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Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

Beatrice and Virgil (edition 2009)

by Yann Martel

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1,4171265,339 (3.22)83
Title:Beatrice and Virgil
Authors:Yann Martel
Info:Siegrel and Grau
Collections:Fiction/Literature/Plays/Essays, Read
Tags:Taxidermy, Holocaust

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Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel


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English (122)  Dutch (4)  German (1)  All languages (127)
Showing 1-5 of 122 (next | show all)
In Yann Martel's fable-like novel Beatrice and Virgil, author Henry L'Hote, who had a wildly successful first book, gives up writing after his second book is rejected by his publisher. He and his wife, Sarah, move to a large city where he concentrates on living. Henry stumbles into an awkward relationship with a taxidermist, also named Henry, who wants his help in writing a play about a donkey and a howler monkey named Beatrice and Virgil. This relationship between the two Henrys and the play is clearly hinting at hidden but much darker secrets.

Beatrice and Virgil has received a host of mixed reviews since its publication. It seemed to polarize readers to such extremes that the widely vacillating reviews resulted in my procrastinating on reading Beatrice and Virgil because I enjoyed Life of Pi so much. As is sometimes the case I should have just read Beatrice and Virgil sooner and ignored the people who were probably disappointed that it isn't Life of Pi part 2.

Now, I agree with those who concluded that Martel takes a long time to get to the point of the novel, but, in contrast, following along on the journey did not disappoint me. I felt like it made the ending more powerful because of the stark contrast it presents to the rest of the novel. It is allegorical and Martel certainly gives the reader plenty of clues about the true subject matter of the play. As the description intimates, these clues cover life and art, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity.

Written in simple language but filled with symbolism, Beatrice and Virgil is a dark novel, especially at the end. (At this point it is probably not a spoiler to mention that it deals with the holocaust.) Most certainly Beatrice and Virgil will make the reader think about the cruelty men inflict upon each other.
very highly recommended; http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/
( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
Bizarre...and thought provoking ( )
  KylaS | Feb 18, 2016 |
It was dark, depressing, and rather boring. ( )
  dewbertb | Feb 6, 2016 |
Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

Henry had written a novel because there was whole in him that needed filling, a question that needed answering, a patch of canvas that needed painting – that blend of anxiety, curiosity and joy this at the origin of art- and he filled the hole, answered the question , splashed colors on the canvas , all done for himself , because he had to. Then complete strangers told him that his book had filled a hole in them, had answered a question, and had brought color to their lives. The comfort of strangers be it a smile, a pat on the shoulder, is truly a comfort. Fiction, being closer to the full experience of life, should take precedence over non fiction. Storied – individual stories, family stories, national stories – are what which together the disparate elements of human existence to a coherent whole. We are story animals.
Take three examples of artful witness. Orwell with Animal farm, Camus with the plague, and Picasso with Guernica.
Is there a level of barbarism involved in taxidermy. Or only if one lives a life entirely sheltered from death in which one never looks into the back room of a butcher shop or the operating table of a hospital or the working room of a funeral parlor. Life and death live and die in exactly the same spot, the body. To ignore death is to ignore life.
In a healthy individual, a broken bone that has healed properly is strongest where it was once broken. You have not lost any life. You will still get your fair share of years. Yet the quality of life has changed. One you’ve been stuck by violence, you acquire companions that never leave you entirely. Suspicion, Fear, Anxiety, Despair, Joylessness. The natural smile is taken from you and natural pleasures you once enjoyed lose their appeal. The city was ruined for Henry.
  pj100pl | Aug 29, 2014 |
This is a weird book but its ideas stick with you. ( )
  loewen | Feb 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 122 (next | show all)
I'm sorry, but this allegory is no "Animal Farm" or "Watership Down." It's a cloying episode of "Winnie the Pooh" In Which Piglet and Rabbit Are Hacked Apart and Eaten. Martel's attempt to represent 6 million Jews with a pleasant donkey and a friendly monkey is just well-meaning sentimentality dressed up with postmodern doodads. "Beatrice and Virgil" does little to bring us closer to appreciating the plight of those victims or to fathoming the cruelty of their murderers. Whatever "artful metaphor" Martel began with, it ends up skinned and stuffed -- not alive, not even lifelike.
Mr. Martel’s new book, “Beatrice and Virgil,” unfortunately, is every bit as misconceived and offensive as his earlier book was fetching. It, too, features animals as central characters. It, too, involves a figure who in some respects resembles the author. It, too, is written in deceptively light, casual prose... Nonetheless, his story has the effect of trivializing the Holocaust, using it as a metaphor to evoke “the extermination of animal life” and the suffering of “doomed creatures” who “could not speak for themselves.”
As the Holocaust has forever recast our understanding of humanity and historiography, so might Beatrice & Virgil, which ingeniously ruptures the division between worlds real and imagined, forcing us to reconsider how we think of documentary writing. Forget what this book is “about”: Yann Martel's new novel not only opens us to the emotional and psychological truths of fiction, but also provides keys to open its fictions ourselves, and to become, in some way, active participants in their creation.
At the end, author Henry develops some "games", 12 questions posing moral quandaries: would you allow your son to endanger his life to try to save the rest of the family? If you knew people were about to be killed and you couldn't stop it, would you warn them? If only Martel had bothered to dramatise any of these dilemmas, he might have produced a novel that didn't show the limits of representation quite so painfully.
Beatrice and Virgil is a chilling addition to the literature about the horrors most of us cannot imagine, and will stir its readers to think about the depths of depravity to which humanity can sink and the amplitude of our capacity to survive.

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yann Martelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bridge, AndyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Henry's second novel, written, like his first, under a pen name, had done well.
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Book description
From the jacket: Fate takes many forms. . . .

When Henry receives a letter from an elderly taxidermist, it poses a puzzle that he cannot resist. As he is pulled further into the world of this strange and calculating man, Henry becomes increasingly involved with the lives of a donkey and a howler monkey—named Beatrice and Virgil—and the epic journey they undertake together.

With all the spirit and originality that made Life of Pi so beloved, this brilliant new novel takes the reader on a haunting odyssey. On the way Martel asks profound questions about life and art, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity.
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When Henry receives a letter from an elderly taxidermist, it poses a puzzle that he cannot resist. As he is pulled further into the world of this strange and calculating man, Henry becomes increasingly involved with the lives of a donkey and a howler monkey--named Beatrice and Virgil--and the epic journey they undertake together.… (more)

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3 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Canongate Books

2 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 1847677657, 1847679242

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 1921656255, 1921758279

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