a central figure in the Buenos Aires literary scene. She has received several awards for her writing, most notably the prestigious Premio Clarin Novela for her second novel, Tender Is the Flesh.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Scribner (August 4, 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1982150920
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1982150921
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 8.8 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.56 x 8.38 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 2,207 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
2,207 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on November 16, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANT! But not for the faint of heart!
By Marcy Reads on November 16, 2020
How far are you willing to go for food? For meat? Are you willing to modify your morals? Would you follow everyone else even if it’s wrong? These are the questions that TENDER IS THE FLESH entices.

First and foremost I want to bring to the light how impactful this novel is to the Argentinian community. If you don’t know I am half Argentinian. My mom was born and raised in Floresta, Buenos Aires. I was born in the US myself but was raised with all the Argentinian flavor. I’m also part Italian but being that my mom and dad were divorced shortly after I was born, I was raised surrounded by Argentinian customs. I drank mate, and had dulce de leche daily, and just like these traditions were kept, meat was cooked almost daily in my household. I LOVE STEAK! Even before I had teeth my mom gave me chunks of steak which I would suck until it was white (that sounds gross) but it was my life growing up. I say all of this to say that for an Argentinian author to write about the lack of animal meat is HORRIFYING! I can definitely see how the world can turn in a flash where the consumption of animal meat is so prevalent.

One thing I love about humans is how they change and adapt so quickly. Some may take more time than others but eventually everyone adjusts and continues, whether the changes are right or wrong. That is exactly what happens in this novel. No animal products you say? No problem. Let’s start farming humans to substitute meat. How terrifying is that? Processing plants lined up with head (humans) waiting to be slaughtered and shipped? Unfathomable. Taking a tour through all these facilities was not an easy task. We are “shown” through great description what the process of the slaughtering is like. Each room and area of the plant is explained (in great detail) through our main character Marcos. Marcos is an employee at one of the slaughterhouses so he gives us direct access to the goings on. Following him around is not only taxing, it is heartbreaking. He is a very somber character going through an internal battle with not only the state of the world at the time, but also his own challenges and failures in life.

With all that being said the part that I found unbearable is a world without animals!! How sad would that be? I couldn’t go a day without my furbabies, they make me smile and give so much meaning to my life. I want to give a little CW that there are some hard-to-read parts that involve animal cruelty. Not a lot but just be warned. Those parts wrecked me beyond belief. Don’t know what it says about me that reading about humans being slaughtered didn’t do anything to me, in fact I ate steak that night! And it was delicious! I’ve heard many people had a hard time eating meat after this gem. Not this Argentinian lol!

I could go on and on about this book but I won’t bore you any longer. This book was absolutely brilliant. It’s a must read!
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51 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on July 6, 2021
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38 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on September 6, 2020
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Reviewed in the United States on December 8, 2020
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Top reviews from other countries

5.0 out of 5 stars Tender Is The Flesh
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 8, 2020
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22 people found this helpful
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The Dust Lounge
5.0 out of 5 stars Clinically brutal, a brilliant, uncomfortable read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 30, 2020
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9 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars Grusome and Disturbing
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 5, 2020
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5 people found this helpful
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Kristel Greer
5.0 out of 5 stars Human - the other, other white meat
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 26, 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars Human - the other, other white meat
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 26, 2021
All animals, fish and birds have been infected with a virus that is only lethal to humans. As a result the "Transition" allowed for the legal killing and consumption of "Special Meat" without fear of reprisal. Special Meat relates to humans created and purposely used for meat processing and hunting. They are grown, processed, carved up and packaged ready for transfer to butchers for distribution.

The book tells in vivid and horrifying facts the complete and unadulterated process that Special Meat undergoes, from the disturbing impregnation protocols, holding pens for new livestock and the various and grotesque stages each body goes through to be ready for consumption. The author doesn’t pull any punches and lays it all out in bloody detail.

The main plot incorporates the horrors of the process with the story of Marcos who manages a Special Meat slaughterhouse. He tries to confine his thoughts to consignments, stock and units and avoids the human side. His morals have eroded due to his work but when a supplier gifts him a female unit as an incentive for business, the constant reminder of her in his barn makes him act in a more humane way. Will Marcos develop feelings for this perfect specimen and cross that one moral line that still remains in his dystopian society – no intimate relationships are allowed with the "meat" upon pain of death or will he send her off to slaughter just like the rest?

I give this book 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟. It brought me so far out of my comfort zone and kept going. It was brutal in its raw and honest portrayal of the life and treatment of the Special Meat and kept the morality question constant on the readers mind. The tragic life of Marcos and how his past trauma and loss featured heavily in his reaction to the female unit gifted to him. The ending was shocking and made me want to throw the book across the room but one that stayed with me for days after. This is not a book for everyone or even many but it was expertly written and got to the heart of the subject matter which is what a great book should do.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and provocative
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 10, 2021
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