A raft and tiger provide an engaging yarnThrough the eyes of the young and innocent, universal truths and virtues are brought to light. While “Life of Pi” is not a children’s book per se, it does contain a childlike magical feeling in its prose and narrative, and its focus on friendship, survival, hope and faith. It is “a story that will make you believe in God,” one character says.
Written by Canadian author Yann Martel, the story tells of the growing-up process and adventures of Pi (as in the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, 3.14) Patel, a 16-year-old boy and son of a zookeeper in Pondicherry, India. He was named after the French word for swimming pool, his full name being Piscine Patel. A precocious youth, he dabbles in a series of religions such as Christianity, Islam and Hinduism before he deciding he belongs to all of them.
One day, his father decides to move the entire family (along with his animals) to Canada, and they embark on a freighter. During the journey, they encounter a dangerous storm, and Pi finds himself shipwrecked, left drifting in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat, having lost his entire family to the sea. His only companions on the lifeboat are a hyena, a seasick orangutan, a 450-pound Bengal tiger (endearingly named Richard Parker) and a limp zebra.
The situation is more perilous than it sounds. The orangutan and zebra are subsequently killed, and Pi scrambles for his life in order not to be eaten alive by Richard Parker. For 227 days, Pi and the tiger remain on the boat in the middle of the vast ocean, amid hungry sharks, and the two struggle to overcome hunger, thirst and despair. Almost hallucinating in his narrative, Pi shows the utter desperation that comes from being alone at sea, and the will to live when all appears impossible.
In the terrifying moments, Pi keeps his wits, remains resilient, and provides food for Richard Parker in order to survive. Pi even feels a bond with the tiger. Even in the most dangerous situation, Pi’s storytelling makes it sound less so.
At end of the ordeal, Pi and his feline companion arrive on the coast of Mexico, and the adults cannot believe his amazing story. Although this is fiction, the narrative seems compellingly real.
It is the narrative that makes this book so beautifully written; the details and descriptions are wondrous and real at the same time. This book is a never-ending tale of hope and goodness, a true classic.
Life of Pi
By Yann Martel
336 pages, 16,990 won
by Choi Jie-ho