Life of Pi
A NovelBook - 2002
Life of Pi is a masterful and utterly original novel that is at once the story of a young castaway who faces immeasurable hardships on the high seas, and a meditation on religion, faith, art and life that is as witty as it is profound. Using the threads of all of our best stories, Yann Martel has woven a glorious spiritual adventure that makes us question what it means to be alive, and to believe. Growing up in Pondicherry, India, Piscine Molitor Patel -- known as Pi -- has a rich life. Bookish by nature, young Pi acquires a broad knowledge of not only the great religious texts but of all literature, and has a great curiosity about how the world works. His family runs the local zoo, and he spends many of his days among goats, hippos, swans, and bears, developing his own theories about the nature of animals and how human nature conforms to it. Pi’s family life is quite happy, even though his brother picks on him and his parents aren’t quite sure how to accept his decision to simultaneously embrace and practise three religions -- Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. But despite the lush and nurturing variety of Pi’s world, there are broad political changes afoot in India, and when Pi is sixteen his parents decide that the family needs to escape to a better life. Choosing to move to Canada, they close the zoo, pack their belongings, and board a Japanese cargo ship called the Tsimtsum . Travelling with them are many of their animals, bound for zoos in North America. However, they have only just begun their journey when the ship sinks, taking the dreams of the Patel family down with it. Only Pi survives, cast adrift in a lifeboat with the unlikeliest of travelling companions: a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Thus begins Pi Patel’s epic, 227-day voyage across the Pacific, and the powerful story of faith and survival at the heart of Life of Pi . Worn and scared, oscillating between hope and despair, Pi is witness to the playing out of the food chain, quite aware of his new position within it. When only the tiger is left of the seafaring menagerie, Pi realizes that his survival depends on his ability to assert his own will, and sets upon a grand and ordered scheme to keep from being Richard Parker’s next meal. As the days pass, Pi fights both boredom and terror by throwing himself into the practical details of surviving on the open sea -- catching fish, collecting rain water, protecting himself from the sun -- all the while ensuring that the tiger is also kept alive, and knows that Pi is the key to his survival. The castaways face gruelling pain in their brushes with starvation, illness, and the storms that lash the small boat, but there is also the solace of beauty: the rainbow hues of a dorado’s death-throes, the peaceful eye of a looming whale, the shimmering blues of the ocean’s swells. Hope is fleeting, however, and despite adapting his religious practices to his daily routine, Pi feels the constant, pressing weight of despair. It is during the most hopeless and gruelling days of his voyage that Pi whittles to the core of his beliefs, casts off his own assumptions, and faces his underlying terrors head-on. As Yann Martel has said in one interview, “The theme of this novel can be summarized in three lines. Life is a story. You can choose your story. And a story with an imaginative overlay is the better story.” And for Martel, the greatest imaginative overlay is religion. “God is a shorthand for anything that is beyond the material -- any greater pattern of meaning.” In Life of Pi , the question of stories, and of what stories to believe, is front and centre from the beginning, when the author tells us how he was led to Pi Patel and to this novel: in an Indian coffee house, a gentleman told him, “I have a story that will make you believe in God.” And as this novel comes to its brilliant conclusion, Pi shows us that the story with the imaginative overlay is also the story that contains the most truth.
One boy. One boat. One tiger.
After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild, blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orangutan--and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. The scene is set for one of the most extraordinary and beloved works of fiction in recent years.
From the critics
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The_Light_Particle thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over
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Pi, upon being afraid to find a Bengal Tiger in his life boat: "You might think I lost all hope at that point. I did. And as a result I perked up and felt much better, We see that in sports all the time, don't we? The tennis challenger starts strong, but soon loses confidence in his playing. The champion racks up his game. But in the final set, when the challenger has nothing left to lose, he becomes relaxed again, insouciant, daring. Suddenly he's playing like the devil and and the champion must work hard to get those last points. So it was with me."
"It's important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go" - 'Pi Patel'
"There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless"
- 'Pi Patel'
"... animals don't escape to somewhere but from some something. Something within their territory has frightened them-the intrusion of an enemy, the assault of a dominant animal, a startling noise- and set off a flight reaction."
"Let's hear your story," he said, panting.
"Once upon a time there was a banana and it grew. It grew until it was large, firm, yellow and fragrant. Then it fell to the ground and someone came upon it and ate it."
He stopped rowing. "What a beautiful story!"
"Thank you." (Pg 316)
Then I raced up the hill on the right-to offer thanks to Lord Krishna for having put Jesus of Nazareth, whose humanity I found so compelling, in my way. (pg 73)
SummaryAdd a Summary
A beautiful book by Yann Martel on the marvels of the imagination and on survival. A great ending and many surprising twists. Made into a movie as well. Well worth it.
Pi Patel grew up in India swimming and hanging out in his family owned Zoo. He practices Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, after visiting a church, Mosque, and a Hindu Temple on a vacation. When he was 16 his family and him left for Canada on a Japanese Cargo ship but never reached their destination, due to a storm causing the ship to sink. Pi's family died but Pi survived leaving him alone... Yet he wasn't the only one to survive, a 450 pound tiger named Richard Parker survived also along with a Hyena, a wounded Zebra, and an Orangutan. Pi Patel was on a small lifeboat stranded in the middle of the ocean with 4 wild animals. The Hyena eats the Zebra alive and then also kills the orangutan. The Tiger Richard Parker then killed the Hyena. Now Pi was just alone with a grown tiger. Pi and this Tiger survived 227 days stranded in the middle of the ocean until he reached Mexico. Richard Parker walked away into the jungle in Mexico never to be seen again by Pi. After Japanese authorities hear of a Japanese Cargo Ship sinking and one lone survivor they drive down to meet Pi, to get answers out of him. He tells his story, but the Japanese do not believe it and ask him to tell the true story, he then tells of another gruesome version of the story with humans in the place of the animals. Not knowing which story was the true one the Japanese leave and Pi spends the rest of his life in Canada.
A young Indian and his parents cast off to move to Canada when an unexpected storm happens that killed his family.Now all he has is a simple lifeboat and a adult male tiger and has to adapt to it if he wants to survive...
THE LIFE OF PI is one of two of the most unusual books I've ever come across. The other was McCrae's KATZENJAMMER. (A third was ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY by Sedaris, though that book is quite funny as well). LIFE OF PI is told by the central character, Pi, whose real name Piscene (pool) has been distorted in childhood to Pissing, assumes a name that measures the diameter of a circle, the symbol of omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Pi tells two stories of being lost at sea--one story of a miraculous survival for 277 days of a boy on a boat with a Bengal tiger and another story of cannibalism and murder on that same boat whose occupants are Pi, a cook, Pi's mother, and a Taiwanese sailor. Pi says, "So tell me . . .which is the better story? And so it goes with God." Life of Pi concludes with the investigators for the shipwreck's cause choosing the first story in which the caged animals somehow all escaped from their cages as the ship Tsimtsum sank suddenly to the bottom of the Pacific as the more believable, but is the reader to do so? Before choosing to believe the first story, Mr. Chiba, one of the investigators, makes associations between the hyena in the first story and the cook in the second; he sees the zebra in the first as the Taiwanese sailor in the second. The orangutan in the first was Pi's mother in the second, and the tiger Richard Parker from the first is Pi in the second. Then Mr. Chiba asks, "What about the island? Who are the meerkats? What about the teeth? I don't know. I am not inside this boy's head." Must also recommend KATZENJAMMER by McCrae and the novel BARK OF THE DOGWOOD for two other great reads.
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