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Novelist Yann Martel to read, speak Oct. 20-21

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Canadian writer Yann Martel will read from and discuss his works at two events at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Martel is the author of three books in English, including his most recent novel, “Life of Pi,” for which he earned England’s prestigious 2002 Man Booker Prize.

Both Martel events, scheduled for Oct. 20 and 21 (Monday and Tuesday), are free and open to the public.

In his first event, set for 7:30 p.m. Monday in the auditorium of Smith Memorial Hall, 805 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana, Martel will read from his body of work.

Host sponsors of the reading are the U. of I. Carr Visiting Authors Series, English department and MFA Program in Creative Writing, in conjunction with the Center for Advanced Study/MillerComm Lecture Series and several other campus units.

Martel’s second event is a panel discussion set for 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana.

The panel discussion will focus on “Yann Martel, Life of Pi and the World of Religion.” Participants on the panel, in addition to Martel, are U. of I. religious studies professors Valerie Hoffman, Richard Layton and Rajeshwari Pandharipande. Gary Porton, also of religious studies, will serve as moderator.

The Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) is sponsor of the panel discussion.

“Life of Pi,” published in 2001, is Martel’s second novel and an international best seller. The novel revolves around a young South Asian man who is simultaneously a practicing Hindu, Muslim and Christian, and who finds himself abandoned in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

According to Philip Graham, a professor of English and the chairman of the Carr series, the novel “deals profoundly with the vivifying force of any religion’s storytelling powers, and the healing potential of storytelling in general.”

“It also is an unusual meditation on the nature of animals and the will to survive.”

Martel’s first book, published in 1993, was a short-story collection titled “The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios.” The title story from “Facts” won the 1991 Journey Prize and was included in the 1991-1992 Pushcart Prize anthology.

His novel “Self,” published in 1996, was a finalist for the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award.

Future Carr series talks will feature authors Susan Perabo, March 15 and 16; Tony Hoagland, late February/early March; and Gregory Orr, early April.