Biologist and writer Midas Dekkers once said that he felt Anton Koolhaas was entitled to the Nobel Prize for Biology, since ‘he alone penetrated to the core of what biology is all about’, namely the question: What is it like to be an animal? In the famous story Mr Tip is the Fattest Sir, Dekkers discovered an answer to the question of why pigs and other livestock can be calmly led to the slaughter.
Mr Tip is a pig who wonders why the time keeps coming around when the fattest pig is removed from the sty. When fellow pig Simon Artzt disappears one day, Mr Tip finds that he is the fattest.
He decides to resist in whatever way he can when his turn comes, but in the event he trots briskly over to the slaughterhouse truck. Meanwhile life in the sty goes on as ever. There is already a new fattest pig.
Koolhaas’ animal stories are part of a long tradition, but they are unlike anything else in the genre. These are not fairy tales or parables, since although rich in symbolism they often exhibit an acute despair and a cool determination that belong to modern realist literature. They show, not without humour, that both animals and humans often find themselves in borderline situations between the self and the community, between life and death.
In Koolhaas an animal, whether Tip the pig or Frederick the rabbit, is a character like Kafka’s Josef K, a unique individual of flesh and blood, yet also, to the reader, an everyman.