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Life of Pi by Yann Martel

My Review

December a month where on many stages children will be playing the role of the three wise men, in school plays. Many will also learn of this story Life of Pi by reading it or watching its premiere on film.
There are three wise men in this tale. They are beacons of light and inspiration to the main protagonist of this story Piscine Molitor Patel aka Pi.
This teenage boy has the insight of men much older than himself.
Three religions appeal to him, he adopts three beliefs, rituals of worship congealed together to mold Pi into a very unique man. As the story progresses he couldn’t be more well equipped mentally for the test of his life that is fated for him.
This test, a journey through disaster, starvation, time of isolation and contemplation, be it a rather extreme and tragic course of events his very faith, hope and endurance is put through a trial that would outdo any other event in a mans life span as thee most trying and monumental times of his life.
The story leaves you with the feeling that Pi is one who contemplates not just humanity but nature and holds a conscious and sincere belief, he is not limited to a single sect or religion but a wider interfaith understanding in a creator and due to this prospers and is aided.
Original and grand story this is, that holds you, it stirs you to question humanity, nature, fears, hope, belief and purpose on this earth swirl in your mind.

If the ending of the vampire saga recently on the big screen, adapted from those books that you many have not read but loved the films, has not left you completely satisfied a feel what to read and watch next.
If the premiere of film The Hobbit an adaptation of that great novel by Tolkien has not left thinking that was possibly the best film and story to read in 2012.
If the news of a Royal pregnancy in the United Kingdom will not leave completely content through the cold winter.
Then possibly the reading of Life of Pi during December and watching the story explode onto the big screen when it premiers soon near the end of the year, will leave you more enlightened and human, evoked, stirred and touched you more than all previously mentioned.
I have a feeling its going to put the book and the author at the end of many tongues with words of praise and a great way to start a new year 2013. The film could do that much more for the book, just as many previous adaptations have done before for the writers, Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, J K Rowling and Tolkien.


“It was a huge zoo, spread over numberless acres, big enough to require a train to explore it, though it seemed to get smaller as I grew older, train included. Now it’s so small it fits in my head. You must imagine a hot and Humid place, bathed in sunshine and bright colours. The riot of flowers incessant. There are trees, shrubs and climbing plants in profusion-peepuls, gulmohurs, flames of the forest, red silk cottons, jacarandas, mangoes, jackfruits and many others that would remain unknown to you if they didn’t have neat labels at their feet. There are benches. On these benches you see men sleeping, stretched out, or couples sitting, young couples, who steal glances at each other shyly and whose hands flutter in the air, happening to touch. Suddenly, amidst the tall and slim trees up ahead, you notice two giraffes quietly observing you. The sight is not the last of your surprises. The next moment you are startled by a furious outburst coming from a great troupe of monkeys, only outdone in volume by the shrill cries of strange birds. You come to a turnstile. You distractedly pay a small sum of money. You move on. You see a low wall. What can you expect beyond a low wall? Certainly not a shallow pit with two mighty Indian rhinoceros. But that is what you find. And when you turn your head you see the elephant that was there all along, so big you didn’t notice it. And in the pond you realise those are hippopotamuses floating in the water. The more you look, the more you see. You are in Zootown!”

“Alas, the sense of community that a common faith brings to a people spelled trouble for me. In time, my religious doings went from the notice of those to whom it didn’t matter and only amused, to that of those to whom I did matter-and they were not amused.
“What is your son doing going to temple?” Asked the priest.
“Your son was seen in church crossing himself,” said the imam.
“Your son gone Muslim,” said the pandit.
Yes, it was all forcefully brought to the attention of my bemused parents. You see, they didn’t know. They didn’t know that I was a practising Hindu, Christian and Muslim. Teenagers always hide a few things from their parents, isn’t that so? All sixteen-year-olds have secrets, don’t they? But fate decided that my parents and I and the three wise men, as I shall call them, should meet one day on the Goubert Salai seaside esplanade and that my secret should be outed. It was a lovely, breezy, hot Sunday afternoon and the Bay of Bengal glittered under a blue sky. Townspeople were out for a stroll. Children screamed and laughed. Coloured balloons floated in the air. Ice cream sales were brisk. Why think of business on such a day, I ask? Why couldn’t they have just walked by with a nod and a smile ? It was not to be. We were to meet not just one wise man but all three, and not one after another but at the same time, and each would decide upon seeing us that right then was the golden occasion to meet that Pondicherry notable, the zoo director, he of the model devout son. When I saw the first, I smiled; by the time I had laid eyes on the third, my smile had frozen into a mask of horror. When it was clear that all three were converging on us, my heart jumped before sinking very low.”

“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, show no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the grab of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out. But disbelief is a poorly armed foot solider. Doubt does away with it with little trouble. You become anxious. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable victories, reason is laid low. You feel yourself weakening, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread.
Fear next turns fully to your body, which is already aware that something terribly wrong is going on. Already your lungs have flown away like a bird and your guts have slithered away like a snake. Now your tongue drops dead like an opossum, while your jaw begins to gallop on the spot. Your ears go deaf. Your muscles begin to shiver as if they had malaria and your knees to shake as though they were dancing. Your heart strains to hard, while your sphincter relaxes too much. And so with the rest of your body. Every part of you, in the manner most suited to it, falls apart. Only your eyes work well. They always pay proper attention to fear.”

 


Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 07 December 2012