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4.4 out of 5 stars10
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 27 August 2003
This really is a fun read. Boffa tells the story of Viskovitz through this book, except it's not just one story, but a collection of tales about Viskovitz's different animal forms. Some of the stories are very short, 2 pages, others go into more depth (the wolf for example). The same character names are used in each story for V's friends and so on, but each story seems to have its own writing style. Some are straight stories, others, such as the scorpion, follow a specific genre (in this case a western with the scorpion being a gunslinger character).
It's all a very easy read, and, at only some 140 odd pages, a very quick read, but that really doesn't detract from what is a very enjoyable book.
Oh, and it does seem a bit obsessed with sex.
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HALL OF FAMEon 12 October 2006
Some years ago, philosopher Thomas Nagel published his now-famous essay, "What Is It Like to Be A Bat?". He concluded that we can't fully comprehend the mental processes of another creature. Boffa may accept Searle's pronouncement on bats, but this Russian-born biologist has worked it out for twenty other species. In this treasury of witty "autobiographies", Boffa examines various animals' lives. In these lively episodes he demonstrates the various manifestations of one "Viskovitz" as spider, snail, mantis or microbe. In sometimes wonderfully lyrical language, Boffa recounts Viskovitz' quest for his true love, "Ljuba" and the turmoils and travails this multiple personality must endure.

Biologists know all animal life [and perhaps a few plants!] is driven by the "Five Fs" - Feed, Fear, Fight, Flight and . . . er . . . reproduction. Boffa rearranges the queue to put the last up front. As twenty different species, not all of them definably male, Viskovitz uses every opportunity to continue the line. His quest to mate, especially with the love of his choice, consumes him in each guise. His sense of mission may seem extreme to some, but the tales clearly represent what has been learned from studying life. Boffa recounts the many rituals various species go through in attracting mates. Africa's dung beetle Viskovitz goes beyond mere collecting and posturing. He becomes a monopolistic entrepreneur, determined to overwhelm any competition in his desire to win the beetle Ljuba. The resolution of that courtship is a priceless example of what "diversity of life" truly means. Identity may be hidden in some remote aspect of an organism.

Ljuba, primary object of desire, isn't the only influence on Viskovitz' life. There is Zucotic, who might be Viskovitz' alter ego. There's Lara, who may play substitute for the elusive Ljuba. In one case, the delightful Ljuba is replaced by a new, even more attractive mate, who happens to be a cardboard cutout. And, there's Viskovitz' relationship with his own parents, who- and what-ever they may be. Antecedents, as in any family, bear strong influence on how the current generation behaves and what they might expect. Inquiring about what his departed father was like, he's informed: "Crunchy, a bit salty, rich in fibre" by his preying mantis mother. Gender identity is vague among some creatures, and Viskovitz' relations with snail and sponge families makes delightful reading. But, so does the whole book. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 24 December 2003
I wasn't sure what to expect but I had heard good things so I had high hopes. I wasn't disappointed.
There are lots of little chapters, which makes it a good book to pick up and put down without loosing anything. Each chapter has a different animal incarnation - several of them had me snorting with laughter in a very embarrasing way (the snail, mantis and elk in particular).
Each story includes a little insight into human relationships, self-image or confused sexuality - but beautifully observed and delightfully played out by the animals.
This would be a great present for a guy.
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on 3 March 2016
I bought this book, thinking it would be an innovative way to learn about animal behaviors. But when I read the book, I was deeply disappointed. The book itself is very funny, but not at all is it a book that I would spend time on reading. The writer weaves some fractions of good science into his wild imagination, but it was hard for me to tell which was science and which was fiction. On top of that, there's simply too much fiction and too little science: the stories take form in various animals, but they are really just some human social and love stories.

In conclusion, readers looking for knowledge should avoid this book, but readers looking for entertainment should definitely find some fun in this book.
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Why isn't this the book of the millenium so far (in Italian it dates from 1998)? Maybe because it sounds somewhat ungainly in English (it's intended to), maybe because the Times blurb emblazoned (or rather plastered) on the cover of my edition calls it a 'minor classic' - faint praise or double damnation if ever there was. This is a *great* book in a small compass (Boffa calls comedy 'the highest form of art') - think Animal Farm; Candide; The Song of Songs?? Not that I'm suggesting that's funny (stay me with flagons!), merely visceral, archetypal, unsurpassable..
But why are all the reviewers such spoilers? Would they do that with a movie?

Exquisite translation, too
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on 3 December 2011
this book has got to be one of my favourite books of all time. besides the annoying fact that it is very small, this book could not get any better, it mixes just the right amount of discription and getting to the point (i hate books that will spend chapters describing a scene, although its a crap book if it doesnt describe anything).
this book follows the adventures of Viskovitz, an animal. although this animal varies from being a penguin or a dog, to a snail or dung beatle. The mad writing and repeated use of names make this book easy to follow and amazing.
definatly worth the buy.
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on 31 July 2008
existentialist fables parodied by an assembly of interesting and inventively lustful animal personae.
there's a lot of identification going on, in more ways than one!
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on 17 June 2013
I bought this book for a friend as I had read it years ago, loved it, and it has since been a key recommendation of mine. I am a huge fan of short stories, and these fantastic, anthropomorphic, witty tales are absolutely laden with intelligence and insight.
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on 7 July 2013
I think this is a very clever book and gave a copy to each of my (grown up) children last Xmas. They were also enthusiastic about it.
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on 4 February 2006
Boffa’s ‘YAAV’ follows the sex life of Viskovitz throughout various incarnations in the biological world. As Viskovitz changes species he/she/it changes gender from male to female to hermaphrodite, from outbreeder to self-fertiliser, Boffa chronicles the difficulties and embarrassments associated with each breeding system. In particular, Viskovitz, in all its guises, is desperate to mate, however possible, with Ljuba, the being of his desires (and always fails).
Although the idea of treating organisms employing different mating systems as conscious, then examining how they feel about love and sex, is fairly well executed in this book, it is hardly a new idea. Subsequently, books like ‘YAAV’ need something more than just this idea to be memorable, and, for me, ‘YAAV’ just doesn’t. Boffa’s facts are well researched, but beyond the initial cleverness of the concept, there is little else to it, and, despite being relatively short and simply written, I was thoroughly bored long before the end. Perhaps I missed some depth to the book, but, to me, it was an unoriginal idea done averagely, and not something I would recommend.
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