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Self Paperback – April 7, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (April 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571219764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571219766
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Let me tell you a secret: The name of the greatest living writer of the generation born in the sixties is Yann Martel." --" L'Humanite ""This is an exhilarating piece of fiction, as bold and original as anything I've read in a long time." -- Charles Foran, "Montreal Gazette ""A powerful story, punctuated by humour and tragedy in much the way real life is. -- Like Rohinton Mistry and Michael Ondaatje, Martel is a brilliant storyteller." -- "Vancouver Sun ""Superb -- Masterfully written. -- Martel has an almost otherworldly talent. -- He is a powerful writer and storyteller, almost a force of nature." -- "Edmonton Journal ""Yann Martel wonderfully represents the child's universe as a seamless whole...A penetrating, funny, original and absolutely delightful exploration.... [Martel] is a natural and often brilliant essayist and expositor, with a knack for aphorism and a rich cultural and literary foundation." -- "Globe and Mail ""So vigorous and confident and compelling, that Self's education does end up being part of the reader's. Like all good educations, it is hard to forget, once absorbed." --" Toronto Star" "Engaging...There's some real insight here....Self is filled with things that sound a lot like the and again you encounter things that read so true, the sound they make resonates for hours, or even days. Self is still ringing in my ears." -- "Hour Magazine" "Mesmerizing...Linguistic treats dance across the page, and the subject -- a young person's life -- careens between the remarkably realistic and the wildly imaginative.... Martel is a gifted writer: his language saunters and soars.... Martel addresses important issues anddoes so creatively and seriously. He deserves to be read." --" Calgary Herald"

From the Inside Flap

A modern-day Orlando -- edgy, funny and startlingly honest -- Self is the fictional autobiography of a young writer and traveller who finds his gender changed overnight.

From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

Yann Martel, the son of diplomats, was born in Spain in 1963. He grew up in Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Alaska, and Canada and as an adult has spent time in Iran, Turkey, and India. After studying philosophy in college, he worked at various odd jobs until he began earning his living as a writer at the age of twenty-seven. He lives in Montreal.

Customer Reviews

I cried at least once in every one of his books.
I do have a family member who is homosexual and is married (Canada is a great country) and I am very open-minded, but that is not it.
He also does a very excellent job of portraying the awkwardness and roughness of being an adolescent boy.
Piper A.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

136 of 150 people found the following review helpful By Laura M Ginsburg on December 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
It is unfortunate that most people who read this book will have read "The Life of Pi" first, and will therefore be expecting another similar novel by Yann Martel. As other reviewers have shown, this proves to be a huge error in judgement. While Pi is a novel that has an easily accessible surface story, and many underlying themes that most can associate with, "Self" is a novel that requires more from the reader. You can literally float along with Pi on his journey and understand what he is going though, but the journey in Self is utterly different. While the main plots (sexuality, gender, society and fulfilling given roles) are clear at first, the real meaning is not as apparent. The switching of genders by the main character, the lesbian and gay scenes and the rape all beg questions of the reader. What is sexuality and what defines it? Is it socially based, culturally based or based within the person? The changes in the character should force the reader the reexamine preconceived notions of what it is they are reading about. "The Life of Pi" is more of a personal/spiritual journey, one that most people can relate with, and don't get me wrong, I love the book. But "Self" is a book that questions the journey of a person through society and through questions of what "makes" a person who they are; the judgements and outcomes, and therefore the inner change (generally mirrored by the outer change of the character) are merely the beginning of the story itself.
If you read "Life of Pi" and are expecting another novel of a similar genre, don't read "Self". But if you want to read another brilliant novel by Yann Martel, and go into expecting it to be different (just reading the back of the book should evoke this, with the questions it offers the reader before the story even begins), then read Self and look deeper into it than the surface story. If you do this, Self can become an even greater novel than Pi.
Happy Reading!
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Nabila Afifi on December 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
I received this book as a gift, and before reading it, I checked-out the reviews online. Honestly, I didn't have high expectations of the book..

But then I read it... here is some of the best quotations I have read...

"Love is a form of childhood in the way we become capable again of being wholly enthralled, able to believe so much so easily so intensely"

"--- the sort of friendship where a separation of time and space is merely a pause in an ongoing conversation"

I can quote so many others well written phrases by the Author. The book is an extremely well written, well organized exploration of the human mind.. it touches every feeling you ever thought you had in you.. it shows you the thin line between what actually happens and what takes place in our own imagination.

I would recommend this book... and next on my list to read would be other books by Yann Martel....
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
I like the other reviewers read 'Pi' first. I only have one question: why would anyone expect an amazing writer like Martel to turn out 'Pi' flavoured cookie cutter novels? I, for one, find it quite a refreshing turn that Martel has the depth and creativity to find such different topics to write about with such command.
There is no doubt that sex (and quite explicit for that matter) plays an important part in Martel's foray into understanding the dichotomy of humanity. However, he is not covering any unknown territory. If you can read the sexual content as part of the larger context of identity crisis, you will find that Martel is absolutely compelling, even illuminating about human nature.
Why should a reader cheer Pi more than the protagonist of 'Self'?
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By L. Williams on March 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
While this book is a very different type of read from Martel's later "Life of Pi" (which was excellent), it does seem to foreshadow one of the central themes in "Pi" - in particular, the theme of the incredible power of tragedy to transform us and our perceptions of the people around us. In this book, tragic events literally transform the gender of the protagonist (twice) and thus his/her perception of and interaction with the world. In "Pi," tragedy transforms Pi's recollection of reality in his attempt to live with his losses on a daily basis. While the gender transformation is not handled as well in "Self" as in "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides(also highly recommended), I would certainly recommend this book to Martel fans who are interested in seeing the development of this very talented writer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Likes-many-genres on January 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
First of all, five (5) [count them: ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE] stars, at LEAST!

How did this author write this book? Although the plot is not terribly complicated (a young man grows up, his parents die, he becomes a part of the world and thus enters into a state of continual transformation, he changes into a woman, she changes into a man, a young man grows up), the simultaneous translation of experience into experience is nothing short of breath-taking.

I want to send Martel a big box of apple-green bubble bath, fresh organic sweet potatoes, tea (but he never told me what kind!) and a neat stack of million dollar bills. Canadian million dollar bills. I can't even organize those clever, elegant sentences to say why, so I'll break it down in my primitive way:

THE BOOK IS BRAVE: He took every bull by the horns. Even REAL bulls by REAL horns, everything, he is not afraid of anything!

THE BOOK IS ELEGANT: Like Nabokov, he does make the reader work to understand him, but the reward is so great, it felt like I went to work for minimum wage and at the end of my first shift I was paid a judge's bribe!

THE BOOK IS SMART AS HELL WITHOUT BEING PRETENTIOUS: Along with affection for his characters, Martel shows respect for his readers. One of the most endearing authors I have ever had the privilege of reading.

THE BOOK HAS SOME GIFTS WITHIN IT THAT NOBODY COULD EVER EXPECT. I'm not going to say where they are found because that would be both presumptuous and unnecessary. The book contains character sketches of individuals we have, fortunately and unfortunately, all met at times. It accurately portrays the emotions of primates and the communications of canines.
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