- 49,00 kr
LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE 2016
Charles Foster wanted to know what it was like to be a beast: a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, a swift. What it was really like. And through knowing what it was like he wanted to get down and grapple with the beast in us all.
So he tried it out; he lived life as a badger for six weeks, sleeping in a dirt hole and eating earthworms, he came face to face with shrimps as he lived like an otter and he spent hours curled up in a back garden in East London and rooting in bins like an urban fox.
A passionate naturalist, Foster realises that every creature creates a different world in its brain and lives in that world. As humans, we share sensory outputs, lights, smells and sound, but trying to explore what it is actually like to live in another of these worlds, belonging to another species, is a fascinating and unique neuro-scientific challenge. For Foster it is also a literary challenge. Looking at what science can tell us about what happens in a fox's or badger's brain when it picks up a scent, he then uses this to imagine their world for us, to write it through their eyes or rather through the eyes of Charles the beast.
An intimate look at the life of animals, neuroscience, psychology, nature writing, memoir and more, it is a journey of extraordinary thrills and surprises, containing wonderful moments of humour and joy, but also providing important lessons for all of us who share life on this precious planet.
"Nature writing has generally been about humans striding colonially around," writes Foster, a qualified veterinarian and research fellow at Oxford University. He instead opts for the four-legged approach, writing about nature through his experience mimicking the lifestyles of badgers, otters, foxes, red deer, and swifts. His book is an extraordinary account of his time spent traversing the forest near his home, digging into the earth to build an underground sett to live in as a badger (which also involved eating lots of earthworms), enlisting six children to help replicate the otter's use of dung to mark territory (and the otter's extraordinary metabolic rate), and substituting himself in lieu of a deer being hunted by hounds. In lesser hands this could come off as trite or patronizing, but Foster is quick to acknowledge his shortcomings and errors in perspective regarding his project, and he projects a healthy sense of humor; his account of encountering a police officer while attempting to recreate a fox's experience by sleeping next to a busy road is particularly rich. This approach, along with his willingness to address and avoid the temptation for anthropomorphism, makes his book interesting and informative.