Friday, April 16, 2010

Yann Martell's new "Beatrice and Virgil"

I review Yann Martel's latest, "Beatrice and Virgil," in the Boston Phoenix:

In contemporary literature, the Holocaust is the okapi in the room: looming and somehow irresistible. Such, at least, appears to be the thesis of Beatrice and Virgil, Yann Martel’s first novel since his 2002 Booker Award winner, Life of Pi.

The okapi, in the book, is stuffed, the namesake of Okapi Taxidermy, an odd little store in a foreign city in which the narrator, an author named Henry, has gone to live. The author, much like Martel himself, has had great success with a small novel that used animals to tell a story. The choice of animals, as Henry explains, “was for reasons of craft rather than of sentiment. Speaking before his tribe, naked, he was only a human and therefore possibly — likely — surely — a liar. But dressed in furs and feathers, he became a shaman and spoke a greater truth.” ...

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