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David Ireland: Archimedes and the Seagle

Cutesy stories narrated by animals have never been appealing to me and this one is no exception. Archimedes is a red setter and also the narrator of this novel. He follows on from the intelligent leopard in City of Women. For, make no mistake, Archimedes is intelligent. He can read – the book opens with him laboriously carrying home a book he finds in the street called The Book of Knowledge, actually an encyclopedia. With the help of Julie, the daughter of his “employers” (the Guest family), he manages to keep the book hidden in his kennel and reads it and learns about the world. But inevitably, Ireland uses the dog narration as an excuse for some worthy but trite homespun philosophy (Why do humans live on borrowed money? Why do they have wars?) He does have some communications with other dogs, including teaching one philosopher-dog, wittily called Dogones, to read but his main non-human contact seems to be with seagulls, including one called Joseph (whose wife is called, natch, Mary) who wants to bring seagulls back to true seagullness and away from being scavengers and also with the eponymous Seagle, so-called because he reminds Archimedes of an eagle. Archimedes may have an eminently sensible canine view of life but Mr. Ed was funnier.

Publishing history

First published 1984 by Viking Press