Author of the Man Booker Prize-winning Life of Pi and New York Times bestseller Beatrice and Virgil
Photo credit: Alice Kuipers
About Yann Martel
Yann Martel achieved worldwide acclaim with the publication of his novel Life of Pi, which won the 2002 Man Booker Prize. It was published in 44 countries and became an international bestseller, with over 7 million copies sold. The director Ang Lee adapted the novel to the silver screen in 2012, and the film has been nominated for 11 Academy Awards.
Yann Martel was born in Salamanca, Spain, in 1963. He grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Victoria, British Columbia. Then, when his parents joined the Canadian Foreign Service, Martel found himself living in Costa Rica, Paris, Madrid, and Mexico City. He continued to travel as an adult, spending time in Turkey, Iran, India, Europe, and South America. He studied philosophy at Trent University in Ontario and worked at odd jobs—tree-planter, dishwasher, security guard—before turning to writing. His collection of short stories, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, was published to critical acclaim in 1993 and came out in eight countries. His first novel, Self, was published in 1996 in five countries. In preparation for writing Life of Pi, Martel spent a year in India visiting places of worship and zoos. For Beatrice and Virgil, he visited Yad Vashem in Israel and made three trips to Auschwitz, in addition to reading over 80 books about the Holocaust.
His most recent novel, The High Mountains of Portugal, offers a haunting exploration of great love and great loss. Filled with tenderness, humor, and endless surprise, it takes the reader on a road trip through Portugal in the last century—and through the human soul.
Why Stories Matter More than Facts
Yann Martel discusses the value of fiction and how stories, mere stories, can change the world.
Fiction and the Politician
Yann Martel speaks about his guerrilla book club with the Prime Minister of Canada. For four years, Martel sent him a book every two weeks with a letter explaining why he should read it. What can a Prime Minister or a President gain from reading? Yann Martel tries to answer that question.
Life of Pi—the Writing of, the Making of, the World of
Yann Martel speaks about the writing of the novel for which he is best known.
Praise for Yann Martel
Yann projects a remarkable comfort on stage; not only a philosopher, an interpreter of ideas, he is quick-witted and quite funny. He is a consummate storyteller.— California Lectures
Praise for The High Mountains of Portugal
We’re fortunate to have brilliant writers using their fiction to meditate on a paradox we need urgently to consider – the unbridgeable gap and the unbreakable bond between human and animal, our impossible self-alienation from our world. Karen Joy Fowler’s Booker-shortlisted We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves handled the relationship of ape and human realistically, with a powerful sense of the tragic potential. Martel is happier, more easygoing, and his semi-surreal, semi-absurdist mode is well suited to exploring the paradox. The moral and spiritual implications of his tale have, in the end, a quality of haunting tenderness— The Gaurdian
EXQUISITE AND BEGUILING… The structure of the book embodies its gentle whimsy…. Martel explores the nature of grief in a manner that is delicate, subtle and unexpected… Martel's work is a bit like the ocean on a nice day. The surface of his prose presents a calm and glistening exterior, allowing gentle waves to tickle your toes and often make you laugh. But there is a lot going on beneath the surface. The High Mountains of Portugal is a delightful and enlivening experience. Its very strangeness makes the world feel more comfortable.— The Sydney Morning Herald
I took away indelible images from High Mountains, enchanting and disturbing at the same time: the motorcar hitting obstacle after obstacle as it gradually, comically falls to pieces (as does its driver), or the ape as he swings his way across the rooftops of a Portuguese village. As whimsical as Martel's magic realism can be, grief informs every step of the book's three journeys. In the course of the novel we burrow ever further into the heart of an ape, pure and threatening at once, our precursor, ourselves. You must change your life.— NPR
Martel’s writing has never been more charming, a rich mixture of sweetness that’s not cloying and tragedy that’s not melodramatic.— The Washington Post
Praise for Beatrice and Virgil
Dark but divine…This novel might just be a masterpiece about the Holocaust…Martel brilliantly guides the reader from the too-sunny beginning into the terrifying darkness of the old man's shop and Europe's past. Everything comes into focus by the end, leaving the reader startled, astonished, and moved.— USA Today
… a slim but potent exploration of the nature of survival in the face of evil…Beatrice and Virgil is a chilling addition to the literature about the horrors most of us cannot imagine, and will stir its readers to think about the depths of depravity to which humanity can sink and the amplitude of our capacity to survive.— The Huffington Post
Books by Yann Martel
Media About Yann Martel
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- Yann Martel travels from Saskatoon, Canada
The High Mountains of Portugal
"Gleefully bizarre, genuinely thrilling and entirely heartbreaking… While The High Mountains of Portugal is an exuberantly narrative novel, it is even more so a contemplative, philosophical one… The book’s prose [reminds] us of how subtle and elegant a craftsman Martel is…It is a testament to the book's ambition, and Martel's novelistic abilities, that this evolution seeks to better the reader while also denying him or her any comprehensive sense of resolution – it refuses to conflate maturity with certitude, and in a sense insists on ambiguity"- The Globe and Mail