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Life of Pi

Yann Martel

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Life of Pi | Author's Note | Summary


Yann Martel divided Life of Pi into three parts, further divided into chapters. For the purposes of summary and insight, this study guide groups some chapters together.


In 1996 the visiting writer is struggling to sell books in Canada. Restless, he flies to Bombay, India, to work on a novel about Portugal. He's soon disappointed by his new book. Despite its technical perfection, the novel lacks "that spark that brings to life a real story." Discouraged, the visiting writer travels to the town of Pondicherry, the former capital of French India. At a coffeehouse he strikes up a conversation with an elderly man.

The man, Mr. Adirubasamy, tells the writer he has a story that will make him "believe in God." The writer is skeptical and wonders if the man is a Christian or Muslim proselytizer. He tells the writer there was once a zoo in the Pondicherry Botanical Garden and refers the writer to the story's main character.

The writer nervously calls the main character, Pi Patel, an Indian man living in Toronto, Canada. As the writer hears Pi's story, he agrees the story will make listeners believe in God. The writer thanks the people who made his book possible, including Pi, Mr. Adirubasamy, and others.


The Author's Note positions the book as a frame narrative, or a story within a story. Though the visiting writer bears many similarities to Yann Martel—they are both Canadian writers who travel to India after a failed second novel—the author is distinct from the character of the writer. The visiting writer is a fictional character and a narrative conceit. His presence gives validity to the autofiction aspect of the novel.

The note functions as an introduction, bringing up ideas that will resurface. The writer's reference to doctors as "purveyors of magic and miracle" introduces the idea of the miraculous, as Pi is a big believer in miracles. The writer also discusses the history of Pondicherry's French colonization, its unique position in British-colonized India, and the various cultural influences, such as Hinduism, that will affect Pi's upbringing.

Even though the writer is not religious and mentions making him believe in God is a "tall order," he knows major world religions and beliefs have similarities as well as differences. Mr. Adirubasamy's reference to Pi's story places Pi himself in the canon of miraculous heroes and tale-tellers. Mr. Adirubasamy also begins with "Once upon a time," indicating his story will be told to create belief in the supernatural and include an element of magic.

The visiting writer thanks Moacyr Scliar for partially inspiring him in the Author's Note. This is Martel's way of paying tribute to Scliar, the Brazilian author whose book Max and the Cats tells the tale of a young boy shipwrecked with a panther. The statement in favor of supporting artists reflects the importance of collective dreams and imagination. In fact Pi's stories, whether real or imagined, are necessary to his survival.

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