A novel in verse
Gábor Schein’s new book is an entertainment: it imagines what would happen were the history of Europe and western civilization told by rhinoceroses. The story begins with Europa being carried away not by a bull but by a rhino, and ends with the anti-rhino media spreading the news that the source of the epidemic – patient zero, as it were – was an Indian rhinoceros that was not prepared to quarantine.
And why a rhinoceros? The author provides the answer: because, unlike so many other animals, it lacks a mythology: it is a creature that has not been written about. But only until now: Gábor Schein’s work, which is narrated in turn by a rhino, Europa herself, scientists and journalists, consists of 154 short texts about rhinos: texts recalling articles from encyclopedias about the European history of rhinos; writing that suggests news items about the activities of rhinos; as well as the personal reflections and prayers of the rhino.
In the guise of the rhino the author recounts tales of Europe and of refugees, of colonization and the extinction of animal species, of Hungary, and not least of himself. But who is this rhino? A lumbering, anachronistic creature that is at the same time possessed of profoundly human desires – a creature in which are melded brutishness and delicacy of spirit, both hunter and hunted: a radically alien spirit in which we recognise the indecisive nature and the dualities of our own existence.
A late, absurdist relative of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Gábor Schein’s book is both playful and liberating.
The rhinoceros made a note: life is mere functionality, an operation that is an impersonal end in itself, disrupted only by inexplicable inquisitiveness and love without motivation and devoid of purpose.
ISBN 978 963 14 2466 9
160 pages, 3299 HUF