Let’s talk about Yann Martel…or rather things we know about Yann Martel. Mr. Martel does not have a personal website, personal Facebook or Twitter page. The first time doing research about him, that’s the thing that surprised me most. In the age of Information where we can be in touch 24/7 with people, related to us (and not), it was quite an oddity. What are his favorite foods? What are the names of his children? Does he have children? Where was the last place that he has traveled to? What were his last thoughts before dinner last night? Nothing. Gasp!
After I got over my initial shock, I found it quite fun to dive into my research, finding tidbits about him here and there online, like:
- the fact that he’s born in Spain to French-Canadian parents who were a diplomat and a translator. Because of his parents’ careers, in addition to Canada, he grew up in places like Costa Rica, France and Mexico.
- that over the course of a few years, he sent a book and a letter every week to the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper to advocate for the importance of the Arts and funding for the Arts.
- His words about the purpose of his project were simply beautiful: ‘He says that, in Harper, he sensed “a man who was a narrow ideologue, in part because he hasn’t read. He lacks empathy because he hasn’t read literature. If literature does one thing, it makes you more empathetic by making you live other lives and feel the pain of others. Ideologues don’t feel the pain of others because they haven’t imaginatively got under their skins.” (The Guardian)
During my research the second time around, Yann Martel’s lack of (direct) online presence reminded me of authors of my childhood before Social Media. You had to look up their address at the end of the book, if you wanted to contact them. They might include a P.O Box or an e-mail address; they might not. You’d have to write a physical letter, mail it and hope that they get it and that they read it. If they did and replied, the letter was framed and kept as a memento. It reminded me of the fact that most writers are introverted beings who are adamant about keeping their private life separate from their public persona.
In other words, Yann Martel is a writer.
Photo courtesy of guardian.co.uk