The Son of Man

Jean-Baptiste Del Amo

Translated by Frank Wynne

French paperback with flaps, 224 pages
Published 23 May 2024

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After several years of absence, a man reappears in the life of a woman and their young son. Intent on being a family again, he drives them to Les Roches, a dilapidated house in the mountains, where the man grew up with his own ruthless father. While the mother watches the passing days with apprehension, the son discovers the enchantment of nature, savage and bewitching. As the father’s hold over them intensifies, the return to their previous life and home seems increasingly impossible. Haunted by his past and consumed with jealousy, the man slowly sinks into madness and his son has no choice but to challenge his father in an attempt to save something of their humanity. Written in flawless, cinematic prose and brilliantly translated by Frank Wynne, The Son of Man is an exceptional novel of nature and wildness that traces how violence is inherited from one generation to the next, and a blistering examination of how families fold together and break apart under duress.

 ‘We are in rural gothic horror/thriller territory, but the novel is lifted above its genre by Del Amo’s literary artfulness…. It is luridly visceral stuff … powerfully evocative. Del Amo is a writer like no other.’
David Mills, The Times

‘[Readers] will leave suitably shaken by this skilfully woven tale from one of France’s most exciting writers.’
— Liam Bishop, Times Literary Supplement

‘The novel explores how unknowable the motives of adults are to children, and how man hands on misery to man. There aren’t many laughs on the way to the inevitable, satisfying conclusion, but it isn’t half gripping.’
— John Self, Guardian 

The Son of Man is an astonishing book. Beautifully written, devastating at times, and relentless, but unforgettable.’
— Michael Magee, author of Close to Home

The Son of Man is an explosion, a shout. Jean-Baptiste Del Amo is a storming talent; here are words which are forged rather than written, smeared with blood.’
— Daisy Johnson, author of Sisters

‘An exquisite and mesmerizing novel, in which violence constantly threatens to break the surface. The precision and detail of the prose imprints on the mind like a photograph.’
— Isabella Hammad, author of Enter Ghost

The Son of Man demands a fearless kind of reading. It combines the impassive eye of a naturalist regarding their object of study, with the fierce revolt of that which is scrutinised, and resists being catalogued and known. Del Amo reaches into atavistic territories of impulse, desire, violence and repetition, and refuses to domesticate through conclusion. I was mesmerised by this formidable tale of a son and a mother who come up against both the law of the father and the lawlessness of nature’
— Daisy Lafarge, author of Lovebug

‘The theme of transmission between father and son is at the heart of the novel. It is marked by a macabre determinism, everything is already played for, poisoned. A wandering insane grandfather casts a shadow and bad luck ricochets on his descendants. Jean-Baptiste Del Amo does not shy away from showing the atrocious. He has several strings to his hunter’s bow; an art of careful framing, of scenic observation. A taste for the primeval drive mixed with intuitions and perceptions.… There are many magnificent scenes, such as the son swimming in the river with his mother. Brief moments of light amidst the darkness and a fear so intense you could cut it with a knife.’
Le Figaro Littéraire

‘With The Son of Man, Jean-Baptiste Del Amo focuses intensely on the imperceptible tipping point in violence…. [A] horror reminiscent of The Shining in this huis clos with an open sky.’
— Elle Magazine

‘In The Son of Man the simple plot becomes as complex as the psychology of these human beasts. The writing is never precious, always precise. As the tension mounts, the sentences become longer and meandering, elusive like erupting violence. Rarely has a 39-year-old author hit the right notes so perfectly in the way he stretches his fiction.’
Le Monde

‘Jean-Baptiste Del Amo signs here a story of rare power that does not let go of the reader until the last page. The writing is dazzling. One of the most brilliant authors of his generation.’

Praise for Animalia

‘If EM Cioran, the great Romanian philosopher of the bleak, had been a novelist, Animalia is the kind of novel he would have produced [and] it is likely to be hailed as a modern classic.’
— Ian Sansom, Guardian

‘This is an extraordinary book. A dark saga related in sprawling sentences, made denser still by obscure and difficult vocabulary, it is everything I usually hate in a novel. Instead, I was spellbound.’
— David Mills, Sunday Times

‘Del Amo has Flaubert’s flair for performance … His prose leaps out at the reader, gleaming with perfection.’
— Ankita Chakraborty, New York Times Book Review 

Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, born in 1981, is one of France’s most exciting and ambitious young writers. He is the author of Pornographia, Le sel, and Une éducation libertine, which won the Goncourt First Novel Prize. His fourth novel, Animalia, published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in Frank Wynne’s translation in 2019, was a TLS Book of the Year 2019 and won the 2020 Republic of Consciousness Prize. The Son of Man, first published by Gallimard in 2021, is his second novel to be published by Fitzcarraldo Editions.

Frank Wynne has translated works by authors including Michel Houellebecq, Patrick Modiano, Virginie Despentes and Mathias Enard. His work has earned many awards, including the IMPAC Prize, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Premio Valle Inclán and the International Dublin Literary Award.