Winter’s tales
In which we too would love a talking dog, if not quite such a potentially bitey one

by Nic Bottomley

(…) Even more fortuitously, those three books are all thematically linked to winter (if we stretch it a bit… which we’re about to).
Undoubtedly the oddest of Tom’s new discoveries is Snow, Dog, Foot by Claudio Morandini (Peirene, £ 12) which looks in on the life of an elderly hermit tucked away in an Italian alpine cabin. Each year Adelmo makes a single trip down the mountain to gather essential supplies in preparation for the first big snowfall of the season, which will see him stranded for the whole winter. This year, as he walks to the cabin, he is followed by a stray dog who then joins him there.
The winter tightens its grip; and one evening, out of nowhere, the dog asks the hermit a question. And more unexpectedly still, the hermit replies. The two strike up an antagonistic dialogue – most frequently barbing one another about which will consume the other when the supplies run out. When the snow thaws and the pair find a human foot right outside the cabin, the arguments start to centre on which of then might have been responsible.
Though tiny the novel explores many themes and offers many laughs. The start point for the humour is the nonchalant way we’re introduced to a talking dog; it’s a surreal twist that is thankfully never explained. But away from the comedy, we explore paranoia, memory loss and the effects of an isolated life, as Adelmo’s grip on reality falters.
Snow, Dog, Foot is the 31st novel from a superb publisher of translated European literature, Peirene, a publisher so dedicated to finding new talents in the field of translation that they held a competition to find the translator of this book; it was won by the apparently brilliant J Ockenden.

(Nic Bottomley, Bath Life 411)

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