Monday, July 30, 2007

Michael Ondaatje: a Non-Linear Fictionist

Philip Michael Ondaatje, born 12 September 1943) is a Sri Lankan Canadian novelist and poet, perhaps best known for his Booker Prize winning novel adapted into an Academy-Award-winning film, The English Patient.

Born in Sri Lanka, the former Ceylon, of Indian/Dutch ancestry, he went to school in England, and then moved to Canada. He is now a Canadian citizen.

Michael Ondaatje is one of the world’s foremost writers – his artistry and aesthetic have influenced an entire generation of writers and readers. Although he is best known as a novelist, Ondaatje’s work also encompasses memoir, poetry, and film, and reveals a passion for defying conventional form. His memoir of his Sri Lankan childhood is called "Running in the Family". In his transcendent novel The English Patient—later made into the Academy Award-winning film—he explores the stories of people history fails to reveal, intersecting four diverse lives at the end of World War II. His works of fiction include Anil's Ghost, The English Patient, In the Skin of a Lion, Coming Through Slaughter, and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid.

His style of fiction, introduced in Coming Through Slaughter (1976) and mastered in The English Patient (1992), is non-linear which means he creates a narrative by exploring many interconnected snapshots in great detail.

In 1988 Michael Ondaatje was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (OC) and two years later became a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

In 2000, Michael Ondaatje was awarded the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, the Prix Medicis, the Governor General’s Award, and the Giller Prize for his novel Anil's Ghost. Michael Ondaatje’s most recent nonfiction work is The Conversations: Walter Murch & the Art of Editing Film. His latest novel is entitled Divisadero (2007).

He is the brother of philanthropist and businessman, Christopher Ondaatje.

Ondaatje currently resides in Toronto with his wife, Linda Spalding. Together, they edit the literary journal Brick.

*Joanna Abril*


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