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Adorno first wrote that to “write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”, but then later that “perennial suffering has as much right to expression as the tortured have to scream”. Singer’s Abandon Every Hope cleaves these contradictory perspectives. And to cleave, as she tells, us means to split apart and bring together. This is writing that breaks and heaves with the bodies of animals whose infinite torture it presences. Through her facility with language, tone and rhythm, and an unmediated intimacy with her own brokenness in the face of inestimable suffering, Singer is able to bring the reader close to the violence and death that is foreclosed from sight and knowledge. This is a text that ought not and will never leave its readers.
A passionate and deeply thought work about one of our most troubling ethical blind spots—the killing of animals for meat. Singer’s commonplace book, a blend of narrative, notes, literary history and elegy, unfolds during the Covid 19 pandemic—an event directly connected to intensive animal agriculture. Channelling a favourite saint, Aelwaer, who stands for rioters, quarellers and troublemakers, Singer’s distinctive and courageous witnessing is a match for our century’s ‘special darkness’. She ventures where most prefer not to: into abattoirs where time is measured by ‘the number of livers processed’ and intensive farms where creatures become ‘nutrient laboratories’. Between these hard truths she reminds us that animals are repositories of wonder. Witness the grief rituals of orcas, elephants and chimpanzees, the solace of our pets. If our mass killing of animals is a collective crime narrative, Singer’s bold cultural detective work strives to understand its perpetrators and seek justice for the victims.
Hayley Singer is a modern-day mermaid, a writer with extraordinary sensitivity to the junctions of human and animal life. This book does not shy from the depths — a glittering achievement on a profoundly murky subject. Abandon Every Hope is an otherworldly book of animal innerness and moral regard: a transformational guide to how we think about the creatures we consume.
From the booming heartbeat of a snake to prophecies wrought in chicken bones, Abandon Every Hope is a thrilling witchy book — deeply engaged with what it means to be animal in the early Anthropocene. A book of questions as cold and sharp as knives laid out in moonlight.
Abandon Every Hope: Essays for the dead
About the Book:
Can anyone smell the suffering of souls? Of sadness, of hell on earth? Hell, I imagine, has a smell that bloats into infinity. Has a nasty sting of corpses. What was it Dante wrote?
Abandon Every Hope is a lament, a deranged encyclopedia, and a diary of anxiety. How can anyone document the vastness of violence against animals in a bloated industrial age?
Hayley Singer investigates the literatures of the slaughterhouse to map the contours of a world cut to pieces by organised and profit-driven death. In her compelling and poetic prose, Singer asks how we may write the life of the dead; the smell of an egg factory; of multispecies PTSD; of planetary harm and self-harm: of the horror we make on earth.
Where does the slaughterhouse begin and how can it end?
About the Author:
Hayley Singer writes essays about literature and ecologies, queer embodiment and activism, multispecies in/justices and on reading and writing as worlds end and begin again. Her writing has been published in Sydney Review of Books, The Lifted Brow, The Monthly, Cordite Poetry Review, and Writing from Below. She teaches creative writing at the University of Melbourne. This is her first book.
Cover artwork: Jo Darbyshire, The Glorious Decline – Magenta, 2018
Note on the first edition from author: The phrase ‘life unworthy of life’ which is deployed in this book comes from the German eugenics document,Authorization for the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life (1920). The connection between this eugenics document and ‘the animal condition,’ by which I mean the ranking of certain lives as “inferior” and therefore destroyable, is described in detail in Charles Patterson’s book, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust (2002).