Review of ‘Beatrice and Virgil’

Title: Beatrice and Virgil

Author: Yann Martel

The writer Henry goes overseas. He has failed to convince his publisher why he wrote a fictional book on Holocaust. So he goes to a big city – ‘Perhaps it is New York. Perhaps it is Paris. Perhaps it is Berlin’.

 

Henry gives up his writing career,  works at a local chocolateria and acts in an amateur theatre. His wife Sarah is pregnant and Henry is expecting his first child. Life goes on. However Henry’s curiosity is raised after receiving a parcel from an unknown writer. A short Flaubert story and an unfinished play ‘Beatrice and Virgil’, is waiting for his help, this parcel leads him to the sender, a taxidermist, Henry.  

In a shop full of dead animal bodies, the stinking taxidermist is emotionless and rude. However, his manner does not deter the author Henry to find the story behind the play. It turns out Beatrice is a dead donkey and Virgil is a dead monkey in reality. But why they appear in this play? The book unfolds its story gradually while the play moves from one scene to another with the help of the author Henry. The conversations between Beatrice and Virgil are philosophical and fable, but often fragmented. While the author Henry is inspired by the play that he has been helping with, he does not realise his life is at the stake. 

Martel’s previous novel, Life of Pi, was widely appraised. After waiting for years for a new book, Beatrice and Virgil presents a great knowledge of animals, extraordinary plots and eccentric characters. One fines similarities to ‘Life of Pi’. However, pages and pages of long descriptions on strange animals are overwritten.   

It’s a book for reflecting and thinking, especially if you like Life of Pi.  

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