Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship

18160876_1274314099342096_6136187962972438528_nSusanna Forrest at Literary Review:

This unusual book is a series of airy, winging essays that alight briefly on world history, art, literary criticism and historiography before leaping on to make new, often surprising connections. Raulff’s animal is the source of ‘every single great idea that fuelled the driving force of the nineteenth century – freedom, human greatness, compassion, but also the sub-currents of history uncovered by contemporaries such as the libido, the unconscious and the uncanny’. This is not the Pony Club Manual or a trot through the more familiar sights of equestrian art history; it’s Kafka, Aby Warburg, Tolstoy, psychoanalytic theory, Nietzsche and bleak monochrome photos in the style of Sebald. This epic enterprise is relieved by Raulff’s spare, vivid style and deep learning. He is as comfortable analysing the etymology of Pferd andRoss as he is discussing the Chicago School, Clint Eastwood and the Amazons, and he rarely loses his audience.

The first of four parts, ‘The Centaurian Pact, or Energy’, comes the closest to a conventional history of the horse. It includes not just remarkable statistics relating to horses – in 1900 there were 145,000 horses in the French army and 130,000 horses working in Manhattan, while at the same time in Australia there was one horse to every two humans – but also sections on the scents and sounds of that world and explorations of subjects as obscure and essential as the role of oats in the landscape. The second part, ‘A Phantom of the Library, or Knowledge’, loops through the development of equine studbooks and the parallel emergence of human equivalents, such as the Almanach de Gotha, pausing to consider the author’s godfather, who adored fine horses and, under the Nazis, became a member of a mounted SA division.

more here.