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The woman and the ape review

No-one likes to be called an animal, yet animals are what we inescapably are. And from poor frightened stuffy old Bishop Wilberforce on there have always been people who think that being an ape is worse, somehow, than being any animal at all. Yet apes we are, and apes we remain. Walking down the street one can see the resemblance — in the turn of a jaw, in grasping manipulative hands, in the hairy back of the man who simply must wear a singlet.

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No-one likes to be called an animal, yet animals are what we inescapably are. And from poor frightened stuffy old Bishop Wilberforce on there have always been people who think that being an ape is worse, somehow, than being any animal at all. Yet apes we are, and apes we remain. Walking down the street one can see the resemblance — in the turn of a jaw, in grasping manipulative hands, in the hairy back of the man who simply must wear a singlet. A newborn baby, a particularly clumsy walk, can illuminate as lightning.

The Woman and the Ape is full of such illumination. The text is ripe with comparison and allusion, and provides some of the best imagery and character moments. For example, a young alcoholic wife, driven stir-crazy by the emptiness of her life:.

From conversations overheard in her childhood home she had retained a vague and repulsive impression of what conditions were like for domestic animals on factory farms. She knew the meaning of such terms as spontaneous fracture, tongue rolling, somatotropin, urine drinking, manger biting, neighbour pecking and monotonization of mating behaviour.

Now, in these terms, she spied herself. The saturation of simile and metaphor is relentless — not for one moment is the reader allowed to forget that before her is a cast of animals, a regular circus ring of them.

The stage is set, and this ruthless undermining of our own puffed-up humanity — the humanity we perceive as somehow less animal in nature than the true animals — underlines the thread of masks and disguise that run through the text. If, as a species, we can perceive ourselves as other than what we really are, how, as individuals, can we be expected to fare any better?

Other masks, and more personal, inhabit our lives and define our identities. While science fiction does rely heavily on the theme of conformity and identity, seldom do the masks created within the genre reach this level of reality. The masks on show in The Woman and the Ape are not just constructs meant to deceive the self and others, they are characters in their own right. This resurrection occurred in front of her mirror and took between thirty and forty-five minutes. While it was underway, she was totally absorbed; during that space of time, with uncompromising thoroughness, she did the one thing she knew herself to be truly good at: she recreated the myth which said that Madelene looks gorgeous.

The mask is a living thing, with its own wants, needs, and expectations. The under-Madelene, the creative personality behind the mask, is content enough to exist, stupefied into near oblivion, behind the mask that she so industriously and continuously maintains.

Illegally imported by her husband Adam, the ape Erasmus is as intelligent and human as Madelene herself — at least Madelene on her better days, when her brain is not pickled with alcohol. Paradise does not last, of course. It never does. Adam is on their trail, and Erasmus is not the only ape around… and he and his kind are getting just a bit fed up with humanity. Slowly Madelene finds that the self she had constructed, the self that she resurrects every day, is insufficient for this new life.

Its use as a tool is too limited. Adequate for her previous life, its careful incompetence, cultivated expectations, and determined conformity is wholly unsuited for the present.

It was just that it never occurred to him. And what was more she did not want it either. New masks, new identities, are required for her to navigate through this new world.

Yet this relatively straightforward uncovering of character within a protagonist is not terribly surprising in any book, any genre. What makes this theme stand out so here is not the uncovering itself, but the thoroughness of the masks presented, their ubiquity throughout the text, and the horrible fact that even these new, superior apes — so much more admirable than Homo sapiens sapiens!

In one form or another, this leave-taking is a relatively common science fiction trope. However, the frantic response of the public to the unmasking — the sheer emotionalism of it — is further proof that the masks of The Woman and the Ape are characters in their own right.

It came from her husband. They eyed one another fearfully, tried to remember how their children and their spouses looked naked, wondered when exactly they had first met their wives, frantically they wondered whether she might be an ape, or the daughter of an ape.

This reaction can be partially ascribed to the social stigma of having an ape in the family, of course Wilberforce is never truly gone!

The unmasking is a betrayal, an abandonment. Entire relationships are shown to be founded on a lie; deceptions from the beginning. The husband of the RZS vice-president has been used and thrown over, his emotions vivisected as thoroughly as Erasmus would have been vivisected biologically. The boundaries between the natural and the unnatural, between love and duty, between human and ape, have again been blurred. In the end, we are all responsible for our masks.

They take a deal of construction, a continual resurrection. If we are careful, and clever, the masks we show to the world are indistinguishable from a true face. And if others believe that mask to be real, are we not responsible for them falling into the lie that we have so carefully and cleverly created? The grieving husband loved something that did not exist — but he loved.

Can one say the same for his wife? And on their separate islands, separated by space and species, what faces will these two see when they look in the mirror? Who knows. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account.

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An Ape Showing Humans What Humanity Is

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required. To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number. The story seems too locked in the world of children's fantasy to support such subversive ideology, but that is only one of the conventional assumptions that must be shed as we read this most unconventional novel. When Madelene, the stifled, alcoholic wife of a London zoo director, decides to help free an ape that is soon to become the prize exhibit in her husband's zoo, she hardly expects to wind up fleeing London on this extraordinary ape's back, soaring with all the magic of E.

The Woman and the Ape is the story of a unique and unforgettable couple—Madelene and Erasmus. Madelene—a sleeping beauty drowsing gently in an alcoholic stupor—is the beautiful and disillusioned wife of Adam Burden, a distinguished behavior scientist.

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The Woman and the Ape

A lot of people have been waiting for Peter Hoeg's new novel, people who were captivated by the originality and wit of his ''Smilla's Sense of Snow,'' the surprise best seller of three years ago about a half-Eskimo woman from Copenhagen who solves the mystery of a small boy's death. Some of the spirit of that book has made its way into ''The Woman and the Ape,'' which also has a main female character of off-center allure. This new novel is similarly shrouded in a vague sense of mystery, and it is written with an epigrammatic grace that reveals Mr. Hoeg as a writer of an especially polished quirkiness. Hoeg's familiarly warped universe. A ship on the Thames approaches London with an ape on board ''all hunched up with its eyes closed and a blanket around its shoulders. Things go wrong. The boat runs out of control. The ape escapes, and for several chapters as his story takes shape, Mr.

P eter Hoeg, the Danish author of the surprise international bestseller, "Smilla's Sense of Snow," has concocted a new book that's as awkward as its own half-breed protagonist. The Woman, a pampered, upper-crusty Dane named Madelene, is the wife of zookeeper Adam, and she's the only one who can save The Ape from grisly testing and permanent imprisonment. After they run off together, The Ape quickly learns English, and naturally one thing leads to another -- and we are faced with some truly absurd cross-species pollination. This happens in a paradisaical animal preserve in Northern England, a place of Darwinian simplicity where the humans have left the animals to fend for themselves within the confines of the forest. Madelene and The Ape leave the garden only when they realize that Adam will most likely kidnap other Apes.

Interesting and satisfying.

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The Woman and the Ape is the story of a unique and unforgettable couple--Madelene and Erasmus. Madelene is the wife of —Bill Ott, Booklist (starred review).

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