British Fiction Focus

“There Are No Tigers”: Covering The High Mountains of Portugal

Finally, another novel from the pen of the bestselling Booker Prize Winner in history! Canongate announced earlier today that their spring 2016 schedule would be led by none other than Yann Martel, the inimitable author of Self, Beatrice and Virgil, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios and What is Stephen Harper Reading? And of course, Life of Pi—Martel’s most notable novel, no doubt, and a foundational work of fiction for me and many others. Many, many others, I imagine, since twelve million copies of said text have been sold since its publication—by Canongate in the UK—in 2001.

Happily, The High Mountains of Portugal sounds like Martel doing what Martel does best: telling a tragical yet magical tale about time and place.

In Lisbon in 1904, a young man discovers an old journal. It hints at the existence of an extraordinary artefact that—if he can find it—would redefine history.

Some thirty-five years later, a Portuguese pathologist finds himself at the centre of a murder mystery.

Fifty years on, a Canadian senator takes refuge in northern Portugal, grieving the loss of his beloved wife.

Three linked stories. Three broken hearts. One exploration: what is a life without stories? The High Mountains of Portugal takes the reader on a road trip through Portugal in the last century—and through the human soul.

In the press release announcing The High Mountains of Portugal, Francis Bickmore, Canongate’s publishing director, asserted that “the combination of warmth and curiosity in Martel’s writing makes him a true modern great” before going on to note that though “there are no tigers in this fabulous new book […] it does explore our relationship to the natural world, and asks from where comes our humanity.”

No tigers? NO TIGERS? Well, that is sad. The absence of tigers would be a deal breaker for me, were The High Mountains of Portugal by any other author. But with Martel at the helm, I guess I’ll read this one regardless.


The author had this to say about resigning with his “accomplices in literary crime”:

The adventure with Canongate continues. They are my books’ home in the UK, my publishing bedrock [and] I’m delighted to be with them again. Canongate is truly a great publisher, combining passion and flair with impeccable professionalism.

Can’t hurt they can be counted on to sell the hell out of their highest-profile titles. To wit, expect to see The High Mountains of Portugal advertised everywhere that’s anywhere early next February. In the meantime, Martel himself will be touring Great Britain and beyond in support of the release of his exciting new novel.

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.


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