Kakutani on Martel


Kakutani on Yann Martel’s latest sorry effort

When “Pi” won the Man Booker Prize in 2002, there was considerable talk that the novel’s plot echoed that of a novel by the Brazilian writer Moacyr Scliar titled “Max and the Cats,” which recounted the story of a youth who leaves Nazi Germany and ends up in a small boat with a jaguar on the way to Brazil. Mr. Martel had indirectly acknowledged his debt in an author’s note, in which he thanked Mr. Scliar for “the spark of life,” but while he seems to have borrowed the Brazilian writer’s premise, he turned that idea into a very different and original work of his own.

This time, his borrowings from — or, at best, homage to — Beckett go well beyond a simple premise, and they serve no persuasive end. Rather they are another awkward element in this disappointing and often perverse novel.

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