The Anatomy of Edouard Beaupré
by Sarah Kathryn York
The Anatomy of Edouard Beaupré. A Montreal anatomist hopes the preserved body of a giant will yield up the secrets of a man, in this first short story collection.
A Montreal doctor investigates the cadaver of the famous Willow Bunch Giant, trying to solve the mystery of why the preserved body is shrinking. His own physical limitations add an urgency to his research, as his body too is failing; a rare condition means it is gradually absorbing its own bones.
The giant’s body has been ravaged not only by the treatment it received immediately after Edouard’s death — being paraded in shop windows and in freak shows — but also by the attentions of a professor who in 1907 bought the body for his experiments and classes.
But the strictly clinical and physical isn’t enough, and the anatomist begins to reveal the story of the man through a series of events selected from his short life. Beginning with a sixteen-year-old’s dreams of being a cowboy, it follows Edouard’s seemingly inevitable move into strongman displays and freak sideshows, showing the uneasy mix of his need and desire for money with his self-dislike and weariness of being unable to escape his stature. The spectre of his physical weakness — caused, conversely, by his size and superhuman strength — is ever-present, as first his muscles and later, his lungs, begin to fail.
By the book’s close, the physical mystery is solved, a paper published, acclaim afforded, but the narrator understands he is perhaps farther than ever from understanding Edouard Beaupré’s true anatomy.