Yann Martel's videos  at Goodreads
'Life Of Pi' Author's New Book Asks What Happened : NPR :: How are we going to talk about what happened to us one day when it's over? That question is at the heart of Beatrice and Virgil. Liane Hansen interviews Martel about his first novel since the Man Booker Prize-winning Life of Pi.  (text & audio)

Books Mentioned

Guernica : painting by Pablo Picasso (wiki)

Additional links from Elizabeth: (Thank you!)

  • The New York Times Gets It Wrong says Huffington Post
  • 15 Questions with Yann Martel (Harvard Crimson)
    Behind the Name Henry
    L'Hote: 1 hôte Noun, masculine
    (a) host
    (b) (Comput) host (computer)

    2 hôte Noun, masculine/feminine
    (a) guest; ~ payant paying guest; ~ de marque distinguished guest
  • Michigan State U's Animal Studies has an extensive web site with an impressive bibliography of their role in literature, history, etc. Sample links:
  • Okapi at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo  :  "To people of the DRC, the okapi is a very special animal. It is now the symbol of conservation for the country. People who live near okapi respect them because of their elegant appearance and elusive ways. To these people, okapi represent the purity of the forest because okapi inhabit the deepest parts of it which have been undisturbed by humans."

  • Historical significance of the number 1933 (address of the taxidermy store); see, for example, January 30. Or do a "find" on Nazi or Jew.
  • From “the list” (page 143)   “68 Nowolipki Street” 
  • p. 157 - Nathan the Wise (the play in which Henry/writer was the lead character, toward end of book)
  • p. 160 – Rabies (Re: why does Erasmus get rabies?) See symbolism of rabies in "To Kill a Mockingbird"
  • p. 164 - Red - the red cloth (suffering) that folds on one until strangled.... (Virgil’s soliloquy)

    • Center for Biological Diversity
    • International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) publishes a Red List of Threatened Species and the 2009 version makes for sober reading. It shows that “17,291 species out of the 47,677 assessed species are threatened with extinction.”
    • Biodiversity
    • Extinction
    • Biodiversity Hot Spots: The Florida Everglades
    • Ringelblum Milk Can   EXERPTED:  Today I want to talk about other addresses in the ghetto. And other acts of resistance. Namely, the buildings at Nowolipki 68 and Swietojerski 34. Buried under these buildings was another form of Molotov cocktail, another type of weapon. The weapon of words. Their power is ultimately indestructible, for such is the power of truth.  ==MORE== Led by historian Emanuel Ringelblum, the project to document life in the ghetto was called Oneg Shabbat, Sabbath Joy. The buried archive included copies of the underground press, ration cards, letters, poetry, theater posters,  ===MORE=== Ringelblum took great care to ensure the archive’s secrecy. When word of the mass deportations began in July 1942, he asked Israel Lichtenstein to bury it. Licthenstein recruited help, including 19 year old David Graber who penned this message:  What we were unable to cry and shriek out to the world we buried in the ground… I would love to see the moment in which the great treasure will be dug up and scream the truth at the world. So the world may know all. …


    DolGrc said...

    I am really interested in knowing what other members of the group had to say about 'Beatrice and Virgil.'

    At the start I got interested and found the description of the pear a beautiful passage.

    Interesting to remember events "beyond the confines of historical realism." There is room for allegory, and some horrors cannot be adequately expressed in ordinary words.

    The end left me perplexed. How the taxidermist had been affected by his role in the past? Was he crazy? Was he trying, without success, to redeem himself? I think he is pictured as destroyed by his past, and ultimately unable to free himself through his writing. But probably I will have to read this novel again to grasp its meaning.

    And what about the 'jokes for Gustav'? All present moral dilemmas with no easy answer. I find most intriguing #12, about forgetting the whole of one's past. But isn't the past and her reactions to it what make a person what she is today?

    RkC said...

    DG -- Sorry you couldn't make the meeting; I hope you can figure out how to listen to recording link. You would have enjoyed it!

    I think the taxidermist was hoping for some kind of redemption -- that, I think, is a key as to why he was attracted to that Flaubert story. First Julian kills for pleasure, but then is rewarded and sainted when he kills for God & Country. And yet the killing is the killing. It was the killing scenes, if I recall correctly, that were highlighted in yellow, though, not the redemption scenes.

    We did wonder about why he suddenly got violent against Henry with the knife at the end.
    1. He felt betrayed by Henry having another name
    2. He thought Henry had figured out his past, by giving pages back and not wanting to help anymore.
    3. Because he hadn't killed in a while.
    4. His only friend was abandoning him, judging him, leaving him.
    5. Henry with new baby and lost pets was choosing life, not death or even taxidermy (dead life or live dead).

    I found #12 intriguing as well. Yes our past & memories make us what we are today, but so much is painful and/or needing therapy or "brainwashing." Did you read Nicole Krauss' novel "MAN WALKED INTO A ROOM" about a man who loses his adult memory suddenly in middle age? Interesting exploration.

    Games were supposed to be Henry's breakthrough of his writing block. Some of the people in group thought the whole book was about Henry the writer... and that the taxidermist was his inner self, struggling to be able to write and that the catastrophe at the end is the breaking through to his creativity again. An interesting idea!