Apuleius’ The Golden Ass

Translated by Ellen Finkelpearl, with illustrations by Anna and Varvara Kendel

Peter Singer

240 pages April 2021 Proofs in English

Peter Singer has breathed new life into Apuleius’ Golden Ass—a hilarious, bawdy tale and one of the earliest novels—accentuating its remarkable empathy for animals.

Apuleius’s The Golden Ass, one of a handful of ancient novels, remains relatively unknown. Peter Singer, the renowned philosopher and author of the modern classic, Animal Liberation, remedies this neglect, bringing the comic tale back to the wider reading public. With a version stripped of the many tales extraneous to the main narrative, Singer exposes the core of the text: the adventures of the man turned animal, Lucius.

Singer has teamed with Apuleius scholar and translator Ellen Finkelpearl to create a delightful rollicking story in which we follow the adventures of this cocky young man transformed into a donkey, through his travails, erotic adventures, and enlightenment. With Singer’s vision, this newly-rendered canonical work is bound to be enjoyed by anyone who cares about human and animal life. Afterwords by Singer and Finkelpearl assess the significance of the The Golden Ass for our thought about animals, ancient and modern.

Reviews

“Like great cooks, Singer and Finkelpearl have made a fine roux of Apuleius’s original, boiling it down to its essence while leaving all the juicy bits intact.” —Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA

“Framed by judicious editing and contextualization, Ellen Finkelpearl’s new translation of Apuleius’s ribald tale invites readers to experience life in the Roman empire through the (sometimes sexist) eyes of a nobleman-turned-donkey and the violence, both random and routinized, which both animals and enslaved people suffered in the period—while Peter Singer’s philosophical commentary challenges them to think about how similar violence and suffering is inflicted on people and animals today.” —Melissa Lane, professor of politics at Princeton University

 “The Golden Ass is a wonderful reflection on the fluidity of the human and the non-human animal experience. It provokes mediation on how human society’s moral codes have changed and how they have not, especially when it comes to non-human animals, the majority of whom are still treated with the same cruel indifference to their sentience that the donkey is treated in this ancient novel.”  —Leah Garcés, president of Mercy For Animals