Harper's Bazaar March 2016 - Page 188

HOT LIST Bazaar Y ann Martel took the world by storm when his wonderful novel, “It’s a lovely country—because it’s small, there’s Life of Pi, won the Man Booker Prize in 2002. This tale, in which a certain unity about it. There are no big a boy, Pi Patel, is stranded on a lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an regional differences or dialects, but it’s very orangutan, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, found multicultural because, although they once had a global audience thanks to the delicate balancing act between a great empire, they decolonised much more faith and reason: At its end, the reader must decide what is true and what is successfully than many other countries. But not. A confession: I was one of the panel, chaired by the late professor Lisa it’s a place that feels on the edge of Europe; Jardine, to award that prize; coming across this unexpected treasure in our piles when I first went to Lisbon, before the country of books was an extraordinary moment. But we were not alone in our love for got a lot of money from the EU, it really felt Martel. In the wake of the accolade, this hitherto little-known author found like a provincial town.” the kind of success that most writers can only dream of: His novel sold nearly And he was always fascinated by the Alto seven million copies worldwide, and Ang Trás-os-Montes—not least because Lee’s vivid, captivating film adaptation they’re not especially high. The High grossed more than $609 million and won Mountains of Portugal feels provincial in four Academy Awards. the best way: Absolutely located in a Now, Martel and I are speaking about particular place. One of the delights of his latest novel, The High Mountains of the novel is its depiction of an apparently Portugal, composed of three desolate, somewhat scrubby landscape interconnected stories set in 1904, 1939, that is still, somehow, full of wonder. and 1989; their links only become truly “Why would you call it that, when there apparent at the very end of the book. Each aren’t any real mountains?” Martel of the sections’ protagonists—a young ponders aloud. It’s not a puzzle the book The author Yann Martel continues his man travelling in one of his country’s first attempts to solve; it rests in the reader’s motor cars in search of a mysterious statue; mind, as it does in Martel’s. But he has search for the meaning of life in a a local pathologist who finds himself at the always been a novelist who leaves characteristically ambiguous new novel centreofamurdermystery;andaCanadian questions open rather than offering senator who makes a dramatic, peculiar simple answers. He’s clearly fascinated By Erica Wagner change in his life when he adopts a by primates—there’s that orangutan in chimpanzee—is on a quest. What sort of Life of Pi, and in his last novel, Beatrice quest? To discover the truth about and Virgil, a howler monkey and a themselves, and the truth of life, it would donkey flee unspeakable horrors, their be fair to say. All three are set in a region of fate a complex allegory of the Holocaust. Portugal known as AltoTrás-os-Montes—the heights behind the Martel explains what draws him to the apes—particularly mountains. As wit