5 of 52 – Life of Pi

Cover of "Life of Pi"

Life of Pi

I read Life of Pi by Yann Martel this time around. I remember when it came out there was a craze about it, I think even on Oprah.

The plot, if that’s the right word, concerns the oceanic wanderings of a lost boy, the young and eager Piscine Patel of the title (Pi). After a colourful and loving upbringing in gorgeously-hued India, the Muslim-Christian-animistic Pi sets off for a fresh start in Canada. His blissful voyage is rudely interrupted when his boat is scuppered halfway across the Pacific, and he is forced to rough it in a lifeboat with a hyena, a monkey, a whingeing zebra and a tiger called Richard. That would be bad enough, but from here on things get weirder: the animals start slaughtering each other in a veritable frenzy of allegorical bloodlust, until Richard the tiger and Pi are left alone to wander the wastes of ocean, with plenty of time to ponder their fate, the cruelty of the gods, the best way to handle storms and the various different recipes for oothappam, scrapple and coconut yam kootu.

The main point of the tale is to juxtapose his story of what happened and the other story he tells investigators who don’t know what to believe, with whether there is a god or not. He tells his story to investigators after he reaches safety and they do not believe him, prompting him to tell another story without animals. The point the author is poorly trying to make is that, basically, existence of god and non-existence of god are both equally inviable, but god is the more interesting story. Which obviously makes no sense. Firstly, god very most likely doesn’t exist, and second, whether he does or not science’s way of explaining the universe seems on a whole much more beautiful and fascinating. But I guess you’d have to really really love science in order to understand that.

But, even as an atheist, I did like the book. I really loved writing style of the book. As I love animals, the beginning, which might seem dry to some, was fascinating. Pi is a fascinating character, and the story in itself is quite good. It didn’t make me believe in God, obviously, and I didn’t appreciate the idea that it was supposed to. But when all is said and done, I was reading this for enjoyment and I did enjoy the tale. I can at least take it with a grain of salt.

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