“Houyhnhnm”
by André Alexis
from the June 20, 2022 issue of The New Yorker

Trinidadian-Canadian writer André Alexis recently completed his five-book series of novels The Quincunx Cycle. The second book in the series, Fifteen Dogs, won the Giller Prize in 2015. I haven’t been following the Giller Prize for a few years, so I have not read it, but I think this whole series sounds worthwhile, as does his 2022 novel Winter, or a Town New Palgrave.

I’m glad we have an opportunity this week to get to know his work a bit through “Houyhnhnm,” which is a reference to the intelligent horses in Gulliver’s Travels. Here is how it starts:

My dad, Robert auf der Horst, died seven years ago. He was a successful doctor, and for most of his life he divided the world into two categories: what he thought useful (science) and what he thought frivolous (almost everything else). It wasn’t that he disdained other things—art, for instance. It was that he couldn’t see the point of pretending that knowledge, the fruit of science, was comparable to entertainment.

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