Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Yann Martel

Spanish-born Canadian Author of Novel "Life of Pi"

"A house is a compressed territory where our basic needs can be fulfilled close by and safely."

"A germ of religious exaltation, no bigger than a mustard seed."

"A house is not just a territory where our basic needs are met safely and closely."

"A good zoo is a place of carefully worked-out coincidence: exactly where an animal says to us, Stay out!... we say to it, Stay in! with our barriers. Under such conditions of diplomatic peace, all animals are content and we can relax and have a look at each other."

"A number of my fellow religious studies majors- muddled agnostics who didn't know which way was up, who were in the thrall of reason, that fools good for the bright- reminded me of the three toed sloth; and the three toed sloth, such a beautiful example of the miracle of life, reminded me of God."

"A great literary work can be completely, completely unpredictable. Which can sometimes make them very hard to read, but it gives them a great originality."

"A movie is so visually powerful, so overwhelming, that it tends to crowd out how you might have imagined things."

"A plain is what a mountain aims to be: the closest you can come to being in outer space while yet having your feet on this planet."

"A work of art works because it is true, not because it is real."

"A story is a wedding in which we listeners are the groom watching the bride coming up the aisle. It is together, in an act of imaginary consummation, that the story is born. This act wholly involves us, as any marriage would, and just as no marriage is exactly the same as another, so each of us interprets a story differently, feels for it differently."

"a wandering corpse, a bundle of mindless functions,"

"A very long sentence, anchored in solid nouns, with countless subordinate clauses, scores of adjectives and adverbs, and bold conjunctions that launched the sentence in a new direction--besides unexpected interludes--has finally, with a surprisingly quiet full stop, come to an end."

"a problem of the soul, a heaviness of the heart, a darkness of the conscience"

"Above all, do not lose hope."

"A zoo is a cultural institution. Like a public library, like a museum, it is at the service of popular education and science. And by that token, not much of a money-making venture for the Greater Good and the Greater Profit are not compatible aims."

"All contains traces of the divine."

"Afterwards, when it's all over, you meet God. What do you say to God?"

"All of life is an act of letting go but what hurts the most is not to say goodbye taking a moment."

"All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in a strange, sometimes inexplicable ways."

"And I knew what I wanted: I would settle in a hill station and write my novel. I had visions of myself at a table on a large veranda, my notes spread out in front of me next to a steaming cup of tea. Green hills heavy with mists would lie at my feet and the shrill cries of monkeys would fill my ears. The weather would be just tight, requiring a light sweater mornings and evenings, and something short-sleeved midday. Thus set up, pen in hand, for the sake of greater truth, I would turn Portugal into a fiction. That's what fiction is about, isn't it, the selective transforming the reality? The twisting of it to bring out its essence? What need did I have to go to Portugal?"

"And so, in that Greek letter that looks like a shack with a corrugated tin roof, in that elusive, irrational number with which scientists try to understand the universe, I found refuge."

"An epic simplicity."

"And in between the two, in between the sky and the sea, were all the winds. And there were all the nights and all the moons. To be a castaway is to be a point perpetually at the centre of a circle. However much things may appear to change?the sea may shift from whisper to rage, the sky might go from fresh blue to blinding white to darkest black?the geometry never changes. Your gaze is always a radius. The circumference is ever great. In fact, the circles multiply. To be a castaway is to be caught in a harrowing ballet of circles."

"An adult female orangutan cannot defeat an adult male spotted hyena. That is the plain empirical truth. Let it become known among zoologists. Had Orange Juice been a male, had she loomed as large on the scales as she did in my heart, it might have been another matter. But portly and overfed though she was from living in the comfort of a zoo, even so she tipped the scales at barely 110 pounds. Female orangutans are half the size of males. But it is not simply a question of weight and brute strength. Orange Juice was far from defenseless. What it comes down to is attitude and knowledge. What does a fruit eater know about killing? Where would it learn where to bite, how hard, for how long? An orangutan may be taller, may have very strong and agile arms and long canines, but if it does not know how to use these as weapons, they are of little use. The hyena, with only its jaws, will overcome the ape because it knows what it wants and how to get it."

"And I survived because I made a point of forgetting."

"And that's nothing. There are always those who undertake to defend God, as if the Ultimate Reality, existence maintenance framework have been weak and helpless. These people go out with a leprosy distorted woman who begs for a few pennies, they go in rags, in addition to street living children, and they think. Well, that's how it is, But if you noticed something against God's little injury was the quite another matter. Redness of the cheeks, chest gasp, sputter angry words. Amazing degree of outrage. Their dedication is awesome. These people do not realize that God should be protected from the inside, not the outside. They should direct their anger to themselves. Because the evil manifests the inner evil, who was released. The main battlefield for good is not in the public arena area, but every small clearing of the heart. Meanwhile, the fate of widows and homeless children are very heavy, so the rather hypocritical to be so eager to protect them rather than God."

"And so, when she first heard of Hare Krishnas, she didn?t hear right. She heard Hairless Christians, and that is what they were to her for many years. When I corrected her, I told her that in fact she was not so wrong; that Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims."

"And that wasn't the end of it. There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless. These people walk by a widow deformed by leprosy begging for a few praise, walk by children dressed in rags living in the street, and they think, 'Business as usual.' But if they perceive a slight against God, it is a different story. Their faces go red, their chests heave mightily, they sputter angry words. The degree of their indignation is astonishing. Their resolve is frightening. These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena, but the small clearing of each heart. Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defense, not God's, that the self-righteous should rush."

"And with their one god Muslims are always causing troubles and provoking riots. The proof of how bad Islam is, is how uncivilized Muslims are,: pronounced the pandit."

"And what a story. The first thing that drew me in was disbelief. What? Humanity sins but it's God's Son who pays the price? I tried to imagine Father saying to me, 'Piscine, a lion slipped into the llama pen today and killed two llamas. Yesterday another one killed a black buck. Last week two of them ate a camel. The situation has become intolerable. Something must be done. I have decided that the only way the lions can atone for their sins is if I feed them you.' ... 'Yes, Father, that would be the right and logical thing to do. Give me a moment to wash up'. What a downright weird story. What a peculiar psychology."

"Animals are also poisoned. And there are indecencies"

"And then he has nothing to do. After three weeks-or is it a lifetime?-of ceaseless activity, he has nothing to do. A very long sentence, anchored in solid nouns, with countless subordinate clauses, scores of adjectives and adverbs, and bold conjunctions that launched the sentence in a new direction-besides unexpected interludes-has finally, with a surprisingly quiet full stop, come to an end. For an hour or so, sitting outside on the landing at the top of the stairs, nursing a coffee, tired, a little relieved, a little worried, he contemplates that full stop. What will the next sentence bring?"

"And, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story."

"And then there was the woman of the Sari undressing a lion. She turned like a yoyo because the deadly end she pulled the deadly shame but then before... She was not hurt; numerous men rushed excited to help."

"Animals don't escape from somewhere but from something."

"Animals fight, it is with the intent to kill and with the understanding that they may be killed."

"Animals in the wild lead lives of compulsion and necessity within an unforgiving social hierarchy in an environment where the supply of fear is high and the supply of food low and where territory must constantly be defended and parasites forever endured. What"

"Any writer will be happy and good only if they know what they're doing and why they're doing it."

"Art is the suitcase of history, carrying the essentials. Art is the life buoy of history. Art is seed, art is memory, art is vaccine."

"Another favorite position of his was sitting with his back to me, his rear half resting on the floor of the boat and his front half on the bench, his face buried into the stern, paws right next to his head, looking as if we were playing hide-and-seek and he were the one counting. In this position he tended to lie very still, with only the occasional twitching of his ears to indicate that he is not necessarily sleeping."

"As a public library, or museum, zoo aims to serve the field of popular education and science."

"Art is rooted in joy."

"Art is water, and just as humans are always close to water, for reasons of necessity (to drink, to wash, to flush away, to grow) as well as for reasons of pleasure (to play in, to swim in, to relax in front of, to sail upon, to suck on frozen, colored and sweetened), so humans must always be close to art in all its incarnations, from the frivolous to the essential. Otherwise we dry up."

"As for fame, fame felt like nothing. Fame was not a sensation like love or hunger or loneliness, welling from within and invisible to the outside eye. It was rather entirely external, coming from the minds of others. It existed in the way people looked at him or behaved towards him. In that, being famous was no different from being gay, or Jewish, or from a visible minority: you are who you are, and then people project onto you some notion they have."

"As for hearing, the sloth is not so much deaf as uninterested in sound."

"At last I managed to haul it aboard. It was over three feet long. The bucket was useless. It would fit the dorado like a hat."

"At moments of wonder, it is easy to avoid small thinking, to entertain thoughts that span the universe, that capture both thunder and tinkle, thick and thin, the near and the far."

"Bapu Ghandi said, All religions are true. I just want to love God, I blurted out, and looked down, red in the face. My embarrassment was contagious. No one said anything. It happened that we were not far from the statue of Gandhi on the esplanade. Stick in hand, an impish smile on his lips, a twinkle in his eyes, the Mahatma walked. I fancy that he heard our conversation, but that he paid even greater attention to my heart, Father cleared his throat and said in a half-voice, I suppose that's what we're all trying to do - love God."

"Because of the gnawing feeling that no matter how hard they work their efforts will yield nothing, that what they build up in one year will be torn down in one day by others."

"Atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith, and every word they speak speaks of faith. Like me, they go as far as the legs of reason will carry them -- and then they leap."