I very much enjoyed a number of Philip Hoare’s earlier books, so was very much looking forward to reading this one. It’s a fun, eclectic read.
Although themed around the early sixteenth century German painter Albrecht Dürer, Hoare misses no opportunity to head off tangentially, Sebald fashion, into all manner of Dürer-adjacent topics, including, the man himself, W.G. Sebald, and a long section on the German writer Thomas Mann and his family and associates. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Hoare over the years that he also never misses an opportunity to write about whales.
Despite the regular diversions, Hoare doesn’t lose track of the main narrative, providing an interesting brief biography of Dürer. The story if the whale of the book’s title is particularly fascinating, as is the tale of the rhinoceros that was the inspiration for what is perhaps Dürer’s most famous etching.
Definitely my kind of book. Recommended.