A Howl and a Black Cat: Allegory, Nonsense, and Ethics in Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil

A Howl and a Black Cat: Allegory, Nonsense, and Ethics in Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil A Howl and a Black Cat Allegory, Nonsense, and Ethics in Yann Martel's Beatrice and Virgil jenni adams In Yann Martel's 2010 novel Beatrice and Virgil, the protagonist, Henry--an ironic alter ego of Martel himself--contends that, in contrast to the subject matter of war, which has been depicted in a variety of modes from thriller to comedy through to science fiction, the Holocaust occupies quite a rigidly restrictive--and realist--representational sphere: "No such poetic license was taken with--or given to--the Holocaust. That terrifying event was overwhelmingly represented by a single school: historical realism."1 However, this is not, in fact, the case. Not only has the Holocaust been subjected to exactly the range of generic modes associated by Martel's protagonist with the literature of war--the Holocaust thriller, the Holocaust romance, the Holocaust comedy--admittedly with varying degrees of acceptance on the part of critics--but the Holocaust is frequently, and increasingly, depicted in terms that indicate a flight from realism on the part of Holocaust writers.2 Problematizing any transparent "access" to these historical events, writers like Joseph Skibell, Art Spiegelman, Yoram Kaniuk, Michael Chabon, and David Grossman use nonrealist techniques including magic realism, the fantastic, and the surreal, raising key questions in http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies University of Nebraska Press

A Howl and a Black Cat: Allegory, Nonsense, and Ethics in Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil

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Publisher
University of Nebraska Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2012 University of Nebraska Press
ISSN
2045-4740
Publisher site
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Abstract

A Howl and a Black Cat Allegory, Nonsense, and Ethics in Yann Martel's Beatrice and Virgil jenni adams In Yann Martel's 2010 novel Beatrice and Virgil, the protagonist, Henry--an ironic alter ego of Martel himself--contends that, in contrast to the subject matter of war, which has been depicted in a variety of modes from thriller to comedy through to science fiction, the Holocaust occupies quite a rigidly restrictive--and realist--representational sphere: "No such poetic license was taken with--or given to--the Holocaust. That terrifying event was overwhelmingly represented by a single school: historical realism."1 However, this is not, in fact, the case. Not only has the Holocaust been subjected to exactly the range of generic modes associated by Martel's protagonist with the literature of war--the Holocaust thriller, the Holocaust romance, the Holocaust comedy--admittedly with varying degrees of acceptance on the part of critics--but the Holocaust is frequently, and increasingly, depicted in terms that indicate a flight from realism on the part of Holocaust writers.2 Problematizing any transparent "access" to these historical events, writers like Joseph Skibell, Art Spiegelman, Yoram Kaniuk, Michael Chabon, and David Grossman use nonrealist techniques including magic realism, the fantastic, and the surreal, raising key questions in

Journal

Journal of Literature and Trauma StudiesUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Jun 1, 2012

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