Catalogue


The English patient /
Michael Ondaatje with an introduction by Pico Iyer.
imprint
New York ; Toronto : Everyman's Library, 2011.
description
xxvii, 263 p. ; 21 cm.
ISBN
9780307700872
format(s)
Book
Holdings
Subjects
geographic term
More Details
imprint
New York ; Toronto : Everyman's Library, 2011.
isbn
9780307700872
catalogue key
8571373
 
Purchase; DSO; 2013; RB304503.
A Look Inside
First Chapter
She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance. She has sensed a shift in the weather. There is another gust of wind, a buckle of noise in the air, and the tall cypresses sway. She turns and moves uphill toward the house, climbing over a low wall, feeling the first drops of rain on her bare arms. She crosses the loggia and quickly enters the house.

In the kitchen she doesn't pause but goes through it and climbs the stairs which are in darkness and then continues along the long hall, at the end of which is a wedge of light from an open door.

She turns into the room which is another garden--this one made up of trees and bowers painted over its walls and ceiling. The man lies on the bed, his body exposed to the breeze, and he turns his head slowly towards her as she enters.

Every four days she washes his black body, beginning at the destroyed feet. She wets a washcloth and holding it above his ankles squeezes the water onto him, looking up as he murmurs, seeing his smile. Above the shins the burns are worst. Beyond purple. Bone.

She has nursed him for months and she knows the body well, the penis sleeping like a sea horse, the thin tight hips. Hipbones of Christ, she thinks. He is her despairing saint. He lies flat on his back, no pillow, looking up at the foliage painted onto the ceiling, its canopy of branches, and above that, blue sky.

She pours calamine in stripes across his chest where he is less burned, where she can touch him. She loves the hollow below the lowest rib, its cliff of skin. Reaching his shoulders she blows cool air onto his neck, and he mutters.

What? she asks, coming out of her concentration.

He turns his dark face with its gray eyes towards her. She puts her hand into her pocket. She unskins the plum with her teeth, withdraws the stone and passes the flesh of the fruit into his mouth.

He whispers again, dragging the listening heart of the young nurse beside him to wherever his mind is, into that well of memory he kept plunging into during those months before he died.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1992-07-20:
A poet's sensitive, deep-seeing eye, a fluid, sensuous prose and imaginative juxtapositions of characters and events distinguish Canadian author Ondaatje's impressive novels ( Coming Through Slaughter ; In the Skin of a Lion ; etc.). Here again he brings together disparate characters whose lives intersect at a crucial moment in history, and introduces real-life figures who add dimension and credibility to the story. The four people who take shelter in an abandoned villa in Italy during the final days of WW II are in retreat from a world gone mad; each of them is bent on protecting painful memories and pondering irreplaceable losses. The mysterious ``English patient'' has been horribly burned while parachuting into the Libyan desert; his face unrecognizable and his identity unknown, he gradually reveals his tragic story through the prompting of David Caravaggio, a professional thief and former spy whose hands and spirit have been maimed by Nazi torturers. Caravaggio has come to the villa in search of Hana, a woman who is nursing the burned man, whom Caravaggio has known since her childhood in Toronto. Close to emotional breakdown herself, dry-souled Hana is nourished by her love for Kip, a Singh demolitions expert whose perilous craft reflects the fragility of all their lives. Each is ``playing a game of secrets,'' which Ondaatje reveals in a suspenseful narrative whose gripping scenes (a desert sandstorm; the defusing of live bombs) call to mind the sudden brilliance of subjects illuminated by Caravaggio's artist namesake, to whose work Ondaatje elliptically refers. If the events of the novel's closing pages seem forced, they underscore Ondaatje's message about the lingering effects of war's brutality. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 1993-12-01:
Who is this wounded soldier living at an abandoned Italian villa near the end of World War II? He does not remember his name, only that he is British, but pieces of his conversation betray his knowledge. For the woman nursing him, his past does not matter. But as their twosome is invaded by two others, all focus shifts to his ``true'' identity. Ondaatje deals with the culture he knows best: the British family, living in Canada, relocated during the war. Poet that he is, he replaces narrative with vivid, lyric snapshots. Listeners may have to periodically rewind the tape to recall who is who, since the four ruminating voices, narrated by actor Michael York, are seldom identified by name, and flashbacks add to the confusion. But this book is best appreciated if listeners suspend a focus on the immediate narrative line, picking up bits of the story here and there, retaining enough imagery that eventually they understand a much greater whole. As such, it's a masterpiece. For most collections.-- Rochelle Ratner, formerly Poetry Editor, ``Soho Weekly News,'' New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
Review Quotes
"A rare and spellbinding web of dreams." Time"Sensuous, mysterious, rhapsodic, it transports the reader to another world . . . . Ondaatje's most probing examination yet of the nature of identity." San Francisco Chronicle"Mr. Ondaatje [is] one of North America's finest novelists . . . . The spell of his haunted villa remains with us, inviting us to reread passages for the pure pleasure of being there." Wall Street Journal From the Trade Paperback edition.
"A rare and spellbinding web of dreams." - Time "Sensuous, mysterious, rhapsodic . . . It transports the reader to another world." -San Francisco Chronicle
“A rare and spellbinding web of dreams.” - Time “Sensuous, mysterious, rhapsodic . . . It transports the reader to another world.” -San Francisco Chronicle
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Michael Ondaatje’s Booker Prize–winning best seller lyrically portrays the convergence of four damaged lives in a bomb-riddled Italian villa in the last days of the war. Hana, the grieving nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the emotionally detached Indian sapper, Kip-each is haunted in different ways by the riddle of the man they know only as the English patient, a nameless burn victim who lies swathed in bandages in an upstairs room. It is this man’s incandescent memories-of the bleak North African desert, of explorers’ caves and Bedouin tribesmen, of forbidden love, and of annihilating anger-that illuminate the story, and the consequences of the mysteries they reveal radiate outward in shock waves that leave all the characters forever changed.
Main Description
Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prizewinning best seller lyrically portrays the convergence of four damaged lives in a bomb-riddled Italian villa in the last days of the war. Hana, the grieving nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the emotionally detached Indian sapper, Kip-each is haunted in different ways by the riddle of the man they know only as the English patient, a nameless burn victim who lies swathed in bandages in an upstairs room. It is this man's incandescent memories-of the bleak North African desert, of explorers' caves and Bedouin tribesmen, of forbidden love, and of annihilating anger-that illuminate the story, and the consequences of the mysteries they reveal radiate outward in shock waves that leave all the characters forever changed.

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