Sunday, October 17, 2010

Do read it: Beatrice and Virgil - a novel

A few years ago I had reviewed Life of Pi by Yann Martell for our office newsletter. I had absolutely loved that book. Beatrice and Virgil (by the same author) too throws up some excellent prose, creativity, and profound questions on human cruelty.

Yann Martell's tell tale signs are in the book: protagonist who plays a role in the plot, rare animals as symbols, creative structuring, allegory to major incidents (Noah's Ark in Life of Pi) and the Holocaust here, messages for mankind...

Henry wants to write a book without having to talk about the holocaust. However, Henry comes back to the terrible event and feels that he should write a flip book and dicscuss the holocaust in a creative way. He also feels that drama and prose should merge.

Henry then gets a letter from a taxidermist (a profession that he uses with telling effect to discuss human cruelty on animals) asking him to review and help with a book. This starts off a great adventure that is described in masterly fashion. Beatrice the donkey and Virgil the howler monkey have various discussions. They are of course liked to characters (prisoners) of the holocaust. Through them the plot moves along ... often questions on human cruelty, arrogance, and selfishness are thrown up. Protection of animals is also a central theme.

The Okapi is the standout symbol - rare, strange, and innocent facing danger. Similarly, he list various animals from the African continent (in Life of Pi, the animals were from a Zoo).

The revelation is towards the end. The books is simple, easy, and engrossing.

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