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The English Patient (1992)

by Michael Ondaatje

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
10,310156505 (3.9)728
The Booker Prize-winning novel, now a critically acclaimed major motion picture, starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe and Kristin Scott Thomas. With ravishing beauty and unsettling intelligence, Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. Hana, the exhausted nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burned man who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminates this book like flashes of heat lightening.… (more)
Recently added byDarrylH, sjatkinson60, private library, WXC89, MAR67, WXC789, wxc777
Legacy LibrariesGillian Rose
  1. 90
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (ecureuil, Johanna11)
  2. 31
    All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These moving, stylistically complex novels reflect on the brutality of World War II and its lingering effects. The characters have diverse backgrounds, some supporting the Germans and others the Allies. Their wartime experiences threaten to ruin their futures.… (more)
  3. 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).
  4. 21
    Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively (Nickelini)
  5. 10
    Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels (wolfgrin)
  6. 11
    Naples '44: An Intelligence Officer in the Italian Labyrinth by Norman Lewis (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: A diary by a British soldier in Italy around the same time.
  7. 00
    An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (sturlington)
  8. 01
    Chef by Jaspreet Singh (IamAleem)
  9. 01
    Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje (stevereads)
  10. 13
    Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernières (Johanna11)
  11. 25
    Snow Falling on Cedars 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 728 mentions

English (142)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (3)  Danish (2)  French (1)  Lithuanian (1)  Finnish (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (155)
Showing 1-5 of 142 (next | show all)
Even though this novel is set squarely after WWII has ended, it still has the same feeling and tone as Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Both novels focus so closely on their small cast of characters that the outside world of the war is largely forgotten in lieu of exploring personal experience. Even less of the war effort is focused on in this novel than in Corelli, but the chosen interludes fromm Kip (the Indian bomb-defuser/sapper) are well placed in the narrative to break us out of the potentially monotonous orbits of the cast through the villa. I also really enjoyed the cast overall, because there was more diversity and breadth than I expected from a WWII narrative. ( )
  JaimieRiella | Feb 25, 2021 |
This felt like a much longer book than it was. At times it was a bit of a slog, I guess because the characters and setting just didn't connect much with me. Sections revolving around Kirpal I found the most appealing, and by the end, I could see why it's considered a good book, but on the whole it just didn't do much for me. Ondaatje is 0 for 2 for me so far. I've got another one queued up, and I hope I like it more than I did this one and Divisadero. ( )
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
I'm reading all the Booker Prize winners www.methodtohermadness.com

I am so glad that the Booker Project led me to reread this book. I must have read it first shortly after it came out. What I remembered: a fascination with words, maps, and underground places. Kip and Hana’s slowly blossoming love.

What I hadn’t remembered but discovered on the second reading: the many literary allusions; the rejection of nationality; the violence of the relationship between the title character, whose name is Almasy, and Katherine; the maturation of the women, both Katherine and Hana.

The movie, as I remember it, focuses on the passion between Almasy (played by my nominee for Official Actor of the Booker Prize, Ralph Fiennes) and Katherine, played by Kristin Scott Thomas. However, I found that the book explored many other passions and relationships in more depth: Almasy’s passion for the desert; Kip’s love for his adoptive British “family”; Caravaggio’s love for the grown-up Hana that he first knew as a child. Even Almasy and fellow explorer Madox’s friendship seems to outweigh the affair. The novel ends with parallel scenes from Kip’s and Hana’s lives, not Almasy’s and Katherine’s.

I’ve read three Ondaatje novels now: this one, The Cat’s Table, and Anil’s Ghost, which I listened to, read by Alan Cumming with his lovely accent. I liked them all, but The English Patient is undoubtedly the best, in my view. All are concerned with issues of national origins and adopted countries, as Ondaatje was born to Dutch and South Asian parents in Sri Lanka, then later chose to live in Canada.

The book is brilliant for telling such a complex story so beautifully in such a short space. Don’t get me wrong, I love long books and series in which I can lose myself for several days or even weeks, but there is something I admire about a tale told in such a concise yet intricate fashion. I can still remember my imaginary visions of the Italian villa from my first reading, it is so vividly depicted. At the same time, the plotline shifts forward and backward in an experimental fashion, with Almasy’s morphine-enhanced memories.

This novel was chosen as the Best of the Bookers in celebration of the prize’s fifty-year anniversary, and so far I must agree. The Remains of the Day would be my choice for runner-up, another book that slowly but concisely reveals a complex story. ( )
  stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
I appreciate how history and narrative converge and forced me as a reader to question everything I thought I knew about the story. Beautifully written, haunting, and an eloquent commentary on how we construct history. ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
Beautiful writing that takes your breath away. Four individuals connected and scarred by war come together in the abandoned villa to seek peace and healing. Their story is revealed bit by bit, so you have to pay attention or you may have to re-read it, which I almost did. ( )
  siok | Aug 9, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 142 (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.
 
Una vez oí a una mujer africana decir que no se podía describir África, que África solo se entiende si se ha vivido allí. Hace años ya de aquel momento y, sin embargo, esas palabras se me han quedado grabadas y las recuerdo con frecuencia. Por ejemplo, me han venido a la memoria al leer El paciente inglés, de Michael Ondaatje, y no solo porque hable de lo que supone atravesar el desierto de Libia, algo inimaginable para nuestras cabezas acostumbradas a vidas sencillas, sino porque además transmite el peso de la guerra, un hecho también inconcebible para los que siempre hemos vivido en paz.
 

» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ondaatje, Michaelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dormagen, AdelheidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fiennes, RalphNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, LeePhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"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
Dedication
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.
Quotations
“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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The Booker Prize-winning novel, now a critically acclaimed major motion picture, starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe and Kristin Scott Thomas. With ravishing beauty and unsettling intelligence, Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. Hana, the exhausted nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burned man who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminates this book like flashes of heat lightening.

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