e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

An oblique look at fear and suffering

Just finished reading Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel.

Having loved The Life of Pi, I was expecting to be excited and stimulated, but, for me, this book didn’t quite “take off” in the same way.

Which isn’t to say it’s not beautifully written and very original. It is. I just felt it lacks the poetry of Pi and the interior life of the main character. The latter probably has to do with the fact that Henry, the protagonist of Beatrice and Virgil, is not isolated and interacts with a number of other people; so we see his character in conversation and action rather than in thought.

The story is simple. The use of the story-within-a-story technique spins it out and allows the characters to comment in ways they wouldn’t in a straightforward telling. But it also slows it down. Until about half-way through I found the lack of action annoying and kept wondering if I’d finish the book. But gradually it hooked me and I’m glad I gave it the chance.

It deals with huge issues: relations between humans and animals, affection and friendship, fear, pain, suffering and forgiveness among them. Instead of full-on discussion these themes edge sideways into partial view. The reader is allowed to share Henry’s puzzlement over what it all means.

I’m still not sure why it harks back so strongly to Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, but it forced me to reconsider that play, which I studied many years ago and thought I understood.

About these ads

Single Post Navigation

2 thoughts on “An oblique look at fear and suffering

  1. very interesting articles, very informative. will look forward to reading more from you.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 418 other followers

%d bloggers like this: