New Michael Ondaatje archive contains original handwritten drafts of The English Patient

The University of Texas at Austin has acquired 90 boxes of documents, containing drafts of his iconic works and correspondence with writers like Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro.
Michael Ondaatje is shown at the Scotiabank Giller Prize gala in a 2011 file photo. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

A new archive of Michael Ondaatje's personal documents, which include original manuscripts of The English PatientAcademy Award paraphernalia and correspondence with writers like Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, has been acquired by the University of Texas at Austin's Harry Ransom Center.

The archive, which takes up 90 boxes, offers an extensive record of the Sri Lankan-born Canadian author's writing process from the 1960s to present day.

Notebooks containing the first draft of Michael Ondaatje's novel The English Patient, 1988. (Pete Smith/Courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center)

Ondaatje is one of Canada's most esteemed writers, celebrated internationally for his mastery of the English language. His publishing career began with poetry in the 1970s, winning Governor General's Literary Awards for his collections The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970) and There's a Trick with a Knife (1979).

His iconic novel The English Patient was released in 1992 and won both the Booker Prize, now known as the Man Booker Prize, and the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. It was later adapted into an Academy Award-winning film by director and screenwriter Anthony Minghella.

The Texas archive contains four notebooks, in which Ondaatje wrote and re-wrote drafts of The English Patient by hand. Amongst the prose, Ondaatje stuck lines of poetry and found images for "visual breaks" including, as quoted in the Guardian, "a stray visual image of a party at Oxford where quite a few are drunk that I came across in a magazine. There might be perhaps some subliminal influence."

In 2000, Ondaatje won the Giller Prize, now known as the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Prix Médicis and the Irish Times International Ficton Prize for Anil's Ghost

Earlier this month, Ondaatje's publisher McClelland & Stewart announced that the author's next novel Warlight, his first since 2011, will be published in May 2018.

Notebook containing the first draft of Michael Ondaatje's novel The English Patient, 1988. (Pete Smith/Courtesy of Harry Ransom Center)


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