Yann Martel in 2007
|Born||June 25, 1963 (age 52)
|Alma mater||Trent University|
|Notable works||Life of Pi, Beatrice and Virgil, The High Mountains of Portugal|
|Partner||Alice Kuipers (2002–present)|
|Relatives||Émile Martel, father|
Yann Martel (born 25 June 1963) is a Spanish-born Canadian author best known for the Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi, 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 Bestseller Lists of the New York Times and The Globe and Mail, among many other bestseller lists. It was adapted to the screen and directed by Ang Lee, garnering four Oscars (the most for the event) including Best Director and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.
Martel is also the author of the novels The High Mountains of Portugal, 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 has won a number of literary prizes, including the 2001 Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction and the 2002 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.
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."
The son of Nicole Perron and Émile Martel, French-speaking Quebecers, Yann Martel was born in Salamanca, Spain where his parents were studying at the University of Salamanca. His mother was enrolled in Hispanic Studies, while his father was working on a PhD on the Spanish writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno. Soon after his birth, the family moved, first to Coimbra, Portugal, and Madrid, Spain, and then to Fairbanks, Alaska, and Victoria, British Columbia, where his father taught at the Universities of Alaska and Victoria, respectively. His parents subsequently joined the Canadian foreign service, first his father then his mother, and he was therefore raised in San José, Costa Rica; Paris, France; Madrid, Spain, with stints in Ottawa, Ontario, in between postings. Martel completed his final two years of high school at Trinity College School, a boarding school in Port Hope, Ontario, Ontario, and completed an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.
As an adult, Martel worked at odd jobs—parking lot attendant in Ottawa; dishwasher in a tree-planting camp in northern Ontario; security guard at the Canadian embassy in Paris—and travelled through Mexico, South America, Iran, Turkey, and India. He turned to writing while he was at university, writing plays and short stories that were, by his own admission, "blighted by immaturity and dreadful", but kept at it.
Martel's work first appeared in print in 1988 in The Malahat Review with his short story Mister Ali and the Barrelmaker. The Malahat Review also published in 1990 his short story The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, for which he won the 1991 Journey Prize and which was included in the 1991-1992 Pushcart Prize Anthology. In 1992, the Malahat brought out his short story The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American Composer John Morton, for which he won a National Magazine Award gold. The cultural magazine Border Crossings published his short story Industrial Grandeur in 1993. That same year, a bookstore in Ottawa that hosted Martel for a reading issued a handcrafted, limited edition of some of his stories, Seven Stories.
Martel credits The Canada Council for the Arts for playing a key role in fostering his career, awarding him writing grants in 1991 and 1997. In the Author's Note of his novel Life of Pi, he wrote: “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to that great institution, the Canada Council for the Arts, without whose grant I could not have brought together [Life of Pi]…. If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.”
In 1993, Knopf Canada published a collection of four of Martel's short stories: The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, the eponymous story, as well as The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto..., Manners of Dying, and The Vita Aeterna Mirror Company. On first publication, the collection appeared in Canada, Quebec, the U.K., France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany.
Martel's second novel Life of Pi, was published on September 11, 2001 and was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2002, among other prizes, and became a bestseller in many countries, including spending 61 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller List. Martel had been in New York the previous day, leaving on the evening of the 10th for Toronto to make the publication of his novel the next morning. He was inspired in part to write a story about sharing a lifeboat with a wild animal after reading a review of the novella Max and the Cats by Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar in The New York Times Book Review. Martel initially received some criticism from Brazilian press for failing to consult with Scliar. Martel pointed out that he could not have stolen from a work he had not at the time read, and he willingly acknowledged being influenced by the New York Times review of Scliar's work and thanked him in the Author's Note of Life of Pi. 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 the Samuel Fischer Visiting Professor at the Institute of Comparative Literature, Freie Universität Berlin in 2002, where he taught a course titled "The Animal in Literature". He then spent a year in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, from September 2003 as the Saskatoon 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.
Beatrice and Virgil, his third novel, came out in 2010. The work is an allegorical take on the Holocaust, attempting to approach this period not through the lens of historical witness, but through imaginative synthesis. The main characters in the story are a writer, a taxidermist, and two stuffed animals: a red howler monkey and a donkey.
From 2007 to 2011, Martel ran a guerrilla book club with the then Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, sending the Prime Minister a book every two weeks for four years, a total of more than a hundred novels, plays, poetry collections, graphic novels and children's books. Each gift was accompanied by a letter explaining the worth of the book. The point was to make clear to Stephen Harper that reading literature is not only a pleasure, but an essential way of knowing the world and understanding life. For all his efforts, Martel received not a single reply from the Prime Minister. The letters were published as a book in 2012, 101 Letters to a Prime Minister. 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.
His fourth novel, The High Mountains of Portugal, was published on February 2, 2016. It tells of three characters in Portugal in three different time periods, who cope with love and loss each in their own way. It made The New York Times Bestseller list within the first month of its release.
- Seven Stories (1993)
- The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (Collection of four short stories, including the eponymous story of the collection) (1993)
- Self (1996)
- Life of Pi (2001)
- We Ate the Children Last (Short story) (2004)
- Beatrice and Virgil (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)
- The High Mountains of Portugal (2016)
Awards and accolades
The High Mountains of Portugal
Beatrice and Virgil
- New York Times Bestseller 2010
- Boston Globe Bestseller
- L.A. Times Bestseller
- Minneapolis Star Tribune Bestseller
- 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
Life of Pi
- Winner of the 2001 Man Booker Prize for Fiction
- New York Times Bestseller List 2002-03 (61 weeks)
- Winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature 2002
- Winner of the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction 2001
- Winner of The Boeke Prize 2003 (South Africa)
- Winner of the Deutscher Bücherpreis 2004
- Winner of the La Presse Prix du Grand Public 2003
- Winner in the Scene It Read It category of the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards 2014
- A Quill & Quire Best Book of 2001
'The Facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios' (short story)
- Winner of the 1991 Journey Prize
- Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee in 2012 and won a number of awards. 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.
- 'We Ate the Children Last' was adapted as an independent film.
- 'Manners of Dying', directed by Jeremy Peter Allen in 2004.
- 'The Facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios'
- Beatrice and Virgil, adapted by Lindsay Cochrane and directed by Sarah Garton Stanley at the Factory Theatre, Toronto in 2013.
- 'The Facts behind the Helsinki Roccamatios'
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.
- Sielkl, Sabine (2003). "The Empathetic Imagination - An Interview with Yann Martel" (PDF). Canadian Literature. University of British Columbia Press (177). Retrieved February 3, 2011.
- "Exclusive Interview - Life of Yann Martel". AbeBooks. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
- Sandall, Simon (January 10, 2009). "Yann Martel author of Life of Pi". readersvoice.com. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
- Dunn, Jennifer (March 1, 2003). "Tigers and Tall Tales". The Oxonian Review. University of Oxford (2.2). Retrieved February 3, 2011.
- "Life of Pi". Man Booker Prize. Retrieved 31 August 2010.
- Kipen, David (October 23, 2002). "Canadian wins Booker Prize / 'Life of Pi' is tale of a boy who floats across the ocean from India". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
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- Wiki List of Bestselling Books. Wikipedia. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
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- Ang Lee wins best director Oscar for Life of Pi. The Guardian online. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- Hiscock, John (December 19, 2012). "Ang Lee, interview: how he filmed the unfilmable for Life of Pi". The Telegraph. Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- Brooks, Xan (February 25, 2013). "Ang Lee wins best director Oscar for Life of Pi". The Guardian. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
- Brooks, Xan (February 5, 2013).Ang Lee wins best director Oscar for Life of Pi. The Guardian. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
- Mychael Danna Wins Best Soundtrack Pscar for Life of Pi. Classic fm online, February 25, 2013. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
- Knopf Canada: The High Mountains of Portugal. Penguin Random House site. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- Charles, Ron (January 21, 2016).Yann Martel’s ‘The High Mountains of Portugal’ is his best since ‘Life of Pi’. The Washington Post, Book World. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- Barber, John. "Martel's post-modern Holocaust allegory fetches $3-million advance", The Globe and Mail, April 6, 2010.
- 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.
- Wyndham, Susan. Books To Watch in 2010, The Sydney Morning Herald, January 9, 2010. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- "Martel protests level of arts funding by sending PM books". Saskatoon Star Phoenix. April 17, 2002. Retrieved November 30, 2009.
- "6 compete for first novel award". Toronto Star. March 28, 1997.
- Marchand, Philip (May 4, 1996). "An unforgettable exploration of a self". Retrieved November 30, 2009.
- Winner of The Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction 2001. QWF Literary Database of Quebec English-Language Authors. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- British Council, Yann Martel Biography. British Council, Literature. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
- 2001-2003 Asian Pacific American Awards for Literature. Cooperative Children's Book Centre, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- Saskatoon Public Library, Collections Connections. Saskatoon Public Library site. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
- Black, Grant (27 May 2011). Alice Kuipers: "A Woman of Style and Substance". Chatelaine Magazine, Canada. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
- Life After Pi. Quill & Quire. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
- Quoterature. Quoterature, Martel entry. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- Google Books, Twenty-first-century Canadian writers
- Émile Martel et Nicole Perron Martel. le-mot-juste-en-anglais.com. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- L’Académie des lettres du Québec. L’Académie des lettres du Québec. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- L’ÎLE, l’Infocentre littéraire des écrivains. L’ÎLE, l’Infocentre littéraire des écrivains. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- Brown, Mick (June 1, 2010). Yann Martel: in search of understanding. The Telegraph. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- Notable Alumni. TCS Ontario. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- "Mann Booker Prize Winner and Author of Life of Pi Yann Martel Returns to Trent on March 31" (Press release). March 28, 2006. Retrieved November 30, 2009.
- British Council Literature: Yann Martel. British Council Literature. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- Nashville Public Library: Yann Martel. Nashville Public Library. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- Canadian Encyclopedia: Yann Martel. Canadian Encyclopedia online. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- Best-Selling Author and Trent Alum Yann Martel Launches New Book. Trent University News. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- Trent Luminary - Yann Martel. Trent University Youtube Channel. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- Yann Martel on why Life of Pi didn't make him a better writer. CBC Books. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
- 2013 Montanan State University, Freshman Convocation and Summer Reading 2013. Montanan State University. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
- The Malahat Review: The 50 Issues Project Issue #84. The Malahat Review. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- The Malahat Review: Brochure. The Malahat Review. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- Encyclopedia.com: Yann Martel. Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- Border Crossings: Issue 47. Border Crossings. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- worldcat.org: Seven Stories. WorldCat libraries. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- Canada Council for the Arts: Yann Martel. Canada Council for the Arts. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- OK Novels: Excerpt, Life of Pi. OK Novels. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- Quill & Quire: Self, A Novel. Quill & Quire. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
- Rule, Matt (August 22, 2013).Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Montana State University Survival Guide. Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Montana State University. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
- "Booker winner in plagiarism row". The Guardian. November 2002. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
- "Autor de 'As Aventuras de Pi' é suspeito de plagiar brasileiro (portuguese)". Folha de S.Paulo. January 2013. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
- Hemminger, Peter (March 13, 2106). The Poseurs Guide to Yann Martel. Calgary Herald. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- Simas, Shed (July 12, 2014). On Life of Pi, Plagiarism and the Media. Shed Simas. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- Life of Pi was defended by Nancy Lee on Canada Reads 2003. CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation): Books. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- Radio-Canada: Le Combat des livres 2004. Canada Reads, Wikipedia. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- Tomas Venclova Is Latest Samuel Fischer Visiting Professor at Freie Universität Berlin. Freie Universität Berlin Presse. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- Writers in Residence at Saskatoon Public Library, 1981 – 2013. Saskatoon Public Library: Collections, Connections. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- ARC Premieres New Work in Europe. The Royal Conservatory, Canada, News Release, October 28, 2004. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- ARC Ensemble: Recordings, Concert Excerpts. ARC Ensemble (Artists of The Royal Conservatory) Recordings. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- Yann Martel Appointed as a Visiting Scholar in English. University of Saskatchewan, College of Arts & Science, NEWS & EVENTS. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
- Will, Joanne (Summer 2008). Yann Martel: Life of Yann. Nuvo Magazine. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
- Lasdun, James (June 5, 2010).Yann Martel's follow-up to Life of Pi is a risky fable about genocide . The Guardian, UK, June 5, 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- Lo Dico, Joy (May 29, 2010).Independent Reviews: Beatrice and Virgil. The Independent, UK, May 29, 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- Ciabattari, Jane (April 10, 2010).NPR Reviews: Beatrice and Virgil. NPR online, April 10, 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- Malla, Pasha (April 9, 2010)."Fiction, or is it?". The Globe & Mail, Canada, April 9, 2010. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- Adams, James (June 9, 2009). The Globe and Mail: Yann Martel hears from Harper('s team). The Globe and Mail. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- Smith, Joanna (February 1, 2011).Yann Martel shuts down Harper book club. The Star online. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- Smith, Joanna (2011-02-01). "Canadian novelist Yann Martel mailed a book to Prime Minister Stephen Harper twice a month for the past four years. But after 100 titles and zero replies, he decided to give up his campaign.". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
- 101 Letters to a Prime Minister: Yann Martel opens up his book club. ipolitics.com. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- "Premier odebrał książki od internautów!". Histmag. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
- Royal Society of Literature, List Current Fellows. Royal Society of Literature, London, UK, 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
- Saskatoon Public Library Announces 2010 Board. Saskatoon Public Library, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, June 2, 2010. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
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- Leadership Saskatoon Public Library, Past Board Meeting Minutes. Saskatoon Public Library, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
- Broida, Mike (February 12, 2016).The New York Times Sunday Book Review: The High Mountains of Portugal. The New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
- Zimmerman, Jean (February 5, 2016).NPR Book Review: Confronting Loss While Scaling 'The High Mountains Of Portugal'. NPR online. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
- New York Times Bestseller List, February 28, 2016: The High Mountains of Portugal. New York Times Bestseller List online. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
- Best Sellers, The New York Times, May 2, 2010. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- Best Sellers, Boston Globe. Boston.com, Off The Shelf, 23 April 2010. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- Best Sellers, Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2010. Retrieve January 14, 2015.
- Local Best Sellers, Star Tribune, May 2, 2010. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
- Macleans Best Sellers. Macleans online, Week of June 14, 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
- 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.
- International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Long List 2012. International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2012. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
- Blau, Rosie (December 3, 2010). FT Fiction Round-up 2010. FT.com, Fiction Round-up 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
- Life of Pi Wins 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. American Booksellers Association, Bookselling This Week. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
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- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Yann Martel Author Bio. Nashville Reads. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
- Manners of Dying at IMDB. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
- Beatrice and Virgil at the Factory Theatre. Factory Theatre, April 12 - May 11, 2013. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
- Exclusive Interview - Life of Yann Martel. Abe Books. Retrieved 2013.
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- Yann Martel Goodreads entry
- Life Of Pi Author's New Book Asks What Happened - audio report by NPR
- Life Of Pi - Official Trailer, YouTube