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De Engelse patiënt by Michael Ondaatje

De Engelse patiënt (original 1992; edition 2000)

by Michael Ondaatje

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9,273137480 (3.91)681
Title:De Engelse patiënt
Authors:Michael Ondaatje
Info:Amsterdam Bakker 2000
Collections:Your library, Literatuur, ebooks

Work details

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992)

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  4. 10
    Mosquito by Roma Tearne (christiguc)
    christiguc: Also a well-written, lyrical novel about love, finding oneself, and the effects of war (civil war in Sri Lanka).
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    Naples '44: A World War II Diary of Occupied Italy by Norman Lewis (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: A diary by a British soldier in Italy around the same time.
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    Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje (stevereads)
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    Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel by David Guterson (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje may be paired with Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. The film adaptations could also be used.
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» See also 681 mentions

English (126)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Lithuanian (1)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (136)
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
Having read many books about World War II; history, fiction, memoirs, holocaust survivor stories, and biographies, this story comes across as insincere, far-fetched, and sometimes… even ludicrous. Perhaps the movie was Oscar-worthy based on the superb acting, dramatic effects, and script re-write. I can’t say as I only have read the book.

What are the odds that a 20-year old nurse from Canada, her father’s best friend who was a professional thief before the war broke out, a Sikh engineer from India, and a burn victim- so disfigured he is unrecognizable who is a war criminal spy pretending to be English- would all end up stranded in one of the most beautiful, holy, inspirational villa’s of Italy when the war is over. Sure, during wartime anything can happen. But I’m not buying this particular story. Partly because- as though those characters mentioned weren’t quite original enough- the narrative also includes a Hungarian Count and his English debutant wife. And partly because the story is just not plausible.

My apologies in advance for the plot spoilers but what decent woman (especially back in the 1940s) would start having an affair with a stranger only months after getting married? What group of professional medical and military personnel would allow a 20-year old girl to remain behind with an unknown burn victim when they evacuate an area? What father in his right mind would encourage his young naive respectable daughter to befriend his best friend- a professional thief- and call him Uncle? And what are the chances that, just coincidently, the same stray Canadian thief who turns up at the villa would be the one person to recognize the real identity of the burned foreign spy war criminal?

And lets talk about the Sikh Indian sapper (an engineer trained to detect and disarm land mines)- his righteous outrage at the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and suddenly revealed hatred of the English seems totally out of character in the context of the story. Even though Japan and Nazi Germany were collaborating with India at that time to help India gain freedom from the British, the author fails to mention anything of that nature. In fact, the author fails to mention any historic facts or political data of any kind. The reader only views the characters in a calm sealed vacuum of the Italian Villa.

As a result, nothing is as it seems in the story- love is false, characters are withholding their true identity, and the plot just sputters to an unsatisfactory conclusion.

Yet Michael Ondaatje won several awards for his work including the Booker Prize. Why?

Maybe because Ondaatje is often poetic. He offers detailed descriptions of historical sites, provides vivid instructions on the dis-assembly of land mines, presents an abundance of colorful characters… all with a sense of profound emotional sentiment. Or maybe because the writing is beautiful, introspective, intense, and pensive, it does set a dramatic milieu. It’s just a shame the story is so strange, remote, and unconnected. ( )
1 vote LadyLo | Sep 30, 2018 |

This wonderful, incredibly rich novel focuses on the title character, an "English" patient, badly burnt after a plane crash. This being towards the end of WWII, he interrogated, in case he is a spy, but can't recall his name and certainly sounds English. Soon he finds himself in an abandoned Italian villa, cared for by a nurse, Hana, who has left her hospital troop to stay with him, and care for him until he eventually dies of his wounds. She has huge affection for this man, partly because her own father recently died, alone, of severe burns, in nearby France. Now, torn with regret that she couldn't nurse her own father, or at least keep him company in his final moments, at least she can do the same for him.

Soon she is joined in the villa by two people. First, Caravaggio, a friend of her father's back in Canada, working for the British Intelligence, and recently tortured by the Germans, who cut off his thumbs. Like the others in the villa, he struggles with his own wounds, both physical and mental, and has a hankering for answers and for revenge.

As Hana one day is idly playing on the piano in the villa, there are shouts of her to stop and an Indian Siekh sapper, Kip, comes in, and disarms a mine in the piano, and stays to disarm others nearby. He befriends the English Patient and becomes Hana's lover.

Much of the first half of the novel particularly is told chronologically-chaotically, through a kind of fog, sometimes snippets of key moments in the past come out, but sometimes encyclopaedic information about winds or locations. The English patient's memories of his past life as an archaeologist and cartographer seem to be emerging over time, or perhaps he is just revealing more under the haze of the morphine, whereas before he had the control to pretend amnesia?

But as the novel progresses, the pieces of the puzzle fall into place - The "English" patient is in fact a Hungarian Count, Almasy, and switched to the Nazi's, helping a spy go across the African desert. Perhaps what he did even contributed indirectly to Caravaggio's capture and torture?

On the brink of the war, he had a tempestuous affair with Catherine Clifton, the wife of someone connected to British Intelligence. She seemed like a free spirit, somewhat stifled in a man's world, thirsting for adventure. Almasy's reserve at times, and his wish never to possess a thing, or belong to a place or person, infuriates Catherine and probably contributes to the affair eventually, violently, stopping.

There are many major themes in this novel - one of which is the imperfection, unreliability and fading of memory. Another is the sense of belonging, or rather failing to belong. Kip is as vital as any person in the ranks of the army, and yet as an Indian he is never really respected or seen as one of "them." Almasy in a critical moment of the story, trying to save Catherine's life, fails simply because his name isn't English, despite his accent, despite his education, despite everything. Had he said she was Clifton's wife, and failed to mention his own name, Catherine would probably have been saved. But he, again, was an outsider for arbitrary reasons. The war itself is also so much about displacement and the fallacy of nationhood. Then there is the obvious theme of war - of how easily, callously, it devastates lives, how judging right and wrong is never easy, regardless of what side you're on, and how, at the end of the day, it is a mad, ironic cauldron of events. For instance, Kip spends his entire war career disarming bombs, saving many thousands of lives, and then, after all that, the US end the war by dropping two nuclear bombs, impossible to disarm, killing hundreds of thousands. It is an irony that would belong neatly in Catch 22, whose tapestry like unconventional narrative structure resembles that of The English Patient.

It is hard not to go on and on in detail about just how this novel is so rich, so deep, so broad. Because it is, wonderfully so, clearly one of the best novels about war that exist. The language at times is exquisitely poetic, the characters live, so vividly, that you can't help but be almost unbearably moved by their plight by the end. The plot, at times, is riveting, with Kip's work that could involve his explosive death at any moment, and the violent, passionate relationship between Almasy and Catherine. The themes are subtle, yet very thought-provoking.

In short, this is a masterpiece that deserves multiple readings. ( )
  RachDan | Sep 24, 2018 |
I loved the movie, and have long wanted to read the book, so when Michael Ondaatje won the best book that has ever been awarded the Man Booker Prize in the fifty years since it's been in place, I decided I had better read it. I read a lot of reviews about it over the years and the ratings surprisingly were all over the place from 1 to 5 stars. I went into the book with an open mind, and knowing that the movie was incredible, I was excited to read the book. It blew me away. There is much here for a reader to savour - from a love story, to a mystery, to tragic losses, but the language is so incredibly descriptive, and the characters so well drawn right from beginning to end, that the transition from different points of view to different places and varying chronological times throughout, the book and its storyline were seamless, held together by absolutely beautiful language. The book is set in a bombed out nunnery which had been used for a hospital during the war, and it is located in Italy. The ruined building is abandoned except for a Canadian nurse and the patient she refuses to leave. The patient is so badly burned that he is not recognizable, and he needs a lot of care as well as morphine regularly to relieve the pain. Hana thinks the man is English because of his accent. Two other people join them at the nunnery - an East Indian sapper and a man from Hana's past who was renowned as a successful thief before the war. All four had served in various positions during WWII which has just has come to an end in Europe. All four are suffering from some form of PTSD, and all four are trying to find a place of peace after the horrendous things that they have either done or witnessed during that war. Ondaatje shows the true horror of war even as he maintains his beautiful and lyrical language throughout. Even though the English patient never leaves his sickroom, he drives the plot in this book. His secrets and thoughts come out bit by bit throughout the book, mostly in conversations between him and one or more of the three others in the house. His story is tragic, gut-wrenching and surprising, but in some way, helps to heal the three other residents. This book is a definite literary masterpiece. A tour de force. ( )
  Romonko | Sep 10, 2018 |
[The English Patient] by [[Michael Ondaatje]]

I finally read this book because it just won the Golden Booker and it's been on my shelf for a long time. To be honest, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. I thought this book was well-written and interesting, but not all that memorable.

Most of you probably know the premise from already having read the book or seeing the movie. The "English patient" is a man who has been horribly burned in a plane crash and ends up in Italy in a small hospital. As WWII ends, the hospital is disbanded and the English patient remains with a young nurse, Hana, who has been traumatized by the war, an older man named Caravaggio who knows Hana through her father, and Kip, an Indian man who defuses bombs. The English patient doesn't remember who he is and by telling his story under the influence of morphine he discloses enough details that Caravaggio thinks he knows who he is. There are many layers to the book and the characters end up fitting together in different ways than you might expect.

I enjoyed this but I wasn't impressed enough to run out and read more by this author.

Original publication date: 1993
Author’s nationality: Sri Lanka and Canada
Original language: English
Length: 305 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Format/Where I acquired the book: library sale, paperback
Why I read this: 1001 books, Golden Booker winner, off the shelf ( )
  japaul22 | Aug 4, 2018 |
The language is spare and glorious, and I can see how many people fell in love with this book, but I cannot say I enjoyed it. How characters were brought together on whim and scattered like leaves, as if humans can only be impressions on one another. Is that really life? It makes me want to end it. ( )
  cindiann | May 3, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
... the plane must have been drying out under its tarpaulin in the desert for eight years. It is entirely covered with sand. Almasy `digs' it out : with what? ... Having shifted tons of sand ... he moves, single-handed, the plane out on to the level, so it can take off. How, single-handed, does he `swing the prop'? ... sand would have penetrated moving parts of the machinery and would have to be meticulously dusted out. ... Almasy merely pours in his can of petrol -- and the engine starts!
added by KayCliff | editWhere was Rebecca shot?, John Sutherland (Mar 14, 1998)
It is a complex and confusing novel whose readers might easily want to consult the index simply to untangle the threads of the plot ... to clarify events that had another meaning ... in an earlier context.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Ondaatjeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dormagen, AdelheidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fiennes, RalphNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Most of you, I am sure, remember the tragic circumstances of the death of Geoffrey Clifton at Gilf Kebir, followed later by the disappearance of his wife, Katharine Clifton, which took place during the 1939 desert expedition in search of Zerzura.

"I cannot begin this meeting tonight without referring very sympathetically to those tragic occurrences.
"The lecture this evening . . . "
~ From the minutes of the Geographical Society meeting of November 194-, London
In memory of
Skip and Mary Dickinson

For Quintin and Griffin

And for Louise Dennys,
with thanks
First words
She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance.
“Why are you not smarter? It's only the rich who can't afford to be smart. They're compromised. They got locked years ago into privilege. They have to protect their belongings. No one is meaner than the rich. Trust me. But they have to follow the rules of their shitty civilised world. They declare war, they have honour, and they can't leave. But you two. We three. We're free.”
“There is a whirlwind in southern Morocco, the aajej, against which the fellahin defend themselves with knives. There is the africo, which has at times reached into the city of Rome. The alm, a fall wind out of Yugoslavia. The arifi, also christened aref or rifi, which scorches with numerous tongues. These are permanent winds that live in the present tense.
There are other, less constant winds that change direction, that can knock down horse and rider and realign themselves anticlockwise. The bist roz leaps into Afghanistan for 170 days--burying villages. There is the hot, dry ghibli from Tunis, which rolls and rolls and produces a nervous condition. The haboob--a Sudan dust storm that dresses in bright yellow walls a thousand metres high and is followed by rain. The harmattan, which blows and eventually drowns itself into the Atlantic. Imbat, a sea breeze in North Africa. Some winds that just sigh towards the sky. Night dust storms that come with the cold. The khamsin, a dust in Egypt from March to May, named after the Arabic word for 'fifty,' blooming for fifty days--the ninth plague of Egypt. The datoo out of Gibraltar, which carries fragrance.
There is also the ------, the secret wind of the desert, whose name was erased by a king after his son died within it. And the nafhat--a blast out of Arabia. The mezzar-ifoullousen--a violent and cold southwesterly known to Berbers as 'that which plucks the fowls.' The beshabar, a black and dry northeasterly out of the Caucasus, 'black wind.' The Samiel from Turkey, 'poison and wind,' used often in battle. As well as the other 'poison winds,' the simoom, of North Africa, and the solano, whose dust plucks off rare petals, causing giddiness.
Other, private winds.
Travelling along the ground like a flood. Blasting off paint, throwing down telephone poles, transporting stones and statue heads. The harmattan blows across the Sahara filled with red dust, dust as fire, as flour, entering and coagulating in the locks of rifles. Mariners called this red wind the 'sea of darkness.' Red sand fogs out of the Sahara were deposited as far north as Cornwall and Devon, producing showers of mud so great this was also mistaken for blood. 'Blood rains were widely reported in Portugal and Spain in 1901.'
There are always millions of tons of dust in the air, just as there are millions of cubes of air in the earth and more living flesh in the soil (worms, beetles, underground creatures) than there is grazing and existing on it. Herodotus records the death of various armies engulfed in the simoom who were never seen again. One nation was 'so enraged by this evil wind that they declared war on it and marched out in full battle array, only to be rapidly and completely interred.”
“All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.”
“The desert could not be claimed or owned — it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names before Canterbury existed, long before battles and treaties quilted Europe and the East ... All of us, even those with European homes and children in the distance, wished to remove the clothing of our countries. It was a place of faith. We disappeared into landscape.”
“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swam up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if cares... I believe in such cartography - to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. WE are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience. All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.”
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679745203, Paperback)

Haunting and harrowing, as beautiful as it is disturbing, The English Patient tells the story of the entanglement of four damaged lives in an Italian monastery as World War II ends. The exhausted nurse, Hana; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burn victim who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning. In lyrical prose informed by a poetic consciousness, Michael Ondaatje weaves these characters together, pulls them tight, then unravels the threads with unsettling acumen.

A book that binds readers of great literature, The English Patient garnered the Booker Prize for author Ondaatje. The poet and novelist has also written In the Skin of a Lion, Coming Through Slaughter and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid; two collections of poems, The Cinnamon Peeler and There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do; and a memoir, Running in the Family.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:36 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The stories of four people reveal themselves during the final moments of World War II in a deserted Italian villa.

(summary from another edition)

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