Animals strike curious poses by Elena Passarello

In this collection of 17 brief essays Elena Passarello ( traces stories of famous animals and how they have reshaped our thinking about humans. She reflects on our need for new language in an age of mass extinction, the way that Albrecht Dürer’s wildly inaccurate rhinoceros prints influenced popular imagination in 16th century Europe, and her own encounter with a deformed goat billed as “Lancelot, the Living Unicorn” by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1985. Other essays are more miscellaneous. Passarello inhabits the mind of Charles Darwin’s pet tortoise and imagines Koko the signing gorilla retelling the infamous ‘Aristocrats’ joke in her limited vocabulary. The author’s keen wit is on display as she raises questions about the uniqueness of humans. There are entertaining stories of murderous elephants in America, which align their crimes and executions with the rise of electricity and capital punishment. This is an entertaining feast delivered in beautiful prose.

Check if Passarello’s collection of essays is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at

256 pages in Jonathan Cape

First published 2017

ISBN  978-1787330306

Elena Passarello

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