101 letters to Harper and no reply, but Martel has new book
Published Monday, November 5, 2012 7:11PM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 5, 2012 9:50PM EST
Four years ago, Canadian author Yann Martel began mailing a new book every two weeks to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in an effort to highlight what he calls a “complete indifference” to the arts among the country’s political class.
Martel, the author of the award-winning novel Life of Pi, never got a direct reply from Harper himself, but he turned his unanswered mail into a new book -- 101 Letters to a Prime Minister.
The collection marks the official end of Martel’s campaign.He stopped sending books last year.
Martel said he decided to start sending books to Harper after attending a session in the House of Commons in 2007 to mark 50 years of the Canada Council of the Arts.
“I saw the complete indifference of the political class to the arts,” he told CTV’s Power Play on Monday, adding that the attitude wasn’t exclusive to the Conservatives, but that they had “outdone the other parties.”
The first book Martel sent to the prime minister was Leo Tolstoy’s classic novella, The Death of Ivan Ilych. That was followed by other classics, such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, as well as works by other internationallyknown authors.
Martel said he sent Harper mostly fiction, including poems, Shakespeare plays and some children’s books, and specifically selected shorter works, usually under 200 pages.
Over the course of his campaign, Martel received seven responses from communications staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, but there was never a direct reply from Harper.
“As some people might know, Barack Obama wrote to me out of the blue, a letter saying he loved Life of Pi,” Martel said. “Here’s a man who surely must be busier even than Harper and I’m not even an American citizen and he wrote to me; yet my own prime minister, whom I’ve gifted over 100 books, never wrote back.”