#51. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This book is #51 on the 2012 List.
Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, an Indian boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger.
The novel was rejected by at least five London publishing houses, and I bet they are kicking themselves in the behinds! It finally was accepted by Knopf Canada, who published it in September 2001. The UK edition won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction the following year. It was also chosen for CBC Radio’s Canada Reads 2003, where it was championed by author Nancy Lee. The French translation, L’histoire de Pi, was chosen in the French version of the contest, Le combat des livres, where it was championed by Louise Forestier. The novel won the 2003 Boeke Prize, a South African novel award. In 2004, it won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Best Adult Fiction for years 2001–2003
In a 2002 interview with PBS, Martel revealed his inspiration for his novel, “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 and needing direction in his life. The novel became that direction and purpose for his life.
Martel also stated that his inspiration for the book’s premise came from reading a book review of Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar’s 1981 novella Max and the Cats, about a Jewish-German refugee who crossed the Atlantic Ocean while sharing his boat with a jaguar. Scliar said that he was perplexed that Martel used the idea without consulting or even informing him, and indicated that he was reviewing the situation before deciding whether to take any action in response. After talking with Martel, Scliar elected not to pursue the matter. A dedication to Scliar “for the spark of life” appears in the author’s note of Life of Pi.
The book started out a bit slow, and I wondered where it was going to lead to, but it quickly picked up pace and kept me intrigued. I enjoyed his inner dialogue , discussing his Vegan self fighting against the will to survive. The will to survive championed and celebrated with a diet of fish and sea turtle. Very well written.