Whether “Life Of PI” Must Be A Decryption Book

Life of Pi


Before reading this content, I want to say that many things in the content were summarized from online source and the rest is personal opinion.

Like all readers, after reading it, I felt grieved. One scholar wrote that there wre two states of emotions when someone reads a novel. The first state of emotion is that we seem to feel lively in the story with its details and developments. And the second state of emotion is when we share or criticize the author's life view.

The story of the boy Pi who survived on the lifeboat with the animals has many fictional details. From Pi taming a Bengal tiger to meeting a blind drifting in the sea, to landing on a strange island with sea foxes and man-eating trees. To be able to live in this story and with its fictional details, the reader must "put aside his/her doubts".

This concept in English represented for "suspension of disbelief", was coined by Coleridge in the early 19th century, and it was also applied to films of the fantasy genre. Note here that we are only "putting aside", so that when we close the book, or leave the cinema, we will return to reality with our doubts: We think of the author's life view. -Yann Martel, and started arguing with it.

If possible, I would give this novel another title, which is “Code of The Yann Martel ”. Indeed, the novel contains many details for the reader to discover. Some of the key details are summarized below.

“Pi, Cargo ship”, The painting of Diane Young


God gave Pi a chance to think carefully

Life of Pi

Although the author considers Pi to be Hindu, Christian, and Muslim, in this novel there is a very peculiar metaphor of Jewish theology.

The Japanese cargo ship that was sunk in the story called Tsimtsum. This is not a Japanese name , but a key concept in Kabbalah Judaism. It was put forward in the 16th century by Isaac Luria to explain the relationship between God and the human world.

The age-old question has always been: if the benevolent God has infinite power, light, and presence, where does the finite, suffering, and mundane world of man come from?

According to Isaac Luria, in order to create this mundane world, God was miniature himself, limiting his infinite light source, to create an empty space in the center. This void is where God then created the mundane world for man. And God's act of zooming out himself, in Hebrew, was called Tsimtsum. Through Tsimtsum, God gave man a world of his own to develop and realize, with all his wrath. God has hidden himself but still existed in that world of man. And according to Kaballah Judaism, man's task was to perceive and restore God's presence.

Was the sinking of the Tsimtsum ship God's will for Pi to become self-aware of her life and faith? An interesting detail is that at the beginning of the story, Pi says he did a thesis on the theological theory of Isaac Luria!


Faith in need of restoration of Pi

Life of Pi

 According to Kabbalah Judaism, after Tsimtsum, God in turn created five worlds, each of which interacts with God's infinite power to a different degree. These five worlds are usually represented by five concentric circles, with the mundane world of man, located in the innermost, but still illuminated by God by a ray of light shining from the outside to the center. Readers of the story will see quite a few times that Pi describes herself in the middle of such circles.

After Tsimtsum, God created five worlds. The world of man was the central circle, farthest from God, but illuminated by a ray of light from the outside.

I especially like the part where Pi enjoys lightning in the middle of a stormy ocean. It is reminiscent of a description by Isaac Luria that after Tsimtsum, God shone his miraculous light into the jugs. But the jugs were so fragile that they crumbled, causing the light to be scattered everywhere. The devout Jew considered restoring God's light is their purpose of living. Was Pi's fragile faith before the stormy sea crossing just like the jugs, once broken and had to be reassembled from scratch?


About the name of Pi

Life of Pi

 When asked why chose the name Pi? Yann Martel replied, "I choose the name Pi because it is a number that cannot be interpreted. In contrast, scientists use this inexplicable number to explain the order of the universe. To me, religions are almost like that, though inexplicable, they help us understand the universe.” It's a cryptic choice, and it's all the more interesting when Pi is closely related to circles. Is that a reminiscent of Isaac Luria's model?

But perhaps we should be more concerned with Pi's cult name, Piscine Molitor. Piscine sounds like pissing - "pee", which is well explained. But Piscine originally means swimming pool, is an image of an amorphous substance (water) surrounded by a fixed boundary (pool). Then when that swimming pool drifted in the middle of the ocean: finite water in the vast water, in it but still separate, still dry and thirsty in the midst of that immensity. Do you think this image has anything to do with the concept Tsimtsum mentioned above?


About the name Richard Parker

Life of Pi

The most mentioned proper noun in Pi's Life is probably Richard Parker - the name of the tiger that accompanied Pi on the whole voyage, a close friend who is also Pi's worry. This name seems to be random but is associated with strange coincidences in the history of shipwrecks. In 1838, Edgar Allan Poe published her only novel about a shipwreck with four people drifting in the sea. One of them was named Richard Parker. This person asks people to draw lots to see who will be eaten by others to survive; and the one being eaten was him.

Oddly enough, more than forty years later, in 1884, there was an actual shipwreck. On the lifeboat there were three adult sailors and young Richard Parker. In his hunger, Richard Parker was eaten by three other sailors.

The point worth mentioning in the terrible shipwreck event of 1884 is the views of those involved. Among sailors, there is still a concept called "Custom of the Sea".  According to this custom, when  drifting in the sea at sea, it is acceptable for sailors to kill and cannibals to survive. During the trial of the sailors who killed Richard Parker, the victim's brother himself went to shake the hands of the criminals. However, the trial ultimately convicted the sailors of murder, it still reflected the debate about the limit between instinct and social constraints, between the need for survival and responsibility to fellow human beings.

So what did Yann Martel mean when he chose the name Richard Parker for the tiger? Will Richard Parker which was the embodiment of the beautiful story of life, nature, and God, be eaten by his naked fellow - not Pi, but the second story?

Pi has a voyage of several hundred days on the ocean. On the boat, there were Pi and the animals of the zoo. A struggle for survival took place on the boat. Some died, some survived, but in the end, the ship sank. It all took place in a strange atmosphere – “only God understands”. When the lifeguards came to ask, Pi told this story but no one believed it. So Pi had to tell a second version for humans to believe.

In this version, each animal was changed to a human. This version was brutal (for human). The rescuers, in turn, didn't want to believe this version because it was so horrible, so naked. And Pi said, it was up to you. And listeners chose version 1, which was a myth, but there was a God. As author Yann Martel, in several interviews, has said: “Life is a story… You can choose your story… And the story with God is the better story.”

As for me, I believe in the second story - the story of people "killing" each other on the boat - although it is terrible. The first time I read this paragraph, I only dared to skim through until the end because it was too shocking. But then I still have to read it again, to think whether it really is full of bad things or not? And I see still good things in it, there is care from man to man, there is an unequal battle, there is a mother's sacrifice for her child, and there is a worthy end of the bad guy.

Life of Pi

I still see in this second story the human perception of what is the boundary between survival and humanity, that when people let their instincts overcome that limit of humanity, they also see themselves no more desire to live.

Above is what I summed up and thought after reading Life of Pi. One reviewer commented that Yann Martel used deconstructionism in this novel. The concept of deconstructionism is quite common in architecture, and is translated as "deconstruction". Here, it seems that Yann Martel has intentionally told two stories, with all the opposing concepts such as faith/atheism, man/God, instinct/social norms, reality/perception... are placed side by side, and then let the reader, with his or her own view of life, dissect, compare, and draw his own reflections. If that is the case, it is impossible to accurately translate or adapt Yann Martel's story.

So in the end, what is the "And so it goes with God" sentence that Pi said when the rescuers unanimously chose to believe the "translatable" version 1? To be:

- And God thinks so too?

- And is that according to God's will?

Just imitate Yann Martel, "And you can choose your own, as long as there's God".



Life of Pi - Do You Believe In God ?