Yann Martel’s warmly engaging philosophical novel is brimming with invention, ideas and playful conceits. A true modern classic.

Yann Martel’s 2002 Booker Prize-winning Life of Pi is his third novel. It is narrated by Pi (Piscine) Molitor, who grows up as the son of a zoo manager in India. As a boy, Pi practices not only Hinduism but also the teachings of Christianity and Islam – in his eyes, all different yet equal ways of knowing God. In 1976, when The Emergency is announced, the Molitors’ zoo animals are sold, and Pi and his family embark on a Japanese freight ship to North America. It sinks a few days into its passage. Pi is left alone on a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a tiger named Richard Parker. He is rescued after 227 days afloat, barring one excursion to a surreally depicted carnivorous island. 

The Man Booker Prize 2002
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Yann Martel

Yann Martel

About the Author

Yann Martel is best known for his 2002 Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi, which was adapted for cinema by Ang Lee and won four Oscars and adapted for the stage by Lolita Chakrabarti and won 5 Olivier Awards.
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The winning moment

Yann Martel’s Life of Pi went on to become one of the biggest-selling novels in the prize’s history after it was announced as the winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize.

The book was on a shortlist with Dirt Music by Tim Winton, Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry, Unless by Carol Shields, The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.

Life of Pi’s win came in the first year the prize was sponsored by the Man Group, taking on its new name of the Man Booker Prize.

Yann Martel on winning the Man Booker Prize for Life of Pi, October 2002

Despite the extraordinary premise and literary playfulness, one reads Life of Pi not so much as an allegory or magical-realist fable, but as an edge-of-seat adventure

Life of Pi on screen

Yann Martel’s Life of Pi was adapted for the big screen in 2012, in a film directed and produced by Ang Lee.

The film starred Irrfan Khan as the adult Pi, Rafe Spall as The Writer, Tabu as Pi’s mother Gita Patel, and Adul Hussain as Pi’s father Santosh Patel.

It was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture - Drama and Best Director, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score. It was nominated for 11 awards at the Oscars in 2013, and won four, including Best Director for Lee.

Watch Life of Pi on Disney+ here

Scene from the 2012 film Life of Pi, directed and produced by Ang Lee

Life of Pi on stage

Yann Martel’s Life of Pi was also adapted for the stage, another ten years after the successful film release.

The West End production won five categories at the Olivier Awards in 2022, including best new play, best actor for Hiran Abeysekera and best supporting actor for the seven performers portraying the show’s puppet tiger.

The creator of the stage adaptation, Lolita Chakrabarti, has said its success was a testament to the ‘absolute modern classic’ created by Martel.

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Life of Pi at The Wyndham's Theatre London