FifteenDogs_cover_RGB_800x1249Do you know what an apologue is? Probably not: it’s a moral fable, especially one with animals as characters. Orwell’s Animal Farm is the best known example, but as of this month in Canada, we’ve got a new and instant modern classic: Fifteen Dogs by Ontario’s Andre Alexis.

His novel has won both of Canada’s major literary prizes: The Giller Prize ($100,000) and the Rogers Writers Trust Award ($25,000). Not to pun, but, what a lucky dog.

Published by Coach House Books, the book starts off as a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo, which led to them granting human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto vet­erinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, and those who embrace the change.

The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world. They become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. What it all amounts to is an “affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.”

From the Giller jury: “What does it mean to be alive? To think, to feel, to love and to envy? André Alexis explores all of this and more in the extraordinary Fifteen Dogs, an insightful and philosophical meditation on the nature of consciousness.”

“It’s a novel filled with balancing acts: humour juxtaposed with savagery, solitude with the desperate need to be part of a pack, perceptive prose interspersed with playful poetry. A wonderful and original piece of writing that challenges the reader to examine their own existence and recall the age old question, what’s the meaning of life?”