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on May 28, 2010
In Beatrice and Virgil, the protagonist claims there are few works of fiction that adequately portray The Holocaust. This novel is supposed to do the job but doesn't come close. While it is difficult for fiction, or facts for that matter, to adequately portray such systematic torture and murder, I've read many poignant, powerful novels about The Holocaust. This novel is not at all evocative of the history. In order to see the Holocaust allegory of Beatrice and Virgil's outrageously boring "conversations", you have to know a lot about the Holocaust already; and if you do, this story told by a stuffed monkey and donkey will just boggle your mind. And to nitpick, the two main human characters are both named Henry and there is no inventive reason for it. I almost put it down halfway through, but expected something amazing to happen near the end, like in Life of Pi, that would make the dull slogging worthwhile. I was sadly disappointed. The "Nazi" character is as like every Nazi ever portrayed; no subtle nuances here. The end was full of violence, but seemed superfluous because it was far too removed from reality to have any effect other than revulsion. This novel did not enlighten. It was an exercise in the reader being tortured by its flawed creativity, its lofty aspirations to be original. Even the "games", a series of graphic, horrifying "questions" posed at the close of the book, though powerful and sleep disturbing, were not particularly original. Beatrice and Virgil is not a coherent representation of The Holocaust. It strikes me more as a writer indulging himself at the reader's expense.
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on October 18, 2010
Year's ago, I watched the film Sophie's Choice with Meryl Streep and, as stunningly beautiful was the first 2/3 of the film, the last 1/3 left me and several friends who watched it horrified and the images remain in my mind years later. A film I always say was the best movie I wish I had never seen!

So now to Beatrice and Virgil! I again loved but was drawn into a beautiful story, or so the author leads us to believe. Then, suddenly the reader learns the truth and through one characters memories of the Holocaust; women running, babies being killed, we learn that one of the characters we had "heard" recite the friendship story of Beatrice and Vigil so beautifully, is a Nazi corraborator and as with Sophie's Choice, death and more ensues.

I felt duped cleverly and I have trouble even seeing my copy of Yann Martel's The Life of Pi on my bookshelf.

The wonderful reading of Beatrice and Virgil in the audiobook to which I listened was the only good memory I will have and that is what I must focus on.

Jan-Michael Wildeman
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