Is Life of Pi a true story?

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Life of Pi is not a true story, despite Martel's tongue-in-cheek author's note saying it was based on a true story he heard while in India. There are aspects of real history woven into the narrative, but the novel is an imaginative and fictive work of art.

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Life of Pi is not a true story but a work of fiction arising from the imagination of the writer. However, joining a long literary tradition of claiming that a fictional tale is real, especially a fantastic travel narrative, Martel's fictionalized and tongue-in-cheek author's note at the end claims the novel is based on fact. In the note, Martel says he heard the story while backpacking in India, but this claim is as much a fiction as the novel itself, just as is the structuring of the novel as memoir. This is an attempt to impose some verisimilitude on a fantastic story.

The novel, nevertheless, also bases itself in real history, such as Pi's father's decision to leave the unstable situation in India under Indira Gandhi, an aspect differentiating the novel from the genre of timeless myth or fairytale. Pi's multireligious background also reflects the reality of the place he as a character grew up and the reality of (in some quarters) the growing religious diversity and tolerance of the late twentieth century.

However, the novel itself has been labelled as a work of magical realism, as it blends the fantastic and unlikely with the world of reality: it is truly fiction.

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