“My daughter and I just finished reading Life of Pi together,” President Obama wrote to the novelist Yann Marteltwo years ago. “It is a lovely book,” the President continued, “an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling. Thank you.”
Martel’s novel tells the story of Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, who follows Hindu, Christianity and Islam, finding merit in each religion. Pi’s broad religious perspective not only aides him in his travails as a shipwrecked sailor, it also invites readers (and viewers of Ang Lee’s film adaptation) to interpret the facts in the story in radically different ways. The story offers both a logical interpretation of what happens, and one that requires a leap of faith.
In the video below, Martel explains how his novel is not character-driven but idea-driven: It is based on “this idea of life being an interpretation,” Martel says, of “life being a series of facts on top of which you can interpret. We interpret life. Life is an interpretation.”