Life of Pi

Life of Pi - Yann Martel What I liked:As it was published in 2001, there are plenty of excellent reviews of this book around, both very positive and very negative; there’s no chance I could outdo any of them, so I will try to be as brief as possible. I will just tell you about my personal impressions and conclusions. Short and honest.The book was definitely well-written and engaging, a quick read about the power of survival and adventure at sea with a second bottom. I loved those very acute but funny remarks about animals and their relationship with humans. If you are a more mature reader, however, you can’t miss the fact that the whole novel is a bit philosophical as well so it would be a mistake describing it as just another ‘survival adventure story’. Certain chapters, like those concerning a carnivore island and discourses between temporarily blind Pi and equally blind Richard Parker are something more than just a simple account of how a teenager survived a shipwreck totally on his own with one big beast for company.This book mentions several very serious and very problematic topics in a very skillful way, avoiding complex reasoning or cheap didacticism. First of all, it promises to make you believe in God and then…tries to persuade you the God (or gods) doesn’t exist. A clever twist. After all, Martel's insistence that a well-crafted story is just as good, or even better than harsh reality can be construed as the biggest argument against the veracity of the Bible, the Koran and, in fact, all other sacred texts as well. Pi sums up this postmodern worldview by telling the ship investigators, "The world isn't just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no?" I liked that devilish argument for the argument’s sake still I had my doubts whether or not it was another beautiful but not exactly veracious version of events… ;) As you see such a reasoning can be used as a double-edged sword.I also liked how Pi's opinion about his feline companion changed during the journey. It showed that the real strength we can find turning obstacles and weaknesses into advantages, 'taming' them in a way. It certainly isn't anything easy but it is more often than not the best solution. First Richard Parker was the bane of Pi's castaway life, a wild beast which should be fed or else (a very unpleasant else as you can imagine). The boy didn't get rid of it just because he couldn't - the animal was definitely stronger. Then Pi realized that without the tiger he most probably would have had thougher time and he wouldn't have survived. Finally Richard Parker became as close to him as his lost family although feeding it still cost him a lot of efforts. Touching. What a pity the author decided against a proper good-bye between those two.Finally the cover I find really nice and fitting.What I didn’t like:In my humble opinion the book, although started in such an interesting way, lacked an equally strong ending. Its final message seems to revolve around such a statement: there's no real difference between fantasy and reality, so you might as well choose a version which seems to be more interesting. I don’t agree with such an ambiguous thesis and personally, if I survived over 200 days all alone on Pacific, you would be hardly willing to embellish my version of events so it seems more interesting or spectacular. Taking it to a more metaphorical level – truth is far more important to me than even the most enticing lie because, well, it is the truth. If you don’t believe in the great significance of truth terrible things might happen around you and you won’t even realize.What’s more, the author suggests that we tend to embrace made-up stories about different gods because they make us comfy, warm, safe and fuzzy, taming the reality and offering an award if we follow the rules and behave. Whether the God from these stories actually exists becomes totally irrelevant. Perhaps he got a point. I wouldn’t like to turn this review into a discourse whether the God (or gods) exists or not, opening a big fat can of worms which really is left tightly closed, preferably at the bottom of the sea; let me just say that the author didn’t manage to persuade me of his version of an ‘atheistic’ gospel because, when I come to think of it, Martel's message simply disintegrates after serious reflection. Let me also say that, coming from a country where atheism used to be a kind of official religion-cum-outlook for quite a long time, preached, spread and drummed home into the heads of stubborn infidels, I don’t find it particularly exciting. Not really.Overall his basic argument I found rather trite - I think the author stumbled when he offered an alternative explanation for Pi's experiences and then challenged the reader to choose: the "better story, the story with animals" or "the story that will confirm what you already know." Martel compares belief in fiction to belief in God, mixing those two together. Well, I used to read a lot of myths coming from different parts of the world and created by different religions; some of them were really interesting and “pretty” so, according to this author I should now believe in Hermes, Loki, Buddha, Zarathustra, Quetzalcoatl and Osiris to list just few of my favourite deities featuring in these myths. Hmmm…Final verdict:You might be surprised that, with the “dislikes” section so full, my final verdict still remains rather positive. An interesting book is not only one we like, treasure and agree with but also a book which makes us stop and think, evaluate and discuss some important truths. I enjoyed reading “Life of Pi” although I might not agree with its message. I would recommend this book to all people who like survival stories, don’t shun philosophy or/and are interested in religious studies.