Life of Pi

Life of Pi

by Yann Martel

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Overview

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. 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 while 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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156027328
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 04/21/2003
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 4,341
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 830L (what's this?)

About the Author

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.

Hometown:

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Date of Birth:

June 25, 1963

Place of Birth:

Salamanca, Spain

Education:

B.A. in philosophy, Trent University, Ontario, 1986

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

My suffering left me sad and gloomy.
Academic study and the steady, mindful practice of religion slowly brought me back to life. I have remained a faithful Hindu, Christian and Muslim. I decided to stay in Toronto. 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 a 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, sight and hearing a rating of 2, 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 look about is uncertain since the sloth sees everything in a Magoo-like blur. As for hearing, the sloth is not so much deaf as uninterested in sound. 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 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, looking 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, 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 gaze. 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 by Yann Martel

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department,
Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

www.HarcourtBooks.com

What People are Saying About This

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

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

Interviews

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.

Foreword

1. As Pi’s father says, when he is explaining the ferocity of the zoo animals to his sons, “Life will defend itself no matter how small it is.” In what ways does Pi defend himself in this novel?

2. With his stories about zoos and zoology, Pi teaches us that the ability to adapt is crucial not only to animals but to humans, and is rooted in the will to survive. How do Pi’s theories of zoo-keeping play out on the lifeboat? Does Pi go through a transformation on his journey? What does he learn?

3. Our author discovers the story of Pi Patel after an elderly man in an Indian coffee house tells him, “I have a story that will make you believe in God.” As a young man, Pi shocks his family and local religious officials by embracing Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam, and sees no reason to pick just one. And on the lifeboat, it is God that Pi turns to in his despair. Discuss the role of religion, and religious stories, in this novel.

4. When Pi meets with the Japanese officials at the end of his journey and tells them his story, they do not believe him and ask what really happened. Pi provides them with a new story, one of “dry, yeastless factuality,” without animals, and then asks which one they prefer. Discuss the nature of storytelling and belief in relation to Life of Pi, and to life.

5. “As for hearing, the sloth is not so much deaf as uninterested in sound.” “To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” As a story of death, loss, fear and destruction, Life of Pi has at its heart a number of very tragic events. However, oneof the most pervasive elements of the novel is its very matter-of-fact humour. Why do you think this is? What is the effect on you, as a reader?

6. Near the end of Life of Pi, Pi and Richard Parker come ashore on a free-floating island comprised entirely of algae and inhabited only by many, many meerkats. Why does Pi decide to leave the island? What is the significance of this story? Is there a difference between survival and life?

7. Whereas the bulk of this novel is told by Pi Patel — “in his voice and through his eyes,” our author tells us — we also see the current-day Pi through the eyes of the author, and read “excerpts from the verbatim transcript” of the young Pi’s interview with the Japanese officials. Why? Discuss the effect of and possible reasons for the narrative structure of this novel.

8. The Author’s Note ends with a what seems to be a call to arms: “If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.” In reviews of Life of Pi, Yann Martel has been equally and abundantly praised for his realism and his great imagination. Do you see a conflict between these approaches to writing fiction? What is the role of “truth” in fiction?

9. In Life of Pi we know Richard Parker to be a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger mistakenly named after the hunter who captured him, and Pi’s companion during his seven months at sea. But there are further nautical stories involving Richard Parkers, outside of this book: Edgar Allan Poe’s Richard Parker was eaten by his shipmates in the novel The Adventures of Arthur Gordon Pym, a real-life cabin boy named Richard Parker was eaten by his fellow castaways after the sinking of the Mignonette in the 1870s, and so on. Who is Richard Parker? Why might Yann Martel have chosen the name Richard Parker for this tiger, and this novel? Discuss the importance of names, and naming, in Life of Pi.

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Life of Pi 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2503 reviews.
danja More than 1 year ago
Very well written. I enjoyed this story. would recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Originally had no interest in reading this but i could not put it down and it quickly became a favorite
SuavePanda More than 1 year ago
Nothing to say but fabulous. If you plan of going to college, this is a must. The plot is intricate and woven skillfully, and the final resolution is wonderfully Inception-esque and satisfying for the intelligent mind. Overall: Just go buy it already.
Lalaith More than 1 year ago
This remains one of my favorite books. It's one of the most moving books I have ever read and completely original. The author is amazing, combining certain aspects of himself with the character and keeping the book moving at a lighthearted but serious pace. It's dramatic and moving and it teaches you a lot about faith (you'll probably find yourself quoting this book several times a day). It is so touching- his style is earnest, wholesome and truly gets you to think about things. You'll love the character, you'll love the plot, and you'll love the powerfully simple insights made. It's beautiful and you will fall in love with the main character and be depressed when the book is over. Fear not, though, it's always there to return to on rainy days. :)
RockyRo0 More than 1 year ago
Life of Pi is proclaimed to be a "book to make you believe in God". And for the discerning mind, it certainly can be. Yann Martel created something special in this book-- something greater than the simple plot (boy lost at sea with tiger on lifeboat), and more far-reaching than its main characters (the boy. the tiger.). Through the well-formed frame narrative, Martel forces us to decide, along with the characters, if fiction is worth believing. Beyond that, his writing is witty and poetic. I found myself laughing all through the book!
USCGuy More than 1 year ago
I picked up Life of Pi after a good friend recommended I read the book. This book is one of the few books that I nearly read through in one sitting, and then later re-read at a slower, more leisurely pace. Yann Martel immerses his readers in an exotic, yet familiar setting of a zoo in India, and then takes you on a wild journey across the world. The key question that my friend asked to me to consider after I finished reading, and which I have posed to other friends that I encouraged to read this book, is which story do you believe - fantasy or 'reality'?
Annibebe More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read in a long time! I highly recommend it. Martel's writing style is wonderful, and I firmly agree with the quote on the front of the book: "Life of Pi is a real adventure...It's difficult to stop reading when the pages run out.." I didn't want this book to end. I wanted to know more about Pi. LOVE THIS BOOK!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am in 8th grade and I absolutely loved this book. I thought Pi was a great role model, such a strong character. Anyone 13 and up must read this book, it gives you a new appreciation for life (and possibly a fear of boats!).
DeDeFlowers More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book on a whim before a vacation. Never hearing of Yann Martel I didn't have huge expectations for Life of Pi. I was dumb to think that way. Right from the begining Life of Pi blew me away. It is so original. The main thing I liked about it was how much you feel for the characters. You are gripped into the plot. Yann Martel is a great auther. All of his books make you think. Life of Pi examines life in a very unique way. I would reccomend this to readers the ages of 16+ because a couple scenes are pretty graphic and the way it makes you think can be pretty heavy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has changed me. This is a powerful story.
bbb57 More than 1 year ago
TOUCHING & DISTURBING. Nature in a nutshell, including human nature. Beautifully written. I can't say that I have ever been more involved with a character and an animal with equal care and empathy. I hope the movie does the book justice, if it does, it will be an instant classic.
anne1571 More than 1 year ago
I listened to this book on CD while driving alone from Phoenix to San Diego to spend a weekend by the sea with friends. But the whole time all I was there, all I was thinking about is how I couldn't wait for the drive home so I could get back to this book! It's a great story and it's told very beautifully.
Mr.Bezuk More than 1 year ago
People either seem to love this book or not care at all. I liked it a great deal and found it to be entertaining and thought provoking. I think that the degree to which you believe Pi's second story of his events is the degree to which you are a pessimist.
Iggie More than 1 year ago
One of those books you'll be thinking about for days/weeks/months after. I still can't decide what my thoughts are about the ending - I keep changing my mind when I think back on the story. Can't wait to see the movie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing! I could not put it down and, really nobody spoiled the plot from the book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it! Although it didn't catch my attention in the beginning, it was well written and witty. Book of the year for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful story of survival using incredible imagery
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Life of pi is such a good book...cherish is reading it because i told her that if she could read the whole book by herself then write a 3 page book report about it then i would by er the movie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
STARTS A LITTLE SLOW BUT ONE MUST SET THE CHARACTERS AND SETTING. LOVED THE LAST TWO THIRDS.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow, people are acting really stupid. Of course they tell you how the story ends in the summary, it's a true story and he lives. :p The book is telling about his life, so that is why it skips around so much. It's called LIFE of pi, not story of how pi gets trapped on a life boat with tiger.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And its already worth the money. The book was an inspiration to me and as thevyoung piscine's take on religion that he wants to "love god" really moved me. I also loved how the first part ended "this story ha a happy ending." I thought the book was beautifully written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I know the reviews were mixed on this book, and I really wanted to be one of the people who loved this book, but I just wasn't. I did not get the ending at all. I found many areas of the book dragging. Didn't like it at all
Mata-Reader More than 1 year ago
The Life of Pi, an amazing, award winning story by author Yann Martel. It is rich with details about the main character's life, his adventures, and his trials. What an immaculate fictional read.
The main Character is Pi Patel, a man from India, now living in Canada. He has different views on beliefs like, Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Though quoted, he just want's to, "Love God." He tried every single one, but was really affected by all in the end. The first part of the story is told from Pi Patel as an older man, no older than 40. It is from the view of his early life. Where he discovered his beliefs, and he talks about the environment he was raised and taught in. This part of the book is probably one of the most sensitive parts in any book, what he thinks about religion, and the ways of life are really something. It really makes you think about youself, and what you are like. As well as being very sensitive, Life of Pi also has many funny references and also many freaky references, like experiencing cannibalism! He looks at animals to compare them to life as well, the sloth is one of them. He quotes that the reason they survive so well is because of the fact that they move so slow that they are not seen. They have mosses that grow on their backs to camoflouge them. I think that he is reffering to the fact that some people move through life so slowly, and so quitely, that they are basically invisble to others. Yet to break that serious mold he talks about how they need to find branches to grab on to, and that they can sniff out the decaying branches...yet, there are many sloths found on the ground clinging to decayed branches! As seen it is a smart and serious paragraph, meant to make you think and then once you have thought, you either get it or not, and you move on!
The second part of the, Life of Pi, is another well-written part of the book, basically talking about what you see on the cover, a young, Indian boy lost at sea with a Tiger. The points that really grab you are the points that are somewhat false, yet true. For example, the whole premise of surviving with a Tiger that does not have any food is insane, yet it is a zoo Tiger, but once it is out of it's pampered cage, and in the big blue ocean with a little boy, as well as a couple of other animals in the boat, what happens after it "takes care of" the other animals. In this book, the Tiger's actions are mightily false. Yet, it does show you that we can live in harmony with our wildlife. One point to bring across is that, no matter a viscious wild tiger, or human being, show them that you have some guts, and will only use them if need be, and they will humble themselves to youm as shown by the bond between the Tiger and Pi.
The, Life of Pi is a tale of lessons, survival, and trials, and I have not covered all of the topics, but if you want to find out about the others, and find out more about this amazing book...get it yourself, and enjoy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
First i will say that this is truly one of the most original novels I have read in my lifetime. This has to be one of the best book club books ever and believe it should be discussed in high school and college philosophy/ theology classes. I am almost 50 yrs old and i have read thousands of books but this is the first one I ever started rereading as soon as I was finished. Martels writing style is subtle and funny. Pi is a teen with a restless searching soul born into a secular indian family. He feels a hunger for religion so he befriends holy men of many faiths including the pragmatic athiest. Pi finds beauty and wisdom in them all. One of the funniest parts of the story is when he is confronted with all of these religious wisemen and they bicker over his soul. As the boys oddysee unfolds he becomes a true survivor on his own terms and finds little practical use for all the theology he studied. The author makes no judgements and leaves the 'fable' open to ones own personal interpretation. THIS IS WHY I LOVE THIS BOOK...It makes you think...it challenges your beliefs, values whatever. I think the people who trashed the book just don't get it. The irony is so profoundly brilliant. Readers should not perceive this story so literally. Its packed with symbolic mysticism and skillfully imagined metaphore. I read this book 4 years ago twice and i think its time I read it again. Up there with Moby Dick and Old Man and the Sea.