There’s nothing like the unimaginable to make people believe

The use of animals in his novel, he explained, was for reasons of craft rather than of sentiment… We are cynical about our own species, but less so about animals, especially wild ones…

if I tell a story about a dentist from Bavaria or Saskatchewan, I have to deal with readers’ notions about dentists from Bavaria or Saskatchewan, those preconceptions and stereotypes that lock people and stories into small boxes. But if it’s a rhinoceros from Bavaria or Saskatchewan who is the dentist, then it’s an entirely different matter.

The reader pays closer attention, because he or she has no preconceptions about rhinoceros dentists — from Bavaria or anywhere else. The reader’s disbelief begins to lift… Now the story can unfold more easily.

There’s nothing like the unimaginable to make people believe.

An excerpt from Yann Martel’s latest novel. The critics have hated it. Others disagree.

2 thoughts on “There’s nothing like the unimaginable to make people believe

  1. If Yann Martel believes most people have preconceptions about dentists from Bavaria or Sasketchewan, he’s perhaps a little out of touch with most peoples’ reality. I’d have more preconceptions about a rhino dentist – big, clumsy, painful work?

  2. I’m completely torn on it! But I’m a hopeless critic. It was strange, and haunted me for quite a while. Not sure I’d re-read or recommend to anyone else, but I don’t feel like my time was wasted in reading it.