Does anyone else remember the excitement of reading Yann Martel’s Life of Pi for the first time? I was absolutely captivated by his story of Pi Patel and his shipload of animals adrift, and I was certainly not alone. Martel won the Booker Prize for it in2002 and it went on to be an international bestseller.
Pi is the son of a zookeeper. When it comes to animal knowlege, he is encyclopedic. But his love of animals is eclipsed by his love of stories and he is influenced in his story telling by his native Hindu background as well as Christianity and Islam. When his family emigrates from India to North America on a cargo ship with their animals, he finds himself alone in a lifeboat with his only companions a hyena, an organutan, a wounded zebra and a 450 pound Bengal tiger called Richard Tiger.
What is not to love about a novel with that as a premise?
Well, be still my beating heart, Spanish born Canadian Martel has taken up his pen again.
Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House US, bought the rights to publish the novel, as yet untitled, in the United States. British rights were sold to Canongate and Canadian rights to Alfred A. Knopf, as well as rights to publishers in Australia, New Zealand and Germany.
Cindy Spiegel, publisher of Spiegel & Grau, told the New York Times that when she read the manuscript she ‘had the feeling of reading a classic.’
‘It feels like you are reading Beckett or Nabokov now,’ she continued. ‘It’s a book that addresses a topic that’s been written about many, many times but feels profoundly original.’
Martel’s Toronto agent Jackie Kaiser told Canada’s Globe and Mail that the book is ‘a story of an encounter between a writer and a taxidermist, and is both a metaphorical take on the Holocaust and an examination of our complicated relationship to animals.’
In an interview with the New York Times, Martel went on to say ‘I’ve noticed over the years of reading books on the Holocaust and seeing movies that it’s always represented in the same way, which is historical or social realism. I was thinking that it was interesting that you don’t have many imaginative takes on it like George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ and its take on Stalinism.’