In 1975, on the eve of May Day, secret police dressed in chemical warfare suits sealed off a zoo in a small Czechoslovakian town and ordered the destruction of the largest captive herd of giraffes in the world. This apparently senseless massacre lies at the heart of J.M. Ledgard's remarkable first novel.
Ledgard tells the story of the giraffes from the moment of their capture in Africa to their deaths far away behind the Iron Curtain. We see them first through the eyes of Emil, a haemodynamicist (he studies blood flow in vertical creatures) who is chosen to accompany them from Hamburg by barge into Czechoslovakia. There Amina, a sleepwalker, a factory girl, glimpses their arrival, is awakened by them, and goes each day to gaze up at them. She is with them at the end, blinding them with a torch, as Jiri, a sharpshooter, brings them down one by one.
'Giraffe' is a story about strangeness, about creatures that are alien, silent, finely mazed and impossibly stretched. It is also a story about captivity, about Czechoslovakia, a middling totalitarian state in the middle of Europe that is itself asleep, under a spell, a nation of sleepwalkers.
'Giraffe' is beautiful, unearthly, and unforgettable.