“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always … so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.” ~ Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Today’s Author of the Week is a bit different. Since I did not have an interview which I conducted, I decided to go with the author of the latest book I read and fell in love with: Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi.
Life of Pi tells the story of a 16-year-old boy’s survival, after being cast on a lifeboat when the cargo ship his family was on sank into the Pacific. Written like no other book I have read before, Yann Martel’s style and story telling allowed me to truly expand my love for reading, because reading his book was like taking a walk in a totally different part of the world. I am now enlightened and inspired.
About Yann Martel
Martel was born on June 25th 1963 in Salamanca, Spain, the son of Nicole Perron and Emile Martel. His parents were French-Canadian. His father was posted as a diplomat for the Canadian government at the time of his birth. He was raised in Costa Rica, France, Mexico, and Canada. As an adolescent he attended high school at Trinity College School, a boarding school in Port Hope, Ontario.
As an adult, Martel has spent time in Iran, Turkey and India. After studying philosophy at Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario, and doing various odd jobs -tree planting, dishwashing, working as a security guard, Martel spent 13 months in India visiting masjids, churches, temples and zoos, and spent two years reading religious texts and castaway stories. His first published fictional work, Seven Stories, appeared in 1993.
In addition to Life of Pi, Martel is the prize-winning author ofThe Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, a collection of short stories, and of Self, a novel, both published internationally. Yann has been living from his writing since the age of 27. He divides his time between yoga, writing and volunteering in a palliative care unit. Yann Martel lives in Montreal with his wife and children.
A few questions from here and there
When asked on an online chat interview how long it took to write the Life of Pi, Yann answers:
“I did research for six months in India, practical research, then I read on zoos, animal psychology, religions and castaway stories for about a year and a half back in Canada.Then I wrote the thing out. Took me about 1 1/2 years to get to a draft. So 4 years in all. But I loved every minute.”
A question I often ask to the Authors I interview: Do you have a particular writing routine?
“I have no particular routine. When I’m actually writing, as opposed to researching, I sort of write all day, in a quite inefficient way, mind you, but all day. Which doesn’t mean that I write much. A good day will mean half a page. But I’m in no rush, so I don’t mind my slow pace.”
When asked: “When did you decide to become a writer, how did you take that first step?”
“I’d say writing chose me rather than the other way around. It was really the last thing on my list, the only thing that worked for me, that gave me a sense of meaning. I started writing in 2nd year university, when I hadn’t a clue where I was going in life. I wrote a dreadful play, truly something God awful, but I loved creating, I loved creating a stage and peopling it and giving things to say and do.”
In an interview with BookBrowse, Yann was asked this question, which I think rocks (the Q & the A)
Why the three religions in your book?
“The three religions because I wanted to discuss faith, not organized religion, so wanted to relativize organized religion by having Pi practice three. I would have like PI to be a Jew, too, to practice Judaism, but there are two religions that are explicitly incompatible: Christianity and Judaism. Where one begins, the other ends, according to Christians, and where one endures, the other strays, according to Jews.”
Yann continues to say that he IS a religious person.. in his words:
“.. in a very broad way, and riven with doubts, which is what keeps faith alive, I believe. I go to mass every Sunday, but love going to mosques too. Muslims pray in a beautiful way.”
People connect with the book in such a personal way because…
“..(1) it’s a great yarn, and (2), it goes deep, talks about spirituality in a real, serious, concrete way, untainted by cynicism.
Last but not least, Yann gives his tips to aspiring authors:
“Get it down on the page. Work hard. And then let go. Ask yourself why you want to write. You have to be clear about that.”
If you have not yet read Life of Pi, I highly recommend it. The book made me think, it made me shudder, it made me cheer Pi Patel on! I wanted him to survive, to come back, to tell his story, and in the end… he surely did!