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Life of Pi Paperback – Black & White, May 1, 2003
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Yann Martel's imaginative and unforgettable Life of Pi is a magical reading experience, an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and ultimately, faith. The precocious son of a zookeeper, 16-year-old Pi Patel is raised in Pondicherry, India, where he tries on various faiths for size, attracting "religions the way a dog attracts fleas." Planning a move to Canada, his father packs up the family and their menagerie and they hitch a ride on an enormous freighter. After a harrowing shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean, trapped on a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, a seasick orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker ("His head was the size and color of the lifebuoy, with teeth"). It sounds like a colorful setup, but these wild beasts don't burst into song as if co-starring in an anthropomorphized Disney feature. After much gore and infighting, Pi and Richard Parker remain the boat's sole passengers, drifting for 227 days through shark-infested waters while fighting hunger, the elements, and an overactive imagination. In rich, hallucinatory passages, Pi recounts the harrowing journey as the days blur together, elegantly cataloging the endless passage of time and his struggles to survive: "It is pointless to say that this or that night was the worst of my life. I have so many bad nights to choose from that I've made none the champion."
An award winner in Canada, Life of Pi, Yann Martel's second novel, should prove to be a breakout book in the U.S. At one point in his journey, Pi recounts, "My greatest wish--other than salvation--was to have a book. A long book with a never-ending story. One that I could read again and again, with new eyes and fresh understanding each time." It's safe to say that the fabulous, fablelike Life of Pi is such a book. --Brad Thomas Parsons --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
A fabulous romp through an imagination by turns ecstatic, cunning, despairing and resilient, this novel is an impressive achievement "a story that will make you believe in God," as one character says. The peripatetic Pi (ne the much-taunted Piscine) Patel spends a beguiling boyhood in Pondicherry, India, as the son of a zookeeper. Growing up beside the wild beasts, Pi gathers an encyclopedic knowledge of the animal world. His curious mind also makes the leap from his native Hinduism to Christianity and Islam, all three of which he practices with joyous abandon. In his 16th year, Pi sets sail with his family and some of their menagerie to start a new life in Canada. Halfway to Midway Island, the ship sinks into the Pacific, leaving Pi stranded on a life raft with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. After the beast dispatches the others, Pi is left to survive for 227 days with his large feline companion on the 26-foot-long raft, using all his knowledge, wits and faith to keep himself alive. The scenes flow together effortlessly, and the sharp observations of the young narrator keep the tale brisk and engaging. Martel's potentially unbelievable plot line soon demolishes the reader's defenses, cleverly set up by events of young Pi's life that almost naturally lead to his biggest ordeal. This richly patterned work, Martel's second novel, won Canada's 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. In it, Martel displays the clever voice and tremendous storytelling skills of an emerging master.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Yann Martell manages to tell the same man vs. nature themed story in a completely new fashion, loaded with questions about life and death, beliefs, family and spirituality. Survival stories remind us not only that life is worth living but that we can cling to the desire to live as long as we can find a reason to keep fighting, what if the reason to stay alive is life itself? Pi shows us that sometimes it is when we lose everything that we might find ourselves.
I’m hesitant to define this tale as a religious one yet it is deeply spiritual. Pi has a great heart and his soul (his mind, if you rather) craves for knowledge, both physical which is made clear by his interest in zoology and metaphysical which leads him to approach religion. Aristotle said that “All men by nature desire to know” and Pi’s desire to know is nothing else that this natural desire common to all humankind.
I believe that what makes Pi different from other boys (and men) is the fact that he is able to realise that both the physical and metaphysical knowledge are rooted in a common true. The spiritual search of Pi is not the search of someone trying to find a messiah, nor of someone looking for a new lifestyle; it is a pursue of a higher truth. That’s the reason why he can be a pious Hindu. And Muslim. And Catholic. Because he understands that both three religions convey a true message. “I told her that in fact she was not so wrong; that Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims”.
Martell gives you a novel with a powerful insight of a very smart and pious boy who clings to life while coexisting with a tiger in the middle of the sea. The words are overwhelming by the deep meaning they convey and at the same time beautifully used to describe an imposing scenario.
This is a book totally worth reading, I totally enjoyed it from beginning to end, loved the characters, yes, it might be a little slow at first and the time spent in the sea to long, but it’s definitely worth it.
It's that sense of surprise that kept me reading, dragging me through the story as if I were tied to a truck rolling through a busy street. I couldn't put the book down. I was pulled through it by my curiosity. Read it then come back and write about it.
A boy and a tiger on a boat. It sounds like it belongs under the magical realism section, with Salman Rushdie. But its not. The story is told by a narrator acquainted with the mathematics of animal-human interaction. But to confine this story to one within the limits of zoology would be ludicrous. Pi is a student of religion and animals. Religion perhaps is something that differentiates humans from animals and that question of what makes us humans unique is a recurring theme in the story. For Pi, the love of God is mankind's unique and greatest joy. It's not a God that belongs to a people or a culture, but a universal God, the Creator of a world that Pi loves. "A God", as Pi says in a memorable line, "whose presence is reward enough".
If love of God is unique to human beings, then so is intelligence. And it is intelligence that Pi uses to survive the long journey, on a small boat, with a tiger. With constant awareness of the tiger's state of mind, and the resources available to him, Pi does survive, and this seemingly miraculous survival is what makes up the bulk of this story's 100 chapters.
Pi survives to tell the tale. Had the story finished with his final adventure, another battle against the inevitable hunger and danger of his travel companion we would have a story both miraculous and amazingly - acceptable.
But the story continues. After his rescue Pi is interviewed and after great stress gives a second description of his survival. This description is gruesome, horrific, and since it differs to the story we have just finished reading, raises very challenging questions.
Firstly and most importantly, which version is the true one? Could such a horrific and gruesome story have been made up?
But on the other hand, can we really consider dismissing the original story as a mere metaphor for the second "true" story? What of the spectacular details? And what of those parts in the first story which don't seem to map to the second version so easily?
Is the first story just a metaphor? If it is, then this is ultimately a book about the human need for myth as a means for living with impossible truths.
If it is not, and the first story is the true one, then this second story is just a bone thrown to a dog, a "rational" version of events thrown to a "rational" interviewer, a fool for whom "reason is gold".
Which is the true answer? Do we accept the first or the second version?
Ultimately, Yann Martel asks us to choose: Is it a believable fantasy, or is it a necessary metaphor?
How we choose is maybe related in no small measure by our own relationship with reason and rationality. Do we rely on them entirely for our survival, or might we allow for something else, some unfathomable good "beyond the realm of thought and language"?
Most recent customer reviews
Did not like the way the bookk ended.