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Yann Martel      

Novelist, Author of "Life of Pi"

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, Beatrice and Virgil (2010), uses the power of allegory to address the Holocaust. In this extraordinary feat of storytelling, he explores the unexplainable, and the limitations of language in understanding who we are and what we are capable of doing.


Speech Topics

How I Came to Write Life of Pi

Yann Martel discusses the events in his life that lead him to write the celebrated novel.

Beatrice and Virgil, or How and Why We Tell Stories About the Holocaust

In this lecture Yann Martel talks about the Holocaust and its representations, that is, the terms we use and the stories we tell about the key tragedy of the 20th century.

Reading, Who Cares?

For just under four years, Yann Martel sent a novel every two weeks to the Prime Minister of Canada, a man notoriously deaf to the siren call of the arts. In this lecture Martel discusses why he took this course of action and why he thinks it matters if our leaders never read novels, poems or plays.

Why Fiction Matters

Yann Martel discusses the importance of imagining stories in conducting a good real life.

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