A surreal novel about the all-consuming desire to render homage to a life
Upon her mother’s death, Paule Rojas, a vegetarian city-dweller, returns to the chicken farm where she grew up. Pressured to fulfil her mother’s last request, Paule rediscovers pleasure and meaning in running the old family business. Yet, eager to bring something of herself to a family tradition, Paule embarks on increasingly intricate ways of helping the chickens to self-actualize before their deaths. She records the chickens’ life stories, adding them to the labels that decorate the vacuum-packed meat sent off to market—an individual biography for every chicken. But not all runs smooth in her childhood village; Paule finds she has few friends and many enemies. She is forced to spread her wings, relocate her livestock, and oversee the construction of an urban farm of never-before-seen practices and proportions.
Lucie Rico is an author, screenwriter, and director hailing from Perpignan in the South of France, and currently based in Paris. She worked… Read more
Book Club Questions
- How would you describe Paule’s relationship to the chickens? Is there something maternal in it? What does it provide for her that her human relationships do not?
- The book is full of Paule’s relationships and the various faults/needs they contain. Think about her relationship with her (ex-)mother, with her partner Louis, with Nicholas from the village, with her eventual business partner Fernand. What do you think the combination of these suggests about Paule herself?
- What do you feel is the significance of Louis’s hands? What does Louis mean to her?
- What do you think about Louis’s character? About his own chicken-relationship with Aval? Is he doing this for himself or for Paule?
- Do you think Paule gains in strength over the course of the novel? Does her relationship with Louis alter?
- Why do you think Paule likes to kill her favorite chickens? Why do you think her mother killed Paule’s favorite chickens? What is being said about relationships here?
- Paule finds a kind of outlet in writing. What do you think this provides her? What do you think it means that this outlet then gets out of Paule’s control and turns into something she maybe wished it had not?
- What kind of role does grieving play in the novel? What are each of the characters’ coping mechanisms for loss?
- What do you think about Paule’s level of strength by the end of the novel? How would you interpret this ending?
- What do you think Rico is trying to say about our consumer habits? About our relationship to the food we eat? About the stories we tell ourselves to make our behaviors acceptable?
- Have you read any other books like this one? What feelings were you left with after reading? Would you be interested in reading further books by Lucie Rico?
Praise for Fowl Eulogies
“The book is extraordinary! It’s a love fable. Disturbing, compelling, and heartbreaking, and—like some great magic trick—utterly convincing. I’ve more to say, about the warnings in the story, the soft horror of homogeny, about how things—endeavour, care, a species—mutate when taken from their natural place … but the story itself says it all much better. It’s brilliant.”
CYNAN JONES, author of The Dig
“In this first novel from French author Rico, a woman’s life and desires swerve wildly after she inherits her mother’s chicken farm. A quirky, moving novel propelled by love, grief, and violence.”
“This story is perfectly wacky, and both brutally and incomparably funny. Fowl Eulogies is a debut novel that keeps getting crazier, reaching its climax in blood and punitive action. Lucie Rico has managed to write a book in which bursts of laughter give way to disquietude and teeth-grinding, like a squawk right before the killing blow.”
“This modern tale, a dazzling first novel of malice and feathers, hatches the unique poetry of the industrial chicken, innocent symbol of our anodyne lives, our shrink-wrapped lives—and you will never taste it again without sparing it a sincere thought.”
“Written in an incisive style of short sentences, as if chopped by a meat cleaver.”
“This story about marketing advances with precision, without digression, and avoids the traps of anthropomorphism and terror.”
“A dystopia for farm chickens, Lucie Rico’s first novel is initially charming, then haunting, then threatening.”
En attendant Nadeau
“A comedy laid with masterful ease, absurd and delicious.”
“Without long sentences or big words, Lucie Rico puts some humor and much freshness into this astonishing story, with a natural levity that defuses the cruelty and darkness of the events.”
La semaine du Roussillon
“Fowl Eulogies, Lucie Rico’s first novel, is a farce … of sorts: the author’s prose is very neutral and one is continuously shuttled back and forth between the certainty that the story is a fable, and the sense that one is reading about the gradual slide into insanity of a heroine who is becoming increasingly frightening. But who cares about a book’s classification when it is so accomplished. Lucie Rico constructs a masterful plot, with twists as unexpected as they are deliberate. This is surely the reason why she manages to carry us along in this comical tale: if there is a slide into a parallel world, it is gradual, near-invisible.”
“A profound meditation on our supposedly human(e) race, without flattery but with tenderness.”
“Never before were chickens so scrupulously observed. It turns out that Lucie Rico is a documentarian, and I guarantee you that this is as applicable to her pen as it is to her eyes.”
Why You Should Read This Book
“Every time I find myself in a supermarket, I encounter chickens depicted all nice and pretty, in piles, humanized. This marketing idea terrifies me: it’s as if, when shown an animal that is cute, or resembles us, we feel like eating it. This is what drove me to write Fowl Eulogies: a desire to confront marketing, to write a merciless story in which a marketing idea turns against the person who thought it up, a book in which the animals play the star part.”
LUCIE RICO, the author
“Language is incredibly important in this novel that explores the relationship between writing and killing. Paule’s pursuit of writing biographies for the chickens shows just how necessary language is to give meaning to a life. For a translator, who is an expert at paying attention to words, this fact almost doubles the stakes. Translating this book requires carefully selecting words that work on multiple levels. The novel deftly plays with the distinction between animals and humans, and it is in the vocabulary choices that this distinction is most frequently thrown into question. Rico’s verbs and adjectives suggest that we know ourselves to be closer to animals than we like to think of ourselves as being. In translating this work, I have had the pleasure of playing with words in an attempt to recreate this proximity, this mixing of animal and human on the very level of language.”
DARIA CHERNYSHEVA, the translator
“The highly original angle of this story and its implicit criticism of our consumerist society driven by marketing strategies immediately spoke to my imagination. The narrative is surprising and subversive, and the characters extremely compelling. Rico explores the connection between writing and killing, and how language appears to be necessary to give meaning to life. In the end it is also a novel about writing against death, about the desire to preserve. This is a disconcerting and darkly funny novel—Lucy Rico is a unique talent.”
JUDITH UYTERLINDE, the publisher