Yann Martel biography

Author Biography  | Interview  | Books by this Author  | Readalikes

Yann Martel

Yann Martel

How to pronounce Yann Martel: yarn mar-TELL (slight emphasis on second syllable)

Yann Martel Biography

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.

Awards

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)



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Interview

Enjoy an edited chat transcription with Yann Martel, in which he discusses his Booker Award winning novel.

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 religions in your book?
sam : Good question Becky. I have a similar one, why these 3??

Yann Martel : Becky, the three religions because I wanted to discuss faith, not ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Yann Martel at BookBrowse
The High Mountains of Portugal jacket Beatrice and Virgil jacket Life of Pi jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Yann Martel but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Carol Birch

    Carol Birch

    Carol Birch is the author of ten novels. Jamrach's Menagerie was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the Galaxy National Book Awards. Birch won the David Higham Prize for ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Life of Pi

    Try:
    Jamrach's Menagerie
    by Carol Birch

  • Jonathan Safran Foer

    Jonathan Safran Foer

    Jonathan Safran Foer (born February 21, 1977) is an American novelist. He is best known for his novels Everything Is Illuminated (2002), Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2005), and for his non-fiction work Eating Animals (... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Life of Pi

    Try:
    Everything Is Illuminated
    by Jonathan Safran Foer

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