Life of Pi: Deluxe Illustrated Edition

Overview

“Will the tiger be menacing; will the ocean be threatening; will the island be something out of Frankenstein or will it be an Eden?”—Yann Martel

Life of Pi, first published in 2002, became an international bestseller and remains one of the most extraordinary and popular works of contemporary fiction.

In 2005 an international competition was held to find the perfect artist to illustrate Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize–winning novel. From ...

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Overview

“Will the tiger be menacing; will the ocean be threatening; will the island be something out of Frankenstein or will it be an Eden?”—Yann Martel

Life of Pi, first published in 2002, became an international bestseller and remains one of the most extraordinary and popular works of contemporary fiction.

In 2005 an international competition was held to find the perfect artist to illustrate Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize–winning novel. From thousands of entrants, Croatian artist Tomislav Torjanac was chosen. This lavishly produced edition features forty of Torjanac’s beautiful four-color illustrations, bringing Life of Pi to splendid, eye-popping life.

Tomislav Torjanac says of his illustrations: “My vision of the illustrated edition of Life of Pi is based on paintings from a first person’s perspective—Pi’s perspective. The interpretation of what Pi sees is intermeshed with what he feels and it is shown through [the] use of colors, perspective, symbols, hand gestures, etc.”

Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
Though all of our volunteer readers weighed in with "two thumbs up," we knew this was a winner when our fiction buyer -- not given to hyperbole -- declared it "one of the best books I've ever read!" Yann Martel's Life of Pi deserves every word of that praise. Drawing parallels between zoology and theology, Martel's novel is by turns amusing, intellectually astute, and poignant. And his Kiplingesque adventure tale will cause readers to reexamine beliefs of all kinds.

Meet Pi Patel, a young man on the cusp of adulthood when fate steps in and hastens his lessons in maturity. En route with his family from their home in India to Canada, their cargo ship sinks, and Pi finds himself adrift in a lifeboat -- alone, save for a few surviving animals, some of the very same animals Pi's zookeeper father warned him would tear him to pieces if they got a chance. But Pi's seafaring journey is about much more than a struggle for survival. It becomes a test of everything he's learned -- about both man and beast, their creator, and the nature of truth itself.

With a brilliant combination of sensitivity and a precise economy of language, Martel develops a story some readers might find less than credible. But his capacity for the mysterious, and a true understanding of the depths of human resilience will compel even the most skeptical of readers to continue on the fantastic journey with Pi, and an unusual 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. (Summer 2002 Selection)

From the Publisher
Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

"Let me tell you a secret: the name of the greatest living writer of the generation born in the sixties is Yann Martel."—L'Humanité

"A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction and its human creators, and in the original power of storytellers like Martel."—Los Angeles Times Book Review
“If this century produces a classic work of survival literature, Martel is surely a contender.’—The Nation
"Beautifully fantastical and spirited."—Salon

"Martel displays the clever voice and tremendous storytelling skills of an emerging master."—Publishers Weekly

"[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

"Audacious, exhilarating . . . wonderful. The book's middle section might be the most gripping 200 pages in recent Canadian fiction. It also stands up against some of Martel's more obvious influences: Edgar Allen Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, the novels of H. G. Wells, certain stretches of Moby Dick."—Quill & Quire

From the Publisher
Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

"Let me tell you a secret: the name of the greatest living writer of the generation born in the sixties is Yann Martel."—L'Humanité

"A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction and its human creators, and in the original power of storytellers like Martel."—Los Angeles Times Book Review
“If this century produces a classic work of survival literature, Martel is surely a contender.’—The Nation
"Beautifully fantastical and spirited."—Salon

"Martel displays the clever voice and tremendous storytelling skills of an emerging master."—Publishers Weekly

"[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

"Audacious, exhilarating . . . wonderful. The book's middle section might be the most gripping 200 pages in recent Canadian fiction. It also stands up against some of Martel's more obvious influences: Edgar Allen Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, the novels of H. G. Wells, certain stretches of Moby Dick."—Quill & Quire

The New Yorker
An impassioned defense of zoos, a death-defying trans-Pacific sea adventure à la "Kon-Tiki," and a hilarious shaggy-dog story starring a four-hundred-and-fifty-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker: this audacious novel manages to be all of these as it tells the improbable survivor's tale of Pi Patel, a young Indian fellow named for a swimming pool (his full first name is Piscine) who endures seven months in a lifeboat with only a hungry, outsized feline for company. This breezily aphoristic, unapologetically twee saga of man and cat is a convincing hands-on, how-to guide for dealing with what Pi calls, with typically understated brio, "major lifeboat pests."
L'Humanite
Let me tell you a secret: the name of the greatest living writer of the generation born in the sixties is Yann Martel.
Albterto Manguel
Those who would believe that the art of fiction is moribund-let them read Yann Martel with astonishment, delight, and gratitude.
Globe And Mail
Pi is Martel's triumph. He is understated and ironic, utterly believable and pure. The whole fantastic voyage carries hints of The Old Man And The Sea. The playfulness adds another layer to an already strong story.
Paul Evans
A work of wonder, this novel tells a fabulous tale about an intrepid sixteen-year-old boy who spends 227 days at sea with a 450-pound Bengal tiger. The protagonist is a dreamer and a desperado, a zookeeper's son steeped in animal lore and religion (he's a practicing Hindu, Muslim and Catholic). A young Canadian with a Pushcart Prize to his credit, Martel is a limpid stylist with a flair for the poetic. Mainly, however, he's a storyteller—and a brilliant one. There are echoes in his work of Latin American magic realism (reminiscent of García Márquez and Borges) and touches of absurdist mind games. A cross-cultural feast, the book ranges from India to North America; it's also packed with curious disquisitions on philosophy, zoology, linguistics and God. But in the end, it's the story you'll remember, the kind of twist-and-turns spellbinder that's almost impossible to forget.
Publishers Weekly
A fabulous romp through an imagination by turns ecstatic, cunning, despairing and resilient, this novel is an impressive achievement "a story that will make you believe in God," as one character says. The peripatetic Pi (n the much-taunted Piscine) Patel spends a beguiling boyhood in Pondicherry, India, as the son of a zookeeper. Growing up beside the wild beasts, Pi gathers an encyclopedic knowledge of the animal world. His curious mind also makes the leap from his native Hinduism to Christianity and Islam, all three of which he practices with joyous abandon. In his 16th year, Pi sets sail with his family and some of their menagerie to start a new life in Canada. Halfway to Midway Island, the ship sinks into the Pacific, leaving Pi stranded on a life raft with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. After the beast dispatches the others, Pi is left to survive for 227 days with his large feline companion on the 26-foot-long raft, using all his knowledge, wits and faith to keep himself alive. The scenes flow together effortlessly, and the sharp observations of the young narrator keep the tale brisk and engaging. Martel's potentially unbelievable plot line soon demolishes the reader's defenses, cleverly set up by events of young Pi's life that almost naturally lead to his biggest ordeal. This richly patterned work, Martel's second novel, won Canada's 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. In it, Martel displays the clever voice and tremendous storytelling skills of an emerging master. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Gary Krist
"[Life of Pi] could renew your faith in the ability of novelists to invest even the most outrageous scenario with plausible life."
Publishers Weekly
"Martel displays the clever voice and tremendous storytelling skills of an emergging master."
Suzy Hansen
"Beautifully fantastical and spirited."
Charlotte Innes
"If this century produces a classic work of survival literature, Martel is surelly a contender."
Francie Lin
"A story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction and its humman creators, and in the original power of storytellers like Martel."
VOYA
It sounds like the start of a bad joke: A boy, a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a tiger are stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific. The format makes it clear from the beginning who survives, but it is the how that propels the reader, as Pi's voice emerges with an as-told-to memoir quality that relays the tale of a young man who explores a variety of faiths and learns much about human nature through watching the animals at his father's zoo. Everything he discovers through his observations becomes applicable in the oceanic adventure that takes place after the sinking of the ship carrying his family and a few select specimens from the zoo toward a better life in North America. Although ordinarily science and religion are at odds, the lessons learned through spirituality and biology become Pi's salvation. The novel takes an allegorical twist when Pi reveals that his highly imaginative tale of animals corresponds to a more horrific one, peopled with family and crew from the sunken ship. The plot hooks, the writing is vivid, and the tone is engaging after a slow start. Although the gore and physicality are not for the weak of stomach or faint of heart, teens who enjoy reading to learn something about the world around them or themselves will delight in this Booker Prize-winning novel. VOYA Codes: 4Q 2P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2002, Harcourt, 336p,
— Beth Gallaway
Library Journal
Named for a swimming pool in Paris the Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel begins this extraordinary tale as a teenager in India, where his father is a zoo keeper. Deciding to immigrate to Canada, his father sells off most of the zoo animals, electing to bring a few along with the family on their voyage to their new home. But after only a few days out at sea, their rickety vessel encounters a storm. After crew members toss Pi overboard into one of the lifeboats, the ship capsizes. Not long after, to his horror, Pi is joined by Richard Parker, an acquaintance who manages to hoist himself onto the lifeboat from the roiling sea. You would think anyone in Pi's dire straits would welcome the company, but Richard Parker happens to be a 450-pound Bengal tiger. It is hard to imagine a fate more desperate than Pi's: "I was alone and orphaned, in the middle of the Pacific, hanging on to an oar, an adult tiger in front of me, sharks beneath me, a storm raging about me." At first Pi plots to kill Richard Parker. Then he becomes convinced that the tiger's survival is absolutely essential to his own. In this harrowing yet inspiring tale, Martel demonstrates skills so well honed that the story appears to tell itself without drawing attention to the writing. This second novel by the Spanish-born, award-winning author of Self, who now lives in Canada, is highly recommended for all fiction as well as animal and adventure collections. Edward Cone, New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
The Nation
If Canadian writer Yann Martel were a preacher, he'd be charismatic, funny and convert all the non-believers. He baits his readers with serious themes and trawls them through a sea of questions and confusion, but he makes one laugh so much, and at times feel so awed and chilled, that even thrashing around in bewilderment or disagreement one can't help but be captured by his prose. —Charlotte Innes
Kirkus Reviews
A fable about the consolatory and strengthening powers of religion flounders about somewhere inside this unconventional coming-of-age tale, which was shortlisted for Canada's Governor General's Award. The story is told in retrospect by Piscine Molitor Patel (named for a swimming pool, thereafter fortuitously nicknamed "Pi"), years after he was shipwrecked when his parents, who owned a zoo in India, were attempting to emigrate, with their menagerie, to Canada. During 227 days at sea spent in a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger (mostly with the latter, which had efficiently slaughtered its fellow beasts), Pi found serenity and courage in his faith: a frequently reiterated amalgam of Muslim, Hindu, and Christian beliefs. The story of his later life, education, and mission rounds out, but does not improve upon, the alternately suspenseful and whimsical account of Pi's ordeal at sea-which offers the best reason for reading this otherwise preachy and somewhat redundant story of his Life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780151013838
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Edition description: Deluxe Illustrated Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Yann Martel

Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963 of Canadian parents. Life of Pi won the 2002 Man Booker Prize and has been translated into more than forty languages. A #1 New York Times bestseller, it spent 104 weeks on the list and was adapted to the screen by Ang Lee. He is also the author of the novels Beatrice and Virgil and Self , the collection of stories The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios , and a collection of letters to the prime minister of Canada, 101 Letters to a Prime Minister . He lives in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Tomislav Torjanac was born in 1972 in Croatia, where he lives and works as a freelance illustrator. In 2006, he won the international competition to find an illustrator for this new edition of Life of Pi. Amongst other things, he's done many book covers and illustrated a few children's books, including James Joyce's The Cat and the Devil.

Biography

Sometime in the early 1990s, Yann Martel stumbled across a critique in The New York Times Review of Books by John Updike that captured his curiosity. Although Updike's response to Moacyr Scliar's Max and the Cats was fairly icy and indifferent, the premise immediately intrigued Martel. According to Martel, Max and the Cats was, "as far as I can remember... about a zoo in Berlin run by a Jewish family. The year is 1933 and, not surprisingly, business is bad. The family decides to emigrate to Brazil. Alas, the ship sinks and one lone Jew ends up in a lifeboat with a black panther." Whether or not the story was as uninspiring as Updike had indicated in his review, Martel was both fascinated by this premise and frustrated that he had not come up with it himself.

Ironically, Martel's account of the plot of Max and the Cats wasn't completely accurate. In fact, in Scliar's novel, Max Schmidt did not belong to a family of zookeepers -- he was the son of furrier. Furthermore, he did not emigrate from Berlin to Brazil with his family as the result of a failing zoo, but was forced to flee Hamburg after his lover's husband sells him out to the Nazi secret police. So, this plot that so enthralled Martel -- which he did not pursue for several years because he assumed Moacyr Scliar had already tackled it -- was more his own than he had thought.

Meanwhile, Martel managed to write and publish two books: a collection of short stories titled The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios in 1993 and a novel about gender confusion called Self in 1996. Both books sold only moderately well, further frustrating the writer. In an effort to collect his thoughts and refresh his creativity, he took a trip to India, first spending time in bustling Bombay. However, the overcrowded city only furthered Martel's feelings of alienation and dissolution. He then decided to move on to Matheran, a section near Bombay but without that city's dense population. In this peaceful hill station overlooking the city, Martel began revisiting an idea he had not considered in some time, the premise he had unwittingly created when reading Updike's review in The New York Times Review of Books. He developed the idea even further away from Max and the Cats. While Scliar's novel was an extended holocaust allegory, Martel envisioned his story as a witty, whimsical, and mysterious meditation on zoology and theology. Unlike Max Schmidt, Pi Patel would, indeed, be the son of a zookeeper. Martel would, however, retain the shipwrecked-with-beasts theme from Max and the Cats. During an ocean exodus from India to Canada, the ship sinks and Pi finds himself stranded on a lifeboat with such unlikely shipmates as a zebra, a hyena, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

The resulting novel, Life of Pi, became the smash-hit for which Martel had been longing. Selling well over a million copies and receiving the accolades of Book Magazine, Publisher's Weekly, Library Journal, and, yes, The New York Times Review of Books, Life of Pi has been published in over 40 countries and territories, in over 30 languages. It is currently in production by Fox Studios with a script by master-of-whimsy Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children; Amélie) and directorial duties to be handled by Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá también; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).

Martel is now working on his third novel, a bizarrely allegorical adventure about a donkey and a monkey that travel through a fantastical world... on a shirt. Well, at least no one will ever accuse him of borrowing that premise from any other writer.

Good To Know

Life of Pi is not Yann Martel's first work to be adapted for the screen. His short story "Manners of Dying" was made into a motion picture by fellow Canadian resident Jeremy Peter Allen in 2004.

When he isn't penning modern masterpieces, Martel spends much of his time volunteering in a palliative care unit.

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    1. Hometown:
      Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 25, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      Salamanca, Spain
    1. Education:
      B.A. in philosophy, Trent University, Ontario, 1986

Read an Excerpt

My suffering left me sad and gloomy.

Academic study and the steady, mindful practice of religion slowly brought me back to life. I have kept up what some people would consider my strange religious practices. After one year of high school, I attended the University of Toronto and took a double-major Bachelor's degree. My majors were religious studies and zoology. My fourth-year thesis for religious studies concerned certain aspects of the cosmogony theory of Isaac Luria, the great sixteenth-century Kabbalist from Safed. My zoology thesis was a functional analysis of the thyroid gland of the three-toed sloth. I chose the sloth because its demeanour-calm, quiet and introspective-did something to soothe my shattered self.

There are two-toed sloths and there are three-toed sloths, the case being determined by the forepaws of the animals, since all sloths have three claws on their hind paws. I had the great luck one summer of studying the three-toed sloth in situ in the equatorial jungles of Brazil. It is a highly intriguing creature. Its only real habit is indolence. It sleeps or rests on average twenty hours a day. Our team tested the sleep habits of five wild three-toed sloths by placing on their heads, in the early evening after they had fallen asleep, bright red plastic dishes filled with water. We found them still in place late the next morning, the water of the dishes swarming with insects. The sloth is at its busiest at sunset, using the word busy here in the most relaxed sense. It moves along the bough of a tree in its characteristic upside-down position at the speed of roughly 400 metres an hour. On the ground, it crawls to its next tree at the rate of 250 metres an hour, when motivated, which is 440 times slower than a motivated cheetah. Unmotivated, it covers four to five metres in an hour.

The three-toed sloth is not well informed about the outside world. On a scale of 2 to 10, where 2 represents unusual dullness and 10 extreme acuity, Beebe (1926) gave the sloth's senses of taste, touch, and its sense of smell a rating of 3. If you come upon a sleeping three-toed sloth in the wild, two or three nudges should suffice to awaken it; it will then look sleepily in every direction but yours. Why it should took about is uncertain since the sloth sees everything in a Magoo-like blur. Beebe reported that firing guns next to sleeping or feeding sloths elicited little reaction. And the sloth's slightly better sense of smell should not be overestimated. They are said to be able to sniff and avoid decayed branches, but Bullock (1968) reported that sloths fall to the ground clinging to decayed branches "often".

How does it survive you might ask.

Precisely by being so slow. Sleepiness and slothfulness keep it out of harm's way, away from the notice of jaguars, ocelots, harpy eagles and anacondas. A sloth's hairs shelter an algae that is brown during the dry season and green during the wet season, so the animal blends in with the surrounding moss and foliage and looks like a nest of white ants or of squirrels, or like nothing at all but part of a tree.

The three-toed sloth lives a peaceful, vegetarian life in perfect harmony with its environment. "A good-natured smile is forever on its own lips," reported Tirler (1966). I have seen that smile with my own eyes. I am not one given to projecting human traits and emotions onto animals, but many a time during that month in Brazil, up at sloths in repose, I felt I was in the presence of upside-down yogis deep in meditation or hermits deep in prayer, wise beings whose intense imaginative lives were beyond the reach of my scientific probing.

Sometimes I got my majors mixed up. A number of my fellow religious-studies students-muddled agnostics who didn't know which way was up, who were in the thrall of reason, that fool's gold for the bright — reminded me of the three-toed sloth; and the three-toed sloth, such a beautiful example of the miracle of life, reminded me of God.

I never had problems with my fellow scientists. Scientists are a friendly, atheistic, hard-working, beer-drinking lot whose minds are preoccupied with sex, chess and baseball when they are not preoccupied with science.

I was a very good student, if I may say so myself. I was tops at St. Michael's College four years in a row. I got every possible student award from the Department of Zoology. If I got none from the Department of Religious Studies, it is simply because there are no student awards in this department (the rewards of religious study are not in mortal hands, we all know that). I would have received the Governor General's Academic Medal, the University of Toronto's highest undergraduate award, of which no small number of illustrious Canadians have been recipients, were it not for a beef-eating pink boy with a neck like a tree trunk and a temperament of unbearable good cheer.

I still smart a little at the slight. When you've suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling. My life is like a memento mori painting from European art: there is always a grinning skull at my side to remind me of the folly of human ambition. I mock this skull. I look at it and I say, "You've got the wrong fellow. You may not believe in life, but I don't believe in death. Move on!" The skull snickers and moves ever closer, but that doesn't surprise me. The reason death sticks so closely to life isn't biological necessity — it's envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud. The pink boy also got the nod from the Rhodes Scholarship committee. I love him and I hope his time at Oxford was a rich experience. If Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, one day favours me bountifully, Oxford is fifth on the list of cities I would like to visit before I pass on, after Mecca, Varanasi, Jerusalem and Paris.

I have nothing to say of my working life, only that a tie is a noose, and inverted though it is, it will hang a man nonetheless if he's not careful.

I love Canada. I miss the heat of India, the food, the house lizards on the walls, the musicals on the silver screen, the cows wandering the streets, the crows cawing, even the talk of cricket matches, but I love Canada. It is a great country much too cold for good sense, inhabited by compassionate, intelligent people with bad hairdos. Anyway, I have nothing to go home to in Pondicherry.

Richard Parker has stayed with me. I've never forgotten him. Dare I say I miss him? I do. I miss him. I still see him in my dreams. They are nightmares mostly, but nightmares tinged with love. Such is the strangeness of the human heart. I still cannot understand how he could abandon me so unceremoniously, without any sort of goodbye, without looking back even once. That pain is like an axe that chops at my heart.

The doctors and nurses at the hospital in Mexico were incredibly kind to me. And the patients, too. Victims of cancer or car accidents, once they heard my story, they hobbled and wheeled over to see me, they and their families, though none of them spoke English and I spoke no Spanish. They smiled at me, shook my hand, patted me on the head, left gifts of food and clothing on my bed. They moved me to uncontrollable fits of laughing and crying.

Within a couple of days I could stand, even make two, three steps, despite nausea, dizziness and general weakness. Blood tests revealed that I was anemic, and that my level of sodium was very high and my potassium low. My body retained fluids and my legs swelled up tremendously. I looked as if I had been grafted with a pair of elephant legs. My urine was a deep, dark yellow going on to brown. After a week or so, I could walk just about normally and I could wear shoes if I didn't lace them up. My skin healed, though I still have scars on my shoulders and back.

The first time I turned a tap on, its noisy, wasteful, superabundant gush was such a shock that I became incoherent and my legs collapsed beneath me and I fainted in the arms of a nurse.

The first time I went to an Indian restaurant in Canada I used my fingers. The waiter looked at me critically and said, 'Fresh off the boat, are you?" I blanched. My fingers, which a second before had been taste buds savouring the food a little ahead of my mouth, became dirty under his gm. They froze like criminals caught in the act. I didn't dare lick them. I wiped them guiltily on my napkin. He had no idea how deeply those words wounded me. They were like nails being driven into my flesh. I picked up the knife and fork. I had hardly ever used such instruments. My hands trembled. My sambar lost its taste.

Copyright © 2001 Yan Martel

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Interviews & Essays

1) Can you tell us how you became a writer?

It was never on my list of things to be. But by the end of my adolescent years I had struck out being an astronaut and a politician, and at university I eventually struck out everything a bachelor’s degree could deliver, from archaeology to zoology – each chosen at one point or another because of the pageant and drama they seemed to promise. I was 19 years old and desperate. I was wasting my time at university, didn’t belong there, but was terrified of the working world. So, I wrote. The first thing I wrote was a play. It was a very, very bad play – the story of a young man who falls in love with a door and commits suicide when a well-meaning friend chops his beloved up to pieces and uses her as firewood, I kid you not – but there was joy in the creating, a thrill in putting characters on a stage and giving them lines. I wrote another equally bad play, then switched to prose, which I thought would suit me better. I proceeded to write a number of bad short stories. I didn’t show them to anyone. I was too embarrassed. Still, each time, it was the same: to play with words, to construct sentences, to create situations, to invent characters and dialogue, was something I found deeply exciting and fulfilling and that I could do hour after hour, day after day. I continued writing, not knowing why or where it would lead me. I never thought of it as a career – and still don’t now.

2) What inspired you to write this particular book? Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?

I would guess that most books come from the same mix of threeelements: influence, inspiration and hard work. Let me detail how each one came into play in the writing of Life of Pi.

Influence: Ten or so years ago, I read a review by John Updike in the New York Times Review of Books. It was of a novel by a Brazilian writer I’d never heard of, Moacyr Scliar. I forget the title, and John Updike did worse: he clearly thought the book as a whole was forgettable. His review – one of those that makes you suspicious by being mostly descriptive, without critical teeth, as if the reviewer were holding back – oozed indifference. The story, as far as I can remember, was about a zoo in Berlin run by a Jewish family. The year is 1933 and, not surprisingly, business is bad. The family decides to emigrate, to Brazil. Alas, the ship sinks and one lone Jew ends up in a lifeboat with a black panther. What could displease Updike about such a story? Was it that the allegory marched with too heavy a tread, the parallel between the black panther and the Nazis too obvious? Did the premise wear its welcome out? Was it the tone? The style? The translation? Whatever it was, the book fatigued Updike, but it had the effect on my imagination of electric caffeine. I marvelled. What perfect unity of time, action and place. What stark, rich simplicity. Oh, the wondrous things I could do with this premise. I felt that same mix of envy and frustration I had felt with Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, that if only I had thought of it I could have done something great with it. But – damn! – the idea had been faxed to the wrong muse. I looked for the book. It was nowhere to be found in Montreal. I chose not to order it. I didn’t really want to read it anyway. Why put up with the gall? Why put up with a brilliant premise ruined by a lesser writer. Worse, what if Updike had been wrong? What if not only the premise but also its rendition were perfect? Best to move on. I wrote my first novel. I travelled. Romances started and ended. I travelled some more. Four or five years went by.

Inspiration: I was in India. It was my second time. The start of the trip had been rough. I had arrived in Bombay. I felt terribly lonely. One night I sat on my bed and wept, muffling the sounds so that my neighbours would not hear me through the thin walls. Where was my life going? Nothing about it seemed to have started or added up to much. I had written two books that had sold about a thousand copies each. I had neither family nor career to show for my thirty-four years on Earth. And if that weren’t enough, the novel I had planned to write while in India had died. Every writer knows the feeling. A story is born in your mind and it thrills you. You nurture it like you would a fire. You hope to see it grow and eventually be born on paper. But at one point, you look at it and you feel nothing. You feel no pulse. The characters don’t speak naturally, the plot does not move, the descriptions don’t come to you – everything about your story is thankless work. It has died.

I was in need of a story. More than that, I was in need of a Story.

I got to Matheran, the hill station closest to Bombay. It’s a small place high up, with beautiful views over the surrounding plains, and it has the peculiarity of not being able to accommodate cars, autorickshaws or motorcycles. You get there by toy train or by taxi, and then you must walk or ride a horse. The closest you get to the noises of a motor on Matheran’s streets are the rumbling, horking sounds of Indians spewing out betel juice. The peace of the place is blessed and utterly un-Indian. It was there, on top of a big boulder to be precise, that I remembered Scliar’s premise.

Suddenly, my mind was exploding with ideas. I could hardly keep up with them. In jubilant minutes whole portions of the novel emerged fully formed: the lifeboat, the animals, the intermingling of the religious and the zoological, the parallel stories. I was telling myself the story as I created it.

I now had a reason to be in India.

Hard work: I visited all the zoos I could find in the south of India. I interviewed the director of the Trivandrum Zoo. I spent time in temples, churches and mosques. I explored the urban settings for my novel and took in the nature around them. I tried to immerse myself as much as possible in the Indianness of my main character. After six months I had enough local colour and detail.

I returned to Canada and spent a year and a half doing research. I read the foundational texts of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. I read books on zoo biology and animal psychology. I read castaway and shipwreck stories.

All the while, in India and in Canada, I took notes. On the page, in a smashed-up, kaleidoscopic way, Life of Pi began to take shape. I took a while to decide what animal would be my main animal protagonist. At first I had an elephant in mind. The Indian elephant is smaller than the African, and I thought an adolescent male would fit nicely in the lifeboat. But the image of an elephant in a lifeboat struck me as more comical than I wanted. I changed to a rhinoceros. But rhinos are herbivores and I could not see how I could keep a herbivore alive in the high seas. And a constant diet of algae struck me as monotonous for both reader and writer, if not for the rhino. I finally settled upon the choice that in retrospect seems the obvious one: a tiger.

For the algae island, I chose meerkats because I wanted a small ferret-like creature without the connotations that ferrets have. I wanted a neutral animal upon which I could paint a personality of my choice. Also, meerkat rhymes somewhat with mirage and meekness, which makes no particular sense, but there you go, whoever said writers always know what they’re doing.

The blind, cannibal Frenchman in the other boat came to me in those first moments of inspiration in Matheran; in other words, I don't know where he came from. In my first draft, the scene with the Frenchman was much longer, close to 45 pages. It was one of my favourite sections. It was Beckett in the Pacific, I thought. Which was precisely the problem, my editor told me. It was funny and absurd, she told me, but in the wrong place, like a good joke told at a funeral. The tone was wrong; it broke with what came before and after. So I had to cut it down substantially.

The rest was fun hard work, a daily getting it down on the page that came not without hurdles, not without moments of doubt, not without mistakes and rewrites, but always, always with deep, gratifying pleasure, with a knowledge that no matter how the novel would fare, I would be happy with it, that it helped me understand my world a bit better.

3) What is it that you're exploring in this book?

The nature of belief. The role of imagination in understanding life. The role stories can play in our lives. The nature of religion. The workings of zoos. Humanity’s relationship to animals.

4) Who is your favourite character in this book, and why?

Richard Parker. He’s colourful.

5) Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book?

Dream and speculate away.

6) Do you have a favourite story to tell about being interviewed about your book?

Interviews have merged into one big blur.

7) What question are you never asked in interviews but wish you were?

Would you like a thick, creamy hot chocolate made with real chocolate, Mr. Martel?

8) Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?

A book is 50%. The other half of it is what the reader brings. So every review brings something, some perspective, some point, some observation, that is new to me. I’m glad for that.

9) Which authors have been most influential to your own writing?

The usual suspects, the Great Dead White Males of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: Hardy, Conrad, Kafka, Hemingway, Hamsun, etc.

10) If you weren't writing, what would you want to be doing for a living? What are some of your other passions in life?

Let’s see… If I weren’t me, I’d like to be the Pope’s cat. Or an astronaut. Or a caper farmer in Portugal.

11) If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?

The Bible.
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Reading Group Guide

Our Book Club Recommendation
One of the first challenges a reading group will be confronted with upon taking up Yann Martel'sLife of Pi is deciding, fundamentally, what kind of book is being read. Is it a tale of survival, like Robinson Crusoe? A magical parable designed (as one of its narrators has it) to "make you believe in God?" Or a crafty shaggy-tiger story whose real concern is with the play between fiction and reality, in the manner of Jorge Luis Borges or Vladimir Nabokov?

That challenge is also the unique pleasure Yann Martel's novel offers to readers and particularly to reading groups. Martel begins his work in the classic manner of a true story "as told to" the author. The storyteller is the eponymous hero Pi Patel– now an older man -- who describes with gusto his happy life as a boy in a zookeeping family in Pondicherry, India. But during an ill-fated ocean voyage to North America (the zoo is being sold, and the family emigrating), Pi finds himself trapped in a lifeboat with a few of the most dangerous specimens from the menagerie. Pi's tale soon turns to a bizarrely riveting version of the ancient story of survival at sea, and concludes with a meditation on loss, morality, and truth.

This setting might seem a limiting one, but in fact the avenues for discussion Martel provides are almost limitless. Voluble Pi offers thoughts on the methods of training animals, the relationship of God to man, and details of surviving under the most grueling of conditions. At times this enigmatic storyteller seems to be playing it straight – and at others to have his tongue firmly in cheek. Reading groups will find this weaving together of the matter-of-fact with the outrageous an occasion for discussing the universal appeal of the tall tale and the fish story.

Life of Pi has something more substantial to offer reading groups, however, than a meditation on fact vs. fantasy. Pi's story is also a believable account of human suffering and loneliness, which is all the more affecting for its brushes with absurdity. While there are details of Pi's account that defy the category of "realism," his despair, faith, and earnest questioning of the universe will strike many readers as containing the ring of an undeniable truth. In the end, Life of Pi's greatest surprise is to offer readers a strange, delightful occasion for thinking and talking about some of life's most pressing questions. (Bill Tipper)

An Introduction from the Publisher
God, survival, and tiger behavior. It's hard to imagine a more invigorating combination of discussion topics. We hope that the following questions will enrich your reading of Pi's fantastic journey. After all, Pi didn't have to make his voyage alone; neither should you. May this guide serve as a pleasant companion.

Discussion Questions
1. 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?

2. Pondicherry is described as an anomaly, the former capital of what was once French India. Do you think the town made a significant difference in Pi's upbringing?

3. In the Author's Note, Mr. Adirubasamy boldly claims that this story "will make you belive in God," and the author, after researching and writing the story, agrees. Did Pi's tale alter your beliefs about God?

4. Chapters 21 and 22 are very short, yet the author has said that they are at the core of the novel. Can you see how?

5. Early in the novel, we discover that Pi majored in religious studies and zoology, with particular interests in a sixteenth-century Kabbalist and the admirable three-toed sloth. In subsequent chapters, he explains the ways in which religions and zoos are both steeped in illusion. Discuss some of the other ways in which these two fields find unlikely compatibility.

6. In the Author's Note, Martel wonders whether fiction is "the selective transforming of reality, the twisting of it to bring out its essence." If this is so, what is the essence of Pi and of his story?

7. There is a lot of storytelling in this religious novel. Is there a relationship between religion and storytelling?Is religion a form of storytelling? Is there a theological dimension to storytelling?

8. Pi's full name, Piscine Molitor Patel, was inspired by a Parisian swimming pool that "the gods would have delighted to swim in." The shortened form refers to the ratio of a circle's circumference divided by its diameter, the number 3.1415926..., a number that goes on forever without discernable pattern, what in mathematics is called an irrational number. Explore the significance of Pi's unusual name.

9. One reviewer said the novel contains hints of The Old Man and the Sea, and Pi himself measures his experience in relation to history's most famous castaways. How does Life of Pi compare to other maritime novels and films?

10. How might the novel's flavor have been changed if the sole surviving animal had been the zebra with the broken leg? Or Orange Juice? Or the hyena? Would Pi have survived with a harmless animal or an ugly animal, say a sheep or a turkey? Which animal would you like to find yourself with on a lifeboat?

11. In chapter 23, Pi sparks a lively debate when all three of his spiritual advisors try to claim him. At the heart of this confrontation is Pi's insistence that he cannot accept an exclusively Hindu, Christian, or Muslim faith; he can only be content with all three. What is Pi seeking that can solely be attained by this apparent contradiction? Is there something commmon to all religions? Are they "all the same"? If not, how are they different? Is there a difference between faith and belief?

12. What do you make of Pi's assertion at the beginning of chapter 16 that we are all "in limbo, without religion, until some figure introduces us to God"? Do you believe that Pi's faith is a response to his father's agnosticism?

13. Among Yann Martel's gifts is a rich descriptive palette. Regarding religion, he observes the green elements that represent Islam and the orange tones of Hinduism. What color would Christianity be, according to Pi's perspective?

14. How do the human beings in your world reflect the animal behavior observed by Pi? What do Pi's strategies for dealing with Richard Parker teach us about confronting the fearsome creatures in our lives?

15. Besides the loss of his family and possessions, what else did Pi lose when the Tsimtsum sank? What did he gain?

16. Nearly everyone experiences a turning point that represents the transition from youth to adulthood, albeit seldom as traumatic as Pi's. What event marked your coming of age?

17. How do Mr. Patel's zookeeping abilities compare to his parenting skills? Discuss the scene in which his tries to teach his children a lesson in survival by arranging for them to watch a tiger devour a goat. Did this in any way prepare Pi for the most dangerous experience of his life?

18. If shock hadn't deluded him, do you think Pi would have whistled and waved at Richard Parker? What would you have done?

19. Pi imagines that his brother would have teasingly called him Noah. How does Pi's voyage compare to the biblical story of Noah, who was spared from the flood while God washed away the sinners?

20. Is Life of Pi a tragedy, romance, or comedy?

21. Pi defends zoos. Are you convinced? Is a zoo a good place for a wild animal?

22. What did you think of Pi's interview with the investigators from the Japanese Ministry of Transport? Do you think Pi's mother, along with a sailor and a cannibalistic cook, were in the lifeboat with him instead of the animals? Which story do you believe, the one with animals or the one without animals? When the investigators state that they think the story with animals is the better story, Pi answers "Thank you. And so it goes with God." What do you think Pi meant by that? How does it relate to the claim that this is a story "that will make you believe in God"?

23. The first part of the novel starts twenty years after Pi's ordeal at sea and ends with the words "This story has a happy ending." Do you agree?

Copyright 2002 Harcourt Trade Publishers

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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2008

    Life of Pi

    Life of Pi was a very interesting book. It is one of the best novels I've ever read so far. The book cover explained that the main character, Pi (Piscine Molitor Patel) was in a small lifeboat with a tiger. However, when I began reading, I had no idea where the story was going. This book captures every part of your attention and it's plot reveals itself with so much caution, you don't even expect what would happen next. Life of Pi is one thrill after the next, catching you on a rainy day. The story begins with Piscine Molitor Patel, a young Indian boy born into a modern Indian family, but attracted to past traditions of India. His father, who used to greet guests at a hotel, turned into the manager of a zoo in Pondicherry called the Pondicherry zoo. He recounts his childhood and why he named himself Pi when he went to a new school and many memories. <BR/> Pi was born into a modern Indian family with a life very similar to modern America. His father, Pi recounts, `was a busyness man¿ with a zoo. Once, while having some time with his family when his father took time off, they traveled to Munnar. There, three hills stand within Munnar, each crowned with the religions that would be presented on the book. The one on the right had a Hindu temple. The middle hill had a mosque, and the one on the left, a church. He was born a Hindu, and then, at 14 years old, he goes to the hill on the left, crowned with a Christian church. He went to a Christian school, but was unsure about the monotheist religion compared to Hinduism that had a god for any concept. As he enters, his doubts begin to ease. He sees the priest sitting in his office and the assistant at a table reading the Bible. Pi is eased by the serenity that he finds in the tall fortress. <BR/> Pi is confused by the images that were in the church. He didn¿t understand the concept of a god being tortured and killed by humans so that their sins could be paid. Nor did he understand the fat, winged babies and an angry god who is appeased with blood. However, he saw that the Priest¿s job was to love, guide, and comfort. The priest, named Father Martin, explained to him the sacrifice in what Pi called peculiar physcology. However, he didn¿t question that much further, but believed the religion and began to practice it.<BR/> When he is 15 years old, he begins to explore Pondicherry, his hometown. Later, he walks by the Muslim quarter not far from the zoo his father owned. There, buildings were decorated with Arabic calligraphy. Islam¿s reputation was worse than Christianity as it was obvious in his father¿s eyes who called them `outsiders¿. He discovered a mosque. It was more peaceful than Christianity and had fewer gods. The mosque¿s plain decoration made it seem unreligious or interesting. As he walks in, he is intrigued by a loaf of very delicate bread. As he examines it, he is surprised by an imam that was sitting right in front of him. Then, he sits with the imam and they converse. He walks out a Muslim.<BR/> These religions play a crucial part in the story, but the most immediate results pretty much cover a lot of the air- should I say- of the story. He prays on a rug facing Mecca to Allah and God. He also prays to the gods of Hinduism. He speaks of all of them as if they were one, but each powerful in their own way. While stranded in the ocean on a lifeboat, he prays to all of them and waits upon all of them. This religious part of the book brings the entire novel t

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2008

    A terrific novel!

    Life of Pi by Yann Martel is an exciting, mouth dropping, gruesome, adventurous, hard to put down novel. It is about a 16-year-old Indian boy named Piscine ¿Pi¿ Molitor Patel who lives in Pondicherry, India. Since his father was a zookeeper, Pi learned a great deal about animal behavior and habits. Much to the dismay of his parents, when Pi became older he was very open to different religions. Already a Hindu, he also became a Christian and a Muslim, saying he just wanted to be able to pray to God. Eventually Pi¿s father decides to sell their home and move the family to Canada, and sells most of the animals to zoos in America. So on June 21, 1977, with only a small amount of animals, Pi and his family rode on a Japanese cargo ship, called the Tsimtsum, which partway through their trip the ship sinks. The only survivors were Pi, a female orangutan, a hungry hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all in a 26-foot lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. While the tiger was kept out of sight under a tarp, the relentless hyena continued to inflict pain upon the zebra, and then mercilessly killed the orangutan. The tiger ended up devouring the hyena, which left Pi alone with this carnivore. Now Pi had to put forth all the energy he had into surviving. He had to figure out what to do with Richard Parker, the source of his fear. He decides to try and tame the tiger. Is that really possible? Can someone tame a full-grown Bengal tiger? Pi was up for the challenge. His life depended on it. Finally they reached land¿an edible algae-covered island. The home of hundreds of meerkats, this island was actually ¿carnivorous¿. After spending a few days on the island, Pi realized that at night this island became highly acidic, and quickly left. So did Pi survive? After 227 days at sea, did he reach land inhabited with people? Or did he die at the claws of Richard Parker? To find out you must read this book. If you read between the lines you will be able to see that the author was portraying the fear that Pi felt through the tiger. Martel did a great job with so much detail that I felt I was there in the lifeboat with Pi. Grotesque in places, I do not recommend this book to children, but if you¿re longing for something that will take you out of the real world and into a world where you don¿t know what¿s real and what¿s imagination, then this is the book for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2008

    Fabulous!

    I loved this book...entertaining from begining to end. It is an easy read and this edition especially is wonderful because the illustrations are phenomenal! I actually purchased 4 copies of this edition for gifts this past christmas.

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