MARTEL, Yann Life of Pi, Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001, Random House Vintage paperback, 2002.

by Robert Brow  (

Mollie and I read this to each other and were totally gripped till the final interview by two very skeptical Japanese investigators. Pi (short for Piscine) was raised in Pondicherry, where his father owned the Zoo. At the age of sixteen he found himself adrift in a lifeboat with four zoo animals. The combination of terror and love for a very dangerous tiger has more animal psychology than a university zoology book. The writer was born in Spain (1963), and studied philosophy at Trent University, Canada.

The reviewers were rightly impressed with the astonishing brilliance of the story telling. On the front cover Margaret Atwood wrote "It is fresh, original, smart, devious, and crammed with absorbing lore." The Globe and Mail said "Pi"is understated and ironic, utterly believable and pure." What caught my Model Theology interest was the back cover claim that "it may make you believe in God." But that raises a question.

On the one hand there is the name we give to God (Dieu in French, Allah in Arabic, Parmeshwar in Hindi, Khuda in Urdu, the Big Bang for atheists). A quite different question is what we think about his character (see God of Many Names) For example in the New Testament the Pharisees and the Galatian Christians believed in the same Creator God (Elohim in Hebrew, Theos in Greek) as Paul the Apostle. What went wrong was that they thought God's love had to be earned by legalism. Pi missed that distinction when in his distress he prayed to Muhammad (a blasphemous idea for Muslims) who taught that we only make it to heaven by obeying rules. But Pi got it right when he was sure that God (by whatever name) loved him regardless of his sinful behavior.

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