M is for muzzle

A young adult novel by Italian author Bruno Tognolini investigates the extramundane life of our beloved pets.


The interest in animal welfare and animal rights has remarkably increased in the last few years.

We are slowly but luckily abandoning a narrow-minded, anthropocentric vision in order to embrace a more holistic one.

The dominion we gained on animals – as it is written in the book of Genesis – could hopefully develop into a more compassionate way of acting towards them.

Protection, instead of exploitation, seems to be the keyword for a more sustainable future.

A little step towards this has been done by Italian author Bruno Tognolini in his new novel, The garden of the eternal muzzles.

As the evocative title suggests, the leading actors of this dazzling novel are basically dead pets.

They have been buried in a pleasant and peaceful garden just few kilometres out of the city centre, where they former owners can come freely, visit their graves and bring some flowers.

This pet cemetery looks quite and still, utterly different from the world-wide known, terrifying one created by Stephen King in his homonymous masterpiece Pet Sematary.

Anyway, there are some analogies, for both the graveyards focus on animal lives beyond death.

In Tognolini’s novel, animals are still alive as free souls, called animám.

Now they embrace eternity and live freely between the earth and the sky. They also spend their time, which is eternal, running in the wind and singing with the frogs at the edge of a duck pond just near the graveyard.

But the peace of the pet cemetery seems to fray until it is broken by external factors, both natural and unnatural. In fact, animám start to disappear and the groundskeeper become increasingly vicious as the days go by.

Things seem to get messy for the animám, but in the end the expected happy outcome arrives: they are back for good in the garden and the pet cemetery is safe.

The beyond-the-world animal universe created by Bruno Tognolini is amazing and slightly disturbing as the human one created by Alice Sebold in her masterpiece The lovely bones.

At the same time – just like Helen Macdonald does in her celebrated award winning memoir, H is for hawk –  Tognolini explores the line between humanity and animality, showing how faint, fragile and evanescent it is at a closer sight.

Slightly inspired by the Buddhist pillar of self impermanence, the novel won some prestigious prizes and it is warmly recommended for those who are searching for eternity through the moving world.

Elisa Lucchesi