Donald Trump is interested in animal rights

New novel by T.C. Boyle

February 27, 2021, 2:00 am

He is considered a pop star among writers, was once the front man of a punk band and called writing his substitute drug. The addiction to writing drives T.C. Boyle since then. The 72-year-old publishes a novel or book of short stories almost every year. The German translation of his new novel "Sprich mit mir" has just been published.

"The crown of creation, the pig, man" Gottfried Benn

He would actually be on tour in Germany, Austria and Switzerland now. Due to Covid, the gifted performer T.C. Boyle journalists via Skype in his study and writing room. So in the command center, where the works are created with which Boyle has delighted an international readership for decades. From there, the sharp-tongued critic of the administration Donald Trump has also reported regularly in recent months to interfere politically.

German translation before original

January 20, the day of Joe Biden's inauguration, was a day of liberation for him, according to TC Boyle: "Our country was in the hands of a criminal who was only interested in his own account and his ego. Now will we are ruled by a civil servant who is facing the current crisis with a sense of responsibility. Now we can breathe a sigh of relief! "

As a critical intellectual, Boyle is heard in the USA, and as a master of classic storytelling, he is celebrated above all in German-speaking countries. Probably one reason why his current novel "Sprich mit mir" appears first in the German translation. The English-language original is not expected to come onto the market until September - the corona pandemic is also responsible for this delay. "It was planned that the German translation would appear first. But now my English-speaking readers are a bit outraged that they have to wait so long," says the author.

"The inauguration was a day of liberation!" T.C. Boyle

The year is 1979. Guy Schemerhorn, an aspiring psychology professor in his early thirties, appears on the TV show "Speak the Truth" - accompanied by a chimpanzee named Sam, whom the scientist raised personally. Sam is not only particularly clever, with the help of sign language Sam can also communicate with his surroundings.

Language experiment with the chimpanzee Sam

According to Descartes, humans are the only living beings who have language and writing. A belief that the primate researcher Schemerhorn is shaking. The focus of the novel is the question of whether animals are conscious, according to T.C. Boyle: "I try to empathize with every character - even a chimpanzee. I had a lot of fun taking the chimpanzee perspective. I've been friends with a primate scientist and had the opportunity to watch chimpanzees at the zoo. I also have a few Read books on primate research in the 1970s and 1980s. "

Chimpanzee Sam, who was socialized like a human child and developed a particularly intimate relationship with the student assistant Aimée, feels at home and in good hands in the remote research community in which Schemerhorn is pursuing his study and thus his own career. But the danger threatens from outside in the form of Schemerhorn's superior, who abruptly breaks off the language experiment. He takes Sam to an enclosure in Iowa. As a fully grown chimpanzee, Sam will serve as a test subject in biomedical research.


Master of dramaturgy

In terms of narrative technology, "Spich mit mir" is particularly impressive because of its perspective breaks, the text is partly told from the perspective of the researcher, partly from the perspective of the chimpanzee Sam. "I really enjoyed taking the chimpanzee perspective," said T.C. Boyle. "How does a chimpanzee feel when it grows up in a family and is finally locked in a cage? This is exactly what happened to the living study objects of the behaviorists. Chimpanzees are very strong. That is why most of the chimpanzees whose language skills have been trained were put into research laboratories as soon as they reached adolescence. They were used as laboratory animals and infected with the HIV virus or hepatitis C. I think that's absolutely obscene! "

A feeling for debates of the times

T.C: Boyle pulls out all the stops of classical storytelling and proves to be a master of dramaturgy, especially with regard to the turn the novel takes at the end. At times, the cheap arcs of tension that the author creates seem a little too routine, as if the solid craftsman Boyle had drafted his text on the drawing board. Regardless of this, Boyle's choice of topics in his latest novel has shown a keen sense for the upheavals and debates of the time.

In "Spich mit mir" the author illuminates the sometimes mixed relationship between humans and animals and inscribes himself in a great ethical debate that questions how we deal with animals - be it in industrial agriculture or in medical research represents. A relationship that the great poet Gottfried Benn summed up with an aperçu: "The crown of creation, the pig, the human being!"


T.C. Boyle, "Talk to me", novel, from the English by Dirk Gunsteren, Hanser