Yann Martel: “He wrote a bestseller about a boy and a tiger in a lifeboat”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of Yann Martel, who wrote a best-seller about a boy and a tiger in a lifeboat. He was born on this day in 1963 in Salamanca, Spain. His father was a Canadian diplomat, and he grew up in Alaska, British Columbia, Costa Rica, France, Ontario, and Mexico.

He was feeling burnt out and had no idea what to do with his life, so he went to India, where he felt even worse. He was lonely and he tried to write a novel but it failed. He left Bombay for Matheran, a quiet hill station where all motor vehicles were outlawed. And it was there, sitting on a boulder, that he suddenly thought of a book review he had read many years ago. The book was by a Brazilian writer, and its premise was that a German Jewish family who owned a zoo tried to escape to Brazil, but the ship ended up sinking and one family member was left alone in a lifeboat with a black panther. Martel loved the premise, and so he made it his own.

He went back to Canada and wrote a story about an Indian teenager named Pi Patel, who calls himself a Hindu, Muslim, and Christian. Pi is the son of a zookeeper and his family leaves India for Canada to begin life there. They are shipwrecked and Pi ends up in a lifeboat with a few animals, and eventually only a tiger named Richard Parker. In 2001 Martel published the book, Life of Pi, which became a best-seller and won the Booker Prize.

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