Years ago I read a book newly translated into English called Max and the Cats by Moacyr Scliar. It was published years before Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. Sometimes I wonder just where ideas come from, how authors come up the things they write about, but this time I wonder about something completely different. Let’s compare the story line of these two novels.
Max and the Cats by Moacyr Scliar
Max takes passage on a freighter destined to cross the Atlantic ocean.
There is a circus being transported on the ship.
The ship sinks.
Max is the sole human survivor.
He is trapped in a dingy with a hungry jaguar.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Pi takes passage on a freighter destined to cross the Pacific ocean.
There is a zoo being transported on the ship.
The ship sinks.
Pi is the sole human survivor.
He is trapped in a dingy with a hungry tiger.
There are obvious dissimilarities. Max is crossing the Atlantic while Pi is crossing the Pacific. In mere geographical terms these two stories are, literally, thousands of miles apart. Can you compare a circus to a zoo? Isn’t a circus the very image of an environment designed for the mistreatment of animals while a zoo is a humane attempt to created an environment where people too lazy to travel can see lions and tigers lethargic and asleep under trees and have monkeys pelt them with their feces? Max and Pi are clearly different nationalities. And finally, what’s there to compare about a jaguar and a tiger, are there any similarities at all? Come on now, only one of them has stripes.
If you were found in a room with a corpse how many coincidences could your alibi survive? (After all, your mother swears you’re not capable of such a thing). You could say, ‘He was already dead when I walked into the room’. Possible. You’re holding the murder pistol. ‘I picked it up out of shock at seeing such an unusual sight’. Possible. There is gunshot residue on your hand. Call a lawyer.
Yann Martel claims to have not read Max and the Cats by Moacyr Scliar. He has since said he may have read a review of it-may have. Compare the list of coincidences. Do we need a new Oscar Category: Best Picture Based on an Original Novel Whose Idea is Based on Another Original Novel? Stolen? I didn’t say stolen, I said based on, BASED ON. Come on, give me a break.
By the way, I recommend Max and the Cats.