To Leave with the Reindeer is the account of a woman who has been trained for a life she cannot live. She readies herself for freedom, and questions its limits, by exploring how humans relate to animals. Rosenthal weaves an intricate pattern, combining the central narrative with many other voices – vets, farmers, breeders, trainers, a butcher – to produce a polyphonic composition full of fascinating and disconcerting insights.
Wise, precise, generous, To Leave with the Reindeer takes a clear-eyed look at the dilemmas of domestication, both human and animal, and the price we might pay to break free.
Olivia Rosenthal is a French novelist and teacher of creative writing. She lectures at Université Paris VIII, where she and a colleague founded one of the first Creative Writing MA programmes in France. Rosenthal’s work has won numerous prizes, including the Prix Wepler, the Prix du Livre Inter and the Prix Alexandre-Vialatte.
Sophie Lewis translates from French and Portuguese.She has translated works by Stendhal, Verne, Marcel Aymé, Violette Leduc, Emmanuelle Pagano, Jean-Luc Raharimanana, Sheyla Smanioto and João Gilberto Noll, among others.
Sophie Lewis has translated works from French and Portuguese by Stendhal, Jules Verne, Marcel Aymé, Violette Leduc, Leïla Slimani, Mona Chollet and Annie Ernaux, as well as Natalia Borges Polesso, João Gilberto Noll, Sheyla Smanioto, Victor Heringer and Patrícia Melo, among others. With Gitanjali Patel, she co-founded the Shadow Heroes workshops enterprise. Lewis’s translations have been shortlisted for the Scott Moncrieff and Republic of Consciousness prizes, and longlisted for the International Booker Prize. She was joint winner of the 2022 French-American Foundation prize for non-fiction translation, for Nastassja Martin’s In the Eye of the Wild.
"This polyphonic novel portrays a merciless war waged by humanity on wild nature. This is the battleground where the author tears to pieces today’s education, imposed behaviours and conventions." Elle (France) "'Tigon, leopon, pumapard, jaglion, tiguar, jagulep, leoger, tigoness, lipard, jagress . . .' Olivia Rosenthal’s book is like the chimerical animals she lists on the first page. It is a hybrid, a strange and disconcerting cross; a sphinx of a book: half-human, half-beast." Les Inrockuptibles "In To Leave with the Reindeer, Olivia Rosenthal recounts the painful metamorphosis of an obedient animal into a liberated woman . . . There’s no complacency in this intense work; it is moving in its precision and in the perfect match between voice and subject." Canard Enchaîné "Apparently lurching, disparate, this novel about domestication in fact coheres, born by a strong rhythmic sensibility and by subtle play on repetition. Poetic and humorous, To Leave with the Reindeer explores our illusions, the destruction of our childhood dreams and the savagery that we hide deep within ourselves." Télérama "Olivia Rosenthal subtly layers short paragraphs, swinging between the daily life of her homo sapiens and clinical statements about animal life. […] This is a novel that will haunts its reader for days. And that will, above all, awake the animal in us." L’Express "Brilliant, exciting, and never moralizing." Vogue (France) "Book after book, Rosenthal has taken care to dress her iconoclasm in a unique approach made up of stylistic accumulations and shrewd collages." Livres Hebdo "To Leave with the Reindeer offers startling and frequently beautiful ruminations on the way the tension between wildness and domesticity affects both humans and beasts. By eschewing most of the qualities of a traditional novel, Rosenthal's book takes risks, which offer luminous moments." Kirkus Reviews
"Olivia Rosenthal captures the world of the child with inchoate wants and needs, inexplicable to others and herself, in vivid and concise vignettes, against a background of information and opinions about animals and how we treat them – for food, education and, then, to make ourselves feel better after destroying their habitats. This is rich, allusive and evocative." Lucy Dallas, The Times Literary Supplement
"Captivating and strange novel" Dundee University Review of the Arts