Yann Martel: Life of Pi life of pi A NOVEL author's note This book was born as I was hungry. In the spring of 1996, my second book, a novel, came out in Canada. It didn't fare well. Reviewers were puzzled, or damned it with faint praise. Then readers ignored it. In Life of Pi her government provides the backdrop to the Patel family's life-changing decision to emigrate. Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in India in 1975 (one year before Pi's family leaves for Canada) in part because of increased political opposition.
Yann Martel was born on June 25, 1963,in Salamanca, Spain, to Canadian parents. When Martel was a young boy,his parents joined the Canadian Foreign Services, and the familymoved frequently, living in Alaska, France, Costa Rica, Ontario,and British Columbia. Martel went on to study philosophy at TrentUniversity in Ontario, where he discovered a love for writing. Aftergraduating in 1985, Martel lived with hisparents and worked a number of odd jobs while continuing to writefiction. He published a collection of short stories, TheFacts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, in 1993 anda novel, Self, in 1996,but neither book received much critical or commercial attention.In 2002, however, Martel’s internationalliterary reputation was sealed with the publication of Lifeof Pi, a runaway bestseller that went on to win the prestigiousMan Booker Prize (awarded each year to the best English-languagenovel written by a Commonwealth or Irish author) and had since beentranslated into thirty languages. Fox 2000 picturesbought the screen rights to Martel’s novel, and a feature film isexpected in 2008.
Life of Pi is set against the tumultuousperiod of Indian history known as the Emergency. In 1975,Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was found guilty of charges relatedto her 1971 election campaign and was orderedto resign. Instead—and in response to a rising tide of strikes andprotests that were paralyzing the government—Gandhi declared a stateof emergency, suspending constitutional rights and giving herselfthe power to rule by decree. The Emergency lasted for eighteen monthsand was officially ended in March 1977 when Gandhicalled for a new round of elections. The historical legacy of theEmergency has been highly controversial: while civil liberties in thisemerging democracy were severely curtailed and Gandhi’s politicalopponents found themselves jailed, abused, and tortured, India’seconomy experienced a much-needed stabilization and growth. In Lifeof Pi, Piscine (Pi) Molitor Patel’s father, a zookeeper inPondicherry, India, grows nervous about the current political situation.Speculating that Gandhi might try to take over his zoo and facedwith depressing economic conditions, Pi’s father decides to selloff his zoo animals and move his family to Canada, thus setting themain action of the novel into motion.
Though only a relatively brief section of Lifeof Pi is actually set in India, the country’s eclecticmakeup is reflected throughout the novel. Dungeons and dragons rpg. Pi is raised as a Hindubut as a young boy discovers both Christianity and Islam and decidesto practice all three religions simultaneously. In the Author’sNote, an elderly Indian man describes the story of Pi as “a storythat will make you believe in God,” and Life of Pi continuouslygrapples with questions of faith; as an adherent to the three mostprominent religions in India, Pi provides a unique perspective onissues of Indian spirituality. India’s diverse culture is furtherreflected in Martel’s choice of Pondicherry as a setting. Indiawas a British colony for nearly two hundred years, and consequentlymost of the nation has been deeply influenced by British culture.However, Pondicherry, a tiny city in southern India, was once thecapital of French India and as such has retained a uniquely Frenchflavor that sets it apart from the rest of the nation. Perhaps reflectingYann Martel’s own nomadic childhood, Pi Patel pointedly begins hislife in a diverse cultural setting before encountering French, Mexican,Japanese, and Canadian characters along his journey.
Life of Pi can be characterized as apostcolonial novel, because of its post-Independence Indian settingas well as its Canadian authorship. Like many postcolonial novels,such as those of Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez, Lifeof Pi can also be classified as a work of magical realism,a literary genre in which fantastical elements—such as animals withhuman personalities or an island with cannibalistic trees—appearin an otherwise realistic setting. Martel’s novel could equallybe described as a bildungsroman (a coming-of-age tale) or an adventurestory. Life of Pi even flirts with nonfiction genres.The Author’s Note, for example, claims that the story of PiscineMolitor Patel is a true story that the author, Yann Martel, heardwhile backpacking through Pondicherry, and the novel, with its first-personnarrator, is structured as a memoir. At the end of the novel, weare presented with interview transcripts, another genre of nonfictionwriting. This mixing of fiction and nonfiction reflects the twistending of the novel, in which the veracity of Pi’s fantastical storyis called into doubt and the reader, like Pi’s Japanese interrogators,is forced to confront unsettling questions about the nature of truthitself.
Many critics have noted the book’s resemblance to ErnestHemingway’s novel The Old Man and the Sea. Bothnovelsfeature an epic struggle between man andbeast. In The Old Man and the Sea, a fishermanstruggles to pull in a mighty marlin, while in Life of Pi, Piand Richard Parker struggle for dominance on the lifeboat. Both thefisherman and Pi learn to respect their animal counterparts; each pairis connected in their mutual suffering, strength, and resolve. Althoughthey are opponents, they are also partners, allies, even doubles.Furthermore, both novels emphasize the importance of endurance.Because death and destruction are inevitable, both novels presentlife as a choice between only two options: defeat or endurance untildestruction. Enduring against all odds elevates both human charactersto the status of heroes.
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Another, less flattering comparison has been drawn between Life ofPi and acclaimed Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar’s 1981 novel Maxand the Cats. In a 2002 interviewwith Powells.com, Martel discusses reading an unfavorable reviewof Scliar’s novel in the New York Times Book Review pennedby John Updike and, despite Updike’s disparagement, being entrancedby the premise. As was later reported, no such review existed, andJohn Updike himself claimed no knowledge of Scliar’s novel. Thesimilarities between the two novels are unmistakable: in Maxand the Cats, a family of German zookeepers sets sail toBrazil. The ship goes down and only one young man survives, strandedat sea with a wild jaguar. Martel claims never to have read Maxand the Cats before beginning to write Life ofPi. He has since blamed his faulty memory for the Powells.comgaffe and has declined further discussion on the topic. Scliar considereda lawsuit but is said to have changed his mind after a discussionwith Martel. Whatever the real story, Martel mentions Scliar inhis Author’s Note, thanking him for “the spark of life.”