We think it's a little cheeky for Martel to include himself as a character. In the novel, he's kind and earnest, considerate toward Pi and initially suspicious of Francis Adirubasamy. We love the author's presence, even though it both explains and complicates Pi's story. The first words of novel, spoken by the author, read: "This book was born as I was hungry" (Author's Note.1.1). Isn't it Pi's spiritual hunger that drives him to various religions and gurus? (And hunger will take on more sinister overtones later in the novel.) Fiction, as a spiritual quest, precedes religion in this book. Which makes sense: Pi believes religion tells the best stories.
Before the author launches into Pi's story, he says, "It seemed natural that Mr. Patel's story should be told mostly in the first person – in his voice and through his eyes. But any inaccuracies or mistakes are mine" (Author's Note.1.37). To write the novel, the author compiled notes from his conversations with Francis Adirubasamy, notes from his conversations with Pi in Canada, the diary Pi kept while at sea, and the recording of Pi's conversation with Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba. It's both fiction and nonfiction. It's Pi's voice but Pi's voice as told through the author. It's very postmodern. And it's very much like a religious text or myth where stories and versions of stories swirl around until one is written down.