Living Things

Munir Hachemi

Translated by Julia Sanches

French paperback with flaps, 120 pages
Published 20 June 2024

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Living Things follows four recent graduates – Munir, G, Ernesto and Álex – who travel from Madrid to the south of France to work the grape harvest. Except things don’t go as planned: they end up working on an industrial chicken farm and living on a campsite, where a general sense of menace takes hold. What follows is a compelling and incisive examination of precarious employment, capitalism, immigration and the mass production of living things, all interwoven with the protagonist’s thoughts on literature and the nature of storytelling. A genre-bending and dystopian eco-thriller, Living Things is a punk-like blend of Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives and Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream, heralding an exciting new voice in international fiction. 

‘[An] impetuous, upstart spirit infuses this short and spunky tale about young, would-be literary men who hit the road in search of adventure but find bleakness and exploitation…. Hachemi’s is the sort of writing that compulsively interrogates itself as writing, in which literary theorizing runs alongside the storytelling…. Hachemi’s documentary-style accounts of low-paid factory labor compellingly take us where most fiction writers would rather not go.’
—  Rob Doyle, New York Times

Living Things dips blithely in and out of genres and packs more ideas in its lean frame than seems possible. It’s a novel posing as a journal posing as a meditation on the function of the journal that playfully interrogates form and content in art, what it means to write, and what it means to care or not care about anything, or about everything. Munir Hachemi is a magician, and his marvellous book, deftly translated by Julia Sanches, defies adequate description.’
— James Greer, author of Bad Eminence

‘Startling, compulsive, and vibrant; Living Things reads like an ignition. The most honest thing I’ve read in a long time about being young and alive in a beautiful, horrible world.’
— Dizz Tate, author of Brutes

‘A sinister, suspenseful novel, Living Things exposes how the biotech industry will take the foundations of life and mutilate them into things untrustworthy as triffids. Hachemi wrangles form itself, making a sci-fi of what is ultimately extremely quotidian and true: Frankenstein creatures created as fodder to feed an increasingly undernourished world, and the refracted suffering that upholds such a system, in which living things – worker, plant and animal – are made consumable parts in helix. Hachemi deftly lays bare the cannibalistic bent at the heart of global capitalism.’
— Abi Andrews, author of The Word for Woman is Wilderness

‘Heady, diaristic and compulsively readable in Julia Sanches’s perfect translation, four reckless and stubborn college students get themselves caught in the hell of factory farming in Southern France. To say that Living Things is a superb eco-thriller is both true and yet falls short of just how magnificently unclassifiable Hachemi’s novel is.’
— Jacob Rogers, The Center for Fiction

‘[A] short, horrific, astonishing novel … by turns cool and frantic, dissociated and visceral, and all the more unsettling for it. Animal cruelty becomes mundane, sandwiched between minutely rendered … and genuinely funny accounts of negotiations over where to sleep, what to eat, the everyday stuff of life…. Living Things, superbly translated by Julia Sanches, won an English PEN Translates Award in 2023, and Hachemi was named one of the best young Spanish novelists by Granta in 2021. In this, his first novel, it is apparent why.’
— Sadie Graham,

Living Things is a short novel that changes its skin – and almost its genre – in each of its seven parts … A work of autofiction that not only defines the self against lived and narrated experience, but also functions as an indictment of social, political, economic and health systems … [T]he fact that this all happened to the author affects us not only as readers, but as human beings.’
— Carlos Zanón, El País

‘From the outset, the first person narration is interwoven with a multitude of meta-literary and philosophical reflections that eventually form a rich second skin, a subterranean engine through which the real story, beyond the descriptions of escapades and setbacks, begins to be understood. A magnificent debut.’ 
— Eugenio Fuentes, La Nueva España

‘Hachemi counterbalances the uneasy atmosphere with a constant, subtle underlying humour that feels like a burst of fresh air. Absurdity and latent danger, stirred up in a French heatwave by the naïve insouciance of a group of increasingly tense youths, create an absorbing, somewhat Kafkaesque mood … [Hachemi] weaves a delicately disturbing tale that contains all the rage and disappointment of facing a reality where only helplessness is possible.’
— Gabi Martínez, La Vanguardia

‘An endless array of sounds and ideas reverberate through these pages, at times apocalyptic and at other times deceptively naïve.’
Qué Leer

‘Blending together allusions to Hemingway, Borges, Bolaño, Houellebecq and even Lenin, with reflections on Google, the true nature of the livestock industry, the ins and outs of temp work agencies, ecological stability, the free market and the paradoxes of diary-keeping, Munir Hachemi superimposes layers of reality with quasi-apocalyptic detours that reveal the menace underlying seemingly banal situations.’
— María Teresa Lezcano, Diario Sur

Munir Hachemi’s career as a writer began with him selling his stories in the form of fanzines in the bars of the Lavapiés neighbourhood of Madrid. He is the author of Living Things (2018) and El árbol viene [The Coming of the Tree] (2023), and is also a translator from Chinese and English. In 2021, he appeared on Granta’s Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists list. He currently lives in Buenos Aires.

Julia Sanches is a literary translator working from Portuguese, Spanish and Catalan. Recent translations include Boulder by Eva Baltasar, shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2023, and Undiscovered by Gabriela Wiener, longlisted for the same prize in 2024. Born in Brazil, she currently resides in the United States.