Monday, June 23, 2008

Shelf Life: Life of Pi

After three consecutive non-fiction books, I reverted to the novel via Life of Pi (2001) by Yann Martel. I’ve been dying to read the book since I heard our yoga instructor talk about it four years ago.

When I was in Ho Chi Minh last month, we walked around the backpackers' area where I found a photocopy of the novel. Yes, photocopied indeed; lots of them abound in Vietnam. Together with a Lonely Planet India and The Catfish and the Mandala, I grabbed a copy of Life of Pi.

The plot: a teenage boy, Pi, grows up in the family-managed zoo in India. He discovers religion, and proceeds to practice Hinduism, Catholicism, and Islam – all three at the same time.

Between zoos and religion, the character has this to say: “I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both”.

One day the family moves to Canada, animals and all. The ship sinks, leaving him on a lifeboat with a hyena, orang-utan, and a tiger in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Winning the 2002 Man Booker Prize, the novel takes the reader through a journey of religious discovery and the boy’s unfailing will to live despite seemingly insurmountable odds. The second half of the book, in which we follow Pi’s intense battle for survival, was surprisingly amusing to me.

Alas, the book ends with a shocking revelation, which explores the philosophy of how we conceive reality and truth, and, indeed ultimately, faith.

The philosophical thesis of the book is best summed up in its last pages, when Pi, after surviving the ordeal and was telling his story to his interrogators, who received his account with disbelief, said that: “The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?”.

Honestly, I have long been robbed of any imagination to explore the book further, especially its philosophical side, to which I have nothing much to say. People who are into philosophy and religion would probably find the book worth digging into.

For some light reading, however, it is pretty entertaining, particularly Pi’s observations about animals and his means of survival in the raft and life boat. I know there’s more to the book than that, but then I am less profound than what it attempts to present.

Before I go, I also strongly recommend Savages (2007), which I saw at a friend’s house last week. It’s a story of a pair of siblings dealing with their bastard of a father. It is hilarious, clever, and poignant. Starring the impeccable Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Photo Credit: (1) Kristyn E's Weblog (2) Collider

9 comments:

fuchsiaboy said...

savages is showing on hbo i think. ganda.

i'm reading the book about muji and it's so inspiring mare. plus the s/s08 another man magazine.

mare pa check naman if available ang latest na fantastic man. pabili ako.

gibo said...

i got the same copy of "life of pi" sa isang mobile bookstore selling pirated books sa siem reap! i started reading it pero may ilang pages na hindi maganda ang pagkaka photocopy...so hindi ko tinapos.

thanks for this post...now i know what is the book all about :-)

Bryan Anthony the First said...

naku philosophical thesis, pang accounting lang ako...

woof!

kawadjan said...

donita: fantastic man ha? movie ba yan or magazine (seryoso)? sorry po, alam mo naman ako, pag wala sa surigao di ko alam.

gibo: givechung ko sa yo ang copy ko when we see each other in laos. magadang reading cya for traveling.

bryan: ay accounting?! allergic ako dyan. 2 times ko cyang kinuha sa UP. kaya hayan, di ako marunong mag budget ng anda. i'm sure mayaman ka na. charing!

Japhet said...

i wanted to read this book for the longest time gir! as in like ever since Lapu-Lapu killed Fernanho in pristine Mactan haha! sadly, witit horas! kainech.

kawadjan said...

japh: gotta it read, dear. i wish we still have access to UP main libe na? remember those days? god, that place is heaven.

jayclops said...

Hi Gi. I started reading Life of Pi during the times I was applying for work, during lines, idle hours, etc. Hmmmm... I enjoyed the book immensely.

I liked The Savages too, especially the part where Laura Linney's character was coaching her dad what city they are currently in.

kawadjan said...

hi jay! the novel is indeed fascinating. a very good parable. any book you've read lately that you can recommend?

jayclops said...

I'd recommend Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. This book should be read by anyone who has lived in this generation. Haha, OA. Bitaw oi, it's so now, the pages are brimming with pop culture references and gen x/slacker histrionics. Haha, OA.

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