x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

The politics of the book group

Yann Martel wraps up his literary project with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Yann Martel, the Man Booker Prize-winning author, has finally decided to give up his quest to send books to the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, in a bid to increase the politician's interest in literature.

Martel, who was awarded the Booker Prize, in 2002, for his novel Life of Pi, started sending Harper a range of books - from The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson to Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, almost four years ago. He set up a dedicated website, www.whatisstephenharperreading.ca, to keep an account of any feedback received.

The site lists The Death of Ivan Ilyich, a novella by Leo Tolstoy, as the first book to be sent to Harper. In his accompanying letter, Martel referred to the book as "an indubitable masterpiece".

Martel's 100th choice of book - Scorched by Wajdi Mouawad, a Lebanese-born Canadian writer - will be the last to arrive on Harper's doorstep. Having never had a direct response from his literary project's target, Martel has, it would seem, decided enough is enough. Tired of using books as "political bullets and grenades", Martel wrote in his last letter to the prime minister that he was giving up his "exclusive book group" to focus on his wife's pregnancy, as well as his latest novel.