Yann Martel (born 25 June 1963) is a Canadian author best known for the Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi, an 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 best-selling lists. It was adapted for a film directed by Ang Lee, garnering four Oscars including Best Director and winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.
Martel in 2007
|Born||25 June 1963|
|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|
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 Canada's Prime Minister 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.
Martel was born in Salamanca, Spain in 1963 to French-Canadians Nicole Perron and Émile Martel who were studying at the University of Salamanca. His mother was enrolled in Hispanic studies while his father was working on a PhD on Spanish writer Miguel de Unamuno. The family moved to Coimbra, Portugal soon after his birth, then to Madrid, Spain, then to Fairbanks, Alaska, and finally to Victoria, British Columbia; his father taught at the Universities of Alaska and Victoria. His parents joined the Canadian foreign service, and he was raised in San José, Costa Rica, Paris, France, and Madrid, Spain, with stints in Ottawa, Ontario in between postings. Martel completed his final two years of high school at Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario, and he completed an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.
Martel worked at odd jobs as an adult, including parking lot attendant in Ottawa, dishwasher in a tree-planting camp in northern Ontario, and security guard at the Canadian embassy in Paris. He also travelled through Mexico, South America, Iran, Turkey, and India. He started writing while he was at university, writing plays and short stories that were "blighted by immaturity and dreadful", as he describes them.
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 UK, France, Netherlands, Italy, and Germany.
Martel's second novel Life of Pi, was published on 11 September 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, Free University of 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 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. 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; this, however, 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 2 February 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 title story) (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 accoladesEdit
The High Mountains of PortugalEdit
Beatrice and VirgilEdit
- New York Times Bestseller 2010
- Boston Globe Bestseller
- L.A. Times Bestseller
- Minneapolis Star Tribune Bestseller
- National No. 1 Bestseller in Maclean's
- No. 1 Bestseller in The Toronto Star
- Longlisted for The 2012 International Dublin Literary Award
- Financial Times 2010 Fiction of the Year
Life of PiEdit
- Winner of the 2002 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 Deutscher Bücherpreis List of Winners|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)Edit
- 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.
- His short story We Ate the Children Last was adapted as an independent film by Andrew Cividino.
- 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'
- Life of Pi, adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti and directed by Max Webster at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. This adaptation uses puppets manned by the cast to represent the animals from the story. It ran from 28 June to 20 July 2019.
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.
His writing influences include Dante Alighieri, Franz Kafka, Joseph Conrad, Nikolai Gogol, Sinclair Lewis, Moacyr Scliar, Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy, and Alphonse Daudet. J.M. Coetzee, Knut Hamsun,
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- Knopf Canada: The High Mountains of Portugal. Penguin Random House site. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Charles, Ron (21 January 2016).Yann Martel's 'The High Mountains of Portugal' is his best since 'Life of Pi'. The Washington Post, Book World. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Barber, John. "Martel's post-modern Holocaust allegory fetches $3-million advance", The Globe and Mail, 6 April 2010.
- Woog, Adam. 'Beatrice and Virgil': Yann Martel's haunting fable of humans, animals and violence, The Seattle Times, 17 April 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
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- "6 compete for first novel award". Toronto Star. 28 March 1997.
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- Winner of The Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction 2001. QWF Literary Database of Quebec English-Language Authors. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
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- 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 25 March 2016.
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- Notable Alumni. TCS Ontario. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- "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.
- British Council Literature: Yann Martel. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
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- Canadian Encyclopedia: Yann Martel. Canadian Encyclopedia online. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Best-Selling Author and Trent Alum Yann Martel Launches New Book. Trent University News. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Trent Luminary – Yann Martel. Trent University Youtube Channel. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Yann Martel on why Life of Pi didn't make him a better writer. CBC Books. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- 2013 Montanan State University, Freshman Convocation and Summer Reading 2013. Montanan State University. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- The 50 Issues Project, Issue #84. The Malahat Review. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- "Brochure". The Malahat Review. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
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- Border Crossings: Issue 47. Border Crossings. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- worldcat.org: Seven Stories. WorldCat libraries. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
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- OK Novels: Excerpt, Life of Pi. OK Novels. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
- Quill & Quire: Self, A Novel. Quill & Quire. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
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- "Booker winner in plagiarism row". The Guardian. November 2002. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
- "Autor de 'As Aventuras de Pi' é suspeito de plagiar brasileiro (portuguese)". Folha de S.Paulo. January 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- Hemminger, Peter (13 March, 2106). The Poseurs Guide to Yann Martel. Calgary Herald. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Simas, Shed (12 July 2014). On Life of Pi, Plagiarism and the Media. Shed Simas. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Life of Pi was defended by Nancy Lee on Canada Reads 2003. CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation): Books. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- Tomas Venclova Is Latest Samuel Fischer Visiting Professor at Freie Universität Berlin. Freie Universität Berlin Presse. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- Writers in Residence at Saskatoon Public Library, 1981–2013 Archived 8 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Saskatoon Public Library: Collections, Connections. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- ARC Premieres New Work in Europe. The Royal Conservatory, Canada, News Release, 28 October 2004. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- ARC Ensemble: Recordings, Concert Excerpts. ARC Ensemble (Artists of The Royal Conservatory) Recordings. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- Yann Martel Appointed as a Visiting Scholar in English. University of Saskatchewan, College of Arts & Science, News & Events. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
- Will, Joanne (Summer 2008). Yann Martel: Life of Yann. Nuvo Magazine. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
- Lasdun, James (5 June 2010). Yann Martel's follow-up to Life of Pi is a risky fable about genocide . The Guardian, UK, 5 June 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Lo Dico, Joy (29 May 2010). Independent Reviews: Beatrice and Virgil. The Independent, UK, 29 May 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
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- Malla, Pasha (9 April 2010)."Fiction, or is it?". The Globe & Mail, Canada, 9 April 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
- Adams, James (9 June 2009). The Globe and Mail: Yann Martel hears from Harper('s team). The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Smith, Joanna (1 February 2011).Yann Martel shuts down Harper book club. The Star online. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Smith, Joanna (1 February 2011). "Canadian novelist Yann Martel mailed a book to Prime Minister Stephen Harper twice a month for the past four years". Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
- 101 Letters to a Prime Minister: Yann Martel opens up his book club. ipolitics.com. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- "Premier odebrał książki od internautów!". Histmag. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
- Royal Society of Literature, List Current Fellows. Royal Society of Literature, London, UK, 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
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- Wagner, Vit (7 April 2010). "Life of Pi writer Yann Martel returns with new book". Toronto Star, Entertainment / Books, 7 April 2010. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
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- Scott, Catherine (25 February 2013). 'Life of Pi' author to speak at freshman convocation. Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Montana State University Survival Guide. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
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- Barber, John (14 January 2013). "Life after Pi: How Yann Martel's moved on from his book and Oscar-worthy film". The Globe & Mail online. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
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