Clare's Reviews > Beatrice And Virgil

Beatrice And Virgil by Yann Martel
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's review
Dec 27, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: my-heart, memorable-authors, dark-heart
Read from December 28, 2011 to January 01, 2012

'Beatrice and Virgil’ is the interestingly formatted story of a successful writer called Henry who moves his life to a foreign country in order to have a thorough break from his world. During this recess, a reclusive taxidermist, also called Henry, begins an unusual working relationship with him, seeking advice in writing a play based on conversations between a donkey called Beatrice and a howler monkey called Virgil. This pair is also present in his taxidermy shop.

The play, which we are given passages of scattered throughout the book, contains the essence of the story as it is told while the drama played out in Henry’s life during this time gives the frame work. The Holocaust is what it comes down to.
The more the story develops, the more this becomes apparent, yet each step into the reality of the author’s way of telling it is surprising.

The conversations, seemingly everyday, are simple and beautifully
constructed. Delicate and strange analogies balanced with impending violence make for a shattering impact. An interesting insight from the author in an interview for ‘goodreads’ website observes that the way in which the reader is fed small sections from the play relates to how little we can hear of the experiences of the victims of the Holocaust, and that by using the vessels of Beatrice and Virgil we can hear terrifyingly small clips of the victims’ realities. This is incredibly effective. It creates the impression of doomed souls standing in a blank space on the edge of terror and disaster, pulled from the world and onto a page just so that we can hear their voices for a moment. They are real and not real. When they are sucked back to the world, it is as though all of the sounds and colours of the horrors of war rise up at once. The reader is left with the impression of how the Jewish people in hiding during the Holocaust where standing in a nowhere place, in a suspended life, talking and waiting together.

Pulling all of this together, Henry at the centre of this story is portrayed as a fictional version of the author. This has the effect of causing the reader to feel drawn through the story not just with the character but with the author himself too. You are discovering this mysterious situation together and this unites you in all the revelations to be endured in this book.


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