Life of Pi

From Academic Kids

Life of Pi is a novel by Canadian author Yann Martel. The title character, an Indian boy from Pondicherry, explores the issues of religion and spirituality from an early age, and decides he will become a follower of at least three major religions.

Life of Pi won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2002.

Life of Pi was chosen for Year 2003 edition of CBC Radio's Canada Reads competition, where it was championed by author Nancy Lee. In addition, its French translation, L'Histoire de Pi, was included in the French version of the competition, Le combat des livres. M. Night Shyamalan of The Sixth Sense, was attached to the proposed movie based upon Life of Pi, but he has dropped the project in favour of another. Alfonso Cuaron is currently in talks to direct the adaptation.

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The novel's plot begins when Pi (whose real name is Piscine)'s father, a zoo keeper, moves the family and a few animals by ship to Canada for a new start. The ship sinks, however, and Pi finds himself the sole survivor, lost at sea on a lifeboat. The last human survivor, anyway, for Pi soon finds out, to his terror, that he shares his 26-foot space with an orangutan, a hyena, a zebra, and a tiger named Richard Parker. What follows is a tale of survival in its rawest form, as Pi must deal with immediate human needs such as thirst, hunger, and shelter, all under the watchful eyes of a huge predator.

The book can justifiably be split into three parts, but as it is written with a certain fluid style, it works as a whole novel as well. The first part is a rumination on spirituality and Indian life through the eyes of a young boy. The second part (comprising most of the text) is a whimsical blend of detailed, realistic survival memoir and fantastic allegory in an almost medieval style. The end, in which Pi is rescued and the "reality" of his entire experience at sea is called into question, offers more insights into the twin thirst for survival and faith.

The "reality" also offers the reader a choice to actually choose the "story" they prefer. According to the author there are two ways of looking at the same reality and it requires a leap of faith to choose the "better" story.

There are three major religions of interest in this story: Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity, represented by Pi Patel. Also of interest is the philosophical concept of atheism, represented by Mr. Kumar.

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Moacyr Scliar

There is an ongoing legal case against Martel over a copyright violation. Martel acknowledges in the preface of Life of Pi the Brazilian writer Moacyr Scliar, saying:

"Also, I am indebted to Mr. Moacyr Scliar, for the spark of life."

Scliar's Max e os Felinos (Max and the Cat), published in 1981, is a story of a German refugee who has to share his boat with a jaguar at his Atlantic crossing.

Martel says he did not read Scliars book, but he did read a review written by John Updike. Although Scliar said he is not interested in pursuing a legal action against Martel, his publisher will proceed. In the publishing business it is not uncommon for intellectual property legal cases, in particular when a property is associated with a lot of success.


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