Monday, January 21, 2013

1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Life of Pi (Harcourt, 2001; 326) by Yann Martel won the Man Booker Prize in 2001. It is about the story of faith, struggle and belief in oneself and in the supernatural. It's also about man's relationship with animals and provides some excellent justification for the creation of zoos. It's also an allegory, perhaps, of the journey towards manhood; with the shipwreck and the struggle to survive at sea representative of the adolescent stage.

Eleven-year old Piscine Molitor Patel is travelling with his parents as they relocate to Canada. They ship they were travelling in sank and through a series of incidences, some of them not directly observed by Piscince (or Pi), he found himself with a hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, an orang-utan, and a Bengal tiger on his lifeboat. What ensued was a series of carnivorous expressions and after a few days floating at sea, it was left with Pi and his Bengal tiger. The mission was on how to 'tame' the 450-pound monstrosity. 

As the story of a man at sea, Yann Martel found a way of turning what would have been a bathos and sombrous narrative to a lively and sometimes humorous story. The story of Pi, narrated in the first-person to the author when the former called upon him at his home in Canada, is sometimes oneiric, sometimes sad and sometimes utterly unbelievable. Pi's meeting of a French castaway when he was blind but managed to murder him before he was murdered could easily pass as a story of a deeply delusional person. These and some overtly miraculous incidences, such as the sharing of space with such an animal as a Bengal tiger, made Pi's story somewhat preternatural. But reality itself is an interpretation of the mind and what could pass as reality for one person could be fictitious to the other.

The 'Author's Note' at the beginning of the story offers a deceptive introduction to the story. It pushes the reader into double-checking if the story is a work of fiction or the memoir of a man who actually lived. Yann Martel described how he wanted to write a certain kind of book but failed only to be led to this by a resident of Pondicherry. In fact, even in the story he told his own story about his meeting Pi and described his family. Thus, Martel made appearances in Pi's story. Again, the chapters were of various lengths, some as long as two lines. 

The Life of Pi is an interesting story that must be read by all. Hope the movie adaptation does not poorly represent the book. It's recommended.

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