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Life of Pi

by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel X
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    May 2002, 336 pages

    May 2003, 336 pages


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There are currently 82 reader reviews for Life of Pi
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I just finished reading this book last night and absolutely loved it! As a post-modern Christian (paradoxical perhaps) I loved the way the author intertwined questions of faith with post-modern thinking. Its not that one story is more accurate or the 'true one' rather they are all different metaphors for the same experience. Martel sets this up in the first part with the dialogue Pi has with the 3 wiseman - representatives of three major worldviews/faiths. He finds they are all after the same vision "I just want to love God" (p.76) leading to their embarassment.

This parallel way of thinking extends into the second phase where Pi struggles with the infinite/finite, death/life, suffering/joy and his spiritual/physical existence. Neither is correct and both are true. They are all metaphors for personal struggle we all have as humans and to interpret these stories as literal (modernist) is to miss the parallel and/and universe Martel is insisting we inhabit.

In the final third phase, he integrates Christian metaphors that I recognize to represent maturity/growth. The garden of Eden, moving from fate to choice, and arriving at the promised land. His animal side departs/integrates/becomes invisible and he finds God not through personal suffering, but through the interactions with another human (a strangely impersonal one at that). Wonderful material!

Excelltn for all the genrations, very exciting and very easy to read and understand. Great book.

Blooming Marvelous!

A good friend recommended *The Life of Pi* to me with "Well it's about a teenager who was named after a swimming pool who finds himself stranded on a life-boat with a hungry tiger..." It definately did NOT sound like something I wanted to read. Then she lent me a copy of the book. After ten pages I was hooked.

She should have added "it's also about God, Religion, Ethics, and Humanity's Place in the Universe".

It also tells you how to survive being stranded on a life-boat with a Bengal Tiger.

My only quarrel with the book is the last few chapters ....edited to remove plot spoiler..... Trying to put a Freudian twist on the situation is really lame.

(For those who have finished the book)

I also disagree with what seems to be the general consensus on the meaning behind Yann Martel's Life of Pi. I do not believe that Martel intended either story to be open to reader analyses, or for us to choose which story we believe to be the "truth". Nor do I believe that what Martel intended us to take away from the story is the idea that we "can choose our own reality". Indeed many reviews have questioned which of Pi's stories are true, yet it is neither of them that is the complete truth, neither fits completely, or is entirely credible.
Take, for example, the meerkat bones left in the boat, they destroy the credibility of the story without animals- or the island. Infact, it is not a question of truth, but what is reality- what really happened in the ocean, and what really happened in Pi's mind.

Both stories are "true". The story without animals is mostly what physically happened. The story with animals is what spiritually happened for Pi. Both occured simultaneously, thus the story of Pi is not simply a tale of his journey across the Pacific, but the journey of his spirit also.

Many readers are caught up in thinking that Pi is deluded, that he consciously replaces each person on the lifeboat with an animal so that he can cope with the situation. However, Pi does not do this, as some may be led to believe, to cope, but because he is on a spiritual journey as well as a physical journey. Martel conveys to us that we are all on two journeys in our lives.

The spiritual journey, as I have already said, is the story with the animals, the story that holds truth in Pi's mind, while the people story is a physical reality. these two stories run parallel, and meet at the point where Pi meets the blind Frenchman. This is what tells us that both stories have an element of truth. Pi did talk to Richard Parker ( who represents the animal instinct in Pi) on his spiritual journey, and he also talked to the blind Frenchman (who is actually the cook). This is where his spiritual being meets his reality.

Life of Pi is also about the conflict between doubt and hope. The oil tanker represents Pi's hope, while the rubbish that floats past are his doubts. The part where Pi recovers from his blindness show all his doubts being washed away, indeed, from this point on he is able to tame Richard Parker with no trouble. He has tamed his doubts.

One reviewer on this site asked how this story makes you believe in God. It does it by comparing two highly unlikely stories, and showing us that we are all on two journeys, and at times our spiritual journey can save us from our reality. We do not "choose our own reality". It is not a matter of choice. We are all on two journeys.

If Martel has had but one success in writing this book it is that he has managed to confuse even the most logical of us, bring out the believing in the most rational of us. Life of Pi is a lesson about all of us. Martel does not spoonfeed a message to us, it is what each of us takes away from this incredible story that determines how true the book is.
YJ Lee

Though with a slow beginning, "Life of Pi" is an interesting novel weaving multiple philosophical issues and religions. The story is about a boy named Pi Patel, who becomes subject to a shipwreck in the Pacific. Only by using his knowledge of animal behavior, faith in God, and companionship with a voracious Bengal tiger could Pi survive his stranded predicament.

The way Yann Martel manipulates time to overally present the novel can get rather confusing. He begins with Pi telling his background years after the shipwreck incident, as well as random ventures into the future. However, a second read or skim through can easily clear the confusion and make the novel even more enjoyable (more notably due to the story's great ending).

I found "Life of Pi" an excellent read involving culture, religion, nature, and life itself in one package. It is simply an original and imaginative way of storytelling. A definite page turner!
Mike SHS

Life of Pi was a must read. It offered a deep and insightful look into both the mind and heart. Throughout the story Pi helped me realize that life and reality are your own decisions. Even though the story may seem a little weird at first, anyone reading it will eventually fall in love with the interesting characters and the intriguing plot developments. I only wish that I would be able to fully comprehend everything Yann was trying to say through Pi.

Life of Pi was a great book that really got me thinking at the end. In the end, Pi told two different stories about his experience at sea... which story do you think is better, the one with animals or the one without animals? Personally i thought that the story with the animals was better. It was a lot more entertaining than the other "dry, yeastless factuality" story.

One thing I didn't understand from the novel was why the story would make a person believe in God. Could someone expain that to me please? Other than that, Life of Pi was an awesome book and I would recommend it to anyone.

[For those who have finished the book]

I disagree with what seems to be the consensus view on the meaning of this story. Most people have seemed to take the story as saying that you can arbitrarily choose your own reality and that those who choose the "better story" are enlightened. I don't think that Martel intended for the truth to be left open to interpretation. To ascribe equal validity to the two versions of the story told by Pi trivializes Martel's definition of faith as described in chapters 21 & 22. I think Martel sees the religious experience as an indescribably awesome experience that can only be explained through imperfect metaphors.

So I don't think the "true" story fits either of the two accounts given in the book. I think the book is actually about an internal spiritual journey and struggle. What actually happened in the physical world is not as important (though I think it is probably closer to the version without animals), but Pi is trying to convey this fantastic religious experience that is even more of a miracle than any events he could describe. I think the reader is supposed to believe that the story with animals is a better description of the true personal spiritual experience that Pi had, since it is colored by his own background and experience growing up at the zoo in Pondicherry, and better captures the incredible nature of the experience.

Some will probably read my review as just a third version of events that is equally valid, but to focus on the physical events is to miss the entire meaning of this book: A meaningful religious experience requires a leap of faith. Pi's story is much less extraordinary than believing in or experiencing God.

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