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Animal Joy

UK Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions
US Publisher: Graywolf Press

Laughter shakes us out of our deadness. An outburst of spontaneous laughter is an eruption from the unconscious that, like political resistance, poetry, or self-revelation, expresses a provocative, impish drive to burst free from external constraints. Taking laughter’s revelatory capacity as a starting point, and rooted in Nuar Alsadir’s experience as a poet and psychoanalyst, Animal Joy seeks to recover the sensation of feeling alive and embodied.

Writing in a poetic, associative style, blending the personal with the theoretical, Alsadir ranges from her experience in clown school, Anna Karenina’s morphine addiction, Freud’s unfreudian behaviours, marriage brokers and war brokers to ‘Not Jokes’, Abu Ghraib, Fanon’s negrophobia, smut, the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, laugh tracks, the problem with adjectives, to how poetry can wake us up. At the centre of the book, though, is the author’s relationship with her daughters, who erupt into the text like sudden, unexpected laughter. These interventions – frank, tender, and always a challenge to the writer and her thinking – are like tiny revolutions, pointedly showing the dangers of being severed from our True Self and hinting at ways we might be called back to it. A bold and insatiably curious prose debut, Animal Joy is an ode to spontaneity and feeling alive.


‘To read Animal Joy is to become alive to the condition of wakefulness in the world. This spectacular achievement by the psychoanalyst and writer Nuar Alsadir provokes and destabilizes our understanding of a life’s competing narratives. I can think of no other contemporary work of nonfiction that brings together autobiography, a learned history of psychoanalysis, lyrical poetics, ontological investigations of our attempt to manage our own feelings, with such astute engagement. This is a work that will change conversations about who we are, what we think motivates us, what makes us us. The meeting place of the intentional and the unintentional erupts in Animal Joy in order that we might reinvestigate our incoming thoughts and feelings with a sense of vigor and curiosity. If you are open to introducing “tiny revolutions” of thought into your life by resisting received and uninterrogated scripts, read this book.’ ― Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen

‘Reading this book you are on a joy ride with the mind of a free thinker who will surprise you, make you laugh uncontrollably, and trouble you until you come out changed.’ ― Orna Guralnik, Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Couples Therapy (BBC)

‘Few things feel as important right now as what Nuar Alsadir is thinking about in her brilliant new book. She considers the ways in which, despite our most determined curation of our public-faces, and despite our approval-seeking and plain old quotidian bullshittery, laughter reveals to us (and sometimes others) what we might really feel.’ ― Ross Gay, author of The Book of Delights

‘Nuar Alsadir has wandered fearlessly through the wordless regions of everyday life and returned intact, bearing this exhilaratingly personal and artful weave of stories and meditations. As precise as it is lyrical, Animal Joy invites us to attend anew to human feelings, those elusive, barely noticed entities transmitting everywhere, all the time, “with a frequency outside of measurement.”’ ― Josh Cohen, author of Not Working

‘Nuar Alsadir’s lyrical, hilarious and beautifully undefended meditation has the capacity to widen our consciousness to allow notice of what occurs in the interstices of attention and mortification. In that way, Animal Joy is a book that seems compassionately able to read us as we turn its pages.’ ― Jonathan Lethem

‘A genuine masterpiece. Nuar Alsadir’s Animal Joy might be the best thing I’ve ever read on psychoanalysis and its deep connection to living a full, real, embodied life. Utterly compelling, radical, dizzyingly original, and beautiful, this is the work of a writer at the height of their powers.’ ― Rebecca Tamás, author of Strangers

‘Gorgeously written and by turns hilarious and crushing, Alsadir’s examination of humanity’s “savage complexity” is not to be missed.’ ― Publishers Weekly

‘It will leave you feeling enlightened and emboldened, and will even make you laugh.’ ― Observer

‘Nuar Alsadir’s Animal Joy is extravagant with revelations. Alsadir reads the human psyche with brilliant rigor and generosity, patiently prodding underneath the surface of human behavior, language, politics and race to get at the root of the real. After I finished Animal Joy, I came away feeling more awake, more present, and more connected to myself and the world.’― Cathy Park Hong, author of Minor Feelings

‘Through the awesome and heterogeneous study of this book, laughter at first feels like the most enigmatic act, a convulsing creature in the psyche, in the home, in awkward publics, but then it is returned to us as the most true form of comprehension; an animal attitude to reality, a culturing note of corpsing, creasing and cracking up, that snags on the meaning of everything.’ ― Holly Pester, author of Comic Timing

‘Where do laughter, psychoanalysis, poetry, motherhood, creativity, thought, language, and so much more intersect? In Animal Joy Nuar Alsadir shows us in dazzling fashion, demonstrating what only the essay form, in the hands of a true artist, critic, and thinker, can achieve.’ ― John Keene, author of Counternarratives

‘Alsadir’s Granta essay on the emotional flagellation of clowning is one of the best pieces of writing I have ever read, and her longer interrogation into the act―and release―of laughing is equally powerful and moving.’ ― Courtney Maum, Literary Hub

‘Expansive and erudite. . . . Watching the motion of [Alsadir’s] mind across her capacious subject matter is captivating.’ ― Kathleen Rooney, Liber