Life of Pi

  • Yann Martel
  • Cannongate
  • 2005

The Life of Pi is a fictional recollection of a young boys’ trans-oceanic venture in a boat with a bizarre collection of animals and a religious zeal to survive. Piscine Molitor Patel (named after a famous French swimming pool) is recounting the days when he was a thirteen year old Indian lad from a zoo in Pondicherry, India. Piscine, who under the torment of playground humour changed his nickname from “Pissing” to “Pi” Patel — becomes highly interested in his spiritual side and investigates all that the three major religions of the area have to offer him, and sees no wrong in subscribing to the three seemingly contradicting institutions.

…the family embark on a ship to Canada with half a zoo and a few necessary possessions

His parents own and run a zoo which, to their displeasure seems likely to clash with the post-revolutionary Indian politics of the time and so an escape to Canada is planned and executed with hair-endangering stress levels for all involved. Bureaucracy, Red Tape and Americans threaten to delay or even abort their emigration plans each step of the way but finally, the family embark on a ship to Canada with half a zoo and a few necessary possessions.

So set for a new life in Canada, things are optimistic and hopes are high — the ship then sinks. Pi ends up in a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a Bengal tiger mistakenly named Richard Parker and a hyena. This bizarre situation then develops to the point where all the boat contains is Pi and the Bengal tiger.

…a thought provoking and extremely challenging story twist

The rest of the book is the epic quest of Pi to survive a most obscure preternatural environment. A fast-paced and diverse account of his 227 days at sea with a jungle-based tiger ensues, occasionally stretching the imagination and always testing the readers’ faith in the narration. At the end of the adventure Pi ends up on the coast of Mexico (there was never any doubt of his survival, as it is Pi himself recalling his youth) and provides the reader with a thought provoking and extremely challenging story twist which can explain many credibility problems but equally cause many more questions to arise.

As a conclusion I’d have to say this book is a beautiful, inspiring and deeply thought provoking piece of fiction, with enough unanswered for heated debate and enough explained for a satisfied mind. Whether you like stories that expand your mind, take you on an adventure or simply temporarily divert your attention from the drone of existence — this book is a cracking read. Probably a few reasons for why it won the Man Booker Prize.

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