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Life of Pi

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Rate it! You must be logged in to submit a rating.You must be logged in to submit a rating.You must be logged in to submit a rating.You must be logged in to submit a rating.You must be logged in to submit a rating. (Avg. 4.5) Customer Reviews
ISBN: 0151008116
Release Date: January, 2002
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Description: Yann Martel's imaginative and unforgettable Life of Pi is a magical reading experience, an endless blue expanse of storytelling about adventure, survival, and ultimately, faith. The precocious son of a zookeeper, 16-year-old Pi Patel is raised in Pondicherry, India, where he tries on various faiths for size, attracting "religions the way a dog attracts fleas." Planning a move to Canada, his father packs up the family and their menagerie and they hitch a ride on an enormous freighter. After a harrowing shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean, trapped on a 26-foot lifeboat with a wounded zebra, a spotted hyena, a seasick orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker ("His head was the size and color of the lifebuoy, with teeth"). It sounds like a colorful setup, but these wild beasts don't burst into song as if co-starring in an anthropomorphized Disney feature. After much gore and infighting, Pi and Richard Parker remain the boat's sole passengers, drifting for 227 days through shark-infested waters while fighting hunger, the elements, and an overactive imagination. In rich, hallucinatory passages, Pi recounts the harrowing journey as the days blur together, elegantly cataloging the endless passage of time and his struggles to survive: "It is pointless to say that this or that night was the worst of my life. I have so many bad nights to choose from that I've made none the champion." An award winner in Canada, Life of Pi, Yann Martel's second novel, should prove to be a breakout book in the U.S. At one point in his journey, Pi recounts, "My greatest wish--other than salvation--was to have a book. A long book with a never-ending story. One that I could read again and again, with new eyes and fresh understanding each time." It's safe to say that the fabulous, fablelike Life of Pi is such a book. --Brad Thomas Parsons
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5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsEl ingenioso Pi
Posted by C. Chacon on 2/10/2010
Este libro como ya todos han dicho es una gran historia, Martel la hizo muy entretenida, por momentos hasta sientes suspenso a pesar de saber el final desde el comienzo. Sin embargo, yo particularmente me percate del personaje Pi y de su principal caracteristica, LA IMAGINACION. Pi desde la primera parte, tiene una manera muy particular de interpretar la vida en un zoologico, va en contra de las creencias convencionales y explica de una manera muy coherente su manera de apreciar los zoologicos, desde ese momento, supe que Pi me iba a sorprender mucho con su manera de ver las cosas.

Luego, como el interpreta las religiones es algo muy raro tambien, es como si este niño hubiera vivido fuera de la contaminacion cultural que nos rodea y que siempre termina direccionando nuestras creencias y manera de pensar. Pi, por su parte tenia una manera de interpretar las cosas unica, creo que nunca a nadie ni siquiera se le habria ocurrido practicar mas de una religion a la vez.

La historia en el bote, definitivamente el centro de la historia. Esta historia que por el mismo hecho de tener un tigre y un niño en un bote empieza a dar signos de ficcion termina por convencerte de su veracidad. Tan llena de detalles me hizo creer que en verdad las cosas pasaron asi, hasta que claro llegaron a la isla de algas que te vuelve a sumergir en la duda de la veracidad de esta historia. Para muchos talvez la parte de la isla de algas no tenia espacio en el libro, pero yo creo que fue la respuesta para la pregunta que me hice cuando acabe el libro.

Por ultimo, la parte del hospital, aunque no es mas que una lectura ligera y sin mucha imprtancia, cobra vida cuendo Pi cuenta la verdadera historia. Asi es, yo al igual que muchos estoy convencido que esa es la verdadera historia del bote. Entre las cosas que me lo prueban esta la isla de algas que no es mas que una respuesta a que la historia que leimos es fictcia, ademas si vuelven a leer el libro se daran cuenta que existen muchas concordancias entre las dos historias. Sobre el tigre, puedo decir que representa la valentia de Pi de aferrarse a la vida, por eso el mismo dijo "Plan 7: solo puedo sobrevivir si alimento al Richard Parker".

Muy buen libro, muy buen final, solo se los puedo recomendar.

Saludos, Piero
5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsA wonderful follow up and a superb work with its exuberant images.
Posted by Norman Goldman on 12/6/2007
Canadian author Yann Martel's international bestseller Life of Pi was first published in 2002 and it was the recipient of the prestigious Man Booker Prize in that same year. In 2007 this work of fiction was reintroduced with a Deluxe Illustrated Edition that now includes dazzling illustrations contributed by Croatian artist Tomislav Torjanac of some of the most unforgettable scenes of the narrative.

The narrative revolves around a most outrageous tale concerning a young boy, Piscine "Pi" Molitor Patel, who lived in Pondicherry, India. Pi's father was a zookeeper and as a result Pi learned a great deal about zoos and the diverse behavior patterns of the various animals. When Pi, who is a Hindu, reaches adolescence, he decides to experiment with different religions such as Christianity and Islam for he just can't figure out how to find God or for that matter, himself.

Facing political oppression, Pi's father decides that he has had enough with the politics of Mrs. Gandhi and opts to leave India with his family for Canada. On the 21st of June 1977, Pi, who is now 16, together with his mother, father, and older brother as well as seven animals from his father's zoo begin the long trek to Canada on a Japanese cargo ship, Tsimtsum.
Unfortunately, tragedy strikes and the cargo ship mysteriously sinks somewhere in the Pacific leaving Pi the sole human survivor- the result of being miraculously tossed into a lifeboat before the ship sank.
However, Pi is not alone on the lifeboat. Joining him is a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger, a zebra, a hyena, and an orang-utan.

Pi, who now has front row seats, observes the survival of the fittest when the hyena demolishes the zebra; however, shortly thereafter the tiger devours the hyena. Pi, sensing the danger he is in, cleverly manages to avoid conflict with the tiger, which he has named, Richard Parker, by staying away from his territory on the deck of the boat.
In order to survive, Pi manages to fish and feed himself as well as the tiger. Eventually, the two are washed ashore upon a strange island that apparently was formed with tightly knit edible algae.
Pi meanders about and finds some strange fruit of containing human teeth in its center. He comes to the conclusion that it must have been a huge plant like organism that has previously gulped down a human.

From here the pair find their way to Mexico, where the tiger leaves Pi. By the time Pi winds up in a hospital, we learn that he has survived 227 days from the day the Tsimtsum sank. How did Pi manage to live to tell the tale? Martel puts all of this into perspective when Pi is called upon to explain to the individuals investigating the sinking of the cargo ship.

Torjanac was an excellent choice in breathing new energy into the now classic tale. It should be mentioned that Martel's English publisher came up with the idea of an illustrated edition and Martel was agreeable to the idea since in the past fiction authors as Jules Verne and Mark Twain often had their adult books illustrated.

Before executing his poignant and dazzling images, Torjanac first read the book in English and then in Croatian. He uses oil paints enhanced with the combination of digital technology. And as you will notice, all the pictures are executed from Pi's perspective. We never see his face only his elongated reddish brown, hands and feet appear on some of the illustrations. Torjanac's use of contrasting colours and perspective really take you into the scenes so marvellously imagined by Yann Martel. You feel the struggle, the hot relentless sun, the brutality of the stormy seas and Pi's efforts for survival.

The animals are drawn to perfection. For example, the painting of the black leopard contrasting with a snowy mountain peak in the background is stunning. You can sense Pi's disbelief, when he is informed that the family will be leaving India for Canada, just by looking through his eyes as they peer at his brother and parents. The scene of the storm and the sinking of the cargo ship will surely catch the eyes of the reader when Pi's hands throw a lifebuoy to the Bengal tiger.

Particularly noteworthy is the last image in the book that is quite intriguing. It is here we notice a hand pressing a button on a tape recorder, which turns into a vase full of "flowers"- so you believe! However, if you take a second peek you find that the "bouquet" is really a summary of the entire novel. Look for Pi's hands catching a fish, his mother, the hyena, the Bengal tiger, the meerkats, the carnivorous island, the Zebra jumping on the lifeboat. All the elements are cleverly assembled in a bursting posy of reddish, orange algae on a lush green background.

This second edition is a wonderful follow up and a superb work with its exuberant images that as the publisher's publicity material mentions, "offers a fantastic insight on the unique creative process between writer and illustrator."

Norm Goldman, Editor Bookpleasures & Lily Goldman, Artist

5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsI Once Caught a Bengal Tiger This-s-s-s Big
Posted by Steve Koss on 2/9/2005
With over 1250 reviews already registered for LIFE OF PI, I first thought there could be nothing more to say about this marvelous novel. But after scanning the most recent 100 reviews, I began to wonder what book many of those reviewers had read. Had I relied on 98 of those reviews, I would have expected a far different book than the one I actually read.

Let's begin with what LIFE OF PI isn't. It's not a Man against Nature survival story. It's not a story about zoos or wild animals or animal husbandry. It's not ROBINSON CRUSOE or SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON. It's not a literary version of CASTAWAY or OPEN WATER, and it's not a "triumph against all odds, happily ever after" rescue story. To classify it as such would be like classifying THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA as a story about a poor fisherman or MOBY DICK as a sea story. Or THE TRIAL as a courtroom drama, THE PLAGUE as a story of an epidemic, HEART OF DARKNESS as a story about slavery, or ANIMAL FARM as an animal adventure.

Martel's story line is already well-known: a fifteen-year-old boy, the son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry, India survives a shipwreck several days out of Manila. He is the lone human survivor, but his lifeboat is occupied by a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, an injured zebra, a hyena, and an orangutan. In relatively short order and true Darwinian fashion, their numbers are reduced to just two: the boy Piscene Molitor Patel, and the tiger, Richard Parker. By dint of his zoo exposure and a fortuitously positioned tarpaulin, Pi (as he is called) manages to establish his own territory on the lifeboat and even gains alpha dominance over Richard Parker. At various points in their 227-day ordeal, Pi and the tiger miss being rescued by an oil tanker, meet up with another shipwreck survivor, and discover an extraordinary algae island before finally reaching safety.

When Pi retells the entire story to two representatives of the Japanese Ministry of Transport searching for the cause of the sinking, they express deep disbelief, so he offers them a second, far more mundane but believable story that parallels the first one. They can choose to believe the more fantastical first one despite its seeming irrationality (Pi is, after all, an irrational number) and its necessary leap of faith, or they can accept the second, far more rational version, more heavily grounded in our everyday experiences.

LIFE OF PI is an allegory, the symbolic expression of a deeper meaning through a tale acted out by humans, animals, and in this case, even plant life. Yann Martel has crafted a magnificently unlikely tale involving zoology and botany, religious experience, and ocean survival skills to explore the meaning of stories in our lives, whether they are inspired by religion to explain the purpose of life or generated by our own psyches as a way to understand and interpret the world around us.

Martel employs a number of religious themes and devices to introduce religion as one of mankind's primary filters for interpreting reality. Pi's active adoption and participation in Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity establish him as a character able to relate his story through the lens of the world's three major religions. Prayer and religious references abound, and his adventures bring to mind such Old Testament scenes as the Garden of Eden, Daniel and the lion's den, the trials of Job, and even Jonah and the whale. Accepting Pi's survival story as true, without supporting evidence, is little different than accepting New Testament stories about Jesus. They are matters of faith, not empiricism.

In the end, however, LIFE OF PI takes a broader view. All people are storytellers, casting their experiences and even their own life events in story form. Martel's message is that all humans use stories to process the reality around them, from the stories that comprise history to those that explain the actions and behaviors of our families and friends. We could never process the chaotic stream of events from everyday life without stories to help us categorize and compartmentalize them. Yet we all choose our own stories to accomplish this - some based on faith and religion, some based on empiricism and science. The approach we choose dictates our interpretation of the world around us.

LIFE OF PI bears a faint resemblance to the movie BIG FISH, also a story about storytelling and how we understand and rationalize our own lives through tales both mundane and tall. Martel's book is structured as a story within a story within a story, planned and executed in precisely 100 chapters as a mathematical counterpoint to the endlessly irrational and nonrepeating value of pi. The book is alternately harrowing and amusing, deeply rational and scientific but wildly mystical and improbable. It is also hugely entertaining and highly readable, as fluid as the water in which Pi floats. Anyone who enjoys literature as a vehicle for contemplating the human condition should find in LIFE OF PI a delicious treat.

5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsDeserves 6 stars
Posted by Beau Thurnauer on 6/29/2002
If you read often or browse the bookstores you find that there seem to be a limited number of plot designs and a finite number of characters. The names and cities change but the stories all sort of blend together. There are some authors who are more skilled at word flow than others and seem more comfortable with their style but a similarity exists that makes reading even the best volumes mundane.

Then you get the joyful opportunity to discover a book like Martel's Life of Pi. This is a story like no other. There is a plot unique, thought provoking and inspiring; a main character who presents a persona so important and so basic to life and an author who writes with such ease and comfort that you think he is speaking with you in your living room over coffee.

Main character Piscine [Pi] is stranded in a life raft with a tiger after a ship wreck. Don't let the seeming trviality of this brief plot review dissuade you. Only an author with the imagination and genius of Martel could make this work. It works so very well. Read this book with an open mind as Martel details his suffering, his thoughts, his feelings, his emotional drain and most importantly his relationship with the tiger. Try hard to understand what Mr. Martel is really talking about and dare to think about how you would react to the situations presented after 200 days at sea in a 26 foot raft.

For every 20 books I read I pray one will be like this. It is one of the few books I have ever read that I think I could read again.

5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 stars5 out of 5 starsA Mirror Held Up to the Reader
Posted by Jesse Van Sant on 5/22/2008
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. Basically, this is one of the most thematically interesting and thought-provoking books I've read in a while, even though it's a fairly simple story. 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 say that many people who enjoy thinking about the nature of reality and the possibility of God would find this a compelling read.

To me, the entire thrust of the book [SPOILER ALERT] is aimed at the idea that reality is a story, and therefore we can choose our own story (as the author himself put it). So if life is a story, that leaves us 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 suggest that 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. It's not that you must believe in God to be happy (even though Pi clearly finds peace in his beliefs); rather, the important thing is that you make a choice to bring meaning and richness to your life, that you look beyond pure, uninterpreted fact and find a better reality, that you exercise faith and strive for ideals (whatever the object of your faith and whatever those ideals might be ). Or as Pi himself puts it: "To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation."

In the end, I didn't necessarily read this book as an invitation to believe in God, but rather as a mirror held up to the reader, a test to see what kind of worldview the reader holds. [SPOILER ALERT] 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 more likely but less lovely story? What view of reality do I generally adhere to?

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 scepticism 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 more worthwhile.

This is not to say, however, that Pi holds a completely postmodern view of God or that he believes in God as a matter of art rather than in a sincere way. [SPOILER ALERT] True, Pi suggests that whether you believe his story has 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 that 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 unadulturated 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.

[SPOILER ALERT] 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 more 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 more 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. [SPOILER ALERT] 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."