Yann Martel, Life of Pi (Excerpt)
As an adult, Pi describes his experience as the only survivor of a shipwreck. When he was fifteen his family wanted to emigrate from their home in India to Canada. During the passage to Canada the ship sank. With the exception of Pi and a few animals from a zoo, which were also aboard the ship, all the passengers drowned.
I slept all morning. I was roused by anxiety. That tide of food, water and rest that flowed through my weakened system, bringing me a new lease on life, also brought me the strength to see how desperate my situation was. I awoke to the reality of Richard Parker. There was a tiger in the lifeboat. I could hardly believe it, yet I knew I had to.
And I had to safe myself. I considered jumping overboard and swimming away, but my body refused to move. I was hundreds of miles from landfall, if not over a thousand miles. l couldn't swim such a distance, even with a lifebuoy. What would I eat? What would I drink? How would l keep the sharks away? How would I keep warm? How would I know which way to go? There was not a shadow of doubt about the matter: to
to leave the lifeboat meant certain death. But what was staying aboard? He would come at me like a typical cat. without a sound. Before I knew it he would seize the back of my neck or my throat and I would be pierced by fang-holes. I wouldn't be able to speak. The lifeblood would flow out of me unmarked by a final utterance. Or he would kill me by clubbing me with one of his great paws, breaking my neck.
"I'm going to die," I blubbered through quivering lips.
Oncoming death is terrible enough, but worse still is oncoming death with time to spare, time in which all the happiness that was yours and all the happiness that might have been becomes clear to you. You see with utter lucidity all that you are losing. The sight brings on an oppressive sadness that no car about to hit you or warter about to
drown you can match. The feeling is truly unbearable. The words Father, Mother, Ravi, India, Winnipeg struck me with searing poignancy.
I was giving up. I would have given up - if a voice hadn't made itself heard in
my heart. The voice said, "I will not die. I refuse it. I will make it through this nightmare. I will beat the odds, as great as they are. I have survived so far, miraculosly. Now I will turn
miracle into routine. The amazing will be seen every day. I will put
in all the hard work necessary. Yes, so long as God is with me, I will not die. Amen." My face set to a grim and determined expression. I speak in all modesty as I say this, but I discovered at that moment that I have a fierce will to live. It's not something evident, in my experience. Some of us give up on life with only a resigned sigh. Others fight a little, then lose hope.
Others fight a little, then lose hope. Still others -and I am one of those- never give up. We fight and fight and fight. We fight no matter the cost of battle, the losses we take, the improbability of success. We fight to the very end. It's not a question of courage. It's something constitutional, an inability to let go. It may be nothing more than life-hungry stupidity.
Richard Parker started growling that very instant, as if he had been waiting for me to become a worthy opponent. My chest became tight with fear.
"Quick, man, quick," I wheezed. I had to organize my survival. Not a second to waste. I needed shelter and right away. […]
I built a raft.
1 roused - woken up
2 bringing me a new lease on life - here: making me more energetic and active than before
3/4 Richard Parker - name of the tiger on board
12 fang - Fangzhan
14to club - to hit
18 to see with utter lucidity - to see very clearly
20Ravi - name of Pi's brother
21Winnipeg - the town in Canada that Pi's family wanted to emigrate to
21with searing poignancy - with extreme sadness
23/24to beat the odds - to overcome all difficulties although the chances are not good
Aus: Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2001).
Copyright © Yann Martel.