Just Read ~ Life of Pi, Yann Martel (2001)

January 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

Life of Pi, Yann Martel


It’s been a while since I last posted something and it’s already been a few weeks since I finished this book, and already my memory of it has dimmed. This is probably because Life of Pi felt to me like a lightning bolt, tearing through darkness. Once it’s over, only the essence of the light is left at the back of your retina, and already your brain has forgotten how bright it really was. You forget how intense this book really was and you have to move on, return to the comfort of objects and people around you; of walls, roofs and daily routines. And you have to be very brave to consider opening this book again.

Let me explain: Life of Pi makes you go through the most extreme nothingness and despair. You are, for as long as you read the book, alone, in the immensity of a blue ocean and a blue sky, unprotected, cold, hungry, hot, tired, in pain, scared, desperate. The story is an unusual one and has many facets; one of which I particularly enjoyed since, as a critic said, it is a homage to the beauty and complexity of the animal kingdom. I will never think about zoos or the notion of freedom in the wild in the same way. All these informative passages make for a good read in themselves.

But what truly left me stunned and dizzy was the author’s meticulous descriptions of what it is like to be left to your own devices in the middle of Nowhere, at the mercy of unfriendly tides (not to mention a tiger). Putting myself in that boat as I read, I suffered from the vertigo of imagining myself surrounded by nothing but sky and water in every direction. Try it. It’s terrifying.

The whole debate on whether this book is about converting its reader and giving him faith is, to me, irrelevant. Faith here is about survival. It is the only thing that’s left. Faith is what you decide to do when there is no food, no drink, no repose, no escape, and only madness, lurking at the corners of your brain. This book is about human resourcefulness and courage. And about feeling very very small, tossed around by much greater forces.

The ending? Let’s not spoil it. Everyone can interpret it as they choose. Surprising? Yes. And clever. And if, like me, you believe that this book is about stories, about the perception of reality when all the elements of your reality are gone, then it won’t change your mind about the rest of the book one bit. If you don’t come out of this having faith in God, it’ll certainly give you faith in the power of stories.

‘The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?’


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