Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2001)
Evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.
The principal story, narrated to the author by an older version of the title character, is about a boy traveling across the Pacific with his family and the animals from the zoo they own and are relocating; the ship sinks, and the boy is the only survivor — along with a Bengal tiger.
This is a novel that demands you see the world in a different way. In itself, the story is fantastic: A boy and a tiger share a lifeboat for months while the boy goes to extraordinary measures to tame the tiger and keep them both alive. However, due to the powerful storytelling, the reader comes to accept this story, and all the amazing things that happen to the boy on his journey, unconditionally.
The story is introduced as one that will make you believe in God, and indeed, God is ultimately what this fantasy tale of survival is all about: God and man and death in between them. The novel is vastly open to personal interpretation, which imbues it with a more significant but highly individual meaning for each reader, much like religion should be, and that’s what makes it so powerful.
The movie adaptation was directed by Ang Lee and remained very faithful to the novel. I was surprised at how well it captured the novel’s sense of ambiguity and subjectiveness. In addition, it was visually stunning and is well worth seeing, whether you have read the book or not. However, if you have not read the book, the movie will definitely spoil it for you, so I recommend reading the book first.
- The novel was rejected by at least 5 publishers before being accepted.
- Yann Martel is himself a character in the book, who hears Pi’s story and later writes it down as the novel we are reading.
- The tiger, Richard Parker, is named after a character in Edgar Allan Poe’s story, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.” Men named Richard Parker were victims of at least two known shipwrecks.
- Life of Pi won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2002.