Ondaatje, Michael

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Ondaatje, Michael

Michael Ondaatje (Philip Michael Ondaatje) (ändät´chā), 1943–, Canadian writer, b. Colombo, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). Immigrating (1962) to Canada, he attended the Univ. of Toronto (B.A., 1965) and Queen's Univ., Ontario (M.A., 1967). Since 1971 he has been an English professor at Glendon College, York Univ., Toronto. His first published works were poems, noted for their mixture of fact and fiction, real and surreal. His Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970) blends poetry, prose, and visual materials into a compelling portrait of the American outlaw. Other poetry collections include The Dainty Monsters (1967), Rat Jelly (1973), The Cinnamon Peeler (1990), and Handwriting (1998). Ondaatje is best known for his novels, which also blend reality and imagination, exploring a variety of cultures and mingling present and past in richly evocative prose. The antithesis of linear narrative, his fiction is filled with incident and coincidence, often changing abruptly in time, style, and point of view. With his most celebrated novel, The English Patient (1992; film 1996), a tale of love and betrayal set in a ruined Italian villa during World War II, Ondaatje became the first Canadian to win the Booker Prize. His other novels are Coming through Slaughter (1976), In the Skin of a Lion (1987), Anil's Ghost (2000), Divisadero (2007), and The Cat's Table (2011). He also has written screenplays and edited anthologies and a literary journal.

See his memoir, Running in the Family (1982); studies by L. Mundwiler (1984), S. Solecki, ed. (1985), D. Barbour (1993), and E. Jewinski (1994).

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