Angus Wilson: The Old Men at the Zoo

(494 words)
  • Marina MacKay (University of Durham)

Set ten years in the future, this novel is narrated by Simon Carter, who works as the Secretary of London Zoo between 1970 and 1973. Carter prides himself on his dispassionate administrative skills, but his professional equilibrium is ruined when a young keeper is killed one morning by a kick in the testicles from Smokey the Giraffe. This comically recounted opening incident seems to set the tone for an improbable plot, but Carter, a humorless character, sees the event as the occasion for a moral crusade. The first sections of the novel deal with Carter's attempts to apportion blame in the aftermath of the keeper's death, attempts which are thwarted by the complacency of the Zoo's Establishment, the “old men” of the novel's title. T…

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MacKay, Marina. "The Old Men at the Zoo". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 12 January 2001
[, accessed 06 July 2015.]