Zarafa: The True Story of a Giraffe's Journey from the Plains of Africa to the Heart of Post-Napoleonic France by Michael Allin - review by Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes

Lost Her Strangeness

Zarafa: The True Story of a Giraffe's Journey from the Plains of Africa to the Heart of Post-Napoleonic France

By

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All animals are now effectively domesticated. Thanks to mass illustration, Disney, and half a century of TV zoologists, it is virtually impossible to be stunned or awed by beast or bird: intrigued, surprised, amused, occasionally shit-scared; impressed by their organisation, tickled by their tricks; but not stunned or awed. Perhaps this emotional absence explains the tenacity of hope that attaches to such extravagances as the Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowman (not to mention Lord Lucan).

The thought of the great pachyderms of Africa and India disembarking in Europe for the first time provokes envy in our unsurprised times. There is the famous case of the Pope’s rhinoceros, sent from Goa by the King of Portugal in the early sixteenth century, which drowned in the Gulf

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