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BEING A BEAST by Charles Foster

BEING A BEAST by Charles Foster
01 Feb
2016
Can man become beast? Or at least have a momentary glimpse into what the world looks, feels and smells like from the perspective of a badger, an otter, a fox, a red deer or a swift?

According to Charles Foster, yes... a little bit. But that’s all. It’s apparently very hard to un-learn generations of ingrained civilisation, even if a little practise out in the wild does improve one’s sense of smell. Nevertheless, like a man possessed he charges full throttle into the multisensory experience of living as each and every one of the aforementioned feral creatures, with barely a second thought given to the practicalities or sanity of such endeavours. He digs himself a sett, as a badger would, in the Black Mountains. He submerges himself in rivers and scrambles through gorse in a show of solidarity with otters and red deer. He even crawls with the foxes through the gardens of East London, and races across Europe in pursuit of swifts.

It is all, of course, utter madness. But it’s a glorious kind of madness, a madness born from our ancient relationship with nature. Somehow, Foster’s magnificent way with words and complete obsession with his quest means that stripping nude and scrambling through the forest in search of deer, or taking his children (cubs) out for a day of otter-inspired stool sniffing, makes perfect sense. You are left feeling as though nothing in the world could be more logical. Can man really become beast? No. But giving it as thorough a go as Foster attempts to proves to be a remarkable experience.

BEING A BEAST by Charles Foster; Profile Books; £14.99/£12.99; hardback/e-book 

This review was published in the February 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

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