Yann Martel’s new novel features a donkey, a monkey, taxidermy, and a Holocaust allegory
Yann Martel’s 2001 novel Life of Pi chronicled a young Indian man’s 227 days adrift at sea with a Bengal tiger. Part fable, part exploration of religion, ritual, and story-telling, it was a tremendous international success and earned Martel the prestigious Man Booker Prize. With his new novel, Beatrice and Virgil, Martel once again uses animals to tell his story. Ostensibly, the novel is about an acclaimed novelist who’s lost his calling and an aloof taxidermist who comes to him for literary advice. Within the novel is a play about a persecuted donkey, named Beatrice, and monkey, Virgil, whose circumstances come to look frighteningly similar to those of Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust. Both the novel and the play within the novel probe the difficulty of representing historical events that are all but unimaginable. Martel spoke by phone with Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry from a hotel in London, where he was on book tour, about the strengths and weaknesses of Holocaust literature as we know it, about the mixed messages of taxidermy, and about our over-identification with animals and under-identification with our own species.
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.