Nominated by:

Halifax Public Libraries, Canada

Ottawa Pubic Libraries, Canada

Saint John Free Public Library, New Brunswick, Canada

Publisher of nominated edition:

Coach House Books, Canada

Fifteen Dogs

André Alexis    

“I wonder”, said Hermes, “what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.”
“I’ll wager a year’s servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.”

And so it begins; a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs who are overnighting at a Toronto vetinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.

André Alexis’s contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness. By turn meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach and old genre new tricks.

About the Author

André Alexis was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. His debut novel, Childhood, won the Books in Canada First Novel and the Trillium Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. His previous books include Asylum, Beauty and Sadness, Ingrid and the Wolf, and, most recently, Pastoral, which was also nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

Librarians’ Comments

In this short, philosophical volume Andre Alexis explores fundamental questions about human life and happiness through fifteen dogs who have been given intelligence and language. He vividly describes the visceral experience of the dogs – the smells, tastes and urges of dog life – as well as the turmoil their new human perspectives bring to them as individuals and as a pack roaming the streets of Toronto. With humour, pathos and exuberant wordplay, this is a fantasy that provokes reflection while entertaining readers.

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis is a thought provoking novel that deals with numerous metaphysical questions. Greek gods debate the likely outcome if a pack of dogs are granted human consciousness, does intelligence help or hinder happiness? Winner of the 2015 Scotiaback Giller Prize.

Alexis transforms the traditional apologue form into an utterly unique and convincing novel, both emotionally charged and technically brilliant. It deals with a wide range of metaphysical questions which challenge the reader to “examine their own existence and recall the age old question, what’s the meaning of life?” (Giller jury 2015). At the same time, Alexis narrates a compelling story of a groug of dogs struggling to survive in the very real streets of Toronto. Winner of the Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and finalist for the Toronto Book Award, “Fifteen Dogs” is an “.” (Rogers Writers’ Trust jury).

Related Entries