Das verlorene Bestiarium : Roman

by Nicholas Christopher

Other authorsPociao (Translator)
Paperback, 2011



Call number

HU 9800 C556 B5



München: Dt. Taschenbuch-Verl.


A tale that is at once a fantastical historical mystery, a haunting love story, and a glimpse into the uncanny. Xeno Atlas grows up in the Bronx, his Sicilian grandmother's stories of animal spirits his only escape from the legacy of his mother's early death and his stern father's long absences. Shunted off to an isolated boarding school, Xeno turns his fascination with animals into a personal obsession: his search for the medieval Caravan Bestiary, lost for eight hundred years, which supposedly details the animals not granted passage on the Ark--griffins, hippogriffs, manticores, and basilisks--the vanished remnants of a lost world. Xeno's quest takes him from the tenements of New York to the jungles of Vietnam to the ancient libraries of Europe--but it is only by riddling out his own family secrets that he can hope to find what he is looking for.--From publisher description.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member richardderus
Sometimes a book just comes at you from nowhere. Unannounced, something about a particular work will summon something unexpected from its reader, something that feels important and shifts an atom or a molecule from left to right, from up to down.

“The Bestiary” did something like that for me. I
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began it with some small sense of its potential. I read Nicholas Christopher's novel “Veronica” earlier this decade, and was left with the feeling that I was about two-thirds of the way to a real experience, and left stranded by that last piece of unexplored territory between me and glory. What good writing, what good storytelling, what a letdown. I hoped for equally good writing and storytelling, plus a completeness I wasn't experiencing in “Veronica.”

Xeno Atlas begins the story of his life with the memorable observation, “The first beast I laid eyes on was my father.” Urgh, I though, another “my-father-failed-me” story. Still, there is so much in that sentence. There is menace and foreboding, and the foreshadowed sighting of more beasts. Continue, I told my cynical inner reader.

Lucky me, he did. Xeno tells us of his life as the left-behind son of a widowed Cretan sailor father, raised by his Sicilian maternal grandmother and Albanian nurse. The grandmother, we learn, is the granddaughter of a shape-shifting dryad; the old lady appears to become a red fox. The nurse is the closest thing to a normal person in the house, and her lovingkindness becomes a rock for Xeno's growing-up years. When, as is inevitable, the grandmother dies, Xeno is sent to boarding school in the wilds of Maine. It is here he will begin to come to terms with his father's indifference to him, and will discover the first traces of the Caravan Bestiary, the lost half of the universal bestiary that God used in creating the world. During the Flood, it appears that Noah got only one bestiary to guide his selection of animals, and the other animals were, it would seem, not pleasing to God and therefore to be abandoned. The Caravan Bestiary is the book recording their existence: Manticores, rukhs, griffins, gargoyles, sphinxes...all to be wiped out. Somehow that did not happen, and the Caravan Bestiary was proof of the survival of these terrifying other creatures.

Xeno begins a life-long quest for the Caravan Bestiary that takes him to every corner of the world. It is during his tour of duty in Vietnam that he re-connects with his boarding-school teacher who first mentioned the Bestiary to him. The vital clues that set Xeno traveling purposefully on the trail of this ancient book are discovered in a Hawaiian library, of all places. Xeno spends several more years chasing down clues and traveling across the Mediterranean several times, coping along the way with the loves and losses of any man in his twenties. His father dies; he learns the truth about his mother's family when he visits Sicily for the first time, and encounters for the last time his beloved red fox; he reignites and relishes his childhood love for Lena, a woman closer than a sister could ever be; finally, finally Xeno grows into the man we're rooting for him to become in his practical and urgent help for the real, living animals of Africa as he uses his inheritance to save endangered animals from certain death.

As if in reward, God (or whoever) brings Xeno to a church where he discovers so much more than he expected to find, and yet never actually beholds his longed-for prize of the Caravan Bestiary. What he finds is, without giving anything away, even better, even more surprising, and far more than he has any right to hope he will ever see.

I recommend this book to anyone who felt “The Da Vinci Code” was too facile and longs for a quest novel that will actually satisfy the real basis of the quest myth: “Know thyself.” I read this book, and at the end, I think I did know myself just a little bit better. I too am Xeno Atlas.
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LibraryThing member alexdallymacfarlane
This is a mixed novel. Slow, frequently dull sections relate the rather pat details of Xeno's life: unloved as a child, fought in Vietnam, protested against war, various romances. But the author managed to keep me from putting the book down because, occasionally, Xeno researches the bestiary and
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these parts are wonderful and fascinating and I adored them. Sadly, for a book described as being about a man who searches for a bestiary, a proportionately small amount of the book is dedicated to this. I'm not sure I'd recommend this, after a friend picked it up and disliked it, unless like me you're willing to wade through dull chunks to find the small, shining nuggets of research-y brilliance.
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LibraryThing member Aeyan
What holes of knowledge are we missing in the lore of our religions? In ourselves? In our relations with others? These thoughts circulate through Xeno Atlas' quest to find the 'Caravan Bestiary,' a bestiary detailing all the lost creatures not on Noah's ark. With panther-like fluidity, Nicholas
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Christopher drafts this exploration of the mythical manifestations that guide our subconscious and provide an 'other' to help us define the pieces of ourselves that we cannot see.
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LibraryThing member yarmando
Xeno Atlas searches for the legendary Caravan Bestiary, a purportedly beautiful manuscript that lists the mythical creatures that were denied passage on Noah's Ark. Like "Da Vinci Code" without the car chases.

Why I picked it up: I love Christopher's novel "Veronica," and was looking for something
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that was similarly dreamlike.

Why I finished it: Almost didn't; the story bogs. Xenos' life story is episodic, and few of the episodes have much momentum. While I didn't care what happened to him or to those he knew, I did come to care whether he found the Bestiary.

I'd give it to: readers who like bibliographic quest tales: characters searching through libraries and churches for snippets of lost poems and such.
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LibraryThing member TheCrow2
A man's story of his lifelong quest of a book called the Caravan Bestiary. As interesting the basic plot is as boring the book can be sometimes. It was said on the cover to be "fast-paced' and 'like the Da Vinci code" but neither of is true. Has it own merits but don't expect someting very
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action-packed. And the 'magical realistic' part of it is a little weak too....
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LibraryThing member delirium
Nicholas Christopher's tragic flaw is his ineptness with plot structure. He has these intriguing concepts, unique characters, and intricately rendered settings, but he blows it all when it comes to tying everything together into a well developed story. Some pieces of the novel don't tie in at all,
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and he skips over central plot developments in a couple of lines. I give it three stars because, barring this one mistake, his works are imaginative and profound. I'll probably pick up another one in the hopes that eventually, he'll get it right.
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LibraryThing member sogamonk
This book ,in my opinion, did not deliver what it promised. I enjoyed the writing,but the story took too many turns
and the Bestiary mystery was left as that, just a mystery. I felt he could have embellished the story a little more.
It was a good read, anyway.
LibraryThing member memccauley6
I kept reading all the way to the last word to find out what happened to Xeno and his quest for the Caravan Bestiary. Nicholas Christopher is a wonderful writer. I have been to some of the places in the book and his words made me feel like I was transported back there. I could smell the rain in the
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forest in Italy, feel the dust blowing against my ankles walking up the cobblestones…

That being said, this book made me furious. I threw it across the room after I finished and screamed some things my mom would still wash my mouth out if she heard. Why? Because it could have been a great book. The seeds are there.

The kindest way I can summarize all the things wrong with the book is to say I felt like the author was holding back.

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