Thursday, November 15, 2012

"You know, truth is a nebulous thing. . . ."

 

Believe it or not, Yann Martel never intended to be a writer; rather, he aspired to be a (shudder) politician. Luckily for us, while studying at Trent University he began to write, his efforts eventually resulting in a novel, Self, and a collection of short stories, Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios. If you've never heard of them, don't feel too bad; most people haven't. Frustration over the failures of his first two works led a disillusioned 34-year-old Martel to India to contemplate the unfruitfulness of his life, but serendipity won the day, for it was there that he recalled the brilliant premise to a novella he'd read about over ten years earlier, Max and the Cats by Moacyr Scliar. The rest is, as they say, history. Over the space of the next four years, Martel proceeded to write his amazing second novel, the deeply spiritual Life of Pi, in which the son of a zookeeper survives a shipwreck only to end up a castaway on board a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Yeah, just let that sink in for a bit. Life of Pi went on to win the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction as well as praise from critics around the world, and Martel established himself as the literary comeback kid. And in case you've been living under a rock lately, a film based on the book is set to open on the big screen this month. While I have no doubt the film will be brilliant in its own right, as always, do yourself a favor and read the book first (I'm actually reading it right now, and so far it's excellent). But that's not all: Martel went on to write We Ate the Children Last, Beatrice and Virgil, and What Is Stephen Harper Reading?: Yann Martel's Recommended Reading for a Prime Minister and Book Lovers of all Stripes. I can state with all certainty that Yann Martel is a writer who is worth your time.  

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