Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The life of Pi

I just finished this book.

The plot is odd in itself. The main character is travelling across the ocean with his family and the animals from their zoo, when the boat sinks. The boy, Pi Patel, is thrown into a life boat along with a hyena, a zebra, an orangatang, and a bengal tiger. The boat quickly sinks and they are left the only survivors. The zebra's leg was broken in the fall and is already injured. As the only prey in a boat full of predators he is quickly attacked by the hyena. The hyena kills the zebra slowly and then tries to attack the orangatang. The orangatang holds its own for a while, but as the days go on and on without rescue, the hyena overcomes it and consumes it. The hyena is then eaten by the tiger. Leaving Pi alone in the boat with a full grown tiger.

He manages to establish himself as dominant by providing food and blowing fiercely on his whistle while rocking the boat enough to induce sea sickness in the tiger. Like a lion tamer in the ring, he tames the tiger enough to survive 227 days on the raft until he runs into Mexico. Meanwhile they run into a blind frenchman in a similar life raft, both blinded by the sun and poor nutritien. They also find a carnivorous island inhabited by thousands of meerkats and a very complex algae.

The problem is that I don't believe it. I don't believe any of it, and I don't think that the character does either. There is another version of events told in the end, but how true is that account. What does it all mean? What is the island? What symbology is he pulling from and why include it? The story at the end explains everything, almost, except the island. Which makes me think that it is as fabricated. But why? Why start the book by explaining that this is a story to make you believe in God? If anything it shows how in the face of necessity even the most civilized, Pi Patel is an ideal vegetarian religious example, will become as feral as a tiger. But I think I am missing something. Any ideas?


Anonymous said...

Hi Brian. I am relieved to read such a cogent denunciation of Life of Pi. There is some shrewd criticism on this site. About a month ago, I took a recommendation from your Blogger profile, and read The Chosen, which I love. Do you have any other suggestions? I would note that Gilead (by Marilynne Robinson) is excellent. When you are next searching for non-fiction, have a look at Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death, a brooding and brilliant biography.


Brian Gardunia said...

I have not read Gilead or Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death. I will try to find them. Thanks for the recommendation. I was surprised to get your comment, I usually suppose that noone reads this and it is nice to know that someone wanders across it sometime.

Have you read anything by Connie Willis? If not I would recommend Lincolns Dreams or To Say Nothing of the Dog. The last nonfiction book I read, that wasn't for work or school, was Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Definitely one of the best discussions on Christianity ever written.

What kind of books do you normally like to read? Where are you from?