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Life of Pi

Life of Pi

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Life of Pi

4/5 (850 valutazioni)
423 pagine
7 ore
Jun 4, 2002


Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

Pi Patel is an unusual boy. The son of a zookeeper, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior, a fervent love of stories, and practices not only his native Hinduism, but also Christianity and Islam. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional-but is it more true?
Life of Pi is at once a realistic, rousing adventure and a meta-tale of survival that explores the redemptive power of storytelling and the transformative nature of fiction. It's a story, as one character puts it, to make you believe in God.
Jun 4, 2002

Informazioni sull'autore

YANN MARTEL was born in Spain in 1963 of Canadian parents. Life of Pi won the 2002 Man Booker Prize (among other honors) and was adapted to the screen in the Oscar-winning film by Ang Lee. Martel is also the author of the novels The High Mountains of Portugal, Beatrice and Virgil, and Self, the collection of stories The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, and a collection of letters to the prime minister of Canada, What Is Stephen Harper Reading?. He lives in Saskatchewan, Canada.

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Life of Pi - Yann Martel


Toronto and Pondicherry



My suffering left me sad and gloomy.

Academic study and the steady, mindful practice of religion slowly brought me back to life. I have kept up what some people would consider my strange religious practices. After one year of high school, I attended the University of Toronto and took a double-major Bachelor’s degree. My majors were religious studies and zoology. My fourth-year thesis for religious studies concerned certain aspects of the cosmogony theory of Isaac Luria, the great sixteenth-century Kabbalist from Safed. My zoology thesis was a functional analysis of the thyroid gland of the three-toed sloth. I chose the sloth because its demeanour—calm, quiet and introspective—did something to soothe my shattered self.

There are two-toed sloths and there are three-toed sloths, the case being determined by the forepaws of the animals, since all sloths have three claws on their hind paws. I had the great luck one summer of studying the three-toed sloth in situ in the equatorial jungles of Brazil. It is a highly intriguing creature. Its only real habit is indolence. It sleeps or rests on average twenty hours a day. Our team tested the sleep habits of five wild three-toed sloths by placing on their heads, in the early evening after they had fallen asleep, bright red plastic dishes filled with water. We found them still in place late the next morning, the water of the dishes swarming with insects. The sloth is at its busiest at sunset, using the word busy here in the most relaxed sense. It moves along the bough of a tree in its characteristic upside-down position at the speed of roughly 400 metres an hour. On the ground, it crawls to its next tree at the rate of 250 metres an hour, when motivated, which is 440 times slower than a motivated cheetah. Unmotivated, it covers four to five metres in an hour.

The three-toed sloth is not well informed about the outside world. On a scale of 2 to 10, where 2 represents unusual dullness and 10 extreme acuity, Beebe (1926) gave the sloth’s senses of taste, touch, sight and hearing a rating of 2, and its sense of smell a rating of 3. If you come upon a sleeping three-toed sloth in the wild, two or three nudges should suffice to awaken it; it will then look sleepily in every direction but yours. Why it should look about is uncertain since the sloth sees everything in a Magoo-like blur. As for hearing, the sloth is not so much deaf as uninterested in sound. Beebe reported that firing guns next to sleeping or feeding sloths elicited little reaction. And the sloth’s slightly better sense of smell should not be overestimated. They are said to be able to sniff and avoid decayed branches, but Bullock (1968) reported that sloths fall to the ground clinging to decayed branches often.

How does it survive, you might ask.

Precisely by being so slow. Sleepiness and slothfulness keep it out of harm’s way, away from the notice of jaguars, ocelots, harpy eagles and anacondas. A sloth’s hairs shelter an algae that is brown during the dry season and green during the wet season, so the animal blends in with the surrounding moss and foliage and looks like a nest of white ants or of squirrels, or like nothing at all but part of a tree.

The three-toed sloth lives a peaceful, vegetarian life in perfect harmony with its environment. A good-natured smile is forever on its lips, reported Tirler (1966). I have seen that smile with my own eyes. I am not one given to projecting human traits and emotions onto animals, but many a time during that month in Brazil, looking up at sloths in repose, I felt I was in the presence of upside-down yogis deep in meditation or hermits deep in prayer, wise beings whose intense imaginative lives were beyond the reach of my scientific probing.

Sometimes I got my majors mixed up. A number of my fellow religious-studies students—muddled agnostics who didn’t know which way was up, who were in the thrall of reason, that fool’s gold for the bright—reminded me of the three-toed sloth; and the three-toed sloth, such a beautiful example of the miracle of life, reminded me of God.

I never had problems with my fellow scientists. Scientists are a friendly, atheistic, hard-working, beer-drinking lot whose minds are preoccupied with sex, chess and baseball when they are not preoccupied with science.

I was a very good student, if I may say so myself. I was tops at St. Michael’s College four years in a row. I got every possible student award from the Department of Zoology. If I got none from the Department of Religious Studies, it is simply because there are no student awards in this department (the rewards of religious study are not in mortal hands, we all know that). I would have received the Governor General’s Academic Medal, the University of Toronto’s highest undergraduate award, of which no small number of illustrious Canadians have been recipients, were it not for a beef-eating pink boy with a neck like a tree trunk and a temperament of unbearable good cheer.

I still smart a little at the slight. When you’ve suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling. My life is like a memento mori painting from European art: there is always a grinning skull at my side to remind me of the folly of human ambition. I mock this skull. I look at it and I say, You’ve got the wrong fellow. You may not believe in life, but I don’t believe in death. Move on! The skull snickers and moves ever closer, but that doesn’t surprise me. The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity—it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud. The pink boy also got the nod from the Rhodes Scholarship committee. I love him and I hope his time at Oxford was a rich experience. If Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, one day favours me bountifully, Oxford is fifth on the list of cities I would like to visit before I pass on, after Mecca, Varanasi, Jerusalem and Paris.

I have nothing to say of my working life, only that a tie is a noose, and inverted though it is, it will hang a man nonetheless if he’s not careful.

I love Canada. I miss the heat of India, the food, the house lizards on the walls, the musicals on the silver screen, the cows wandering the streets, the crows cawing, even the talk of cricket matches, but I love Canada. It is a great country much too cold for good sense, inhabited by compassionate, intelligent people with bad hairdos. Anyway, I have nothing to go home to in Pondicherry.

Richard Parker has stayed with me. I’ve never forgotten him. Dare I say I miss him? I do. I miss him. I still see him in my dreams. They are nightmares mostly, but nightmares tinged with love. Such is the strangeness of the human heart. I still cannot understand how he could abandon me so unceremoniously, without any sort of goodbye, without looking back even once. That pain is like an axe that chops at my heart.

The doctors and nurses at the hospital in Mexico were incredibly kind to me. And the patients, too. Victims of cancer or car accidents, once they heard my story, they hobbled and wheeled over to see me, they and their families, though none of them spoke English and I spoke no Spanish. They smiled at me, shook my hand, patted me on the head, left gifts of food and clothing on my bed. They moved me to uncontrollable fits of laughing and crying.

Within a couple of days I could stand, even make two, three steps, despite nausea, dizziness and general weakness. Blood tests revealed that I was anemic, and that my level of sodium was very high and my potassium low. My body retained fluids and my legs swelled up tremendously. I looked as if I had been grafted with a pair of elephant legs. My urine was a deep, dark yellow going on to brown. After a week or so, I could walk just about normally and I could wear shoes if I didn’t lace them up. My skin healed, though I still have scars on my shoulders and back.

The first time I turned a tap on, its noisy, wasteful, superabundant gush was such a shock that I became incoherent and my legs collapsed beneath me and I fainted in the arms of a nurse.

The first time I went to an Indian restaurant in Canada I used my fingers. The waiter looked at me critically and said, Fresh off the boat, are you? I blanched. My fingers, which a second before had been taste buds savouring the food a little ahead of my mouth, became dirty under his gaze. They froze like criminals caught in the act. I didn’t dare lick them. I wiped them guiltily on my napkin. He had no idea how deeply those words wounded me. They were like nails being driven into my flesh. I picked up the knife and fork. I had hardly ever used such instruments. My hands trembled. My sambar lost its taste.



He lives in Scarborough. He’s a small, slim man—no more than five foot five. Dark hair, dark eyes. Hair greying at the temples. Can’t be older than forty. Pleasing coffee-coloured complexion. Mild fall weather, yet puts on a big winter parka with fur-lined hood for the walk to the diner. Expressive face. Speaks quickly, hands flitting about. No small talk. He launches forth.



I was named after a swimming pool. Quite peculiar considering my parents never took to water. One of my father’s earliest business contacts was Francis Adirubasamy. He became a good friend of the family. I called him Mamaji, mama being the Tamil word for uncle and ji being a suffix used in India to indicate respect and affection. When he was a young man, long before I was born, Mamaji was a champion competitive swimmer, the champion of all South India. He looked the part his whole life. My brother Ravi once told me that when Mamaji was born he didn’t want to give up on breathing water and so the doctor, to save his life, had to take him by the feet and swing him above his head round and round.

It did the trick! said Ravi, wildly spinning his hand above his head. He coughed out water and started breathing air, but it forced all his flesh and blood to his upper body. That’s why his chest is so thick and his legs are so skinny.

I believed him. (Ravi was a merciless teaser. The first time he called Mamaji Mr. Fish to my face I left a banana peel in his bed.) Even in his sixties, when he was a little stooped and a lifetime of counter-obstetric gravity had begun to nudge his flesh downwards, Mamaji swam thirty lengths every morning at the pool of the Aurobindo Ashram.

He tried to teach my parents to swim, but he never got them to go beyond wading up to their knees at the beach and making ludicrous round motions with their arms, which, if they were practising the breaststroke, made them look as if they were walking through a jungle, spreading the tall grass ahead of them, or, if it was the front crawl, as if they were running down a hill and flailing their arms so as not to fall. Ravi was just as unenthusiastic.

Mamaji had to wait until I came into the picture to find a willing disciple. The day I came of swimming age, which, to Mother’s distress, Mamaji claimed was seven, he brought me down to the beach, spread his arms seaward and said, This is my gift to you.

And then he nearly drowned you, claimed Mother.

I remained faithful to my aquatic guru. Under his watchful eye I lay on the beach and fluttered my legs and scratched away at the sand with my hands, turning my head at every stroke to breathe. I must have looked like a child throwing a peculiar, slow-motion tantrum. In the water, as he held me at the surface, I tried my best to swim. It was much more difficult than on land. But Mamaji was patient and encouraging.

When he felt that I had progressed sufficiently, we turned our backs on the laughing and the shouting, the running and the splashing, the blue-green waves and the bubbly surf, and headed for the proper rectangularity and the formal flatness (and the paying admission) of the ashram swimming pool.

I went there with him three times a week throughout my childhood, a Monday, Wednesday, Friday early morning ritual with the clockwork regularity of a good front-crawl stroke. I have vivid memories of this dignified old man stripping down to nakedness next to me, his body slowly emerging as he neatly disposed of each item of clothing, decency being salvaged at the very end by a slight turning away and a magnificent pair of imported athletic bathing trunks. He stood straight and he was ready. It had an epic simplicity. Swimming instruction, which in time became swimming practice, was gruelling, but there was the deep pleasure of doing a stroke with increasing ease and speed, over and over, till hypnosis practically, the water turning from molten lead to liquid light.

It was on my own, a guilty pleasure, that I returned to the sea, beckoned by the mighty waves that crashed down and reached for me in humble tidal ripples, gentle lassos that caught their willing Indian boy.

My gift to Mamaji one birthday, I must have been thirteen or so, was two full lengths of credible butterfly. I finished so spent I could hardly wave to him.

Beyond the activity of swimming, there was the talk of it. It was the talk that Father loved. The more vigorously he resisted actually swimming, the more he fancied it. Swim lore was his vacation talk from the workaday talk of running a zoo. Water without a hippopotamus was so much more manageable than water with one.

Mamaji studied in Paris for two years, thanks to the colonial administration. He had the time of his life. This was in the early 1930s, when the French were still trying to make Pondicherry as Gallic as the British were trying to make the rest of India Britannic. I don’t recall exactly what Mamaji studied. Something commercial, I suppose. He was a great storyteller, but forget about his studies or the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre or the cafés of the Champs-Elysées. All his stories had to do with swimming pools and swimming competitions. For example, there was the Piscine Deligny, the city’s oldest pool, dating back to 1796, an open-air barge moored to the Quai d’Orsay and the venue for the swimming events of the 1900 Olympics. But none of the times were recognized by the International Swimming Federation because the pool was six metres too long. The water in the pool came straight from the Seine, unfiltered and unheated. It was cold and dirty, said Mamaji. The water, having crossed all of Paris, came in foul enough. Then people at the pool made it utterly disgusting. In conspiratorial whispers, with shocking details to back up his claim, he assured us that the French had very low standards of personal hygiene. Deligny was bad enough. Bain Royal, another latrine on the Seine, was worse. At least at Deligny they scooped out the dead fish. Nevertheless, an Olympic pool is an Olympic pool, touched by immortal glory. Though it was a cesspool, Mamaji spoke of Deligny with a fond smile.

One was better off at the Piscines Château-Landon, Rouvet or du boulevard de la Gare. They were indoor pools with roofs, on land and open year-round. Their water was supplied by the condensation from steam engines from nearby factories and so was cleaner and warmer. But these pools were still a bit dingy and tended to be crowded. There was so much gob and spit floating in the water, I thought I was swimming through jellyfish, chuckled Mamaji.

The Piscines Hébert, Ledru-Rollin and Butte-aux-Cailles were bright, modern, spacious pools fed by artesian wells. They set the standard for excellence in municipal swimming pools. There was the Piscine des Tourelles, of course, the city’s other great Olympic pool, inaugurated during the second Paris games, of 1924. And there were still others, many of them.

But no swimming pool in Mamaji’s eyes matched the glory of the Piscine Molitor. It was the crowning aquatic glory of Paris, indeed, of the entire civilized world.

It was a pool the gods would have delighted to swim in. Molitor had the best competitive swimming club in Paris. There were two pools, an indoor and an outdoor. Both were as big as small oceans. The indoor pool always had two lanes reserved for swimmers who wanted to do lengths. The water was so clean and clear you could have used it to make your morning coffee. Wooden changing cabins, blue and white, surrounded the pool on two floors. You could look down and see everyone and everything. The porters who marked your cabin door with chalk to show that it was occupied were limping old men, friendly in an ill-tempered way. No amount of shouting and tomfoolery ever ruffled them. The showers gushed hot, soothing water. There was a steam room and an exercise room. The outside pool became a skating rink in winter. There was a bar, a cafeteria, a large sunning deck, even two small beaches with real sand. Every bit of tile, brass and wood gleamed. It was—it was . . .

It was the only pool that made Mamaji fall silent, his memory making too many lengths to mention.

Mamaji remembered, Father dreamed.

That is how I got my name when I entered this world, a last, welcome addition to my family, three years after Ravi: Piscine Molitor Patel.



Our good old nation was just seven years old as a republic when it became bigger by a small territory. Pondicherry entered the Union of India on November 1, 1954. One civic achievement called for another. A portion of the grounds of the Pondicherry Botanical Garden was made available rent-free for an exciting business opportunity and—lo and behold—India had a brand new zoo, designed and run according to the most modern, biologically sound principles.

It was a huge zoo, spread over numberless acres, big enough to require a train to explore it, though it seemed to get smaller as I grew older, train included. Now it’s so small it fits in my head. You must imagine a hot and humid place, bathed in sunshine and bright colours. The riot of flowers is incessant. There are trees, shrubs and climbing plants in profusion—peepuls, gulmohurs, flames of the forest, red silk cottons, jacarandas, mangoes, jackfruits and many others that would remain unknown to you if they didn’t have neat labels at their feet. There are benches. On these benches you see men sleeping, stretched out, or couples sitting, young couples, who steal glances at each other shyly and whose hands flutter in the air, happening to touch. Suddenly, amidst the tall and slim trees up ahead, you notice two giraffes quietly observing you. The sight is not the last of your surprises. The next moment you are startled by a furious outburst coming from a great troupe of monkeys, only outdone in volume by the shrill cries of strange birds. You come to a turnstile. You distractedly pay a small sum of money. You move on. You see a low wall. What can you expect beyond a low wall? Certainly not a shallow pit with two mighty Indian rhinoceros. But that is what you find. And when you turn your head you see the elephant that was there all along, so big you didn’t notice it. And in the pond you realize those are hippopotamuses floating in the water. The more you look, the more you see. You are in Zootown!

Before moving to Pondicherry, Father ran a large hotel in Madras. An abiding interest in animals led him to the zoo business. A natural transition, you might think, from hotelkeeping to zookeeping. Not so. In many ways, running a zoo is a hotelkeeper’s worst nightmare. Consider: the guests never leave their rooms; they expect not only lodging but full board; they receive a constant flow of visitors, some of whom are noisy and unruly. One has to wait until they saunter to their balconies, so to speak, before one can clean their rooms, and then one has to wait until they tire of the view and return to their rooms before one can clean their balconies; and there is much cleaning to do, for the guests are as unhygienic as alcoholics. Each guest is very particular about his or her diet, constantly complains about the slowness of the service, and never, ever tips. To speak frankly, many are sexual deviants, either terribly repressed and subject to explosions of frenzied lasciviousness or openly depraved, in either case regularly affronting management with gross outrages of free sex and incest. Are these the sorts of guests you would want to welcome to your inn? The Pondicherry Zoo was the source of some pleasure and many headaches for Mr. Santosh Patel, founder, owner, director, head of a staff of fifty-three, and my father.

To me, it was paradise on earth. I have nothing but the fondest memories of growing up in a zoo. I lived the life of a prince. What maharaja’s son had such vast, luxuriant grounds to play about? What palace had such a menagerie? My alarm clock during my childhood was a pride of lions. They were no Swiss clocks, but the lions could be counted upon to roar their heads off between five-thirty and six every morning. Breakfast was punctuated by the shrieks and cries of howler monkeys, hill mynahs and Moluccan cockatoos. I left for school under the benevolent gaze not only of Mother but also of bright-eyed otters and burly American bison and stretching and yawning orang-utans. I looked up as I ran under some trees, otherwise peafowl might excrete on me. Better to go by the trees that sheltered the large colonies of fruit bats; the only assault there at that early hour was the bats’ discordant concerts of squeaking and chattering. On my way out I might stop by the terraria to look at some shiny frogs glazed bright, bright green, or yellow and deep blue, or brown and pale green. Or it might be birds that caught my attention: pink flamingoes or black swans or one-wattled cassowaries, or something smaller, silver diamond doves, Cape glossy starlings, peach-faced lovebirds, Nanday conures, orange-fronted parakeets. Not likely that the elephants, the seals, the big cats or the bears would be up and doing, but the baboons, the macaques, the mangabeys, the gibbons, the deer, the tapirs, the llamas, the giraffes, the mongooses were early risers. Every morning before I was out the main gate I had one last impression that was both ordinary and unforgettable: a pyramid of turtles; the iridescent snout of a mandrill; the stately silence of a giraffe; the obese, yellow open mouth of a hippo; the beak-and-claw climbing of a macaw parrot up a wire fence; the greeting claps of a shoebill’s bill; the senile, lecherous expression of a camel. And all these riches were had quickly, as I hurried to school. It was after school that I discovered in a leisurely way what it’s like to have an elephant search your clothes in the friendly hope of finding a hidden nut, or an orang-utan pick through your hair for tick snacks, its wheeze of disappointment at what an empty pantry your head is. I wish I could convey the perfection of a seal slipping into water or a spider monkey swinging from point to point or a lion merely turning its head. But language founders in such seas. Better to picture it in your head if you want to feel it.

In zoos, as in nature, the best times to visit are sunrise and sunset. That is when most animals come to life. They stir and leave their shelter and tiptoe to the water’s edge. They show their raiments. They sing their songs. They turn to each other and perform their rites. The reward for the watching eye and the listening ear is great. I spent more hours than I can count a quiet witness to the highly mannered, manifold expressions of life that grace our planet. It is something so bright, loud, weird and delicate as to stupefy the senses.

I have heard nearly as much nonsense about zoos as I have about God and religion. Well-meaning but misinformed people think animals in the wild are happy because they are free. These people usually have a large, handsome predator in mind, a lion or a cheetah (the life of a gnu or of an aardvark is rarely exalted). They imagine this wild animal roaming about the savannah on digestive walks after eating a prey that accepted its lot piously, or going for callisthenic runs to stay slim after overindulging. They imagine this animal overseeing its offspring proudly and tenderly, the whole family watching the setting of the sun from the limbs of trees with sighs of pleasure. The life of the wild animal is simple, noble and meaningful, they imagine. Then it is captured by wicked men and thrown into tiny jails. Its happiness is dashed. It yearns mightily for freedom and does all it can to escape. Being denied its freedom for too long, the animal becomes a shadow of itself, its spirit broken. So some people imagine.

This is not the way it is.

Animals in the wild lead lives of compulsion and necessity within an unforgiving social hierarchy in an environment where the supply of fear is high and the supply of food low and where territory must constantly be defended and parasites forever endured. What is the meaning of freedom in such a context? Animals in the wild are, in practice, free neither in space nor in time, nor in their personal relations. In theory—that is, as a simple physical possibility—an animal could pick up and go, flaunting all the social conventions and boundaries proper to its species. But such an event is less likely to happen than for a member of our own species, say a shopkeeper with all the usual ties—to family, to friends, to society—to drop everything and walk away from his life with only the spare change in his pockets and the clothes on his frame. If a man, boldest and most intelligent of creatures, won’t wander from place to place, a stranger to all, beholden to none, why would an animal, which is by temperament far more conservative? For that is what animals are, conservative, one might even say reactionary. The smallest changes can upset them. They want things to be just so, day after day, month after month. Surprises are highly disagreeable to them. You see this in their spatial relations. An animal inhabits its space, whether in a zoo or in the wild, in the same way chess pieces move about a chessboard—significantly. There is no more happenstance, no more freedom, involved in the whereabouts of a lizard or a bear or a deer than in the location of a knight on a chessboard. Both speak of pattern and purpose. In the wild, animals stick to the same paths for the same pressing reasons, season after season. In a zoo, if an animal is not in its normal place in its regular posture at the usual hour, it means something. It may be the reflection of nothing more than a minor change in the environment. A coiled hose left out by a keeper has made a menacing impression. A puddle has formed that bothers the animal. A ladder is making a shadow. But it could mean something more. At its worst, it could be that most dreaded thing to a zoo director: a symptom, a herald of trouble to come, a reason to inspect the dung, to cross-examine the keeper, to summon the vet. All this because a stork is not standing where it usually stands!

But let me pursue for a moment only one aspect of the question.

If you went to a home, kicked down the front door, chased the people who lived there out into the street and said, Go! You are free! Free as a bird! Go! Go!—do you think they would shout and dance for joy? They wouldn’t. Birds are not free. The people you’ve just evicted would sputter, With what right do you throw us out? This is our home. We own it. We have lived here for years. We’re calling the police, you scoundrel.

Don’t we say, There’s no place like home? That’s certainly what animals feel. Animals are territorial. That is the key to their minds. Only a familiar territory will allow them to fulfill the two relentless imperatives of the wild: the avoidance of enemies and the getting of food and water. A biologically sound zoo enclosure—whether cage, pit, moated island, corral, terrarium, aviary or aquarium—is just another territory, peculiar only in its size and in its proximity to human territory. That it is so much smaller than what it would be in nature stands to reason. Territories in the wild are large not as a matter of taste but of necessity. In a zoo, we do for animals what we have done for ourselves with houses: we bring together in a small space what in the wild is spread out. Whereas before for us the cave was here, the river over there, the hunting grounds a mile that way, the lookout next to it, the berries somewhere else—all of them infested with lions, snakes, ants, leeches and poison ivy—now the river flows through taps at hand’s reach and we can wash next to where we sleep, we can eat where we have cooked, and we can surround the whole with a protective wall and keep it clean and warm. A house is a compressed territory where our basic needs can be fulfilled close by and safely. A sound zoo enclosure is the equivalent for an animal (with the noteworthy absence of a fireplace or the like, present in every human habitation). Finding within it all the places it needs—a lookout, a place for resting, for eating and drinking, for bathing, for grooming, etc.—and finding that there is no need to go hunting, food appearing six days a week, an animal will take possession of its zoo space in the same way it would lay claim to a new space in the wild,

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  • (3/5)
    I listened to this on CD. The reader did a great job with the accents, really bringing the story to life. If I had been reading on the page, I might have skipped some of the meandering facts with which the story began, the information on animal behavior, and then later the unbearable tedium of life on the ocean. But having gone through it all, I was rewarded with a sense of having shared his Pi's survival. I am not sure about the coda: why the alternate version of events, the reader's choice which to believe, the horrific seemingly realistic version, or the one where the boy lives with a tiger? It seems like a standard metafiction move. I can't decide if it really added anything, but I suppose the fact that it makes me ask that question is the something that it added.Addendum: can't stop thinking about this book since the tiger mauling in San Francisco.
  • (3/5)
    I'd like to rate this book 3.5. Parts of it I would give 4 stars, but it really dragged in places with no specific reason. There was a lot of time spent discussing Pi's religions. I loved the dramatic scenes on the raft with the tiger. Very well written. A book that is so different from other novels, I always enjoy. I just don't think it was a solid 4 stars throughout the book.
  • (3/5)
    Good but weird. I have NO idea what that island was all about.
  • (5/5)
    Wonderful, surprising story that held me through to the end. I can understand why this was made into a movie--lush visuals, powerful conflict and the human struggle all wrapped into one.
  • (4/5)
    It took awhile to read it. I found it an interesting read but not something I could sit and consume in one or two sittings.
  • (5/5)
    GREAT book.
  • (5/5)
  • (4/5)
    really enjoyed this little adventure. i like how you get sucked into the life and perceptual lens of the main character. his reality becomes you own.
  • (4/5)
    My impression of this book suffers for the circumstances under which I read it. I was ill in hospital and near bed-ridden, so the parallel of a boat drifting on the Pacific ocean and the monotony of my days in a closed room felt very much overlapped.I feel that the base story of this book is well known, or at least what makes up the bulk of the setting, and I'm not sure one can say much more without getting into a lengthy conversation about "why?" It is ponderous outside of Pi's daily survival activities, and few books have made both inclined to think and inclined to accept the face value at the same time.Perhaps I will read it again, to see just how much my state of mind was colouring my view at the time.
  • (4/5)
    Loved the end!
  • (5/5)
    Great book for seven reasons:1. Many names of places in Paris and India have magic power. To name the main character in a novel "Molitor Patel" thus linking India and Paris via Pondichery, is genius.2. Swimming pools allow to be aquatic for a while: Piscine is away - cast away3. The book maked me a compulsive reader. I wanted so much that Piscine and Richard Parker are happy and well.4. While reading the book I lived with a big feline presence, imagining it to come round the corner of my street any minute.5. The main character is smart but not bragging about it like authors often do (Potok or Semprun). 6. Time and place are mostly unclear. Close to fairy tales. The end: is it true or is it not true? reminds the start of any fairy tales from the Magreb: "Once upon a time there was...or there wasn't. Also a good reason the read again "Noms de pays" last part, first book: Du côté de chez Swann" à la recherche du temps perdu M. Proust.7. If faith must be adopting three at the same time is a great option.
  • (4/5)
    The story in Life of Pi describes the book itself. It is the impossible tale of a boy, trapped on a lifeboat alone with a 450-pound tiger for 227 days. It is a story that, like the ocean waves, has its ups and downs. Just when it seems like you’ll never reach dry land, you do. And when you look back on this book, much like being adrift at sea, the ordeal blurs together into one journey that has a clear beginning and ending, but no clear middle. And that ending—boy, it’s a day you’ll never forget.

    The 2002 Man Booker Prize winner was a highly refreshing read. Even considering the absurd premise, it was not what I expected. Yet, this novel wasn’t absurd at all. It almost seemed believable. And although Life of Pi had many comical passages, it also had just as many dramatic ones. It is such a well-rounded title I barely can imagine a better stab at the marooned premise.

    Life of Pi’s highest points happen as the protagonist of the story, Pi, explores his choice of religion. These moments provide both comical relief and careful consideration, and Martel handled both with care. And of course there is the final part of the book, where Pi explains his ordeal to two Japanese men. These final pages are the books greatest: hilarious, heart wrenching, and brilliant.

    The lowest points are not so low, they are tedious, but this is necessary. What is a “lost at sea” book that doesn’t drag out the trials of being adrift? Otherwise, what joy is there in the reader of being found? So, the longest part of Life of Pi chronicles the 227 days Pi and the tiger are together on a solitary lifeboat. And since tigers don’t talk, much of the novel is filled with descriptive narrative.

    Before starting Martel’s prize winning novel, I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of it. Now I must admit I was quite surprised. Like the castaway experience, however, I wouldn’t want to go through the ordeal again, but I will not likely soon forget the story.
  • (4/5)
    # WintersRespite Interesting, I may have to watch the movie now to see how they do it.
  • (4/5)
    It took me a while to get into this, but then I couldn't put it down. Martel clearly intends us to see the story as more than just a tale of survival but he leaves the final interpretation up to the reader. I'm not sure what the point is of the section on the weird island.
  • (4/5)
    If this hadn't been recommended to me I would never had read it. It sounded to bizarre. But it is one of the most thought-provoking and profound books I have read. The descriptions are incredible. At times it was rather harrowing...unforgettable.
  • (4/5)
    My initial impression of this book was influenced quite profoundly by my having just read every work Richard Rorty ever authored. It seemed to jibe perfectly with Rorty's views about irony and self-creation, and with the "thus I willed it" theme that's so important in Nietzsche. I haven't read the book since then (2004), as I'm quite happy to keep tne impression I have of it. It would be an interesting exercise, though, to read it again, now that other, non-Rortyian ideas have come to dominate my thinking.
  • (5/5)
    Surely you know the plot by now. As a Hindu this book speaks to me - it signifies the struggle to stay gentle and vegatarian and maintain my humanity. Though I'm not a Hindu any more. It still speaks to me. And I'm still vegatarian.
  • (2/5)
    To me Life of Pi is a mixed bag of several things... I don't know. I kind of enjoyed the adventure, but personally didn't care about the religious side of the story (specifically the first part of the book was a total nonsense to me). I didn't like the last part, either. I'm still trying to figure out what to make of it. I think this is one of those books that you either love or hate. I can't say I hate it (I'm giving it a "it was OK" rating, and like I said, I kind of enjoyed the adventure), but I would say that it is way overrated (maybe because of the movie?) and surrounded by a mysticism that I really don't get.
  • (3/5)
    This was one of the books I read on my travels the last couple of months (plane trips from Wilmington to New York & LA)I'd seen the trailer for the film "Life of Pi" and asked my daughter if it was all about a boy in a lifeboat with a tiger. She said, pretty much.And so it is. Pi (short for Piscine, which means swimming pool--something I still remember from high school French) lives an idyllic life in India, with his parents, older brother and all the animals in his family's zoo. He grows up around animals and develops a keen understanding of how animals relate to each other and more importantly, how human beings should relate to animals.The beginning of the novel is Pi's spiritual quest. He dives into religion as if it were a buffet. He wants it all and declares himself to be a Christian, a Hindu and a Muslim, and refusing to budge on choosing one over the others.Then his father decides to move the family to Canada. He finds buyers for the animals, books passage on a ship and with his family, accompanies the animals across the ocean to North America. Of course, the ship sinks, leaving Pi as the only human survivor. He shares his boat with a number of animals, including an orangutang and a hyena, but this being a beast eat beast world, it comes down to Pi and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.It took me a while to figure out that Richard Parker was the tiger's name and not a person.And so it goes for the rest of the book. Pi keeping himself and Richard Parker alive. Finding food, finding water, all the while maintaining his alpha position in the world that is the lifeboat.It drags in parts and I feel kind of cheated that the author implies that it really happened (it didn't). But on the whole, it gave me a lot to think about.
  • (5/5)
    A must-read. A truly good read and a book that will make you understand religion as it is.
  • (5/5)
    An unforgettable account of an extraordinairy journey of a shipwrecked young lad who takes a trip with a Tiger. Read it to see what i mean.
  • (4/5)
    It started off very slowly and took a bit of time to get down to the real story. The scene was set in a lengthy style which did seem to go on. But when the adventures started it was a really enjoyable read. The world of Pi on the Lifeboat was captivating and the ending was intriguing and thoughtful, making you think about views of the world and how life and the world around should be seen. Not sure if I would look into any more books by this author though, as although enjoyable there were several rough patches.
  • (4/5)
    Family of zookeepers embark on an ill-fated cruise after deciding to move from India to Canada. Tragically the cargo ship they’re on sinks unexpectedly overnight somewhere in the middle of Pacific. All that’s left of their dreams and hopes is one lifeboat with the youngest boy, 16-year old Pi, and some unusual companions of his ordeal...This shipwreck survival story turned out to be a very interesting and surprising one for me. If I’m perfectly honest, during the course of reading it, I had quite mixed feelings at times. The book was reading quite well overall, but the first 100 pages seemed to drag a little and there were couple of moments later on in the book that left me a bit confused and lost. The final chapters however proved excellent and were actually incredibly touching while shedding more light on the tragic events. Altogether a good read, would recommend to others.
  • (4/5)
    entertaining first section, exciting second section, and thought provoking finale
  • (5/5)
    Martel's story of 16 year-old Pi Patel is one that borders on the incredulous. Set adrift on a lifeboat lost in the Pacfic, with a few zoo animals as companions, including a Bengal Tiger, we journey through the depths of hell and rise to the peaks of bliss as we live Pi's story. Crafted with superb language and mastery, the reader will be fascinated during this reading and quite possibly transformed as well. More than an adventure story in the fashion of Robinson Crusoe or Pincher Martin, this is a story with a twist, and Martel delivers with credibility.
  • (5/5)
    I confess that I needed to read some reviews which talked about the meaning of the book in order to begin to appreciate it. I knew while reading that this is a classic. The imagination in it is fantastic. I thought it surely must be an allegory, but I was busy trying to figure out how it would end and missed the journey. The story did evoke the feeling within me that there are highs and lows in life and that persevering in faith is what is important to me. There were several disgusting parts that I could have done without, but they did make it clear how deep Pi's suffering (and his overcoming) was.

    I'm not sure if I want to see the movie. Maybe after I've had time to let this story percolate. It's not one of those books I will forget, I'm pretty sure of that!
  • (5/5)
    Simply put, this is a popular book. Don't let that deter you from reading it. It's an enthralling, epic adventure that will take you far from your everyday surroundings and truly spark your imagination the way that books did when you were a kid. I'd gotten away from reading because so many of the recent offerings failed to really bring me into their pages. I was hoping Life of Pi would mark an end to that drought, and it has. On a personal level, I truly enjoyed the combination of narration and descriptive imagery, color symbolism, and animal behavior. Locations, emotions, interactions all seemed convincing. I really looked forward to reading this every night.I'll be suggesting this book to quite a few fellow book lovers.
  • (5/5)
    One of those books everyone read, which means I should have avoided it but I love books about the sea. I would have to say this is one of my favourite books: full of wonder, clever meta narrative and page-turning freak outs.
  • (3/5)
    The book begins with an Indian boy’s judicious questioning of the world’s many religions. Although his penetrations leave no stone unturned and no religion unblemished, he admits to loving them all. “Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer.” His only truly derisive jab is at the throats of the agnostics. “I felt a kinship with him. It was my first clue that atheists are brothers and sisters of a different faith, and every word they speak speaks of faith. Like me, they go as far as the legs of reason will carry them – and then they leap ... I’ll be honest about it. It is not atheists that stick in my craw, it’s agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We all must pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we ... but we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” Then, suddenly the story (and writing) shifts dramatically and we alarmingly find ourselves within a new world (and book) aboard a lifeboat with Pi and a 450 pound Bengal tiger – a position only Siegfried and Roy would welcome, and I imagine Roy now having second thoughts. The third book of the novel brings it all together and correlates the seemingly disparate plotlines, but not before a surprising ending. I don’t believe it is the never-ending story that the author wished it to be (3.1415 ...), but no regrets.
  • (4/5)
    Knowing only that this novel has been incredibly popular and that some have claimed that it is proof of God’s existence, it has been on my “must read” list for a number of years. And so I finally read it. I was prepared to read a rousing adventure story of an Indian boy’s survival in the Pacific Ocean aboard a life boat he shares with a Bengal tiger. And in this respect, the book supplies abundant rewards. Martel is a magnificent storyteller. He creates remarkably genuine characters, and he relates events in seamlessly beautiful, artistic prose that is at once clear, stunning, and sublime. What I was not prepared for, however, was the postmodern metafictional nature of this narrative. Although it may not become apparent until the very end of the novel, when Pi tells his incredible story of survival to a couple of Japanese government employees, Martel’s novel is all about the creation of story—about the ability of language to construct “truth” from mere words:Isn’t telling about something—using words, English or Japanese—already something of an invention? Isn’t looking upon this world already something of an invention? (p. 302)As Martel implies, nothing is true or real until language legitimizes it. The novel itself is a construction of embedded narratives—it begins with Martel (or a Martel-like narrator) telling of his encounter with a man who directs him to Pi, who then tells his story to the narrator—who in turn relates it to the reader. For a portion of the novel (the first quarter of it), the narrator weaves his voice together with Pi’s and tells the story of how Pi told him his story. And the novel ends with the Japanese agents’ rendition of their meeting with Pi, during which he tells them two vastly different versions of his story.All of this meditation on the nature of narrative and story prompts me to reflect on the way in which I read this novel—as I read it, I was looking for evidence that this novel was about the existence of God, the meaning of faith, etc. What I found instead was a very well-written and entertaining adventure story that—like the subject of religion (which is surely present in the novel)—serves as an extended metaphor for a much broader theme: the eternal question of epistemological uncertainty and the various ways we choose to cope with that uncertainty.