As ridiculous as it sounds, I was moved by this review of Nim Chimpsky’s biography: he was taken from his chimpanzee mother not long after birth and became the first chimpanzee to be reared by humans in order to prove/disprove linguist Noam Chomsky’s theories on human language acquisition. When the study was over, he was sent to various research facilities until he finally ended up at a sanctuary for formerly caged animals.
Here’s a passage that reminded me, of all things, of the character of Elijah (the chimp who lives with Cameron Diaz and John Cusack’s characters) in BEING JOHN MALKOVICH:
There was a children’s book all about Nim while he was in New York, basically a photo book, and Nim kept his one copy of this book safe, even though chimps tend to wreck everything. He would bring it down and show the other chimps, then bring it back to his bunk and keep it under his sleeping area so that no one could destroy it. He would just look at pictures of his New York City family, and himself, over and over again.
He had a family, once. And then–no more.
I can’t decide which is more painful, the memory of his family, or the fact that he had pictures to remind himself of that time? How human is that?