The novel’s main text begins with the adult Pi speaking of his life after the story’s main event. His suffering left him “sad and gloomy,” but he continued his religious practices and zoological studies and slowly became happy again. He attended the University of Toronto and was a very good student. His religious studies thesis involved Isaac Luria’s cosmogony theory, while his zoology thesis was about three-toed sloths.
Pi’s brief mention of Isaac Luria introduces an important religious idea. Luria was a Kabbalist teacher whose theory of creation involved the concept of tzimtzum, which was basically that God contracted his infinite light in order to create the universe, hiding himself so that his creation might become independent of him. This concept will be important later, as the ship the Tsimtsum sinks, giving Pi “room” to create his own universe and independence.
Pi found studying sloths to be comforting because of their slow, calm lifestyles. Sloths are kept safe by being so slow and blending into the background. Pi found his two majors to be related, as the sloths would often remind him of God. Pi excelled at school and won many awards, and he is currently working, though he doesn’t say where. He says that he loves Canada but misses India, and he especially misses someone named Richard Parker.
Martel frames Pi’s ordeal by describing Pi both as a child and as an adult, not giving details of what happened in between but hinting at great suffering and the mysterious being of Richard Parker. Pi’s unique philosophical blending of zoology and theology, science and religion, will be threaded throughout the novel.
Pi describes his initial recovery in Mexico after the events of the story. He was treated well at the hospital. He had anemia, dark urine, and his legs retained fluids and swelled. After a week he could walk again. The first time he turned on a faucet he fainted at the abundance of clean water. When he made it to Canada he went to an Indian restaurant, but was offended when the waiter criticized him for eating with his fingers.
Martel gives more hints about Pi’s undescribed ordeal to build up suspense and draw the reader in. We wonder how Pi ended up in Mexico if he is from India, and what kind of memories of India he has that were trampled upon by the rude waiter.