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.