Yann Martel

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Yann Martel
Yann Martel 2008.JPG
Yann Martel in 2008
Born Salamanca, Spain
Occupation Novelist
Nationality Canadian
Alma mater Trent University
Period 1993-present
Notable works Life of Pi
Relatives Émile Martel, father

Yann Martel (born in Salamanca, Spain in 1963) is an author best known for the Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi[1] , a #1 international bestseller published in more than 50 territories. It has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide and spent more than a year on the New York Times Bestseller list. It was adapted to the screen by Ang Lee.

Martel is also the author of the novels Beatrice and Virgil and Self, the collection of stories The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, and a collection of letters to the prime minister of Canada, 101 Letters to a Prime Minister. He lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

He has won a number of literary prizes, including the 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and the 2001-2003 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. He is also the first Canadian to represent the Washington Arts Commission.

Although his first language is French, Yann Martel writes in English: "English is the language in which I best express the subtlety of life. But I must say that French is the language closest to my heart. And for this same reason, English gives me a sufficient distance to write."[citation needed]

Early life[edit]

Martel, the son of Nicole Perron and Émile Martel, was born in Salamanca, Spain. His parents were French-speaking Quebecers.[2] His father was posted as a diplomat for the Canadian government at the time of his birth. He was raised in Costa Rica, France, Mexico, and Canada. As an adolescent he attended high school at Trinity College School, a boarding school in Port Hope, Ontario.

As an adult, Martel has spent time in Iran, Turkey and India. After studying philosophy at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Martel spent 13 months in India visiting mosques, churches, temples and zoos, and spent two years reading religious texts and castaway stories. He now lives in Saskatoon, Canada.[3] His first published fictional work, Seven Stories, appeared in 1993.


In 2001, he published the novel Life of Pi, his fourth book, which was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2002.[1] Life of Pi was later chosen for the 2003 edition of CBC Radio's Canada Reads competition, where it was championed by author Nancy Lee. In addition, its French translation, Histoire de Pi, was included in the French version of the competition, Le combat des livres, in 2004, championed by singer Louise Forestier. Martel was inspired to write a story about sharing a lifeboat with a large cat after reading a review of the novella Max and the Cats by Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar. Martel received some criticism for failing to consult with Scliar [4] and by Scliar himself for the way he initially responded to the criticism.[5]

Martel spent a year in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, from September 2003 as the public library's writer-in-residence. He collaborated with Omar Daniel, composer-in-residence at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, on a piece for piano, string quartet and bass. The composition, You Are Where You Are, is based on text written by Martel, which includes parts of cellphone conversations taken from moments in an ordinary day.

In November 2005, the University of Saskatchewan announced that Martel would be scholar-in-residence.[6]

His novel Beatrice and Virgil (2010) deals with the Holocaust: its main characters are two stuffed animals (a monkey and a donkey), along with several other animals depicted in a taxidermy shop. Martel describes them as simply two approaches to the same subject.

From 2007 to 2011, Martel worked on a project entitled What is Stephen Harper Reading? Every two weeks, he sent the Prime Minister of Canada one book that portrays "stillness," with an accompanying explanatory note. He posted his letters, book selections, and responses received to a website devoted to the project. A book-length account of the project was published in the fall of 2009. Martel ended the project in February 2011, after sending Harper a total of 100 books.[7] The Polish magazine Histmag cited him as the inspiration behind their giving of books to the Prime Minister Donald Tusk, however, this was a one-off with only 10 books involved, which had been donated by their publishers and selected by readers of the magazine. Tusk reacted very positively.[8]

Published works[edit]

  • Seven Stories (1993)
  • The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (1993)
  • Self (1996)
  • Life of Pi (2001)
  • We Ate the Children Last (2004)
  • Teaching Yann Martel's Life of Pi from Multiple Critical Perspectives (2007)
  • Beatrice and Virgil (2010)
  • Short story The Vita Aeterna Mirror Company in The Secret History of Fantasy, edited by Peter S. Beagle (2010)
  • 101 Letters to a Prime Minister: The Complete Letters to Stephen Harper (2012)
    • The first 55 book suggestions are available as What is Stephen Harper Reading? (2009)

Awards and accolades[edit]

  • First Canadian to represent the Washington Arts Commission

Beatrice and Virgil

  • New York Times Bestseller
  • Washington Post Bestseller
  • Boston Globe Bestseller
  • L.A. Times Bestseller
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune Bestseller
  • Sydney Morning Herald Bestseller
  • National #1 Bestseller in The Globe & Mail
  • National #1 Bestseller in Maclean’s
  • #1 Bestseller in The Toronto Star
  • Longlisted for The 2012 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
  • Financial Times 2010 Fiction of the Year
  • Chosen for May 2010 Indie Next List

Life of Pi

  • Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction
  • 61 Weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List
  • The International # 1 Bestseller
  • Winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award for Best New Fiction of 2002
  • Winner of the 2001-2003 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
  • Winner of the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction 2001
  • Winner in the Scene It Read It category of the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards
  • Winner of The Boeke Prize (South Africa)
  • Winner of the Deutschen Bücherpreis 2004
  • Winner of the La Presse Prix du Grand Public
  • A Quill & Quire Best Book of 2001
  • A Poets & Writers Magazine Best Book of Fiction for 2002
  • A Top 25 “Best of the Best” Book Sense Selection
  • Spoken Word Award for Best Abridgment
  • A CBC Canada Reads 2003 Selection
  • A 2003 Selection of the One Book Arizona Program
  • A 2003 Selection of the One Book Santa Barbara Program
  • Shortlisted for the Dublin IMPAC Award
  • Shortlisted for the Borders Original Voices Award for Fiction, 2003
  • Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize 2002 (Best Book, Canada-Carib Region)
  • Shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for Fiction 2001
  • Shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Writing
  • Shortlisted for the Spoken Word Award for Abridged Modern Fiction and the
  • Shortlisted for a Torgi Award
  • Finalist for the 2004 Book Sense Book of the Year Award – Paperback
  • Inaugural Pick of the AOL Red Book Club
  • Selected for Esquire’s list of the Top Ten Books of 2003


The Facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (short story)


Martel has said in a number of interviews that Dante's Divine Comedy is the single most impressive book he has ever read. In talking about his most memorable childhood book, he recalls Le Petit Chose by Alphonse Daudet. He said that he read it when he was ten years old, and it was the first time he found a book so heartbreaking that it moved him to tears.[9]


External links[edit]