How to pronounce Yann Martel: yarn mar-TELL (slight emphasis on second syllable)
Yann Martel was born in Salamanca, Spain, in 1963, of Canadian parents who
were doing graduate studies. Later they both joined the Canadian foreign
service and he grew up in Costa Rica, France, Spain and Mexico, in addition to
Canada. He continued to travel widely as an adult, spending time in Iran, Turkey
and India, but is now based mainly in Montreal. He obtained a degree in
Philosophy from Trent University in Ontario, then worked variously as a tree
planter, dishwasher and security guard before taking up writing full-time
from the age of 27.
His first book, a collection of short stories titled The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, was first published in 1993. The stories deal with themes such as illness, storytelling and the history of the twentieth century; music, war and the anguish of youth; how we die; and grief, loss and the reasons we are attached to material objects.
His first novel, Self, was published in 1996. The Montreal Gazette described it as '[a] superb psychological acute observation on love, attraction and belonging'.
In 2002 he won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for his second novel, Life of Pi (2002), an epic survival story with an overarching religious theme. Life of Pi has been published in over forty countries and in thirty languages.
He is also the author of We Ate the Children Last (2004) and Beatrice and Virgil (2010) and The High Mountains of Portugal (2016). He lives in Montreal where he divides his time between yoga, writing and volunteering in a palliative care unit.
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2002 (Life of Pi)
Winner of the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction 2001 (Life of Pi)
Shortlisted for the 2001 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction (Life of Pi)
Shortlisted for Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award (Self)
Winner of the Journey Prize (Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios)
This biography was last updated on 06/07/2016.
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The following is an edited chat transcript with Yann Martel, which took place on October 2, 2002 at WrittenVoices.com.
Reproduced by permission of WrittenVoices.com
Becky : what was your inspiration in
writing Life of Pi?
Yann Martel : Pi was inspired by two things: India, and a so-so review I read ten years ago in the NY Times Review of Books.
Becky : what was the review?
Yann Martel : The review was by Updike of a Brazilian novel. He panned it, but the premise (of a Jew in a lifeboat with a black panther in 1933) struck me.
Terri : had you visited India prior to deciding to write the book?
Yann Martel : Terri, I've been to India three times, each time with a backpack, dazzled by it all.
Terri : but did you go after you'd decided to write the book?
Yann Martel : Yes.I did research the second time I was there, and then went back to clear up small details.
desigrrl : I love the book too, but I am confused. Why was your main character Indian when you are not an Indian yourself?
Yann Martel : Desigrrl, Indian because India is a place where all stories are possible. You forget that the imagination can take hold of anything and contemplate it and love it and describe it.
Becky : Why the three ...
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