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Award Thursdays: Michael Ondaatje

Post by: Snehith Kumbla

Set during World War II, The English Patient is one of the six novels that Michael Ondaatje has published in his 36-year writing career, until the time of writing. The book won him the 1992 Booker Prize (Now called the Man Booker Prize for Fiction). A novelist of Sri Lankan-Canadian origins, The English Patient displays the writer at the height of his powers. The non-linear narrative showcases the lives of the main protagonists in great detail. The multi-layered texture thus provides the novel, with a strong envious air. It is no wonder that the book was considered ‘unfilmable’, until the movie version came out in 1996.


The intense story follows the life of Hana, a Canadian army nurse; Caravaggio, a bleak survivor of war, drug addict; Kip, a Sikh trained in bomb disposal; and finally the English patient who is looked after by Hana. Almásy, the much injured patient, slowly unravels his tale of love - this is where the core of the novel's power lies. The patient had fallen in love with a English gentleman's wife. Such was the intensity of their love; the husband finally gets a wind of the affair and attempts to kill all three of them in a plane crash. In the meantime, as the patient continues to unfold the story, Kip and Hana fall in love.


The English Patient is a must read for any book lover. It talks of war, bombardment, fiery love, complexities and human fragility, all with a microscopic eye. 

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