Life of Pi

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Life of Pi  
Author Yann Martel
Country Canada
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Knopf Canada[verification needed]
Publication date September 2001
Pages 336
ISBN ISBN 0-676-97376-0 (first edition, hardcover)

ISBN 0-15-602732-1 (US paperback edition)

ISBN 1-565-11780-8 (audiobook, Penguin Highbridge)
Preceded by Self
Followed by We Ate the Children Last

Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel written by Canadian author Yann Martel. In the story, the protagonist Piscine "Pi" Molitor Patel, an Indian boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of religion, spirituality, and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck, while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean.

First published by Knopf Canada in September 2001, the UK edition of the novel won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction the following year.[1] It was also chosen for CBC Radio's Canada Reads 2003, where it was championed by author Nancy Lee. It also won the 2003 Boeke Prize, a South African book prize. Its French translation, L'Histoire de Pi, was also chosen in the French version of the reading competition, Le combat des livres.


[edit] Plot summary

The book has three parts. The first section is an adult Pi Patel’s rumination over his childhood in Pondicherry, a former French Colony in India. The main character, Piscine Patel (shortened to "Pi") talks about his life living as the son of a zookeeper, and speaks at length about animal behavior and religion. Pi investigates Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam and sees merits in all three religions. In the book, Pi stated simply, "I just want to love God."(pg 76 Vintage Canada Edition 2002) Because of the political situation in India, Pi’s father decides to sell the zoo and relocate the family to Canada. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the cargo ship on which the family is traveling sinks.

The second part is an allegory in a medieval style. Pi manages to find refuge on a lifeboat, though not alone. He shares the limited space with a female orangutan named Orange Juice, a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, and a Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. At first Pi believes that Richard Parker has abandoned the boat. He focuses on surviving the hyena. It is not long before the hyena begins to feed on the zebra. After the zebra's death, the hyena kills the orangutan, after which Pi approaches it. It is then that he notices that Richard Parker has been resting under a tarpaulin and has been aboard the lifeboat the entire time.

The tiger kills and eats the hyena, but does not immediately attack Pi. The young man manages to construct a raft using supplies aboard the boat, and avoids direct confrontation with Richard Parker by keeping out of the tiger's territory on the deck. Pi eventually marks his own territory by using his knowledge of zoology, and comes to an accommodation with Richard Parker. Pi reasons that while the tiger is healthy, he poses less of a threat, as an injured or hungry beast is more dangerous. Therefore keeping the tiger alive becomes his primary focus. Pi catches fish and turtles, and uses solar stills to obtain drinkable water for them both.

During a storm, Pi's raft is destroyed. The young man is forced to climb aboard the lifeboat. He loses his store of food and most of his fresh water. At this point, due to poor diet, nutrition, and weakness, Pi goes temporarily blind. During this state he meets another castaway on a boat traveling parallel with his own. The other man has a French accent. After a period of amicable conversation, he boards Pi's boat. As soon as the man boards, however, Richard Parker kills and devours him. Soon after, the duo wash ashore upon a strange island of vegetation, populated by meerkats, and containing pools of fresh water. After some time, Pi finds a strange tree on the island. When he examines the fruit, he finds it contains human teeth. He realizes that the island is carnivorous, and he and the tiger must leave immediately. Their lifeboat finally washes up on the beach in Mexico. Richard Parker bounds off into the jungle, and the tiger is never to be seen again.

Here begins the third part of the story. After Pi is rescued and taken to a hospital, two men representing the Japanese Ministry of Transport interrogate and quiz him to find out why the ship sank. Pi offers his story. That does not satisfy the Japanese, and they dismiss it as a fantasy. Pi then offers an alternative explanation. He said he was on board the lifeboat with three other people: his mother, the ship's French chef, and a wounded sailor. The chef first killed and ate the sailor, then brutally killed Pi's mother. After that, Pi killed and ate the chef. Pi asks the men from the shipping company which story they prefer, who respond that they liked the first tale more.

The novel ends with the ministry representatives' report to the Japanese government, in which the two men tell Pi's first story.

[edit] Yann Martel

Yann Martel is a Canadian author who won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction award for his novel Life of Pi. On November 11, 2002, in an interview with PBS,[2] Martel revealed his inspiration and motives for his novel. He said, "I was sort of looking for a story, not only with a small ‘s’ but sort of with a capital ‘S’ – something that would direct my life." He spoke of being lonely in his life and needing direction in his life. This novel became that direction and purpose for his life.[3]

[edit] Characters

[edit] Piscine Molitor Patel

"Pi" is the narrator and main character of the story. The story is told as a narrative when Pi is much older and living in Canada. He recounts the story of his life and thus the 227-day journey on a lifeboat when his boat sinks.

[edit] Richard Parker

Richard Parker is the Bengal tiger that is stranded on a lifeboat with Pi Patel when the ship sinks.

Martel named the tiger after an Edgar Allan Poe character from his The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838). The book tells of four shipwrecked men who, after many days' privation, drew lots to decide who should be killed and eaten so the others could survive. Richard Parker, a mutinous sailor, drew the short straw and was eaten.

Tales of cannibalism by shipwrecked sailors were not uncommon in the 19th century. For instance, in December 1835, the ship Francis Spaight was wrecked in the north Atlantic. Some of the survivors of that wreck were known to have lived by cannibalism. In January 1846 a man named Richard Parker died when his ship, another Francis Spaight, sank.

In 1884, forty-six years after Poe's novel was published, much of the plot appeared to be replicated following a new shipwreck. After the sinking of their yacht Mignonette on the way to Australia, Captain Tom Dudley and three sailors were stranded in a dinghy in the Pacific Ocean. They believed they had no choice but to eat one of the party to survive. The victim was a 17 year old cabin boy named Richard Parker.[4] A.W. Brian Simpson's book on the subject mentions the Francis Spaight and also, interestingly, refers to a boat called Tiger on which a youth was cannibalised in 1766. Having read about these events, Yann Martel said, "So many Richard Parkers had to mean something." (See also Richard Parker (shipwrecked))

[edit] Setting

The novel is a work of fiction that draws from historical events and places in India. The Patel household's discussions of the political situation refer to historical events. Pondicherry is a former French colony in India. It does have an Indian Coffee House and Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Garden has a toy train track. It does not have a working train, nor does the garden have a zoo, although it does have a small aquarium. Munnar, the destination for the Patel family's vacation, is a small but popular hill station in Kerala. The town has a church. Madurai, also referenced in the novel, is a popular tourist/pilgrimage site in Tamil Nadu.

[edit] Film and theatrical adaptations

A variety of directors were interested in producing a movie based on the novel. M. Night Shyamalan, writer and director of The Sixth Sense, became interested in a proposed film based upon the novel, but dropped the project due to its twist ending (a common feature of Shyamalan's films). He told Entertainment Weekly magazine:

"I was concerned that as soon as you put my name on it, everybody would have a different experience. Whereas if someone else did it, it would be much more satisfying, I think. Expectations, you've got to be aware of them."

Alfonso Cuarón, director of the third Harry Potter movie, also expressed interest in making a film from the novel. In 2006 Jean-Pierre Jeunet was signed to direct the movie, but he pulled out due to budget reasons.

Keith Robinson, artistic director of the youth-oriented Twisting Yarn Theatre Company, received the exclusive UK rights from Yann Martel to adapt the novel into a play. The Twisting Yarn promotes theatre in education, with funding by the Bradford Council in England. Andy Rashleigh wrote the adaptation. They produced the play at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, England in 2003. Keith Robinson directed. The company toured England with the play in 2004 and 2007.

Keith Robinson also directed a second version of the play. He brought some of his company to work with students of the Ba Drama, Applied Theatre and Education Course at the Central School of Speech and Drama in Cornwall, England. The joint production was performed at the Minack Theatre in in late June 2008. It was well received by the press and community.

[edit] Allegation of plagiarism

When the Booker Prize was awarded to Martel in 2002, Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar claimed he considered taking legal action for plagiarism against the Canadian. He contended there was too much similarity between the premise of Life of Pi and that of his own 1981 novel Max e os Felinos. Published in Brazil in Portuguese, it told of a Jewish-German refugee who crossed the Atlantic Ocean while sharing his boat with a jaguar. In 1990 it was published in English as Max and the Cats, translated by Eloah F. Giacomelli. Scliar said he was perplexed that Martel "used the idea without consulting or even informing him." After talking with Martel, however, Scliar elected not to pursue the matter.[5]

Martel said he did not read Scliar's book, but he did read a review of it many years prior to writing Life of Pi. A dedication to Scliar "for the spark of life" appeared in the preface of Life of Pi.

[edit] See also

  • Poon Lim, who holds the actual world record as a solo sea survivor (133 days)
  • Book trailer; Life of Pi has the record for being the first of the winners of the Booker Prize to have its own book trailer

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ "The Life of Pi", The Man Booker Prize website
  2. ^ Ray Suarez, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, November 11, 2002
  3. ^ Yann Martel, "How I wrote Life of Pi", Powells Bookstore, Retrieved Jan 20, 2007
  4. ^ The Queen v. Dudley and Stephens; L.R. 14 Q.B.D. 273
  5. ^ Scliar, Moacyr. Interview with Eleanor Wachtel. Writers & Company. CBC Radio 1. July 16, 2006. (Interview [.ram]).

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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Preceded by
True History of the Kelly Gang
Man Booker Prize recipient
Succeeded by
Vernon God Little
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