Life of Pi
By Yann Martel
(Mariner Books, Paperback, 9780156027328, 336pp.)
Publication Date: May 2003
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Pi Patel is an unusual boy. The son of a zookeeper, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior, a fervent love of stories, and practices not only his native Hinduism, but also Christianity and Islam. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional -- but is it more true?
Life of Pi is at once a realistic, rousing adventure and a meta-tale of survival that explores the redemptive power of storytelling and the transformative nature of fiction. It's a story, as one character puts it, to make you believe in God.
Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963 of Canadian parents. After studying philosophy at university, he worked at odd jobs—tree-planter, dishwasher, security guard—and traveled widely before turning to writing at the age of twenty-six. He is the author of a collection of short stories; three novels, including the internationally acclaimed 2002 Man Booker Prize–winning novel Life of Pi, which spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and Beatrice and Virgil; and a collection of letters to the Prime Minister of Canada, What is Stephen Harper Reading? Yann Martel lives in Saskatchewan, Canada.
- In his introductory note Yann Martel says, "This book was born as I was hungry." What sort of emotional nourishment might Life of Pi have fed to its author?
PRAISE FOR LIFE OF PI
"Life of Pi could renew your faith in the ability of novelists to invest even the most outrageous scenario with plausible life."— The New York Times Book Review
"A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction."— Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A gripping adventure story . . . Laced with wit, spiced with terror, it's a book by an extraordinary talent."— St. Paul Pioneer-Press
"A terrific book . . . Fresh, original, smart, devious, and crammed with absorbing lore."— Margaret Atwood
"An impassioned defense of zoos, a death-defying trans-Pacific sea adventure a la Kon-Tiki, and a hilarious shaggy-dog story . . . : This audacious novel manages to be all of these." — The New Yorker
"Readers familiar with Margaret Atwood, Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje and Carol Shields should learn to make room on the map of contemporary Canadian fiction for the formidable Yann Martel." — Chicago Tribune