Peter Høeg, author of the international bestseller Smilla’s Sense of Snow
, has written a fable that explores our human status as inhabitants of paradise lost, and the trade-off between civilization and freedom. The story begins with a captured ape, dubbed Erasmus
, a specimen of an apparently new species with a cognitive ability that seems to rival human capacities. Erasmus is rescued from scientific study and experimentation by Madelene, whose husband, Adam, is the zoo director. Escaping to an Eden-like nature reserve, Madelene finds an empathy with Erasmus that develops into a wild sexual liberation. When the pair emerge from Eden to try to stop Adam continuing researches on others of Erasmus’ kind, paradise dissolves, and civilization wins out. Read an interview
with Peter Høeg.
From Publishers Weekly
No one will ever be able to claim that HYeg doesn’t know how to hook a reader. The newest ecothriller by the author of Smilla’s Sense of Snow opens with the deceptively simple sentence: “An ape was approaching London
.” What the vague syntax and flat affect omit could (and does) fill a book. For instance, the “ape”-who’s dubbed Erasmus-turns out not to be “some sort of dwarf chimpanzee” as eminent zoologist Adam Burden claims, but a brand new species of ape that just might have the potential for language and higher cognitive functions. The opening line gives little indication of the hubbub Erasmus will raise in a few short paragraphs when he causes the Ark, the ship that has carried him captive to London, to lose its crew and plow mast-first into busy St. Katharine’s Dock. Or, a few pages later, when he leads Dr. Burden and his minions on a merry chase through the streets of London. Or, a couple of chapters down the road, when Erasmus seduces Madelene, who just happens to be Burden’s beautiful alcoholic wife, and takes her away for a week-long lovefest at a wild animal park. The first line gives no indication of all this because the story and its characters are mere window-dressing for HYeg. While he’s a fluid writer who is competent at telling stories, it’s in the realm of ideas that he excels. There are long passages in which he analyzes Erasmus and human emotions and London itself in terms that are by turns mechanistic and organic. On one page, London is a “gigantic mycelium,” a fungus. On a later page, we discover that London is a worn-out machine,” full of blind spots and flat points.” At the end of this fine and diverting novel, Madelene explains how she’s always pictured angels, and her definition could as easily stand for Erasmus or London or even the Earth. “It’s one third god, one third animal, and one third human.” 100,000 first printing; major ad/promo. (Dec.) FYI: The movie version of Smilla’s Sense of Snow, starring Julia Ormond
and Gabriel Byrne
, is scheduled for release in March 1997.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
From Smilla’s Sense of Snow to Borderliners
to A History of Danish Dreams
, Danish novelist HYeg has maintained a sharp sense of social critique that, refreshingly, is not wittily dismisive but earnest without being heavy-handed. And what better way to show up human heartlessness and pretension, particularly of the ruling classes, than in our treatment of animals? In this swift-paced, lacerating new work, an ape brought illegally to England ends up at the home of Madelene, a Danish woman married to Adam Burden, director of the Institute of Animal Behavioral Research. Madelene is young, fresh, and deeply alcoholic, but through the glassy haze that HYeg describes so effectively?from the inside out, not simply for dramatic effect but almost as an aesthetic experience, like being in a crystal cage?she can tell the ape is in danger. Madelene sets out to rescue the ape from her coldly calculating husband and his even more frigid sister and, in the process, rescues herself. That is the only predictable aspect of this thought-provoking work, which is too fresh in its writing and its perceptions to fall into the sentimentality one might expect. An air of freedom surrounds Madelene’s eventual abduction by the ape, and though their sexual involvment may seem over the top to some readers, you can’t help but be carried along by HYeg’s convictions. Don’t think King Kong; this is much subtler. Highly recommended.
-?Barbara Hoffert, “Library Journal”
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
No imaginative writer working today is any more daring than Danish novelist Peter Hoeg
, any more willing to shock readers with something that is genuinely new. He did it with Smilla’s Sense of Snow
(1993), which asked us to reimagine what a thriller could be, and he does it again with this utterly original mix of fantasy, fable, myth, and love story. Stimulating the same archetypal nerves that respond to such sentimental save-the-animals sagas as Born Free
, Hoeg forces us to confront the unavoidable realization that the animals, humans included, cannot be saved, that civilization itself is the inevitable enemy of freedom. These are not new ideas, of course–ask Huck Finn about civilization–but Hoeg faces them with a brutal honesty that is as rare as it is moving.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. T. across the city’s rooftops and treetops and out of the grasp of all the lab-coated, needle-poking, deadly seekers of knowledge and understanding. Least of all does Madelene expect to fall in love with the ape and to share with him an erotic ecstasy far beyond the bounds of that diminished, cerebral thing we call human sexuality.
Remarkably, we meet each outlandish turn in this story not with incredulity or disgust but with excitement and a sense of revelation. As an anti-utopian fable in which civilization, the enemy, triumphs over disorder, the novel threatens to leave some readers disoriented, their emotional compasses twirling. Yet others will find its vision on target, its expression of unfettered love both profoundly beautiful and refreshingly sexy, and its melancholy conclusion that “there is no such thing as a private Paradise” ineffably sad. Hoeg isn’t the first to remind us that today’s Huck Finns have no way to escape civilization, but he shows us exactly what we’ve lost more vividly than we’ve been shown in a long, long time. Bill Ott
Heg’s fourth novel (his third, the international success Smilla’s Sense of Snow, 1993, having been the first published here) is an energetic fable about relations between the animal kingdom and its human exploiters–more than a little didactic in spots, but distinguished by enough wit and invention to redeem a dozen lesser books. The story begins in London when a “dwarf chimpanzee” escapes from animal smugglers and is immediately captured and targeted for exhaustive experimentation by a research institute affiliated with the city’s zoo. Behavioral scientist Adam Burden and his steely sister Andrea, who works for an Animal Welfare Foundation, see in their astonishing find (“a new and hitherto unknown mammal, an apparently highly intelligent anthropoid ape”) a career-making opportunity. But their plans are thwarted when Adam’s Danish-born wife Madelene, a lissome alcoholic, discovers in the ape (named “Erasmus”) a fellow sufferer whose captivity echoes her own (as a tamed, well-behaved helpmate and showpiece), and also a potential soulmate. Forswearing drink, Madelene craftily subverts her husband’s careerist politicking, and–aided by the smuggler’s cheerfully criminal driver–runs off with Erasmus. The novel really picks up seriocomic steam as Madelene and Erasmus learn to communicate (he can talk, and is a quick learner), make love in the treetops, and enjoy a mock-Edenic “idyll” unobserved in a junglelike wildlife preserve. Everything climaxes during Adam’s acceptance speech as he’s being installed as the London Zoo’s new director–with dramatic proof that Erasmus isn’t the only creature of his kind. It’s a romp, in more senses than one, and Heg manages, against odds, to shape both the story’s discursiveness and its ingenious plot toward a smashing and emotionally satisfying conclusion. Heg is an adventurous and intelligent writer whose future course seems, happily, impossible to predict. He has made himself, in a few short years, one of the essential contemporary novelists. (First printing of 100,000) – Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
No imaginative writer working today is any more daring than Danish novelist Peter Høeg, any more willing to shock readers with something that is genuinely new. –Review
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Danish
From the Inside Flap
From the internationally acclaimed author of Smilla’s Sense of Snow
comes a dazzling leap of imagination–a tale as sensitive as it is suspenseful, as profound as it is provocative.
Madelene, the beautiful, lonely, alcoholic wife of behavioral scientist Adam Burden, is pacing the confines of their opulent London home when she comes upon her husband’s secret captive. Erasmus is a 300-pound ape who, if rigorous tests prove him a hitherto unknown superhominid, will be the ruthless Adam’s ultimate trophy. But Madelene, intoxicated by their encounter, sets out to unravel the web of corruption that ensnares this intelligent creature. And together, blurring the boundary between human and animal, she and Erasmus venture into an Eden of freedom and love…only to find their future endangered by a species who would let greed and ambition destroy their fragile world.
Witty, erotic, magical, The Woman and the Ape is a tour de force, one that offers daring new insight into out times, our illusions, and our hearts. –This text refers to the Unbound edition.
About the Author
The Woman and the Ape is Danish author Peter Høeg’s fourth novel. His works prior to this include Borderliners, The History of Danish Dreams, and the critically acclaimed, internationally successful thriller Smilla’s Sense of Snow. Keeping close to his roots, he currently resides in Copenhagen with his wife and two daughters.
Those of us over a certain age find ourselves acquainted with many unattached women justly complaining that a good man is hard to find. In this satiric novel the heroine solves this problem by running off with an ape. George Guidall approaches the book as a model narrator. He possesses a pleasant, grandfatherly voice. Speaking in measured tones, he parses each phrase for its full value and gives each character a distinct personality. In this instance, he’s far more interesting than the material he reads. Y.R. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.