On the floating shelf of Books That Have Changed My Life, one will find The English Patient Michael Ondaatje repeats a line it appears on pages 112 and 113 of my edition that I want to wrap myself up in and think about, write about, dream about, cry over, taste, drink in If he could just walk the seven yards across the Englishman s room and touch her he would be saneand a few paragraphs later,If he could walk across the room and touch her he would be sane I believe it is the only repeated line in the book I want to ask Ondaatje why Why this moment Why this line Then again, I don t Because I want to live in my belief that this line is the soul of the book This line is the soul of storytelling.If If he could just If he could just walk What follows after the second iteration of the line is this,But between them lay a treacherous and complex journey It was a very wide world.You see The entire book, the plot, its themes, everything you could need to change your life is right there Page 113 Just across the room Where candlelight shines on the face of a young woman with an old soul Why can t you walk those seven yards Why can t you touch her What is the madness in your soul, where has it come from, and why do you resist being healed by that young woman with the candlelight in her eyes Goddammit This book. Few books are felt as much as read, but The English Patient falls into this category Like the film, it is hauntingly beautiful, but for slightly different reasons The story of people haunted by love and war, their damaged souls converging at a villa in Italy, remains, but the focus and method in which the story is told on paper is filled with poetic passages, and stunning beauty.The passages are like water moving to and fro over rocks, shifting back and forth in time so that the beauty beneath can still be seen, but as a shimmering mirage in the desert It is a strange instance where it is almost recommended that you see the film first in order to appreciate clearly in your mind the characters as their stories unfold.Whereas the film focused on the burned Almasy and his memories of the unending African desert, where he would meet the enigmatic and beautiful Katherine Clifton, sealing the fate which would leave him a charred and hollow shell of his former self, Hanah is the focal point of Ondaatje s lovely poetic prose in the novel You can almost feel the ghosts hovering over each character as Ondaatje paints a masterpiece with words rather than a brush.Deeply romantic and lyrical, it is the same story as told in the film, but a impressionistic and less linear portrait of love and loss The book is like a delicate flower just beneath the water s surface, its beauty evident but achingly kept just out of reach The film brought the flower into the sun so we could enjoy its texture and fragrance in visceral fashion Both are magnificent, just a different picture of the same flower.If you loved the film, you must read the book It is a hauntingly beautiful novel different from anything else you ll ever read Literary fiction can often be dry and unrewarding, a lot of beautiful words and lovely phrases meant to impress us, but all too often leaving us cold and disinterested Such is not the case here This is a perfect storm of prose and story achieved only once by Ondaatje A masterwork of rich and evocative prose that will surely touch the heart, an organ of fire. With Ravishing Beauty And Unsettling Intelligence, Michael Ondaatje S Booker Prize Winning Novel Traces The Intersection Of Four Damaged Lives In An Italian Villa At The End Of World War II Hana, The Exhausted Nurse The Maimed Thief, Caravaggio The Wary Sapper, Kip Each Is Haunted By The Riddle Of The English Patient, The Nameless, Burned Man Who Lies In An Upstairs Room And Whose Memories Of Passion, Betrayal,and Rescue Illuminates This Book Like Flashes Of Heat Lightening Who really is the English Patient Brought to a mountain villa, outside of Florence Italy, after being rescued in the harsh deserts of Libya, by Bedouins, no dog in this fight Nevertheless burnt badly in a plane crash, a fiery inferno and a miracle the pilot still has a heartbeat, but for how long Hana, a young attractive Canadian nurse, takes care of the Englishman , she falls in love with this sad enigma, like many angels of mercy, in the past and the future, they succumb to the helpless Set in the closing of the Second World War, the loyal nurse, maybe strangely too much so, refuses to leave with the other doctors and nurses, when the conflict heads north Reason is set aside and a strong belief the needy patient will not survive , the ordeal , a veryarduous move Enter David Caravaggio, an old friend of her father s, back in Toronto, Canada, Caravaggio a petty thief, is like an uncle to Hana David a former spy for the allies, reveals that the English Patient, is Count Ladislaus de Almasy, an Hungarian, working for the Germans, yet does it matter any The fighting in its last days and the poor patient is dying Another man comes to the villa, Kirpal Singh, an Indian sapper bomb disposal expert not a job soldiers have for long Hana is attracted to Kip and he to her, unusual for the time Kip was trained in London and followed the war to Italy Though the man has second thoughts about what he s doing here, many miles away from colonial ruled India, his home Is duty to the British or his family, and an independent Indian nation they all, the inhabitants want, struggle for, even die for, while an older brother is in jail for opposing the British there, and Kip feeling like a traitor to the people The unknown Count, was an explorer and cartographer in the vast Sahara Desert, with a few others in 1930 s He tells the story of his affair with Katharine, a woman married to his good friend, Geoffrey Clifton, tragic events happen as a consequence of this uncomfortable episode The noteworthy book keeps a reader interested to the conclusion , with two intense love affairs set in different locations in quite unique circumstances For anyone that likes a great story unfolding slowly, a splendid narrative too, best for those readers of the less traveled roads, in no hurry to reach the end and just enjoy the view. The English Patient is an illuminating novel written by Michael Ondaatje, who tells the story of four damaged lives tangled together at the end of World War II The story involves characters like the melancholy, childlike nurse Hana the emotionally and physically maimed thief, Caravaggio the pensive and wary Indian bomb disposal expert, Kip and the burnt and broken English patient, a mysterious wounded soul without a name The story revolves around several major themes such as war and the paradigm shift that takes place as cultures and people recover from such love and the depths one will go to to acquire it and the illusive but essential search for self identity The themes stretch across all aspects of human nature, but it is the development of self that receives the most attention Ondaatje brings you into a transformative exploration of identity through multiple layering of meaning in each description The author does this by drawing you far into the fantasy by luscious, sensuous elucidations This book is not merely a thing to be read on an intellectual level The book is to be sensed and physically processed, as you filter through smokey comprehension and hazy daydreams.The book is a web of memories, and if you are expecting a linear story, you may be discouraged by the nonconformity to typical plot lines The book weaves back and forth as memories reveal themselves into a tapestry of dream like narratives Ondaatje s novel is a quilt of a story, much like the English patient s stitched together copy of Herodotus The web of narrative is displayed much like how Hana reads to her patient from the books she tiptoes out of the library She opens randomly to any page and begins reading The plots of the stories are irrelevant to Hana and the English patient The relevance for them lies in the moment, in the singular experiences that combine to make up the whole The English Patient should be read on this level Ondaatje says that he doesn t know what his books are about until he finishes writing them You may not completely understand what the book is about until you are done reading it, and even then the story changes and evolves as your own identity transforms Very few books take you through this kind of self discovery and leave you with a new awareness of the corporeal The book is a sensual journey that must be taken step by step, yet it is without a beginning or an ending point The relevance of Ondaatje s message is destroyed by constantly looking at the horizon to find the end of the road And what is the message For many it is the examination of self through poetically saturated text that the author employs to evoke personal discovery The book brings up many questions to its watery surface for you to find answers to For much of the text, the question you ll be asking yourself is Who is the English Patient For most of the narration you have no idea who this burned shadow of a man is He seems to be a reminder of desperation and betrayal, pain and lost love, but this is not the story the author wants you to focus on The English patient is merely a catalyst for the other characters, and you as well, to discover identity Without him, the others would never have been able to interlace their stories and find understanding and comfort in each other This is a novel of revelation, and just as the identity of the English patient is slowly revealed as the novel progresses, so too are the inner selves and spiritual identities of the other characters in the novels Every sentence is beautifully crafted and evocative, keeping you completely enthralled in the story The story reaches across all boundaries of time and space to connect with people from all walks of life Each of us who reads the story as the author intended, will find many connections with the story and its characters The text begins with Hana and the English patient living alone in a bombed out and abandoned hospital monastery From this location, all other places in the story are visited through memories and often painful recollections Hana cares for both herself and her patient by keeping a simple garden and trading medical supplies for their other physical needs For their intellectual needs she reads passages from odd books found in the possibly mined library Throughout the story, Hana represents the scarred, insecure child in each of us afraid to move beyond our sphere of comfort, but whimsical and playful within it Hana cares for her patient as a substitute for how she would like to be cared for She wants desperately to be wrapped and held and whispered to, and she does this vicariously through her patient, caring for him like he was a small frightened child in need of comfort Yet, the English patient does not need this kind of comfort from Hana The English patient no longer needs solace from others He represents the resolve that the broken and tired have, who no longer have a choice in what they are given, and who can accept the circumstances without challenging them He realizes that it s the journey that gives birth to his identity and the means by which it ends is inconsequential The duo is presently joined by a old friend of Hana s father The friend is Caravaggio, a thief and a morphine addict The confused and wounded Caravaggio comes to find Hana as he looks for ties to the past and clues to his confused identity The thief typifies most of us, who are somehow maimed whether physically or emotionally, who need to piece back the severed parts of our identities to make a new whole Finally they are joined by Kip, the diviner, never looking at what is in front of his eyes, always searching through the layers beneath He is afraid of connection and of loss He is constantly aware of the dangers around him and therefore cannot appreciate the simple pleasures and safety nets of relationships Many who have been afflicted with great loss and insecurity can identify with this character.Ondaatje s work draws many parallels to our own quest for self awareness and our desire for peace with the past The book is an examination of the nature of identity Who are we when our world is torn apart Who are we when our names are taken from us Who are we when we no longer can be identified by our physical characteristics Are we what other people make of us Ondaatje doesn t give you the answers, he gives you the questions and leads you lyrically through the journey of others on the same mission so that you may discover the answer for yourself Ondaatje s work is organic and alive It will change your self perception and gives charge to electrical pulses of discovery as you allow it to guide the form of your ever changing identity contains sexual material and swearing I ll be looking at the moon, but I ll be seeing you I thought this book was ok I would say that I enjoyed it, but I can t say that it is one that will stay with me, nor one I will keep and choose to reread.There is a lot of flicking between past and present, and between different characters with no way of defining when this happens This meant I found the narrative rather disjointed and at times confusing Hanna is a nurse, chosen to stay behind at the hospital where she worked once WW2 is over and everyone else has moved on With her is the English Patient, a man with severe burns to his entire body We also meet 2 others who come to stay with them in their makeshift house.I enjoyed the characters, and their complex personalities We get to learn background on each of them, what they went through during the war and how they are dealing with the aftermathThose who weep lose energy than they lose during any other act Overall, I can see how it could be a deeply affecting read But the constant jumping between the narrative meant I couldn t get fully invested in the story 3 starsPeople think a bomb is a mechanical object, a mechanical enemy But you have to consider that somebody made it Everyone hates at least one classic Michael Ondaatje s The English Patient was the book that first did it for me I m not always fair when it comes to one star reviews, but if I m stopping shy of anonymous slams I figure I m not doing all that bad Still, I ll try to be as fair as possible to The English Patient.The novel is set in an Italian villa at the end of World War II The nameless English patient is a burned invalid who unites the other characters his worn out nurse, Hana the maimed spy thief, Caravaggio and the Indian sapper bomb disarmer, Kip in strange ways There are mysteries and love triangles and all that polka, but something tripped me up early Though the premise sounds interesting, I was immediately thrown off by a description on page one about the English patient s penis sleeping like a sea horse and from then on I knew that I would not like this book I finished it, complaining about the dialogue and the prose, but I knew it was the sea horse penis line tainting my opinion I still remember this description almost a decade later and it still bothers me I don t know why, but it does Is that fair No, but I think I need to accept the fact that there are times when you can t get past your subjectivity I could try rereading The English Patient, but I think I d trip over that sea horse penis line again and be left in a foul mood, so sorry, the heavily biased review stands One star. O, is for Ondaatje 2 StarsI m going to venture out of my normal review style here, and instead do a Q A with Hana the, erm MC, maybe Me Hey Hana, what s up with you not leaving the Italian Villa despite the fact that there are corpses and mines littered everywhere and the war has ended already Hana I just don t think The English Patient would survive the transfer and I love my independence here I mean where else can I give an immobile man sponge baths, inject him with morphine AND play hopscotch in darkened hallways Me puzzled stare Moving on Why do you seem to have a pseudo sexual relationship with all the men in this book, despite the fact that one is purporting to be like an Uncle and another is entirely bedridden Hana Well, I am a woman surrounded by men, need I say shoulder shrug Me Well, yeah, I kind of need than that But I m not going to get any explanation from you am I Hana Nope Just accept it Me growls Fine teethgritting What s up with you and Kip He sounds really fascinating and kind, in a quiet withheld way Don t you think his job as a sapper is intriguing Hana I just really enjoy his silence, and the way he can enter a room and take up next to no space in it That s why I so frequently use bird references when thinking about him Also his skin is brown like darkness, I like it Me okay So you re saying that the most interesting part of this man who has lived in India, travelled to London and taken on an occupation that has an unimaginably high mortality rate I mean defusing BOMBS, come ON is the fact that he can disappear into shadows This is why you became lovers Hana No, he was kind of just there, I guess Me Well, that s romantic headdesk What s the story with the English Patient Why s he so special Hana Oh, he was burned all over in a plane crash so it turned his skin dark I like dark skin, even when it s from life endangering burns Me What does that even And his story, don t you want to know who he is and how he came to be here Hana No, not really My sort of sexually attracted to me Uncle is far interested in his story I ll leave them to their morphine and stories Me Okay then What is the point of this story exactly Hana What do you mean point It s about love and loss, AND it s really erotic Me blank stare It is I thought it was about pages and pages of dates and exerts from other books that never really become part of the overall story, and love affairs that aren t hot enough to heat a baby s bathwater Hana But it s so erotic because Kip is Indian and boy like despite being in his late twenties Did I mention his skin is darker than mine Me For god s sake YES, yes you did, five hundred million times Okay final question Why in the world would I give a shit about your affair or the English Patient s affair in hindsight Hana BECAUSE it s roooommantiic Me I don t buy it, I think that while this book has beautiful moments it is, overall, as bland as plain yogurt.Hana I don t think you re the type of person this book is meant to be read by Me Neither do I. Michael Ondaatje in 1999 image from NY Times This may be one of those rare instances in which the film exceeds the book It is a wonderful book, but is not without its flaws The author, in his third person persona, keeps quite a distance from his characters, and the reader is held at arm s length Kip, for example is clearly a very positive character, yet we I do not feel the affection for him that one might expect Caravaggio is a thief and remains a thief, so there is little love there to hang onto The women are also beyond our urge to feel, Katherine because of her willfulness and Hana for her obsession Ondaatje writes beautifully He is a poet, it seems, in the guise of a novelist He reminds me of Thomas Hardy in that The book also has background than the film can include and that is a welcome thing Highly recommended, but while you should be prepared to love the poetry of the writing, be prepared also to maintain a distance from the characters EXTRA STUFFMichael Ondaatje on FBJuly 8, 2018 cr me de la cr me of 50 years of Man Booker prizes The English Patient Wins Best of Man Booker PrizeThe Guardian MO reading an essay he wrote while staying in Conrad s boat in London Guardian Artangel books podcast Michael Ondaatje June 4, 2007 The New Yorker The Aesthete The novel and Michael Ondaatje by Louis Menand a fascinating analysis of MO s work He is not telling stories he is using the elements of storytelling to gesture in the direction of a constellation of moods, themes, and images He is creating the literary equivalent of a Cornell box or a rock garden or a floral arrangement.Other Michael Ondaatje books I have read 2018 Warlight, long listed for the Man Booker Prize 2007 Divisidero read but not reviewed 2001 Anil s Ghost 1997 In the Skin of a Lion a very brief look The English Patient is one of my least favorite novels of all time Michael Ondaatje s prose is the literary equivalent of having a gossamer skein repeatedly thrown over your face and then dragged away fleeting and insubstantial, but just present enough to be really fucking annoying Also, his dialogue sucks People in the 1940s absolutely did not speak the way Ondaatje has them speaking This novel won the Booker Prize in 1992, an award which was, for some God unknown reason, split with Barry Unsworth s Sacred Hunger I haven t read Sacred Hunger, but the one novel by Unsworth I have read, Morality Play, was crisply written, well thought out, and compelling, so I m going to go ahead and say that without ever having read it there s no way Sacred Hunger could possibly occupy the same literary sewer that The English Patient does.
He was born to a Burgher family of Dutch Tamil Sinhalese Portuguese origin He moved to England with his mother in 1954 After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen Ondaatje studied for a time at Bishops College School and Bishop s University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto and received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen s
- 305 pages
- The English Patient
- Michael Ondaatje
- 17 January 2017 Michael Ondaatje