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Every two weeks, for close to four years, Yann Martel has sent Prime Minister Stephen Harper a book. But this week, when he carefully packaged up Wajdi Mouawad's Scorched, the letter he sent along with it was slightly different. That's because, according to Martel, it will be the last.
Scorched is the 100th book in Martel's guerrilla literary education project. Each book was carefully inscribed by the author and accompanied by a letter explaining why it was chosen. To date, Martel says he has received five, three-line letters from Harper's staff, thanking him for the books. There has been no response from the prime minister directly.
Martel, the Booker Prize-winning author of Life of Pi, started the project in April 2007, by sending Harper The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy. Since then, the books have been quite varied, including everything from poetry to non-fiction.
"I wanted to send anything that spoke of that urge we have to tell stories," Martel told Homerun host Sue Smith in a recent interview. "That's the great thing about literature. It's not just to entertain, but to explore what it means to be alive. I can't think of any better way to explore the human condition than through the novel."
Although he's enjoyed the project, the demands of starting a new book and getting ready for the birth of his second child in May have made it increasingly difficult to find time for it, Martel says.
The first 55 of his letters to Harper were released in 2009 as the book What Is Stephen Harper Reading? Although Martel says he is open to the idea of publishing the remaining 45, there are currently no plans for a second book in the works.