This is the story of a gorilla who became a man. Plucked from his natural habitat, he learns how to speak, how walk and how to act like a human. Yet humans remain his masters.
Periene’s mission is to provide books that can be read in one sitting, and I often love this short burst of literature, but in this case I wanted more. It does have that parable feel without me quite not knowing what the parable was. The beginning felt like a tale of slavery, later on perhaps it is a message on messing with nature, or is it about the superficial nature of humans? The overriding theme is evolution, a reminder of our beginnings. I don’t know, maybe it’s all of the above, but that’s a lot to fit into 121 pages.
I did enjoy reading it though. The prose is easy to read but at times unnerving. Teaching the gorillas human etiquette highlights how ridiculous some things are. It becomes quite surreal when we meet the other animals, it seems almost believable to try and force the evolution of apes, but taking giraffes and lions to a dinner party?
The performance of the savannah is quite disturbing really. Here are animals who have been evolved so to speak, to be intelligent and cultured, yet they must play out their origins, a reminder of how fragile their life is, how some of their peers could quite easily eat them.
Peter Verhelst is a Belgian Flemish writer and The Man I Became is his eleventh novel. Translated from Dutch into English for the first time by David Colmer for Peirene Press, this edition is available in paperback and ebook editions from 22nd February 2016. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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