Oct 22, 2008

Victor

A Novel Based on the Life of the Savage of Aveyron
by Mordicai Gerstein

Victor is an account of the wild boy of Aveyron told in novel form. The story is related from several different viewpoints: of the doctor Itard, the matronly housekeeper, the young household maid, and Victor himself. The most interesting chapters (to me) were those from Victor's point of view, expressed in a stream-of-consciousness flow of sensations and impressions, clearly illustrating Victor's apparent simplicity, confusion and lack of a sense of self. Itard is portrayed as not only being compassionate and creative in his attempts to teach Victor, but also a bit obsessive and sometimes even unkind when he looses patience. The maid is afraid of Victor, not only due to his strange and often wild behavior, but because when Victor reaches puberty, his awakening feelings of s-xuality are focused upon her. There are several scenes in the book I think are unsuitable for the age group its writing style is aimed at (ages 9-12, the publication info states) so I would recommend it for an older group, or to be read with an adult who can answer the inevitable questions it raises. Like the other books I've read about this feral child, Victor addresses (in a casual format) the education of mentally afflicted children, how society treats them, and questions of what it means to be human.

Reading this book made me think strongly of two others: An Imaginary Life, by David Malouf and Listen to the Silence, by David Elliott, both fiction. The first is about the ancient Roman poet Ovid being exiled to a primitive society where he befriends a feral child, the second about an unfortunate young boy's experience inside an insane asylum. I'll be writing about these two books sometime in the future.

Rating: 3/5                      272 pages, 1998

1 comment:

janet said...

Interesting. I've never heard of Victor.

Looking forward to the future reviews you mention here, too.