Q and A With 'Life of Pi' Author

A. Dear Haley, Traveling, both as a child and then on my own, as an adult, opened my mind, showed me the innumerable we human being have of being, whether in dress, in language, in food, in customs, in every way. Travelling showed me that we emphatically do NOT live in a global village. It's a big, beautiful world out there, unknowable except it you see it with your own eyes, smell it with your own nose, hear it with your own ears. I love traveling. I don't claim to understand much of what I see. If I can barely understand myself, if Canada still baffles me, what chance do I have of understanding India, China, France, Portugal, Rwanda? None. But I'm happy to be dazzled by it all, breathless and thankful for the kaleidoscope we live in.

Q. What a thought-provoking story! My question is which story was in your mind the actual one? Was it his faith in God which allowed him to experience the "animal" version and to protect him from the gruesome reality? Was that the wonder of the story that you intended? I have difficulty even asking because I firmly believe that a story is determined somewhere in the intersection of reader and text. I am curious though, what your intended interpretation was. — Sarah

A. Dear Sarah, I leave it to the reader to choose which is the better story. It can go both ways. Pi survived with Richard Parker and then, confronted with the skepticism of the Japanese, and wanting his suffering to be validated, to be accepted, he creates another story, the story without animals. That's one reading. Or Pi and his mother and the French cook and a Taiwanese sailor survive, it turns into a butchery and Pi invents the story with animals presumably to pass the time and to make acceptable the unacceptable, that is, the murder of his mother by the Frenchman and Pi's killing of the Frenchman. Both stories are offered, one is on the outer edges of the barely believable, the other is nearly unbearable in its violence, neither explains the sinking of the ship, in both Pi suffers and loses his family, in both he is the only human survivor to reach the coast of Mexico. The investigators must choose and the reader must choose. When the investigators choose the story with animals, Pi answers "And so it goes with God." In other words, Pi makes a parallel between the two stories and religion. His argument (and mine) is that a vision of life that has a transcendental element is better than one that is purely secular and materialist. A story with God ("God" defined in the broadest sense) is the better story, I argue, just as I think the story with animals is the better story. But you choose.

Q. What is the significance of the name "Richard Parker"? — Deborah


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