Frank Westerman - Brother Mendel’s Perfect Horse
Frank Westerman explores the great human tragedies of the twentieth century through the story of a horse, the Lipizzaner, in an astonishing quest through the pure bloodlines of four generations of Viennese ‘school stallions’ to discover what they meant to the world’s most powerful leaders.
The ‘living crown jewels’ of the doomed Habsburg dynasty fall prey to theft, deportation and experimentation by Nazi breeders. As the fairytale of the white horse begins to turn sour, the creation of the Lipizzaner becomes a metaphor for our attitudes to nature and culture, evolution and heredity, reflecting an irrepressible urge to produce better human beings by applying methods similar to those used in horse-breeding.
Westerman’s book reads like a crime novel and he describes all his characters, human or horse, with fascinating attention to detail. Along the way he throws new light on Europe’s ideological clashes of the past century. The tale of his travels across the breeding territories of the Lipizzaner, with their history of violence and war, amounts to a nuanced yet vivid account of twentieth-century genetics and eugenics, in theory, in practice, and in their most atrocious manifestations.
Frank Westerman is the author of The Bridge over the Tara (1994), Srebrenica: The Blackest Scenario (1997), as well as The Republic of Grain (1999) and Engineers of the Soul (2002), both of which were awarded prestigious prizes in the Netherlands. In 2005 Westerman received the Flemish Golden Owl Award for El Negro and Me (2004). Ararat was published in 2007.
- ‘Westerman is a very fine writer and his stories, characters and digressions are as delicately wrought as a watch mechanism. He reminds me of Bruce Chatwin and Ryszard Kapuscinski. Like them, he has elevated the authorial journalist-traveller into a brilliant, magic storyteller.’ – The Sunday Times