Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Life of Pi

Be warned. This review contains some spoilers. If you’ve not yet read the book, best ignore this and read it first and then come back. I assure you, your time will be well spent, your mental life nourished.

Now where should I start? Oh, I took some notes while reading the book. Lemme just share it with you.

The premise of Life of Pi is akin to Robinson Crusoe, as many other shipwreck and survival stories probably are (though I only know one other story, a movie actually, Castaway, that's almost similar to the novel). But with plenty of twists and turns, of course. One can’t but think of Robinson Crusoe while reading Life of Pi.

In this book, however, the protagonist is a 16-year-old Indian boy. Instead of being marooned in an island after the shipwreck, the boy lived in a lifeboat for 227 days after his ship (Tsimtsum) sunk that carried his whole family and wild animals they owned from a zoo in India. Instead of cannibals in the Island of Despair, the boy lived with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a 450-pound Bengal tiger in a 26-foot craft.

I’ve read many man-versus-nature stories. Most of the time nature prevails. But a few stories tell about man’s struggle against nature, with man on top at the end like Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and Sea. Yann Martel’s Life of Pi gives us a story in which both man and nature win at the end. What a beautiful story! So cute! You would say. I won’t be ashamed to say it.

BUT on page 381, just 20 pages left of the book, cuteness went out the window. Shit started to unveil. The kind of gory shit you read from nasty horror novels. So gruesome in its details told straight it’s almost beautiful. It’s a horrible story told by a survivor when his 16-year-old brain couldn't take it. He fantasized about a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger to keep his sanity and survive his ordeal.
”So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can’t prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is a better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?”
Mr. Okamoto: “That’s an interesting question…”
Mr. Chiba: “The story with animals.”
 Mr. Okamoto: “Yes. The story with animals is the better story.”
Pi Patel: “Thank you. And so it goes with God.”

Thanks to Rochelle for lending me the book. Now I’m ready for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi film, showing in November. Watch the trailer below.


  1. hmm, I was reading this book last week but I put it down some 50 pages into the story. I had this reckless conclusion of Pi being a sleeping pill.

    1. I agree. The early parts of the novel are a bit garrulous. Almost putting me off if only not for the author's lighthearted, very funny writing, which I dig. So a little bit of perseverance paid off big time for me, giving me same pleasure I got reading Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe many years ago. Also Ang Lee is making a film based on the book and I want to watch it this November fully-loaded. Thanks for commenting Xan.