Cow

Beat Sterchi, Author, Michael Hofmann, Translator
Beat Sterchi, Author, Michael Hofmann, Translator Pantheon Books $19.95 (353p) ISBN 978-0-394-58451-5
Reviewed on: 03/31/1990
Release date: 04/01/1990
The premise of this ambitious, sometimes monotonous but ultimately disturbing novel is that mechanization, genetic tinkering with animal stock, and an eye for profit has dehumanized the Swiss dairy industry and the slaughterhouses it services. Its implication is wider, however, provoking reassessment of the mechanistic quality of modern life. Sterchi segues between the Alps dairy farm where the Knuchel family still does things in the ``old way''--eschewing milking machines, growth hormones and the like--and a nearby slaughterhouse which is being modernized. Ambrosio, a Spanish guest worker hired as a milker by the Knuchels, is fired under pressure from the Knuchels' intensely xenophobic neighbors. He becomes a butcher in the slaughterhouse. The brutal, repetitive activities that take place there make for highly uncomfortable reading. Sterchi's focus on the plight of a guest worker in a foreign land is sometimes lost amid muckraking, but this first novel is still a powerful piece of fiction. (May)
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