Life of Pi

When I got this book and it was full of promise!

Toward the beginning of this novel it is said “This story will make you believe in God.” Now, as someone who already believes in God, but questions organized religion, the protagonist who actively practiced three religions in a spiritual approach appealed to me. Skim the best of all beliefs you encounter and “dismiss that which insults your soul”, as Walt Whitman put it. Anyway, that sentence alone really increased my expectations for this story tenfold.

After spending a good 100 pages introducing the character and getting to know him and understand his belief system the plot launches into action as a ship sinks while carrying this family and their cargo of exotic zoo animals across the Pacific Ocean. From here on out it’s a castaway story where Pi is Tom Hanks and Wilson is played by a 450lb. Bengal tiger. EXCITING! Pi was raised essentially in a zoo, as that was his family’s livelihood in India, and the understanding of animal behavior is apparent and believable. From my extremely limited knowledge; based on one undergraduate psychology of animal behavior class, everything described to have transpired is feasible. It didn’t come off as a completely ridiculous fantasy of a hallucinogenic survivor in an extreme state of trauma, but

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SPOILER BELOW! :)

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As I realized the alternate ending… and Merlin moved into a box.

in the end that is exactly the possibility introduced. After being rescued, and a lengthy interrogation from officials associated with the shipping company, Pi tells an alternate story. It is very grim and much more likely to have been what actually happened. This version does not include any of the cross-species survival bonds of the first version and instead suggests that all of the animals introduced in the first version were actually people who perished, and Pi is the tiger.

Now, I still like the book even accepting the possibility that this version, however desperate, is the truth. It becomes more about the power of what your mind can conceive as true as a last act of preservation. In the face of absolute despair and crushing reality  the mind can dismiss things that are too painful to fully accept into conscious awareness. Sure, why not? Repression? Disassociation? I do it all the time!

Still, since Yann Martel leaves open the notion that EITHER version could be true and does not say with absolute certainty either way… I am choosing to believe the first version is what transpired and the second is a mere dismissal of the truth for the sake of the stuffy disbelieving business men. It’s a much more uplifting take.

Four stars!

PS: I especially like that the protagonist is named Pi. Pi being an irrational number often found in nature and shortened version of Piscine, meaning pool… too perfect.

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4 Comments

  1. I’ve had this book sitting on my self for ages (I used to over spend on bargin book websites.)

    I’ve known about the twist ending for a while, which is probably why I put it off. I agree that the twist ending is most likely the real one but I want to live in a world where you can comfortably float around with a tiger.

    I believe they’re trying to make a movie verison.

  2. I should add that on my book list now! Maybe since I won’t be being forced to read it for class, I’ll actually enjoy it, isn’t that how it works??

    I skipped the “spoiler” section, of course. I don’t want to be ruined!

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