You’re an Animal, Viskovitz!

Written by a Russian biologist and originally published in Italian in 1998, this irresistible collection of fables based on Ovid’s Metamorphosis is a bit of clever whimsy that the reader will eagerly dash through in a single laugh-aloud session.

In each brief story, the central character Viskovitz engages in comic-tragic endeavors to attain the object of his passion, the always-beautiful Ljuba. The gimmick that makes this ordinary premise sweet and funny is that in each pursuit both Viskovitz and Ljuba are different kinds of insects or animals, and the amorous romantic or erotic pursuit is determined by a central characteristic of the creature.

As a dormouse waking from hibernation, he longs to return to the romantic fantasy of his dream. As a hermaphroditic snail, he spends his lifetime racing slowly to meet with his love lumbering toward him, only to discover that he is looking into a mirror. As a scorpion, he is a fast-draw cowboy gingerly courting a poisonous queen of the desert.

It is a delight to watch and wonder in each story as author Alessandro Boffa, who obviously knows his creatures, finds ways to exploit and expand upon various forms of animal passion, which always, regardless of number or nature of sexual organs, seems curiously and comically human.

Whether Viskovitz is a beautiful insect mistakenly brought up as a dung beetle trying to pull himself out of the filth of his life, a laboratory rat willing to go through various mazes for his love, an ant trying to become king of the ant hill, or a police dog caught up in a film noir detective story, Boffa’s clever use of biological knowledge and various literary genres make this an engaging read.