Aurochs and Auks: Essays on Mortality and Extinction by John Burnside
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 Great Auk, a curious bird whose extinction in the mid-nineteenth century was caused by human persecution and before stepping into multiple extinctions of the outer and inner world.
John Burnside is a poet and an author, for his latest work Aurochs and Auks: Essays on Mortality and Extinction (Little Toller) John Burnside takes a look death and extinction in a collection of four essays which includes the story of the Great Auk that was extinct back in the mid-nineteenth century directly because of human persecution.
What prompted John to write his collection of essays was a near-death experience because of covid. This was the catalyst that created the four essays and begins with Aurochs. These were the very large Cattle that roamed the landscapes of Europe centuries ago. The very last Aurochs died out in Poland in 1627. The second is a look at extinction itself and a look really behind the word and Extinction Rebellion come into this chapter.
The third chapter is the sad story of the Great Auk that became extinct in the mid-nineteenth century again this was due man’s persecution. Been keen on ornithology I have read many books on this incredible bird. It is sad that we never had the chance to witness the Great Auk.
The final chapter ‘Blossom Ruins’ looks at the authors near-death experience due to covid and how close John was to dying, so much so that that his wife was told to prepare for the worst. To come back from this experience is life changing and you look at life and the world very differently. He notes in his account his deep appreciation for the NHS and the work they have done during this dreadful time and how they looked after him.
This may seem like a dark book to read but the message through these pages is loud and clear for all humanity to read. Maybe this is a book that politicians around the world need to read. John’s words are profound and prophetic if man does not change its ways. After all are we not the caretakers of this planet we call home? Not just for us but all the creatures on this planet.
My thanks to Little Toller Books for the review copy of Aurochs and Auks by John Burnside. Published on 18th October 2021 and is now available direct through Little Toller Books https://www.littletoller.co.uk/shop/books/little-toller/aurochs-and-auks-by-john-burnside/ or through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or via Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org