Yann Martel

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Yann Martel
Yann Martel 2008.JPG
Yann Martel in 2008
Born 1963
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 1963) is an author best known for the Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi,[1][2][3][4] 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.[5] It was adapted to the screen by Ang Lee.[6][7]

Martel is also the author of the novels Beatrice and Virgil[8][9][10] and Self,[11][12][13] 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.[14] He lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.[15]

He has won a number of literary prizes, including the 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction[16] and the 2002 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.[17] He was also the first Canadian to represent the Washington Arts Commission.[18]

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."[19]

Early life[edit]

Martel, the son of Nicole Perron and Émile Martel, was born in Salamanca, Spain. His parents were French-speaking Quebecers.[20] His father was posted as a diplomat for the Canadian government at the time of his birth. His mother was a literary translator.[21] He was raised in Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Alaska and Canada. As an adolescent he attended high school at Trinity College School, a boarding school in Port Hope, Ontario.[21][22]

As an adult, Martel has spent time in Iran, Turkey and India. After studying philosophy at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario,[23] 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.[24] His first published fictional work, Seven Stories, appeared in 1993.[21]


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.[25] 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.[26] 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 [27] and by Scliar himself for the way he initially responded to the criticism.[28]

Martel was the Samuel Fischer Visiting Professor at the Institute of Comparative Literature, Freie Universität Berlin in 2002, where he created a curriculum that focused on "The Animal in Literature".[29] He then spent a year in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, from September 2003 as the public library's writer-in-residence.[30] 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.[31][32]

In November 2005, the University of Saskatchewan announced that Martel would be scholar-in-residence.[33]

His novel Beatrice and Virgil (2010)[8] 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.[34] 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.[35] 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.[36]

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[18]

Beatrice and Virgil

Life of Pi

  • Winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction[2][46][47]
  • 61 Weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List[48]
  • The International # 1 Bestseller
  • Winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award for Best New Fiction of 2002[49]
  • Winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature 2002[17][47]
  • Winner of the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction 2001[16][47]
  • Winner of The Boeke Prize 2003 (South Africa)[47]
  • Winner of the Deutscher Bücherpreis 2004[50]
  • Winner of the La Presse Prix du Grand Public 2003[51][52]
  • Winner in the Scene It Read It category of the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards 2014[53]
  • A Quill & Quire Best Book of 2001[54]
  • 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)

Film adaptations[edit]

  • Self, to be directed by Randall Wallace, set to be released by Sony Pictures Entertainment on March 12, 2015.
  • Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee in 2012.[55] Martel makes a brief appearance as an extra, sitting on a park bench across a pond while Irrfan Khan (Pi) and Rafe Spall (playing Yann Martel) converse.[56][57][58]
  • We Ate the Children Last was adapted as an independent film.[59]
  • Manners of Dying, directed by Jeremy Peter Allen in 2004.[60]
  • The Facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios

Theatrical adaptations[edit]


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.[62]


  1. ^ a b Dunn, Jennifer (March 1, 2003). "Tigers and Tall Tales". The Oxonian Review (University of Oxford) (2.2). Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  2. ^ a b "Life of Pi". Man Booker Prize. Retrieved 31 August 2010. 
  3. ^ Kipen, David (23 October 2002). "Canadian wins Booker Prize / 'Life of Pi' is tale of a boy who floats across the ocean from India". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 31 August 2010. 
  4. ^ Reynolds, Nigel (30 September 2002). "Life of Pi wins Booker". The Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Wiki List of Bestselling Books. Wikipedia. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  6. ^ Ang Lee wins best director Oscar for Life of Pi. The Guardian online. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  7. ^ Hiscock, John (December 19, 2012). Ang Lee, interview: how he filmed the unfilmable for Life of Pi. The Telegraph. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
  8. ^ a b Barber, John. Martel's post-modern Holocaust allegory fetches $3-million advance, The Globe and Mail, April 6, 2010.
  9. ^ Woog, Adam. 'Beatrice and Virgil': Yann Martel's haunting fable of humans, animals and violence, The Seattle Times, April 17, 2010. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  10. ^ Wyndham, Susan. Books To Watch in 2010, The Sydney Morning Herald, January 9, 2010. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  11. ^ "Martel protests level of arts funding by sending PM books". Saskatoon Star Phoenix. 17 April 2002. Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
  12. ^ "6 compete for first novel award". Toronto Star. 28 March 1997. 
  13. ^ Marchand, Philip (4 May 1996). "An unforgettable exploration of a self". Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
  14. ^ "Martel protests level of arts funding by sending PM books". Saskatoon Star Phoenix. 17 April 2002. Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
  15. ^ Saskatoon Public Library, Collections Connections. Saskatoon Public Library site. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Winner of The Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction 2001. QWF Literary Database of Quebec English-Language Authors. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  17. ^ a b 2001-2003 Asian Pacific American Awards for Literature. Cooperative Children's Book Centre, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  18. ^ a b Yann Martel Bio. Last FM. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  19. ^ Quoterature. Quoterature, Martel entry. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  20. ^ Google Books, Twenty-first-century Canadian writers
  21. ^ a b c Brown, Mick (June 1, 2010). Yann Martel: in search of understanding. The Telegraph. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  22. ^ Notable Alumni. TCS Ontario. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  23. ^ "Mann Booker Prize Winner and Author of Life of Pi Yann Martel Returns to Trent on March 31" (Press release). 28 March 2006. Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
  24. ^ Hannon, Gerald (May, 2010). Life after Pi. Quill and Quire. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
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  26. ^ Radio-Canada: Le Combat des livres 2004. Canada Reads, Wikipedia. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  27. ^ "Booker winner in plagiarism row". The Guardian. November 2002. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 
  28. ^ "Autor de 'As Aventuras de Pi' é suspeito de plagiar brasileiro (portuguese)". Folha de São Paulo. January 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  29. ^ Tomas Venclova Is Latest Samuel Fischer Visiting Professor at Freie Universität Berlin. Freie Universität Berlin Presse. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  30. ^ Writers in Residence at Saskatoon Public Library, 1981 – 2013. Saskatoon Public Library: Collections, Connections. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  31. ^ ARC Premieres New Work in Europe. The Royal Conservatory, Canada, News Release, October 28, 2004. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  32. ^ ARC Ensemble: Recordings, Concert Excerpts. ARC Ensemble (Artists of The Royal Conservatory) Recordings. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  33. ^ "Yann Martel Appointed as a Visiting Scholar in English". University of Saskatchewan. November 2005. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  34. ^ Malla, Pasha (April 9, 2010).Fiction, or is it?. The Globe & Mail, Canada, April 9, 2010. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  35. ^ "Yann Martel closes book on Harper reading club". CBC News. February 2, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  36. ^ "Premier odebrał książki od internautów!". Histmag. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  37. ^ Best Sellers, The New York Times. The New York Times online, May 2, 2010. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  38. ^ Best Sellers, Boston Globe. Boston.com, Off The Shelf, April 23, 2010. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  39. ^ Best Sellers, Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times online, May 29, 2010. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  40. ^ Local Best Sellers, Star Tribune. Star Tribune online, May 2, 2010. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  41. ^ Macleans Best Sellers. Macleans online, Week of June 14th, 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  42. ^ Wagner, Vit (April 7, 2010). Life of Pi writer Yann Martel returns with new book. TheStar.com, Entertainment / Books, April 7, 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  43. ^ International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Long List 2012. International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2012. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  44. ^ Blau, Rosie (December 3, 2010). FT Fiction Round-up 2010. FT.com, Fiction Round-up 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  45. ^ May 2010 Indie Next List. IndieBound.org. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  46. ^ Life of Pi Wins 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. American Booksellers Association, Bookselling This Week. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  47. ^ a b c d Scott, Catherine (February 25, 2013). Life of Pi A Book in Numbers. The Telegraph. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
  48. ^ Rule, Matt (August 22, 2013). 'Life of Pi' author to speak at freshman convocation. Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Montana State University Survival Guide. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  49. ^ The Life of Pi Wins 2002 New Voices Award for Fiction. PR Newswire. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  50. ^ Deutscher Bücherpreis List of Winners. Wikipedia die freie Enzyklopaedie. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
  51. ^ Life Of Pi entry. Bibliothèque Gallimard Jeunesse - Livres. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
  52. ^ Life Of Pi entry. Les Éditions XYZ Catalogue. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
  53. ^ Scene It Read It - Life Of Pi. Coventry City Council site. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  54. ^ Quill & Quire Best Books 2001. Quill & Quire, Canada Books. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
  55. ^ Life of Pi at IMDB. IMDB. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  56. ^ Barber, John (January 14, 2013). Life after Pi: How Yann Martel's moved on from his book and Oscar-worthy film. The Globe & Mail online. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  57. ^ Medley, Mark (November 21, 2012). Life of Pi author Yann Martel: “Overall, I think it’s a wonderful companion piece”. National Post online. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  58. ^ Lederhouse, Craig (July 30, 2012). Yann Martel on the Life of Pi trailer. CBC Books, First aired on The Afternoon Edition (26/7/12). Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  59. ^ Yann Martel Author Bio. Nashville Reads. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  60. ^ Manners of Dying at IMDB. IMDB. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  61. ^ Beatrice and Virgil at the Facotry Theatre. Factory Theatre, April 12 - May 11, 2013. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  62. ^ Exclusive Interview - Life of Yann Martel. Abe Books. Retrieved 2013.

External links[edit]