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Michael Ondaatje

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Title: Michael Ondaatje  
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Subject: Scotiabank Giller Prize, 1992 in Canada, The English Patient, The English Patient (film), Postcolonial literature
Collection: 1943 Births, 20Th-Century Canadian Novelists, 20Th-Century Canadian Poets, 21St-Century Canadian Novelists, 21St-Century Canadian Poets, Burgher Academics, Burgher Poets, Burgher Writers, Canadian Male Novelists, Canadian Male Poets, Canadian People of Sri Lankan Descent, Canadian People of Tamil Descent, Governor General's Award Winning Fiction Writers, Governor General's Award Winning Poets, Guggenheim Fellows, Harbourfront Festival Prize Winners, Living People, Man Booker Prize Winners, Officers of the Order of Canada, Ondaatje Family, People Educated at Dulwich College, People from Colombo, People of British Ceylon, Prix Médicis Étranger Winners, Queen's University Alumni, University of Toronto Alumni, University of Western Ontario Faculty, Writers from Toronto, York University Faculty
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje
Ondaatje speaking at Tulane University, 2010
Born Philip Michael Ondaatje
(1943-09-12) 12 September 1943
Colombo, Ceylon
Occupation Author
Language English
Alma mater University of Toronto
Queen's University
Bishop's University
Notable works
Notable awards Governor General's Award - Poetry
Booker Prize
Giller Prize
Prix Médicis étranger
Order of Canada
Spouse Linda Spalding

Philip Michael Ondaatje, OC (; born September 12, 1943), is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist and poet. He won the Booker Prize for his novel The English Patient (1992), which was adapted as a 1996 film of the same name. It won multiple Academy Awards.


  • Early life 1
  • Work 2
  • Adaptations 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Books 5
    • Novels 5.1
    • Poetry collections 5.2
    • Editor 5.3
    • Other 5.4
  • Honors 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Ondaatje was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1943 and moved to England in 1954. He attended Dulwich College.[1] After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. He studied at Bishop's College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec for some time. He then moved to Toronto, where he received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.

He began teaching at the University of Western Ontario in London. In 1970, he settled in Toronto. From 1971 to 1990, he taught English literature at York University and Glendon College.


Ondaatje's work includes fiction, autobiography, poetry and film. He has published 13 books of poetry, and won the Governor General's Award for The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970) and There's a Trick With a Knife I'm Learning to Do: Poems 1973-1978 (1979). Anil's Ghost (2000) was the winner of the 2000 Giller Prize, the Prix Médicis, the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, the 2001 Irish Times International Fiction Prize and Canada's Governor General's Award. The English Patient (1992) won the Booker Prize, the Canada Australia Prize, and the Governor General's Award. It was adapted as a motion picture, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. In the Skin of a Lion (1987), a novel about early immigrant settlers in Toronto, was the winner of the 1988 City of Toronto Book Award, finalist for the 1987 Ritz Paris Hemingway Award for best novel of the year in English, and winner of the first Canada Reads competition in 2002. Coming Through Slaughter (1976), is a novel set in New Orleans, Louisiana circa 1900, loosely based on the lives of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden and photographer E. J. Bellocq. It was the winner of the 1976 Books in Canada First Novel Award. Divisadero won the 2007 Governor General's Award. Running in the Family (1982) is a semi-fictional memoir of his Sri Lankan childhood.


The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Coming Through Slaughter and Divisadero have been adapted for the stage and produced in theatrical productions across North America and Europe. Ondaatje's three films include a documentary on fellow poet B.P. Nichol, Sons of Captain Poetry, and The Clinton Special: A Film About The Farm Show, which chronicles a collaborative theatre experience led in 1971 by Paul Thompson of Theatre Passe Muraille. In 2002, Ondaatje published a non-fiction book, The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, which won special recognition at the 2003 American Cinema Editors Awards, as well as a Kraszna-Krausz Book Award for best book of the year on the moving image.

Personal life

Since the 1960s, Ondaatje has been involved with Toronto's Coach House Books, supporting the independent small press by working as a poetry editor. Ondaatje and his wife Linda Spalding, a novelist and academic, co-edit Brick, A Literary Journal, with Michael Redhill, Michael Helm, and Esta Spalding. In 1988, Ondaatje was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (OC) and two years later a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ondaatje serves on the board of trustees of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry.[2]

Ondaatje has two children. His brother Christopher Ondaatje is a philanthropist, businessman and author. Ondaatje's nephew David Ondaatje is a film director and screenwriter, who made the 2009 film The Lodger.[3]



Poetry collections

  • 1962: Social Call, The Love Story, In Search of Happiness, all featured in The Mitre: Lennoxville: Bishop University Press[4]
  • 1967: The Dainty Monsters, Toronto: Coach House Press[4]
  • 1969: The Man with Seven Toes, Toronto: Coach House Press[4]
  • 1970: The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-Handed Poems (also see "Other" section, 1973, below), Toronto: Anansi[4] ISBN 0-88784-018-3 ; New York: Berkeley, 1975
  • 1973: Rat Jelly, Toronto: Coach House Press[4]
  • 1978: Elimination Dance/La danse eliminatoire, Ilderton: Nairn Coldstream; revised edition, Brick, 1980[4]
  • 1979: There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do: Poems, 1963-1978, New York: W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1979[4] ISBN 0-393-01191-7, ISBN 0-393-01200-X
    • published as Rat Jelly, and Other Poems, 1963-1978, London, United Kingdom: Marion Boyars, 1980[4]
  • 1984: Secular Love, Toronto: Coach House Press, ISBN 0-88910-288-0, ISBN 0-393-01991-8 ; New York: W. W. Norton, 1985[4]
  • 1986: All along the Mazinaw: Two Poems (broadside), Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Woodland Pattern[4]
  • 1986: Two Poems, Woodland Pattern, Milwaukee, Wisconsin[4]
  • 1989: The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems, London, United Kingdom: Pan; New York: Knopf, 1991[4]
  • 1998: Handwriting, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart; New York: Knopf, 1999[4] ISBN 0-375-40559-3
  • 2006: The Story, Toronto: House of Anansi, ISBN 0-88784-194-5[4]


  • 1971: The Broken Ark, animal verse; Ottawa: Oberon; revised as A Book of Beasts, 1979[4] ISBN 0-88750-050-1
  • 1977: Personal Fictions: Stories by Munro, Wiebe, Thomas, and Blaise, Toronto: Oxford University Press[4] ISBN 0-19-540277-4
  • 1979: A Book of Beasts, animal verse; Ottawa: Oberon; revision of The Broken Ark, 1971[4]
  • 1979: The Long Poem Anthology, Toronto: Coach House[4] ISBN 0-88910-177-9
  • 1989: With Russell Banks and David Young, Brushes with Greatness: An Anthology of Chance Encounters with Greatness, Toronto: Coach House, 1989[4]
  • 1989: Edited with Linda Spalding, The Brick Anthology, illustrated by David Bolduc, Toronto: Coach House Press[4]
  • 1990: From Ink Lake: An Anthology of Canadian Short Stories; New York: Viking[4] ISBN 0-394-28138-1
  • 1990: The Faber Book of Contemporary Canadian Short Stories; London, United Kingdom: Faber[4]
  • 2000: Edited with Michael Redhill, Esta Spalding and Linda Spalding, Lost Classics, Toronto: Knopf Canada ISBN 0-676-97299-3 ; New York: Anchor, 2001
  • 2002: Edited and wrote introduction, Mavis Gallant, Paris Stories, New York: New York Review Books[4]


  • 1970: Leonard Cohen (literary criticism), Toronto: McClelland & Stewart[4]
  • 1973: The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (play; based on his poetry; see "Poetry" section, 1970, above), produced in Stratford, Ontario; produced in New York, 1974; produced in London, England, 1984[4]
  • 1979: Claude Glass (literary criticism), Toronto: Coach House Press[4]
  • 1980: Coming through Slaughter (play based on his novel; see "Novels" section, 1976, above), first produced in Toronto[4]
  • 1982: Running in the Family, memoir, New York: W. W. Norton,[4] ISBN 0-393-01637-4, ISBN 0-7710-6884-0
  • 1982: Tin Roof, British Columbia, Canada: Island,[4] ISBN 0-919479-10-3, ISBN 0-919479-93-6
  • 1987: In the Skin of a Lion (based on his novel), New York: Knopf[4]
  • 1994: Edited with [4]
  • 1996: Wrote introduction, Anthony Minghella, adaptor, The English Patient: A Screenplay, New York: Hyperion Miramax[4]
  • 2002: The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, New York: Knopf[4] ISBN 0-676-97474-0
  • 2002: Films by Michael Ondaatje[5]
  • 2004: Vintage Ondaatje,[4] ISBN 1-4000-7744-3


On July 11, 1988, Ondaatje was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.[6] In 2005, he was honored with Sri Lanka Ratna by the former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Sri Lanka Ratna is the highest honor given by the Government of Sri Lanka for foreign nationals.

See also


  1. ^ "Where Jeeves meets a hard-boiled detective", BBC
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "The Lodger forces out a remake of a remake", Village Voice, 21 January 2009
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al Web page titled "Archive: Michael Ondaatje (1943- )" at the Poetry Foundation website, accessed 7 May 2008
  5. ^ Films by Michael Ondaatje
  6. ^

Further reading

  • Comparative Cultural Studies and Michael Ondaatje's Writing. Ed. Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2005. ISBN 1-55753-378-4
  • Barbour, Douglas. Michael Ondaatje. New York: Twayne, 1993. ISBN 0-8057-8290-7
  • Jewinski, Ed. Michael Ondaatje: Express Yourself Beautifully. Toronto: ECW, 1994. ISBN 1-55022-189-2
  • Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven (斯蒂文·托托西演). 文学研究的合法化: 一种新实用主义 ·整体化和经主 义文学与文化研究方法 (Legitimizing the Study of Literature: A New Pragmatism and the Systemic Approach to Literature and Culture). Trans. Ma Jui-ch'i (马瑞琪翻). Beijing: Peking University Press, 1997. 111-34. ISBN 7-301-03482-2
  • Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven. "Cultures, Peripheralities, and Comparative Literature." Comparative Literature: Theory, Method, Application. By Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998. 150-65. ISBN 90-420-0534-3

External links

  • Works by or about Michael Ondaatje in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • (24.2)Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts"I came from a tussle with the sea": An interview with Michael Ondaatje, in
  • The Dainty MonstersFull text of
  • "Adventures in the Skin Trade" PEN World Voices at LIVE from the New York Public Library. 4 May 2008 (Video, 1hr, 6 min)
  • Transcript of interview with Ramona Koval on The Book Show, ABC Radio National on Divisadero recorded in Montreal, April 2007.
  • Profile. Emory University
  • Order of Canada Citation
  • Michael Ondaatje's entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia
  • Works by or about Michael Ondaatje in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • Interview With OndaatjeSalon November 1996
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