Self

Description

329 pages
$28.95
ISBN 0-394-28160-8
DDC C813'.54

Author

Year

1996

Contributor

Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is an associate editor of the Canadian Book Review
Annual.

Review

The subject of Yann Martel’s extraordinary fictional autobiography
experiences life as a male until his 18th birthday, when he sees in the
mirror “a Canadian, a woman—and a voter.” This physiologically
unexplained metamorphosis is the most startling of the narrator’s
self-reinventions, which serve as the outward expressions of his/her
lifelong preoccupation with the “idea of transformation.” The death
of his diplomat parents in a plane crash strikes the narrator (the
unhappy inmate of an all-boys boarding school at the time) “not as the
tolling of a bell, but as another stage in my ever-expanding metamorphic
life.”

Martel’s chameleonic protagonist is a scholar, a writer, and an
inveterate traveler whose intellectual and sexual adventures embody
his/her search for a “balance between body and spirit.” At the
height of the narrator’s fulfilment as a woman, a horrifying event
gives rise to yet another sex change and a radically darker perspective.
Brimming with sensuality and philosophical curiosity, this technically
daring novel achieves a brilliant marriage of mind and matter.

Citation

Martel, Yann., “Self,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/5158.