Wednesday, October 7, 2009
So far, the Life of Pi by Yann Martel has been a fantastic read, possibly one of the best in my life. The author's artful comparisons between humans, animals, and religion have fascinated me throughout the story. Based on the true events of Piscine Molitor Patel, the story claims that "it is a story that will make you believe in God" in the preface, and although that may not be the case, it has certainly made me rethink life in general. Take, for example, the first couple of pages, where the narrator is describing how he is taking a double-major in zoology and religious studies. He speaks about the three-toed sloth which he studied in Brazil, which, when motivated, "crawls to the next tree at the rate of 250 metres an hour,... which is 440 times slower that a motivated cheetah." He continues to describe the animal's seemingly pathetic senses of smell, taste, sight, and sound, changing his direction with the question of how it can possibly survive in the wild. The answer, the Pi continues, is it's slothfulness and slow way of living. It's hairs shelter an algae that allows them to blend in completely with their surroundings, out of the reach of predators. "The three-toed sloth lives a peaceful, vegetarian life in complete harmony with its environment," the author explains, later comparing the sloths to yogis deep in meditation, or wise beings who were beyond the reaches of his "scientific probing". The paradoxical way that Pi describes this animal, so boring and lifeless, as being wisened and resonant with spirituality is just another way that the author makes this book an amazing read. This sloth connection resonates again in the book on page 89 when Pi's muslim mentor, a modest and plain-looking baker named Mr. Kumar comes to visit Pi's family zoo as a child. The baker, who Pi reveres very much, agrees to meet at the main gate, but the main character cannot find him amidst the sea of people, because he moves so slowly and plainly. It is only when Mr. Kumar addresses Pi that he finds him. Like the sloth, Mr. Kumar blends in harmony with his surroundings, a deeply religious Muslim who has no need to attract attention in his pious life. Other moments in the book also repeat themselves in this powerful way throughout the story, leaving the reader able to read and re-read the book over and over and still discover more within its pages. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel is turning out to be an amazing read.