Aurochs and Auks is a deeply moving and intelligent meditation on the natural processes of death and extinction, renewal and continuity. Prompted by his own near-death in a time of pandemic, John Burnside explores the history of the auroch (Bos primigenius), the wild cattle that has become the source of so much sacred and cultural imagery across Europe, from the Minotaur and the Cretan bull dances to Spanish corrida traditions. He then tells the story of the puffin-like Great Auk, a curious bird whose extinction in the mid-nineteenth century was caused by human persecution. In the final essay Burnside proposes an alternative way of being – a richer, pagan deep-ecological narrative where we could abandon notions of human exceptionalism and accept our rightful place among the family of species.
John Burnside is a prize-winning poet and novelist, and a former software engineer. Burnside’s prose works include the collection of short stories Burning Elvis (2000), several novels including the novella Havergey, and two memoirs. The Devil’s Footprints (2007) was shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and A Summer of Drowning (2011) was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award. A former writer-in-residence at Dundee University, Burnside currently teaches at the University of St. Andrews.
"Written with both erudite ire and a longing soul, this is a work of a beautiful mind"
– Jay Griffiths