Bees | Analyse

One word has been travelling around along with the COVID virus: zoonosis, which designates a disease transmitted from animals to humans.

It encapsulates one of the major challenges raised by the current crisis as it is a reminder that humans are not just social beings but that they have bodies impacted by the interactions with other animal bodies.

Today biologists, among whom the French expert ecologist Gilles Boeuf, contend that the large scale destruction of animal habitats around the world along with intensive farming result in the increased pace of developing zoonoses like SARS or MERS (see collectif, Le Monde, 6 May 2020).

Hall is an environmental artist who regularly uses her native region, the Borderlands, in her novels and short stories.

The human-animal relations also feature prominently in her texts, most famously the transmogrification of a woman into a fox in her acclaimed short story from 2013, ‘Mrs Fox’.

It is my contention that her poetic work with similes and analogies, rather than metaphors, helps pave the way for the ‘radical imagination’ Mbembe advocates for the ‘day after’.

This paper takes the example of her 2011 short story ‘Bees’ published in The Beautiful Indifference to exemplify the ‘natureculture’ continuum (Haraway) that the COVID crisis dramatically exposed.

Additionally, ‘Bees’ can be read as the forerunner to the more radical transformation in ‘Mrs Fox’.

The story, told in the second person, is that of a ‘rural emigrant’ (70) from the North settling in London.

Although it might seem at first glance to be set around such binary oppositions as north and south, countryside and city, it is a story about border crossings (see Hansen).

In this story, the second-person woman narrator is an abused woman who leaves the Northern family farm for London.

Her unemployed status and her raw emotional state mean that she spends much of her time in the small garden of her friend’s flat.

She wonders about a strange decimation of bees whose cause she cannot identify until she finally discovers that a fox has been killing the bees.

The fox is the emblematic intruder that has become adept at crossing over the human urban and suburban demarcations to claim its own habitat unexpectedly.

Its omnivorous diet, exemplified in the text by its preying on bees, knows no nutrient bound and earned it its reputation as a scavenger.

It mirrors the many instances of intersecting environmental and man-made elements woven in the text’s similes like the ‘hedgerow towers’ of London (69), or the bees ‘moving like Zeppelins’ (78).

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