Life of Pi by Yann Martell is one of my first steps into the genre of travel literature. And what big steps they were, this is one of the few texts that I have read till date that has captivated my attention from the first page. Martel combines intrigue and mystery into Author’s Note of this book, engaging the reader through his web of fiction about how he came to write this book.
To further draw in the reader, the Author’s Note introduces a cliffhanger – a promise to “Tell a story that will make you believe in God”. Now if this line doesn’t catch your attention, then this may not be the book for you.
This masterpiece of fiction poses as a biography, almost as if all the events of the text are true and cannot be proven. This ,in my opinion, is Martel’s stroke of genius and the main selling point of this text. Without internet, research and resources, a reader can almost be fooled into thinking that every word in the text mirrors the reality of events that took place in India in the summer of 1977.
The text focuses on the journey of the main character, Pi after a shipwreck. This is no ordinary shipwreck as the majority of passengers on the ship are zoo animals, and thus begins Pi’s journey of survival in the wild with the wild. The surviving passengers of the ship are on a single life boat are the second most intriguing part of Martel’s text: a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a Royal Bengal tiger – and of course Pi.
The rest of the story unfolds with how the survival of the fittest comes into play, with each passenger of the boat fighting to live. The facts, research and knowledge that Martel packs into the 300+ page novel is incredible. His ability as a story teller is outstanding as he captivates and tests the survival limits of his 16 year old main character.
As for the remaining question about the existence of God, well I think that can be left to each reader’s interpretation of the book. Personally, I think the integration of religion into a novel about survival is the perfect way to weave the theme of hope and believing into the text.
The most exciting part about reading this book at the moment is that an epic fantasy movie is being released in November 212, thus capturing the life and journey of Pi into film: