Life of pi, p.31
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       Life of Pi, p.31

           Yann Martel

  "No, it sank out of sight."

  "You were not aware of mechanical problems after leaving Manila?"


  "Did it appear to you that the ship was properly loaded?"

  "It was my first time on a ship. I don't know what a properly loaded ship should look like."

  "You believe you heard an explosion?"


  "Any other noises?"

  "A thousand."

  "I mean that might explain the sinking."


  "You said the ship sank quickly."


  "Can you estimate how long it took?"

  "It's hard to say. Very quickly. I would think less than twenty minutes."

  "And there was a lot of debris?"


  "Was the ship struck by a freak wave?"

  "I don't think so."

  "But there was a storm?"

  "The sea looked rough to me. There was wind and rain."

  "How high were the waves?"

  "High. Twenty-five, thirty feet."

  "That's quite modest, actually."

  "Not when you're in a lifeboat."

  "Yes, of course. But for a cargo ship."

  "Maybe they were higher. I don't know. The weather was bad enough to scare me witless, that's all I know for sure."

  "You said the weather improved quickly. The ship sank and right after it was a beautiful day, isn't that what you said?"


  "Sounds like no more than a passing squall."

  "It sank the ship."

  "That's what we're wondering."

  "My whole family died."

  "We're sorry about that."

  "Not as much as I am."

  "So what happened, Mr. Patel? We're puzzled. Everything was normal and then ...?"

  "Then normal sank."

  "Why?" "I don't know. You should be telling me. You're the experts. Apply your science."

  "We don't understand."

  [Long silence]

  Mr. Chiba: "Now what?"

  Mr. Okamoto: "We give up. The explanation for the sinking of the Tsimtsum is at the bottom of the Pacific."

  [Long silence]

  Mr. Okamoto: "Yes, that's it. Let's go. Well, Mr. Patel, I think we have all we need. We thank you very much for your cooperation. You've been very, very helpful."

  "You're welcome. But before you go, I'd like to ask you something."


  "The Tsimtsum sank on July 2nd, 1977."


  "And I arrived on the coast of Mexico, the sole human survivor of the Tsimtsum, on February 14th, 1978."

  "That's right."

  "I told you two stories that account for the 227 days in between."

  "Yes, you did."

  "Neither explains the sinking of the Tsimtsum."

  "That's right."

  "Neither makes a factual difference to you."

  "That's true."

  "You can't prove which story is true and which is not. You must take my word for it."

  "I guess so."

  "In both stories the ship sinks, my entire family dies, and I suffer."

  "Yes, that's true."

  "So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can't prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?"

  Mr. Okamoto: "That's an interesting question ..."

  Mr. Chiba: "The story with animals."

  Mr. Okamoto: "Yes. The story with animals is the better story."

  Pi Patel: "Thank you. And so it goes with God."


  Mr. Okamoto: "You're welcome."

  Mr. Chiba: "What did he just say?"

  Mr. Okamoto: "I don't know."

  Mr. Chiba: "Oh look--he's crying."

  [Long silence]

  Mr. Okamoto: "We'll be careful when we drive away. We don't want to run into Richard Parker."

  Pi Patel: "Don't worry, you won't. He's hiding somewhere you'll never find him."

  Mr. Okamoto: "Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Mr. Patel. We're grateful. And we're really very sorry about what happened to you."

  "Thank you."

  "What will you be doing now?"

  "I guess I'll go to Canada."

  "Not back to India?"

  "No. There's nothing there for me now. Only sad memories."

  "Of course, you know you will be getting insurance money."


  "Yes. Oika will be in touch with you."


  Mr. Okamoto: "We should be going. We wish you all the best, Mr. Patel."

  Mr. Chiba: "Yes, all the best."

  "Thank you."

  Mr. Okamoto: "Goodbye."

  Mr. Chiba: "Goodbye."

  Pi Patel: "Would you like some cookies for the road?"

  Mr. Okamoto: "That would be nice."

  "Here, have three each."

  "Thank you."

  Mr. Chiba: "Thank you."

  "You're welcome. Goodbye. God be with you, my brothers."

  "Thank you. And with you too, Mr. Patel."

  Mr. Chiba: "Goodbye."

  Mr. Okamoto: "I'm starving. Let's go eat. You can turn that off."


  Mr. Okamoto, in his letter to me, recalled the interrogation as having been "difficult and memorable." He remembered Piscine Molitor Patel as being "very thin, very tough, very bright."

  His report, in its essential part, ran as follows:

  Sole survivor could shed no light on reasons for sinking of Tsimtsum. Ship appears to have sunk very quickly, which would indicate a major hull breach. Important quantity of debris would support this theory. But precise reason of breach impossible to determine. No major weather disturbance reported that day in quadrant. Survivor's assessment of weather impressionistic and unreliable. At most, weather a contributing factor. Cause was perhaps internal to ship. Survivor believes he heard an explosion, hinting at a major engine problem, possibly the explosion of a boiler, but this is speculation. Ship twenty-nine years old (Erlandson and Skank Shipyards, Malmo, 1948), refitted in 1970. Stress of weather combined with structural fatigue a possibility, but conjecture. No other ship mishap reported in area on that day, so ship-ship collision unlikely. Collision with debris a possibility, but unverifiable. Collision with a floating mine might explain explosion, but seems fanciful, besides highly unlikely as sinking started at stern, which in all likelihood would mean that hull breach was at stern too. Survivor cast doubts on fitness of crew but had nothing to say about officers. Oika Shipping Company claims all cargo absolutely licit and not aware of any officer or crew problems.

  Cause of sinking impossible to determine from available evidence. Standard insurance claim procedure for Oika. No further action required. Recommend that case be closed.

  As an aside, story of sole survivor, Mr. Piscine Molitor Patel, Indian citizen, is an astounding story of courage and endurance in the face of extraordinarily difficult and tragic circumstances. In the experience of this investigator, his story is unparalleled in the history of shipwrecks. Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.

  Reading Group Guide


  God, survival and tiger behaviour. It's hard to imagine a more invigorating combination of discussion topics. We hope that the following questions will enrich your reading of Pi's fantastic journey. After all, Pi didn't have to make his voyage alone; neither should you. May this guide serve as a pleasant companion.

  1. In his introductory note Yann Martel says, "This book was born as I was hungry." What sort of emotional nourishment might Life of Pi have fed to its author?

  2. Pondicherry is described as an anomaly, the former capital of what was once French India. Do you think the town made a significant difference in Pi's upbringing?

In the Author's Note, Mr. Adirubasamy boldly claims that this story "will make you believe in God", and the author, after researching and writing the story, agrees. Did Pi's tale alter your beliefs about God?

  4. Chapters 21 and 22 are very short, yet the author has said that they are at the core of the novel. Can you see how?

  5. Early in the novel, we discover that Pi majored in religious studies and zoology, with particular interests in a sixteenth-century Kabbalist and the admirable three-toed sloth. In subsequent chapters, he explains the ways in which religions and zoos are both steeped in illusion. Discuss some of the other ways in which these two fields find unlikely compatibility.

  6. In the Author's Note, Martel wonders whether fiction is "the selective transforming of reality, the twisting of it to bring out its essence." If this is so, what is the essence of Pi and of his story?

  7. There is a lot of storytelling in this religious novel. Is there a relationship between religion and storytelling? Is religion a form of storytelling? Is there a theological dimension to storytelling?

  8. Pi's full name, Piscine Molitor Patel, was inspired by a Parisian swimming pool that "the gods would have delighted to swim in". The shortened form refers to the ratio of a circle's circumference divided by its diameter, the number 3.1415926 ..., a number that goes on forever without discernible pattern, what in mathematics is called an irrational number. Explore the significance of Pi's unusual name.

  9. One reviewer said the novel contains hints of The Old Man and the Sea, and Pi himself measures his experience in relation to history's most famous castaways. How does Life of Pi compare to other maritime novels and films?

  10. How might the novel's flavour have been changed if the sole surviving animal had been the zebra with the broken leg? Or Orange Juice? Or the hyena? Would Pi have survived with a harmless animal or an ugly animal, say a sheep or a turkey? Which animal would you like to find yourself with on a lifeboat?

  11. In chapter 23, Pi sparks a lively debate when all three of his spiritual advisors try to claim him. At the heart of this confrontation is Pi's insistence that he cannot accept an exclusively Hindu, Christian or Muslim faith; he can only be content with all three. What is Pi seeking that can solely be attained by this apparent contradiction? Is there something common to all religions? Are they "all the same"? If not, how are they different? Is there a difference between faith and belief?

  12. What do you make of Pi's assertion at the beginning of chapter 16 that we are all "in limbo, without religion, until some figure introduces us to God"? Do you believe that Pi's faith is a response to his father's agnosticism?

  13. Among Yann Martel's gifts is a rich descriptive palette. Regarding religion, he observes the green elements that represent Islam and the orange tones of Hinduism. What color would Christianity be, according to Pi's perspective?

  14. How do the human beings in your world reflect the animal behaviour observed by Pi? What do Pi's strategies for dealing with Richard Parker teach us about confronting the fearsome creatures in our lives?

  15. Besides the loss of his family and possessions, what else did Pi lose when the Tsimtsum sank? What did he gain?

  16. Nearly everyone experiences a turning point that represents the transition from youth to adulthood, albeit seldom as traumatic as Pi's. What event marked your coming of age?

  17. How do Mr. Patel's zoo-keeping abilities compare to his parenting skills? Discuss the scene in which his tries to teach his children a lesson in survival by arranging for them to watch a tiger devour a goat. Did this in any way prepare Pi for the most dangerous experience of his life?

  18. If shock hadn't deluded him, do you think Pi would have whistled and waved at Richard Parker? What would you have done?

  19. Pi imagines that his brother would have teasingly called him Noah. How does Pi's voyage compare to the biblical story of Noah, who was spared from the flood while God washed away the sinners?

  20. Is Life of Pi a tragedy, romance or comedy?

  21. Pi defends zoos. Are you convinced? Is a zoo a good place for a wild animal?

  22. What did you think of Pi's interview with the investigators from the Japanese Ministry of Transport? Do you think Pi's mother, along with a sailor and a cannibalistic cook, were in the lifeboat with him instead of the animals? Which story do you believe, the one with animals or the one without animals? When the investigators state that they think the story with animals is the better story, Pi answers "Thank you. And so it goes with God." What do you think Pi meant by that? How does it relate to the claim that this is a story "that will make you believe in God"?

  23. The first part of the novel starts twenty years after Pi's ordeal at sea and ends with the words "This story has a happy ending." Do you agree?



  This memorable debut, originally published in 1993, was hailed for its power and elegance on both sides of the Atlantic. Dealing with such themes as storytelling and illness, war and music, death and bureaucracy, memory and material objects, these tales are moving and thought-provoking, as inventive in form as they are timeless in content. They display the startling mix of dazzle and depth that has made this Man Booker Prize-winning author an international phenomenon.

  The title story, winner of the 1991 Journey Prize, is an intensely moving tragedy, told with spare style and originality, qualities found in all four stories in this collection. Together they establish Martel as one of the most interesting writers working in the world today.

  'A vivid and entrancing storyteller.' Sunday Telegraph


  ISBN 978 1 84195 612 1



  Cockroft, a faded composer and socialite, lives in self-imposed exile and fantasises about true love and extravagant suicides. Rattling about his dilapidated farmhouse in the Italian countryside, subsisting on a trickle of royalties from past successes, his only constant source of company is the ever loyal Timoleon Vieta - a mongrel with the most beautiful eyes.

  However, when a handsome but surly individual - known only as 'the Bosnian' - arrives unexpectedly, the strong bond between Cockroft and Timoleon Vieta is put under strain ...

  In this tragicomic work of macabre beauty, Rhodes amuses and moves in equal measure. One of Britain's most promising and original young writers has produced a novel of unexpected twists and inspiring humanity.

  'By turns hilarious and heartrending. Rhodes is that real, rare thing - a natural storyteller.' Sunday Times 'A delight, a masterpiece of beautifully unforced comedy.' Observer

  'Everybody should go out and buy Timoleon Vieta Come Home ... A story worthy of WG Sebald, universal in its scope and ambition.' Rose Tremain, Daily Telegraph PS7.99

  ISBN 978 1 84195 481 3



  From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Blind Assassin

  For Penelope, wife of Odysseus, maintaining a kingdom while her husband was off fighting the Trojan war was not a simple business. Already aggrieved that he had been lured away due to the shocking behaviour of her beautiful cousin Helen, Penelope must bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours and keep over a hundred lustful, greedy and bloodthirsty suitors at bay ...

  In Homer's Odyssey, Penelope is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient tale, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope herself, answering the question: 'What was she really up to?'

  'Penelope flies with the help of the sardonic, dead-pan voice Atwood lends her, a tone half-Dorothy Parker, half-Desperate Housewives.' Boyd Tonkin, Independent '[An] exquisitely poised book.' Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Sunday Times


  ISBN 978 1 84195 704 3



  Shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize

  John Egan is a misfit, 'a twelve-year old in the body of a grown man with the voice of a giant who insists on the ridiculous truth'. He is also someone who has a gift: he knows when people are lying. He hopes that one day this unusual talent will bring him fame and guarantee his entry into the Guinness Book of World Records, but until then, he must deal with the destructive undercurrents of his loving but fragile family.

  Set in Ireland in the early '70s, Carry Me Down is a deeply sympathetic take on boyhood and the unspooling of a young mind, told in gripping and at times unsettling prose. Playing out its tragic plot against a disarmingly familiar background, this is a book that refuses to portray any of its lovingly drawn characters as easy heroes or villains.

  'Carry Me Down is uncompromising, unputdownable and done with expert lightness. It's a work of discreet brilliance. MJ Hyland is a truly gifted writer.' Ali Smith 'This is fiction-writing of the highest order.' JM Coetzee

  'Enthralling and absorbing.' Observer


  ISBN 978 1 84195 906 1



  Winner of the 2006 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize London, 1806 - William Thornhill, happily wedded to his childhood sweetheart Sal, is a waterman on the River Thames. Life is tough but bearable until William makes a mistake, a bad mistake for which he and his family are made to pay dearly. His sentence: to be transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life.

  Arriving with his growing family in a harsh and alien land, Thornhill's primary concern is survival. But among the convicts there is a rumour that freedom can be bought, that 'unclaimed' land up the Hawkesbury offers an opportunity to start afresh, far away from the township of Sydney. When William takes a hundred acres for himself he is shocked to find Aboriginal people already living on the river. And other recent arrivals - Thomas Blackwood, Smasher Sullivan and Mrs Herring - are finding their own ways to respond to them.

  Soon Thornhill, a man neither better nor worse than most, has to make the most difficult decision of his life ...

  'Splendidly paced, passionate and disturbing.' Salley Vickers, The Times 'Grenville shows again the excellent form that won her the Orange Prize.' Sunday Times 'A magnificent novel - an unflinching exploration of modern Australia's origins.' New Yorker PS7.99

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