Beatrice and Virgil

Beatrice and Virgil

A Novel

Book - 2010
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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.
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2010.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9781400069262
Branch Call Number: Fic Mart
Characteristics: 197 p. ; 21 cm.


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LoganLib_JennyI May 05, 2017

I couldn't wait to read this book after loving The Life of Pi (Man Booker Prize and book-turned-movie). Like Richard Parker from Pi, Martel continues the animal motif with a donkey and a monkey.
It has delightful prose and vivid imagery (the pear scene, I could read again and again). But the delightful prose cloaks dark themes of the holocaust and Dante's hell revealed in a surreal play, written by Henry (1) the taxidermist. The play sits within the narrative of Henry (2) the writer with writer's block.
I can't say I truly understood it all, but I did thoroughly enjoy it.

Apr 21, 2017

Pay attention here! I am Yann Martel. I am an Important Canadian Writer. If you don't appreciate my book it's because you are just a (bookseller/editor/historian/reader - select one) and don't understand what fine literature is all about.
OK, so what do we have here? A flip book, cute idea joining two somewhat related books back-to-back; a play-within-a-novel (how novel!); a conversation between two characters out of Dante who are being played by animals (or is it the other way round?); a delusional taxidermist who thinks he's a playwright (really??)
The only sane person here is Henry's long-suffering wife.
I see that a number of readers have rated this book highly. Good for them but I beg to disagree. Sorry, but for my money this book is a fraud.

ArapahoeJane Mar 13, 2017

This was such a strange but creative book. About the Holocaust (though told through the viewpoint of animals), it was deeply disturbing. The violence of it will haunt me, as it should.

Dec 20, 2014

This is a deeply disturbing allegory of genocide, told through a writer's encounter with a deranged taxidermist.

Nov 17, 2014

sad. very very sad.
i like that Martel tries to write about very big things in his books... big, philosophic, human-nature type, depressing, things. and he tries to do it in a deceptively simple way.

AmandaVollmershausen Jul 13, 2013

I read this book after reading Life of Pi. Although there are many similarities (in fact, too many in my opinion) between the two novels, they are structured entirely differently. One of the reasons Life of Pi is so powerful is because it uses several different frames to tell the story. This is done in Beatrice and Virgil as well, but with many more frames added. Plot wise and factually, the book is less complicated and easier to follow, but stylistically and theme-wise, much, much more difficult to follow. After finishing, I feel like I only have a very dull understanding of the point of the book and there were many artistic decisions made that I don't understand. The best way to describe this novel is "interesting", as it didn't even feel like reading a novel. For one, the book is very focused on specific things within its plot. Other details are coincidental and brushed over, though seemingly important. There were no sub-plots to add layers to the story-something that I think the book is better for, given its level of complexity already.

All things considered, I would say this is worth the read, but only because it's so short and applies a very different writing structure. As a whole, I did not enjoy the book, but reading it was entertaining. I also learned a bit about taxidermy, which I feel is worthwhile.

However, I'm still confused.

May 20, 2013

It's almost impossible to compare any book to Yann Martel's Life of Pi, but I think Mr.Martel has done it again. The storey was facinating! As in the Life of Pi you never really know where this author is going to take you, but when you get there your really glad you came! This book is really about Henry and his realtionship with an old taxidermist and a play, very interesting.

Apr 26, 2012

A decent book. This book feels a bit contrived. Its almost like the point of writing this book was just to write something which was complex wrought with symbolism etc. to the point where the story is indecipherable. A short and easy read, but I can't help but feel that I missed the point completely.

Mar 16, 2012

Yann Martel really gave a great spin with words. It was more than satisfying and the play within the book is really heart-gripping. Highly recommended.

Dec 07, 2011

I look forward to discussing this short and powerful novel at the Woodcroft Branch Library CanLit Book Club. It's a drop-in event and everyone is welcome. These are the details: December 7, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at 13420 114 Avenue in Edmonton. Call 780-496-1830 for more information.

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Jun 04, 2012

Knopf Canada | April 6, 2010 | Hardcover

Henry's second novel, written, like his first, under a pen name, had done well.

Yann Martel's astonishing new novel begins with a successful writer attempting to publish his latest book, made up of a novel and an essay. Henry plans for it to be a "flip book" that the reader can start at either end, reading the novel or the essay first, because both pieces are equally concerned with representations of the Holocaust. His aim is to give the most horrifying of tragedies "a new choice of stories," in order that it be remembered anew and in more than one way.

But no one is sympathetic to his provocative idea. What is your book about? his editor repeatedly asks. Should it be placed in the fiction section of a bookstore or with the non-fiction books? a bookseller asks. And where will the barcode go? To them, Henry's book is an unpublishable disaster. Faced with severe and categorical rejection, Henry gives up hope. He abandons writing, moves with his wife to a foreign city, joins a community theatre, becomes a waiter in a chocolatería. But then he receives a package containing a scene from a play, photocopies from a short story by Flaubert - about a man who hunts animals down relentlessly - and a short note: "I need your help."

Intrigued, Henry tracks down his correspondent, and finds himself in a strange part of the city, walking past a stuffed okapi into a taxidermist's workshop. The taxidermist - also named Henry - says he has been working on his play, A 20th-Century Shirt, for most of his life, but now he needs Henry's help to describe his characters: the play's protagonists are a stuffed donkey and a howler monkey named Beatrice and Virgil, respectively, and Henry's successful book was in part about animals. He wants help to finish his play and, we may suspect, free himself from it. And though his new acquaintance is austere, abrupt and almost unearthly, Henry the writer is drawn more and more deeply into Henry the taxidermist's uncompromising world.

The same goes for the reader. The more we read of the play within the novel, the more we find out about the lives of Beatrice and Virgil - in a series of initially funny, and then increasingly harrowing dialogues - the more troubling their story becomes. As we are drawn deeper into their disturbing moral fable, the relationship between the two faltering writers named Henry becomes more and more complex until it can only be resolved in an explosive, unexpected catastrophe.

Though Beatrice & Virgil is initially as wry and engaging as anything Yann Martel has written, this book gradually grows into something more, a shattering and ultimately transfixing work that asks searching questions about the nature of our understanding of history, the meaning of suffering and the value of art. Together it is a pioneeringly original and profoundly moving accomplishment, one that meets Kafka's description of what a book should be: the axe for the frozen sea within us.


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