Set in a fantastical version of medieval Estonia, "The Man Who Spoke Snakish" follows a young boy, Leemet, who lives with his hunter-gatherer family in the forest and is the last speaker of the ancient tongue of snakish, a language that allows its speakers to command all animals. But the forest is gradually emptying as more and more people leave to settle in villages, where they break their backs tilling the land to grow wheat for their bread (which Leemet has been told tastes horrible) and where they pray to a god very different from the spirits worshipped in the forest s sacred grove. With lothario bears who wordlessly seduce women, a giant louse with a penchant for swimming, a legendary flying frog, and a young charismatic viper named Ints, "The Man Who Spoke Snakish" is a totally inventive novel for readers of David Mitchell, Sjon, and Terry Pratchett."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-07-06
- Reviewer: Staff
Leemet is a child of the forest who communicates with animals in the ancient language of Snakish and dreams of seeing the godlike Frog of the North. The pull of village life is irresistible to many of the forest people, and Leemet and his family are among the few who remain in the forest. His loneliness is somewhat assuaged by his friendship with the adder Ints. At its best, this peculiar coming-of-age story explores interesting themes of religion and lost culture. However, readers unused to wandering aimlessly in the thickets of allegory and folklore may also balk at the frequent scatological references and portrayals of frisky bears that stalk young women in the hopes of mating with them. This lengthy, patience-trying work was a runaway hit in its native Estonia, making one wonder just how much was lost in translation. Agent: Frédéric Martin, Éditions Le Tripode (France). (Nov.)