Although Yann Martel is now famous around the globe thanks to the success of Life of Pi—which sold 13 million copies—the author remains very accessible. The proof is that he spoke to us for this interview while he was on his way to... the vet’s office!
Yann Martel, you live in Saskatchewan with your four young children who are 6, 4, 2 years, and 8 months old. How do you write with kids around?
I isolate myself! I’ve built a small studio at the back of the garden. And I’m very disciplined. I love working on a novel: doing research, writing and rewriting are a pleasure to me. And I also love my family life! It’s chaotic, it’s noisy… I love it!
How does the father influence the author and vice versa?
They aren’t connected vessels. I’m an author and I’m a father. I had my first at 48 years old. Having four children means having four little Russian novels! Maybe in a few years, I’ll write a story for the kids…
What do the Life of Pi book and movie represent in your life?
A very beautiful moment, especially the book. I loved writing it. The movie directed by Ang Lee arrived later, in 2012. It’s wonderful that so many people have read it, that there are all these readers who write to me about how it touched them… There was a connection, between me and thousands of people from different cultures. We were brought together through this novel.
Do you think that another of your novels will be adapted for the big screen?
I have no idea! Making films is so expensive. When I wrote Life of Pi, I was living off nothing. I went to India three times to write it. I wrote for four and a half years and it probably cost me $50,000. The movie cost $120 million! In Taiwan, 500 people worked on the production. Without mentioning the people in New York and Hollywood, special effects, digital effects, etc. Everyone has to meet at the right moment and it’s so risky. We’ll see if it happens. What I truly love is writing, sharing. Hollywood is just for fun.
Animals are omnipresent in your stories. It’s also the case in your most recent novel, The High Mountains of Portugal, where we find chimpanzees and rhinoceroses. Why?
I use animals because they’re a wonderful narrative vehicle, filled with symbols. There are very useful for my stories.
Do you read other authors?
I have so much admiration for David Mitchell. He is an amazing British author! He explores different voices, different styles… He’s a chameleon!
What kind of mark would you like to leave on the people who read your books?
For them to be a little bit changed by them. For my stories to alter their vision of life a little.