Life of Pi is one of those works of fiction that everyone raves over. Those who have read the book and loved it proclaim 'oh, it's such a wonderful spiritual story.' And those who loved the film proclaim it as one of the best visual spectacles of cinema in the last couple of years. For myself, from the book alone, all I can state is that I found it a beautifully written book, but only on the surface.
It's the story of Piscine Patel, an Indian boy who is a Hindu, Christian and Muslim all at once (more on that later). After telling the reader about himself 'Pi' ends up the victim of a ship sinking in which he travels the ocean with a tiger. At the end of the novel, there is an interview about this experience with two journalists who state that living in a lifeboat with a tiger is 'impossible'. So Pi tells them another story in which the events match up, but feature different characters. The conclusion by Pi is that these two different stories are like two different religions, another play on the whole concept of truth being entirely subjective in this new existentialist world.
To tackle the themes of this novel I must say that I found the concept of Pi belonging to multiple religions an ignorant one. Or rather that the logic behind it focused around several poor metaphors and analogies (disappointing to myself because I tend to think linguistically in metaphors and analogies). The concept was that 'God lives in Heaven. Heaven is like a country in the sky. Different countries accept different passports. Surely God will accept the different passports of religions.' Unfortunately the fact is that countries are not required to accept passports however and so through Pi's eyes the fact that God himself may only accept a specific type of passport (a particular perfect sacrifice) is ignored.
To me, Life of Pi was symbolic of modernist thinking and the type of thought that ties into existentialism or New Age mythology. The problem is that in trying to be too inclusive and accepting they completely reject the concept that perhaps truth could actually exist in a universal form and that underneath that universal truth we can only see shadows of truth or truths which are really lies. It's the issue I have with Nietzsche in that such veins of thought 'throw the baby out with the bathwater' in their complete rejection or acceptance. There is no turning towards nuance, no open-minded thought, merely adherence to simplistic complete accept or reject mentalities.
That is not to say that Life of Pi is a poor novel. I found it beautifully written, though at times Yann Martel appeared to tell the reader too much and provide too many conclusions - to some readers this becomes pedantically condescending in its own right. On the whole however, all the writing aside, I found this book to be...naive. To bring everything to one solid conclusion I felt this book contained more of a veneer of beauty, and created less of any lasting philosophical impression.