Life Of Pi Is A Fantasy Adventure Novel By Yann Martel Published In The Protagonist, Piscine Molitor Pi Patel, A Tamil Boy From Pondicherry, Explores Issues Of Spirituality And Practicality From An Early Age He Survives Days After A Shipwreck While Stranded On A Boat In The Pacific Ocean With A Bengal Tiger Named Richard Parker I was extremely surprised by this book Let me tell you why it s a funny story On the Danish cover it says Pi s Liv Pi s Life , but I hadn t noticed the apostrophe, so I thought it said Pis Liv Piss Life and I thought that was an interesting title at least, so perhaps I should give it a go So I did And what I read was not at all what I had expected I thought it was a book about a boy in the Indian slums or something It actually wasn t until I looked up the book in English I realized the title wasn t Piss Life I was deceived for the longest time and, well, not only about this When I first read it I also thought it was based on a true story I m not sure why I thought that, I must have misread something I vaguely recall thinking the prologue was instead an introduction It was a sad and ehm, slightly humiliating day when I discovered the truth lay elsewhere I guess your romantic beliefs must die someday, and that was the day for me.See, it s easier to believe in the world and be optimistic about it, when you also believe that world capable of containing a boy and a tiger co existing on a lifeboat for 7 months and surviving The truth is this book probably changed my life, not in any grand, extraordinary way But with the small things, the small observations Like how he was afraid to run out of paper, to document his days in the lifeboat, and instead he ran out of ink Like how he chose to embrace three religions, not just one This book, and Pi especially, represent and embody a way of life that I admire It s not about believing in God, but about what it takes to believe in something, anything really Yourself, the world, goodness, life, God If it seemed real enough for me to believe it had happened, perhaps the real world is indeed a place where it could happen And that s what I want to believe, even if real life might tell me otherwise. I found a lot of this book incredibly tedious I tend to avoid the winners of the Man Booker they make me a little depressed The only Carey I haven t liked won the Booker Oscar and Lucinda , I really didn t like the little bit of Vernon God Little I read and I never finished The Sea despite really liking Banville s writing So, being told a book is a winner of the Booker tends to be a mark against it from the start, unfortunately.I m going to have to assume you have read this book, as if I don t I won t be able to say anything about it at all Apparently, when Yann Martel wrote this he was feeling a bit down and this was his way of plucking himself up Well, good on him That s just great I was a little annoyed when I found out that the person the book is dedicated to had also written a story about a man in a boat with a wild cat and had considered suing for plagiarism The book is written by a member of that class of people who are my least favourite a religious person who cannot conceive of someone not being religious There is some fluff at the start in which atheism is discussed read, discarded as something people inevitably give up on with their dying breath But the religious are generally terribly arrogant, so it is best not to feel insulted by their endless insults they know not what they do.Parts of this were so badly over written that it was almost enough to make me stop reading The bit where he is opening his first can of water is a case in point This takes so long and is so incidental to the story and written in such a cutesy way that I started to pray the boat would sink, the tiger would get him I would even have accepted God smiting him at this point as a valid plotting point, even if or particularly because it would bring the story to an abrupt end.This is a book told as two possible stories of how a young man survives for 227 days floating across the Pacific Ocean told in 100 chapters That was the other thing that I found annoying much is made of the fact this story is told in 100 chapters but I could not feel any necessity for many of the chapters Just as I could not feel any necessity for the Italic voice that sounded like Tom Waits doing, What is he building in there Well, except to introduce us again to Pi some number of years later You know, in Invisible CitiesCalvino has necessary chapters this book just has 100 chapters It was something that annoyed me from early on in the book that the chapters seemed far too arbitrary and pointing it out at the end just made me irritated There may well be some Hindu reason for 100 chapters but like Jesus ticking off the ancient prophecies on his way to martyrdom, I still couldn t see why these chapters were needed in themselves.Pi is the central character in the book who, for some odd reason, is named after a swimming pool I started playing with the ideas of swimming pools and oceans in my head to see where that might lead, but got bored He is an active, practicing member of three of the world s major religions There is a joke in the early part of the book about him possibly becoming Jewish ha ha or perhaps I should draw a smiley face The only religion missing entirely from the book is Buddhism Well, when I say entirely, it is interesting that it is a Japanese ship that sinks and that the people Pi tells his story to are Japanese engineers I ve known Hindus who consider Buddhists to be little than dirty, filthy atheists so perhaps that is one reason why these Japanese engineers are treated with such contempt at the end of the book.The Japanese make the connections between the two stories but we can assume that they stuff up these connections While it is clear the French Cook is the hyena, Pi s mum is the orang utang, and the Asian gentleman is the zebra, I m not convinced Pi is meant to be the tiger In fact, the one constant that s a pun, by the way, you are supposed to be laughing in both stories in Pi My interpretation is that the tiger is actually God Angry, jealous, vicious, hard to appease, arbitrary and something that takes up lots of time when you have better things to do sounds like God to me.The last little bit of the book has Pi asking which is the better story the one with animals or the one he tells with people I mean, this is an unfair competition he has spent chapter after chapter telling the animal story and only the last couple telling the people story The point of this, though, is Pascal s wager said anew If we can never really know if there is no god and it ultimately makes no difference if we tell the story with him or without him in it, but if the story is beautiful with him in it then why not just accept him in the story and be damned.Well, because the story isn t improved with the animals and life isn t just a story and kid s stories are great sometimes, but I often like adult stories at least as much and sometimes even This is yet another person all alone survival story, but one I don t feel that was handled as well as it could have been mostly because the writer had an ideological message that he felt was important than the story never a good sign Worse still, in the end I really couldn t care less about Pi I knew he was going to survive and knew it would be because of his faith He does talk about Jesus most petulant moment with the fig tree so I was quite impressed that rated a mention but, all the same, I haven t been converted to any or all of the world religions discussed in this book.Compare this tale with the bit out of A History of the World in Ten and a Half Chapters about the painting I know, it is not a fair comparison, Barnes is a god, but I ve made it anyway.I didn t really enjoy this book, I felt it tried too hard and didn t quite make it But Christians will love it oh yeah Christians will definitely love it. It s not that it was bad, it s just that I wish the tiger had eaten him so the story wouldn t exist.I read half of it, and felt really impatient the whole time, skipping whole pages, and then I realized that I didn t have to keep going, which is as spiritual a moment as I could hope to get from this book. The beginning is rough.It s all like Why do we keep going on and on about religion Where s the boat Where s the tiger Stop and enjoy the roses The book will get to the tiger part when it wants to Young Pi Piscine Pi Patel spends the first part of the book joining the Christian, Muslim and Hindu faiths It s not a matter of he can t choose a religion it s that he is able simultaneously believe in all of them The philosophical musings and religious prose provide an extremely interesting insight on how these religions intersect If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me then surely we are also permitted doubt But we must move on To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation. And thenyou get to the tiger part Pi Patel s life quickly shifts from one of religious philosophy and animal care at his family s zoo to one of great uncertainty.His family is closing their Indian zoo and they need to travel by boat to a new county Whatever animals they couldn t sell or trade are on the ship.Only, something goes wrong Very Wrong.The ship is capsizing and it looks like neither human nor animal will make it out alive Soon, Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with a menagerie of animals and within an adventure he will surely never forget 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. Note view spoiler Was I the only one who was upset with the ending I was so mad that we were given the two scenarios at the end of the story It was like the rug was being pulled out from under me According to Pi, either we are to believe the tiger adventure happened or it was the alternate version cannibalism and watching his family die in the boat I felt cheated and turned what was a huge triumphant moment into a truly giant downer hide spoiler Sift a pinch of psychology with a scant tablespoon of theology, add one partIsland of the Blue Dolphinwith two parts philosophy, mix with a pastry blender or the back of a fork until crumbly but not dry and there you have Pi and his lame o, cheesed out, boat ride to enlightenment.Actually I liked the beginning of this book loved Pi s decleration and re naming of himself, his adding religions like daisy s to a chain, and was really diggin on the family as a whole and then.then, then, then the tarpaulin I did learn some things though, I learned that a cookies work wonders in assuaging heated arguments.b Tiger turds do NOT taste good, no mater how hungry you are and hold absolutely no nutritional value actualy this might apply only to turds obtained from tigers that have been floating on rafts for several weeks months I think I ll apply it as a general rule.I wanted to like this book I loved the cover and then there s that little golden seal that keeps going psst, psst, you don t get it it s waaaay deep, you missed the whole point But I think no, I got the point, like a 2 by 4 to the forehead I got the dang point What I lack in spelling, this author lacks in subtlty I felt like the ending was a study guide cliff notes pamphlet wikepedia entry all in one I love Pi in the first 3rd, I understand the merits of Pi in the raft just not my thing , but pi in the last bit ugh, ugh,ugh I m chocking on the authors shoving of moral down my throat help help I can t breath.2 stars for the beginning, negative 3 stars for the ending, add something or subtract to make it equal a positive and there you have my 2 starred LIfe of Pi review. Life of Pi was a fairly engaging story in terms of plot and character, but what made it such a memorable book, for me at least, was its thematic concerns Is it a story that will make you believe in God, as Pi claims I m not sure I d go that far, but I would recommend it to people who enjoy thinking about the nature of reality and the role of faith in our lives To me, the entire thrust of the book is the idea that reality is a story, and therefore we can choose our own story as the author himself puts it So if life is a story, we have two basic choices we can limit ourselves only to what we can know for sure that is, to dry, yeastless factuality or we can choose the better story I suppose in Pi s world the better story includes God, but he doesn t say this is the only meaningful possibility In fact, Pi calls atheists his brothers and sisters of a different faith, because, like Pi, atheists go as far as the legs of reason will carry them and then they leap Pi s point, in my opinion, is that human experience always involves interpretation, that our knowledge is necessarily limited, that both religious belief and atheism require a leap of faith of one kind or another after all, there s so little we can know for sure For Pi, then, we shouldn t limit ourselves only to beliefs that can be proven empirically Instead, we should make choices that bring meaning and richness to our lives we should exercise faith and strive for ideals whatever the object of our faith and whatever those ideals might be Or, as Pi says in taking a shot at agnosticism To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation In the end, however, I didn t necessarily read this book as an invitation to believe in God Instead, I saw it as a mirror held up to the reader, a test to see what kind of worldview the reader holds That is, as Pi himself says, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can t prove the question either way, which story do you prefer Which is the better story, the story with the animals or the story without the animals Or, as I took it Is it my nature to reach for and believe the better but less likely story Or do I tend to believe the likely but less lovely story What view of reality do I generally hold Another equally important question is this How did I come by my view of reality Do I view the world primarily through the lens of reason Or do I view it through the lens of emotion For Pi, I think it s safe to say his belief comes by way of emotion He has, as one reviewer noted, a certain skepticism about reason in fact, Pi calls it fool s gold for the bright Pi also has what I would call a subtle but real basis for his belief in God, namely, an intellect confounded yet a trusting sense of presence and ultimate purpose But belief still isn t easy for him Despite his trusting sense of purpose, Pi acknowledges that Love is hard to believe, ask any lover Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist God is hard to believe, ask any believer So it s not that a life of faith is easier, in Pi s opinion, it s that for him belief is ultimately worthwhile This is not to say, however, that Pi holds a thoroughly postmodern view of God or that he believes as a matter of art rather than in a sincere way True, Pi suggests that whether you believe his story had a tiger in it is also a reflection of your ability to believe in something higher And of course it s easy to read Pi s entire story as an attempt to put an acceptable gloss on a horrific experience Still, there are a number of clues throughout the book that give the reader at least some reason to believe Pi s story did have a tiger in it for instance, the floating banana and the meerkat bones.As such, Pi s two stories could be seen as an acknowledgement that both atheism and belief in God require some faith, and therefore it s up to each of us to choose the way of life that makes us the happiest He s not necessarily saying that the truth is what you make it, he s saying we don t have unadulterated access to the truth our imagination, personalities, and experiences unavoidably influence the way we interact with the world But that s not the same as saying whatever we imagine is true I think Pi, for instance, knows which of his stories is true It s not Pi but the reader who is left with uncertainty and who therefore has to throw her hands up and say I don t know, or else choose one story or the other And to me, this isn t too far off from the predicament we all find ourselves in And that s what makes Life of Pi such a challenge to the reader Pi s first story is fantastic, wonderful, but hard to believe Yet there s some evidence that it happened just the way he said it did And Pi s second story is brutal, terrible, but much easier to accept as true Yet it s not entirely plausible either, and it leaves no room for the meerkat bones or Pi s trusting sense of presence and ultimate purpose If the reader personally dismisses the tiger story out of hand, I suppose that s another way of saying the reader, by nature, tends to believe the likely but less lovely story In the same way, if the reader gets to the story s payoff and still believes there was a tiger in the boat, the reader is probably inclined to believe the emotionally satisfying story But it should be born in mind that Pi doesn t definitively state which story was true, something which only he can know for sure All we can really be sure of, in Pi s universe, is that he was stuck on a lifeboat for a while before making it to shore So which story do I believe I struggled with that question for a long time But after thinking about it for a couple of days, I ll end this review with the final lines from the book Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal Tiger. I read this book two years ago, but when we discussed it this month for book club, I remembered how much I liked it A good discussion always ups my appreciation of a novel as does an ending that makes me requestion my givens in the story I find myself reading contradictory interpretations and agreeing with both sides That s the beauty of symbolism as long as you back up your cause, it s plausible.Initially it took me several weeks to get into the book The beginning reads like a textbook with inserted clips of the main character s future self While the knowledge I gained about zoology and theology was interesting, it wasn t intriguing enough to keep me awake for than a few pages at a time and often I found the tidbits a confusing distraction But with distance I enjoyed the backdrop information it offered If you re struggling through the initial background, jump ahead to the second section Yeah it s important, but it s not vital And maybe once you ve read the story you ll want to come back and appreciate his analysis.I highly enjoyed this strange journey at sea and found it almost believable until the castaways encounter the island at which point I wondered how much of his sanity wavered Being shipwreck is one of a plethora of phobias I have Throw on top my even stronger fear of tigers and this was a story straight out of a nightmare, one that kept me intrigued for a resolution How could a boy keep the upper hand shipwrecked with a tiger I had a picture in my head of Pi clinging to the side of the boat to avoid both the salty water infested with sharks and a foodless boat housing a hungry carnivore.I found myself stuck in the unusual place where as a reader I find a story plausible with full knowledge that had this story been presented in real life I would have doubted its authenticity I wanted to believe the story and all its fantasy The end initially annoyed me, but if you look at the rich metaphors in the story, it becomes delectable for a story analyst like me There is nothing I enjoy than tearing apart a story and pulling out the intentions and symbols buried inside Instead of just a fantastical story, you find a fable with a moral.Spoilers here view spoiler I want to reread the story now and analyze Richard Parker as Pi s alter ego, seeing that alpha and omega struggle as an internal one Even the name Richard Parker is a hint at cannibalistic roots since it is the true account of a sailor who died at the hands of his cannibalistic crew members I keep going back to that moment when Pi calls for Richard Parker to join him on the ship and then is appalled at what he has done Once Richard Parker has joined his voyage, there is no banishing him If they are one and the same, they beautifully represent that internal battle between the civilized vegetarian and the animalistic instinct to survive, showing the compartmentalization he needed to prevent madness You would not expect the small boy to conquer the beast whether animal or himself , and yet he keeps the upper hand for an unimaginable 227 days Had the cannibal overrun his pysche, he would have lost his battle and landed a madman When the duo landed on the beaches of Mexico, Richard Parker took off, never to be noted by civilians again, but alive and surviving Thus the horror of the incident will always live in Pi s memory but he chooses to repress it as it has no part in civilization.I enjoyed the portrayal of the characters on the boat as animals I could envision the quiet maternal sadness the orangutan gave his mother Since the crew would be blamed for the demise of the ship, the wounded sailor as the zebra lying as prey to a demented and angry foreign chef who is just as crazy as we view the viscous hyena The symbols were perfect and I think a second read would bring out their traits even stronger Some of the richest symbolism comes from the cannibal island and sailor I think Pi s childlike mind could not deal with the cannibalism of a loved one and lets this theme leak into other story elements The blind sailor is a second portrayal of the French chef, a character too big and conflicting to fit into one projection At first he is the mean animal thinking only of his own survival, but as the journey progresses, Pi is conflicted with his friendship for the man A bond is bound to happen between the only two survivors in limited space and Pi could not come to terms with his human feelings for the barbaric man So he invents a second character, one whom he can make human, worthy of connection, but in the end is still untrustworthy and Pi must kill or be killed So what of the strange island In his hallucinating state, it serves as a mirage where life is not as sweet as he suspected The island parallels his own problems at sea with rich religious symbolism of the Garden of Eden No matter what one s ethical code, the will to survive trumps one s moral haven These vegetarians person and island don t want to harm, but are killing to survive Something happened out at sea that his waning mind and blindness both real and spiritual could not substantiate and like all else he twisted it to a socially accepted tale Since the island is discovered just after the sailor dies, maybe finding one of the chef s tooth on board turned him Or maybe Pi happened upon a pile of garbage infested with rats and this boy, starving and demented enough to have tried his own waste, sees it as a heaven His civilized nature knew he should scorn the filth but his barbaric needs were grateful for the nasty feast The bones in the boat, proof that his experience was real, could have been rat bones Whatever the cause of his epiphany, he had to enter the depths of his own personal hell to realize this was not a heaven, or Garden of Eden, and a return to civilized behavior was vital for his own survival Richard Parker was winning as he felt completely detached from civilization He almost wished to stay and die at sea, to live at a level of base survival, instead of have to emotionally deal with his ordeal to progress But his innate need to survive wins out as he realizes that as the lone castaway if he does not fight his mind s descent into madness, the sea will eat him mentally and literally One of my favorite interpretations of the island is a religious fork in the road Whatever truly happened, the island cements your belief in the first or second account Either you see the meerkat remains as proof that the beauty of the first story is true or the island is the point at which you start questioning the credence of his tale and believe he threw in this unbelievable turn of events to ready you to accept his alternate ending As readers we are given the choice between two stories We can pick the miraculous version of the first story, an icon of those who believe in God, or we can pick the grim atheist view of the pessimistic although reasonable second story, as do those who believe science disproofs God In section one, Pi references religion to not only show where his beliefs give him strength but to give backbone to the religious allegory He shows disdain for the indecisive agnostic see quotes below and bids you chose your path The island serves to question your own religious devotion, but you have to pick what you think it represents, which story you care to believe Pi states this is a story that makes you believe in God As a believer in God and the second story, I don t think there is merely an atheist interpretation to the second Either you accept God with a leap of faith despite dissenting controversy or you take the bleak realism and see God saved him from death at sea and even protected him from mental anguish by healing his soul from the horrors he experienced Both stories can justify the belief in God or justify your belief in nothing Just as I don t believe people who buy the second story are atheists, I do not believe people who chose the first story follow blindly or idiotically It s a matter of interpretation The story isn t going to make you believe or disbelieve God any than you now do.At first I was annoyed he recanted his story because I wanted to believe his original story It is imaginative and well written and I didn t like being called out for believing fantasy from the fantasy itself But how could I not love an allegorical explanation to a literal story So now I love that he presents both stories the imaginative far fetched one and the plausible horrific one and leaves you the reader to decide which one you want to buy into and let you ponder what it says about you That is the point of the story hide spoiler LITTLE INDIAN BOY GOES ON WEIRD BOAT RIDE WITH MEAN CAT. No need to reinvent the wheel Here s my.com review It doesn t matter whether what you tell people is truth or fiction, because there s no such thing as truth, no real difference between fantasy and reality, so you might as well go with the interesting story That s Life of Pi in a nutshell Sorry to spoil it for anyone who hasn t read it yet Remember that season of the TV series Dallas that turned out to be just a dream That s kind of how you feel after you ve invested hours of your time reading page after page of a quite engrossing survival narrative, only to find out that it was all something the survivor made up Or was it Ah, there s the twist that we re supposed to find so clever But the officials from the ship company who tell Pi they don t believe his story are such hopelessly weak strawmen that the author pretty much forces you to accept the better story Pi, and, by extension, Martel, have no patience for the dry, yeastless factuality that the ship officials want, you see Never mind whether it s closer to the truth it s just too boring, and we need colorful stories to make our lives richer Besides, Pi and Martel say, as soon as something leaves your mouth, it s no longer reality it s only your interpretation of reality So why bother grasping for the truth You prefer the Creation story to the Big Bang Then go with the Creation story, even if it defies logic and scientific discovery That s all well and good Everyone likes a good story But there s a time and a place for them, and the ship officials didn t need a story they needed to know what happened to their ship To that end, Pi s entire tale is irrelevant anyway And that, in turn, makes you wonder what the whole point of the book was Other than, maybe, to laud the power of storytelling in a really hamfisted manner Or to advocate for taking refuge in fantastical fiction when reality is too harsh Or to champion shallow religious beliefs Why, Islam is nothing but an easy sort of exercise, I thought Hot weather yoga for the Bedouins Asanas without sweat, heaven without strain Or to bash agnostics Or something Be advised that this is not a book for children or the squeamish Pi s transformation from vegetarian to unflinching killer, and Richard Parker s dietary habits, are rife with gratuituously gory details about the manner in which animals suffer and are killed and eaten The story promises to make you believe in God Yet with Martel s insistence that a well crafted story is just as good as or even preferable to reality, he leaves us not believing in a god of any kind, but rather suggesting that we embrace the stories that religions have made up about their gods, regardless of those stories relation to scientific knowledge, since the stories are so darn nice, comfy, warm, and fuzzy in comparison with real life Whether the God in the stories actually exists, meanwhile, becomes totally irrelevant So ultimately, Martel makes a case for why he thinks people SHOULD believe in God it s a respite from harsh reality, we re told, a way to hide from life rather than meet it head on with all of its pains and struggles and that s quite different from what he ostensibly set out to do He trivializes God into a nice story, a trite characterization sure to offend many readers Pi sums up this postmodern worldview by telling the ship investigators, The world isn t just the way it is It is how we understand it, no Well, no, the world IS just the way it is, in all of its highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies, happiness and sadness But Pi and Martel s solution is to avoid the whole messy thing altogether, pretend that the way things are don t really exist, and pull a security blanket of fiction over your head Create your own reality as you see fit That s called escapism It s fine when you want to curl up with a good book on a rainy day and get lost in the story for a few hours, but it s a lousy way to try to deal with real life Pi would tell me that I lack imagination, just as he told the investigators they lacked imagination when Pi claimed he couldn t imagine a bonsai tree since he s never seen one, as a way of mocking the investigators reluctance to believe in Pi s carnivorous island Nice cultural stereotyping with the bonsai, by the way the investigators are Japanese But you see the problem, right It s not a matter of lacking imagination It s a matter of conflating things that are obviously imaginary with things that are obviously real They re not one and the same It s ludicrous to suggest otherwise You might as well say that the story of Frodo and the Ring is every bit as real as the American Revolution Pi also tells us, quite pointedly, that choosing agnosticism is immobilizing, while atheists and religious folks make a courageous leap of faith Yet immobility is precisely where Pi places us, so that by the time the book ends, you re stuck not knowing what to think about what you ve just read Do you accept the original shipwreck story just because it s engrossing, even if it s less believable Or do you accept the plausible but boring story Pi gives to the officials after he s rescued Fanciful religious allegories or cold, scientific recitation of facts that might come from the mouth of an atheist we re expected to pick one or the other But it s a false dichotomy We needn t make a choice between embracing religious tales merely because they re interesting or settling for the sobering realities of science and reason We can go as far as our reason will take us and then leave ourselves open to further possibilities just as Pi himself suggests That s not immobility That s intellectual honesty an admission that I don t know all the answers but am willing to keep an open mind about whatever else is presented to me Seems better than saying you might as well just accept the better story since it really makes no difference That s laziness And it doesn t make for a very good story.
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- 460 pages
- Life of Pi
- Yann Martel
- 13 June 2018 Yann Martel