Get local news delivered straight to your phone

Support City Paper!

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

When Canadian author Yann Martel brought us on a maritime voyage with teenaged Pi and his fellow passenger, Richard Parker—the fearsome Bengal tiger that became an unexpectedly comforting companion—he introduced himself as a writer capable of crafting fantastical adventures interlaced with philosophical explorations of human relations and meditations on faith. Martel’s latest novel, The High Mountains of Portugal, features similarly solitary characters on literal and figurative quests. We follow museum curator Tomás, who responds to his all-consuming grief by walking backwards, an act of “objection” to the cruel hand life has dealt him, as he searches for an artifact referenced in a 17th century journal. Martel soon propels us decades into the future, first into the world of an Agatha Christie-obsessed doctor, then into the life of a Canadian senator, who, accompanied by a chimpanzee, seeks solace for personal loss in his ancestral home. Tomás’ initial mission impacts the seemingly disparate lives of the doctor and the senator. The result is a layered story, with Martel weaving together three narratives and guiding us on a meandering journey through 20th century Portugal. Regardless of what the protagonists seek, their experiences echo the classic odyssey—the universal search for a place to call home. Yann Martel reads at 7 p.m. at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. politics-prose.com.