A taxidermist trying his hand at play writing grips the mind of novelist Henry. Inexplicably, Henry gets drawn to the taxidermist’s shop, where he ‘makes friends’ with Beatrice, the donkey and Virgil, the monkey. The man gives Henry his scripts in parts. The play revolves around the conversation between Beatrice and Virgil, which exposes the levels to which human cruelty can go.
The calculating and mysterious man tells Henry that “taxidermists do not create a demand. We merely preserve a result. I have never hunted in my life and have no interest in the pursuit. I would never harm an animal. They are my friends. When I work on an animal, I work in the knowledge that nothing I do can alter its life, which is past. What I am actually doing is extracting and refining memory from death…I am a historian, dealing with an animal’s past; the zookeeper is a politician, dealing with an animal’s present; and everyone else is citizen who must decide on the animal’s future.”
By the time Henry realises the taxidermist to be a pervert, crazy man, matters have reached a pass that the latter refuses to let Henry go. He attacks him, wounding him.
The entire novel is written in a suggestive, simile style. Yann Martel, is the author of Life of Pi, which won the Booker Prize. That book was translated into 38 languages. Beatrice and Virgil is a disturbing book because it delves into the darkness in the human mind. The image of dead animals, brought alive by the taxidermist sends creeps through the skin.