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Monday, November 26, 2012

The First Visual Incarnation Of ‘Life of Pi’

“I threw the mako towards the stern” is one of 40 interior illustrations that Tomislav Torjanac painted for “Life of Pi.” (

Director Ang Lee’s film “Life of Pi” opened this past weekend. His 3-D adaptation of the best-selling Yann Martel novel has been praised for its beauty.

“There are images in ‘Life of Pi’ that are so beautiful, so surprising, so right that I hesitate to describe them,” A.O. Scott wrote in the New York Times.

But this is not the first time that Life of Pi has been brought to visual life.

In 2005, an illustrated edition was being planned, and an international competition was held to find someone to bring Martel’s creatures to life. The result was the 2007 book “Life of Pi (Illustrated Edition).”

We spoke to Yann Martel, and his illustrator Tomislav Torjanac in November of 2007. Today we revisit that conversation.

Interview Highlights

Tomislav Torjanac on why he loved the book:

“The introspective quality of it. The fact that it allows for multiple interpretations of its plot. And the message it conveys. I couldn’t get it out of my head for months.”

Yann Martel on Torjanac’s illustrations from the perspective of Pi:

“Richard Parker had risen and emerged” is among the illustrations for “Life of Pi” by Tomislav Torjanac.

“That’s what I loved about Tomislav’s conceit, was this idea that the reader becomes Pi so all that you see is his hands and his feet, just as if there were no mirrors, that’s all that we see of ourselves.”

Tomislav Torjanac on clues in his illustrations:

“If you look at the one where the quote says ‘As the ship was worked out of the dock,’ if you look at the clouds, the clouds are actually a map, a route from India to Canada…If you take a look at the seagull there, it presents Pi’s route.”

Yann Martel on animal violence in the book:

“People often make much about the animal violence, but they forget that later on in the novel, a women gets murdered and is beheaded. Hardly anyone mentions that. I think it’s because we’re quite inert to human violence, whereas the suffering of animals we perceive as being the suffering of innocents, which is of course not at all true. When the zebra for example dies, at no point does it say to itself – would it say to itself – ‘this is unfair,’ because notions of justice don’t enter into the animal world.”

Watch a trailer for the new film “Life of Pi”:

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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