Fifteen Dogs

By (author): Andre Alexis

An utterly convincing and moving look at the beauty and perils of consciousness.





— I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.

—I’ll wager a year’s servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.

And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferringthe old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.

André Alexis’s contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.


Andre Alexis

André Alexis is the author of two novels (Childhood and Asylum), two books of short stories (Despair and Other Stories of Ottawa and Beauty and Sadness), a children’s book (Ingrid and the Wolf) and a number of plays (Lambton Kent, Name in Vain, Fidelity). He was a contributing book reviewer for the Globe and Mail, and has worked extensively in radio, having been the host/writer of CBC Radio One’s Radio Nomad, and CBC Radio 2’s Skylarking.


“In Fifteen Dogs – André Alexis’ powerful apologue – questions of knowledge and happiness, fidelity and fate are grounded in the real-world adventures of a group of dogs. Here is a beautifully written allegory for our times: one in which man’s best friend shows us the benefits of higher consciousness – the favoured bone of fact buried where we might all find it. Fifteen Dogs is an original and vital work writtenby a master craftsman: philosophy given a perfect form.” —The 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize jury citation

“A remarkable book. Insightful, wildly original and beautiful. Buy it.” —The Globe & Mail

“What does it mean to be alive? To think, to feel, to love and to envy? André Alexis explores all of this and more in the extraordinary Fifteen Dogs, an insightful and philosophical meditation on the nature of consciousness. It’s a novel filled with balancing acts: humour juxtaposed with savagery, solitude with the desperate need to be part of a pack, perceptive prose interspersed with playful poetry. A wonderful and original piece of writing that challenges the reader to examine their own existence and recall the age old question, what’s the meaning of life?” —The 2015 Giller jury citation

“Over the course of this novel, slim yet epic in scope, Alexis chronicles the fates of these strangely afflicted beasts, shifting from thought experiment to comic parable to something more delicate, laden with detail, discovery and emotional nuance.”—The Globe & Mail

“Fearless … wildly uninhibited and yet tightly controlled.” —Winnipeg Review

“A novel about a pack of talking dogs, you say? The very idea will most likely breed thoughts of insufferable whimsy, like those paintings of mutts playing poker, or of more or less effective satire, in the vein of Animal Farm. It’s a grand thing, then, that this spry novel by Canadian André Alexis spends its 160 pages repeatedly defying expectations … I’m far from being a dog person, but as a book person I loved this smart, exuberant fantasy from start to finish.”—Jonathan Gibbs, The Guardian

“A wildly intelligent, philosophical novel.” —Off the Shelf

“[Alexis] devises an inventive romp through the nature of humanity in this beautiful, entertaining read … A clever exploration of our essence, communication, and how our societies are organized.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A tender and elegant exploration of the perpetual problem of human consciousness.” —The National Post

“A wonderfully weird and spare reflection on the nature of dogs and poetry.” —The Times Literary Supplement

Fifteen Dogs is an original and vital work written by a master craftsman: philosophy given a perfect form.” —from the 2015 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize jury citation

“Alexis leaves readers with a glimpse of our better nature.” —World Literature Today

“Alexis manages to encapsulate an astonishing range of metaphysical questions in a simple tale about dogs that came to know too much. The result is a delightful juxtaposition of the human and canine conditions, and a narrative that, like just one of the dogs, delights in the twists and turns of the gods’ linguistic gift.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)


  • Giller Prize 2015, Winner
  • Toronto Book Awards 2015, Short-listed
  • Canada Reads 2017, Winner
  • Rogers Writers Trust Award 2015, Winner
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    160 Pages
    0.82in * 7.49in * 0.6in


    April 01, 2015


    Coach House Books



    Book Subjects:

    FICTION / Literary



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